This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

State Rep Candidate to Hold Forum for Parents

Brett Schetzsle, the Republican candidate for State Representative from Beverly is holding a forum for Beverly parents of school-age children this Thursday, March 4, from 7:00-8:30pm at GAR Hall, 8 Dane St.

Schetzsle is one of three announced candidates for the seat being vacated by Mary Grant.

This race should be of particular interest to school advocates because many of the funding issues plaguing the city's schools over the past decade are a direct result of state government policies.

Local aid to all cities and towns has been cut drastically over the past decade, the Chapter 70 funding formula further underfunds Beverly schools, and the state legislature has repeatedly failed to act to control the biggest drain on municipalities' budgets: the soaring cost of health care and pensions.

While a newcomer to state and city politics, Schetzsle has had much to say about these issues on his blog, and with the race wide open, this is a good opportunity to discuss issues of state education funding directly with one of the candidates who could represent Beverly at the state house in the fall.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Council Passes Meals Tax

The City Council last night passed the meals tax that is estimated to add approximately $400,000 annually to city revenue. Details in today's Salem News.

Friday, February 26, 2010

More Details on Preliminary Budget

In the previous post we linked to the budget document that was presented to the School Committee Wednesday evening, and also reproduced Dr. Hayes letter on the matter.

Today's Salem News reports on some of the details in the budget, saying the cuts include:

...reducing hours or eliminating a range of positions, including two reading teachers, two technology teachers and two aides at Briscoe Middle School, as well as part-time, foreign-language and gym teachers at Beverly High School. In addition, a part-time guidance department position vacated because of retirement would not be filled."

In the elementary schools, no jobs would be cut, but many would move around — which means kindergarten students could switch to another school, depending on class sizes.

Additionally, the budget pays for many teachers with one time stimulus funds, a move which the Mayor and some Committee members didn't agree with.

"I don't like the idea of putting off the problems until next year," Scanlon said at Wednesday night's budget meeting.

Yet Hayes said the money is there now.

"We're still going to have to face that issue a year from now, when the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) grants go away," he said. "But if we have the money now, I think we should use it in the best way possible."

School Committee members also pushed Hayes to to show what the remaining cuts would look like.

"Let's see what it looks like," committee Vice President Maria Decker said. "If it's unacceptable to us, it's unacceptable."

Ward 2 representative Paul Manzo suggested scaling back the elementary music program, which was just reinstated this year.

"I'm not saying cut it," he said, "but put it on the table. At least we'll have choices."

In addition to the cuts, the Mayor has pledged to give the schools a one-time contribution of $1 million to offset the gap, but that figure is partially contingent on whether the City Council passes a hotel and meals tax, when its voted on this evening. That measure would bring an estimated $435,000 annually to the city.

In an analysis of where the councilors stand on the proposal, it seems it will pass, but the support is not guaranteed. If you have not already contacted your councilor, please do so today, particularly Councilor at-large Pat Grimes, who is generally a strong supporter of the schools, but is planning to vote against this measure tonight because, she says, she needs "more information about next fiscal year's budget before making a decision."

Grimes own Financial Forecast shows just how bad next year's city budget looks, so we aren't sure what "new information" could change that fact.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Report on Budget Presentation

Dr Hayes presented the School Committee last night with this initial draft budget that reduces the previously stated shortfall of $3 million to just under $750,000.

While we don't have much context at this point, as to what specific cuts are included, Hayes has posted the following letter explaining some of the savings proposals --including a plan to shift some kindergarten students out of their home schools--on the district website:

The initial budget proposal for the 2010-11 school year was presented to the School Committee on Wednesday, February 24th. In January, they learned that a level service budget for next year would take over $3 million more than anticipated revenues. The Initial FY11 Budget proposed numerous cuts in staff and reductions in supply and professional development accounts. In doing so, it reduced the budget shortfall to $737,304.

Prior to reviewing the budget, I gave an overview of projected enrollments, class sizes, and staffing for elementary classrooms. This report showed a combination of staff cuts, transfers, and additional staff needs, resulting in no change to the current level of staffing our elementary schools. It did indicate shifts of kindergarten students from what might be considered their "home school" to another elementary school. These shifts happen every year and are done to better balance class sizes and staff utilization. I would caution parents that these planned shifts of kindergarten students are PRELIMINARY and could easily change. [accenting is Hayes'] We do expect to commit to a plan for kindergarten in mid-March.

The School Committee has given the administration direction on what it would look for to further close our budget shortfall. The administration will be working on these approaches between now and the next meeting on the budget, scheduled for Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Meetings on the budget are public, and the School Committee and I welcome interested the attendance of parents and other citizens.

As always, if you have any questions about our schools, please do not hesitate to contact a building principal or central office administrator. To contact the Superintendent's Office, you may call 978-921-6100 or email me at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Committee to Review FY11 Budget Tonight

The School Committee will meet tonight to view Superintendent Hayes' initial FY11 budget draft. The proposed budget will show a clearer picture of what the budget gap looks like. The presentation made at the State of the Schools in January showed a gap of over $3 million.

The budget, while still preliminary, may include some "non-teaching" and other cost reduction options that were requested from individual school administrators based on earlier committee meetings.

The meeting is in the committee room (164) at the Memorial Building, beginning at 7:30. It will not be recorded or televised by BevCam.

If any regular contributors to this site are able to attend, feel free to email your notes on what is discussed.

We will try to post a copy of the draft budget when it is available.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Councilors Delay Vote on Meals Tax

The City Council last night put off a vote on a proposal that would have raised an estimated $425,000 per year, by increasing the local tax on restaurant meals and hotel stays.

With the city and schools facing a nearly $3 budget gap for FY11, any proposal for additional revenue or cost savings is something that all school advocates should be paying attention to.

Today's Salem News has details of the meeting, and the public hearing that preceded it:

[Mayor] Scanlon said there is certain to be layoffs when the new fiscal year starts in July, regardless of whether the City Council approves the new taxes. But the extra money generated by the taxes would save "seven or eight $50,000-to-$60,000-per-year jobs," he said.

"Some of that could have a very deleterious effect on our city, especially if it affects the schools," Scanlon said.

"If people stop coming to our city, it will affect the value of homes. People are going to lose 100 times what they're going to pay on this relatively modest tax."

Speaking at the hearing in favor of the tax was Todd Rotondo, the owner of Cafe Salerno on Cabot Street, who said the increase would not stop his customers from eating out.

"I've asked them about it and you know what they say? They say, 'It's 75 cents.'"

Speaking against the proposal were many of the usual suspects, including Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility head Elliott Margolis.

The tax would add 15 cents to a $20 meal, according to Scanlon, who proposed the tax increase as have leaders of many neighboring cities and towns.

The option of an added local tax was made possible by an act of the state legislature last year.

The News reports that City Council President Mike Cahill and Judith Cronin voted in favor of the tax in a committee vote, while Pat Grimes voted against it, saying more information is needed.

Councilor Maureen Troubetaris stated "I'm not voting for this under any circumstance, I'm voting, 'Enough is enough.'" But Councilor James Latter penned a letter in today's Salem News, where he appeared to support the measure, while suggesting other cost cutting measures as well.

The Council ultimately put off the vote by sending it back to commitee, after earlier deadlocking 4-4 on a motion by Pat Grimes to indefinitely table the measure until they had more information on the upcoming budget.

The ninth Councilor, Paul Guanci recused himself from the vote, as he is a restaurant owner.

With the Council apparently divided over the matter, hearing the views of constituents who favor the measure could make a difference. We urge you to contact your ward and at-large councilors in support of this matter. Their contact info can be found here.

2/24 UPDATE: A special City Council meeting has been scheduled for this Friday at 6:30 PM to vote on the tax proposal. Council President Mike Cahill said the meeting was scheduled in order to meet a Monday deadline for the Department of Revenue to certify the tax increase, if it does pass, according to a post on the Salem News' "Heard in Beverly" blog.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In Divided Vote, Galinski Chosen as Super

In what was reported to be a heated debate, ending with a spilt vote, Assistant Superintendent Marie Galinski was chosen last night as the next Superintendent of the Beverly Schools. Details of her contract are not clear at this point.

The Salem News reports a vote of 6-4 in favor of Galinski, which doesn't seem to add up, as there are only seven members of the School Committee. From our sources on the Committee the actual voting went like this:

In the initial vote for the other candidate (Marc Kerble, the current Assistant Superintendent in Winchester), the vote was 3 in favor (Mayor Scanlon, Maria Decker, and David Manzi), and 4 against. Once he was rejected, the Committee voted on Galinski, who won with a vote of 4-2, with Mayor Scanlon abstaining.

After the vote, Mayor Scanlon and School Committee Vice President Maria Decker reportedly left the contract discussions before the others.

Some more details of the contentious vote, as reported in today's Salem News:

The decision came after more than two hours of discussion, some of it heated, and much of it focused on the differences in leadership styles: "direct and authoritative" in Galinski's case and "relationship building" in Kerble's case, Ward 4 representative Karen Fogarty said.

"I'm very concerned about her ability to connect with people in the community," said Fogarty, who ultimately cast a vote in Galinski's favor...

..."We have two candidates who I think in almost all the important places are largely similar," Fogarty said. "It's coming down to issues of personality and character."...

...School Committee President Annemarie Cesa said she heard strong support from teachers, principals and administrators in the district who work with Galinski on a regular basis, and applauded her work on curriculum and MCAS scores.

"She's been more or less behind the scenes," said Ward 2 representative Paul Manzo, who pointed out that's the nature of the assistant superintendent's job. "But the administrators that know her know there's much more there than what we see. She's never served as a public figure, but they think she has it in her."

While most reports do suggest that Galinski has strong support from school staff and adminstrators, what is less clear is her ability to handle the public relations aspects of the job, and connect with the community.

The community focus group report, conducted before the search, identified "inspirational leadership," "being visible in the city" and "building strong relationships" as important qualities for the next Superinendent.

This is where many thought Kerble stood out.

Administrators from Winchester described him as "bright," "sincere," and "a people person with great integrity," she said.

Scanlon agreed, saying, "They didn't know if they'd have to hire two or three people to replace this guy," and Fogarty said one person called him "a teacher whisperer." [a reference to the Dog Whisperer, we assume]

"He apparently is able to get from teachers what they didn't even know they possessed," [said Fogerty]. "I'm concerned if Dr. Galinski were the superintendent, she could walk on water and it wouldn't be good enough for our community,"

Seemingly mindful that many in the city will feel that this decision was made as soon as Hayes announced his retirement, and that the interview process was just for show, Cesa said that it was important that the committee had conducted a nationwide search before making its choice.

"This decision was not made seven months ago," she said. "It was made after a lot of hard work by a lot of people."

Galinski told the Salem News after the vote that "The role will be much more communications and relationship building with the community... I'm looking forward to working with all the constituents.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Note on the Beverly Tea Party

(better known as the High School Logo controversy).

This seems to be taking on all the trappings of a mini media circus. The story made FOX25 tonight, but with the completely bogus angle "Beverly High School is considering the idea of having two mascots for the school, one for the athletes and one for the students."

The ship was never going to be a mascot for the school.

The Salem News covered the controversy here, two days after starting the controversy here.

One note of disclosure: In addition to being the primary author of this blog, I also run a graphic design business, and it was in that role that I was brought in over a year ago to consult on the logo, and ultimately commission and art direct the actual drawing of the Hannah schooner.

The description on the sample page of my business website summarizes the development process once I became involved in the project. I'm not sure what went on before that, as the discussions of concept seem to date back more than two years, but by the time I became involved there were never any discussions of a simple panther or panther paw.

The broader concept of "a ship sitting on a book, sailing into the future," as described by former School Committee President Nancy Brusil in yesterday's paper, was ultimately simplified to just the ship because of the concerns about how to create something that would look futurist now, but not end up looking very dated in 20 years. A second concept showing various symbols of education seemed to lack any connection to the city or the school.

With this in mind, and the realization that we were creating something to be cast out of concrete, and last for 50 years or more, it was decided that an illustration of the ship that had so much connection to Beverly's history, although not high-concept, would be the most enduring symbol to grace the school's main entrance for the life of the building.

From a design standpoint, a well-illustrated panther logo could have worked just as well, but it was just never a point in our discussions, having seemingly been eliminated from consideration much earlier.

2/19 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has more on the long development process of the logo, and the protest. The topic will be discussed again at Wednesday night's school committee meeting.

3/24 UPDATE: Today's Salem News shows off the revamped panther logo that we developed.

Galinski Named Superintendent

The School Committee has chosen Marie Galinski as the next Superintendent. Details to come.

Committee to Choose Superintendent Today

With three of the final five Superintendent candidates dropping out, the School Committee plans to go ahead anyway, and name a new Superintendent today.

The final two are Beverly Assistant Superintendent Marie Galinski, and Mark Kerble, currently the assistant superintendent of Winchester Public Schools.

Today's Salem News has more details.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lt. Gov. to Discuss Budget at City Hall

The Beverly Citizen reports that Lt. Governor Tim Murray and his Municipal Affairs Coordinating Cabinet will be at Beverly City Hall this Thursday from 10:30 am-noon to discuss the FY11 state budget and issues relating to municipal finances.

With Beverly city and school budgets for FY11 looking very tough, largely because of drastic reductions in local aid over the past decade, this is a good opportunity for the public to address their concerns directly to state officials.

Details on Superintendent Finalists

Here are some more details on the five Superintendent finalists, as reported in today's Salem News.

  • Marie Doyle, superintendent of Carlisle Public Schools

  • Marie Galinski, assistant superintendent of Beverly Public Schools

  • Marc Kerble, assistant superintendent of Winchester Public Schools [link not currently working]

  • John O'Connor, superintendent of the Dover School District in New Hampshire

  • Wayne Woolridge, co-superintendent of School Administrative Unit 29 in Keene, N.H., a cohort of seven districts.

  • The candidates will each be touring the city's schools this week, and will interview with the School Committee tonight (at 5:30) and Thursday (at 6:30). Those interviews will be held in the School Committee meeting room at Memorial, and are open to the public. The Committee could choose a final candidate as early as Friday.

    The process has been fast-tracked because of the heavy competition with other communities that are also searching for new superintendents this year. According to the News:

    The School Committee sped up the search process by two weeks and released the names yesterday because many of the candidates are being sought for other positions.

    "We expedited it because there are a lot of openings around the commonwealth, and we had some fabulous candidates that we didn't want to lose to another district," said Maria Decker, vice president of the School Committee and a member of the search committee.

    Many of them have interviewed in other districts, and in some cases been named finalists for the position.

    "There's an urgency to it," Decker said.

    2/10 UPDATE: Wednesday's Salem News reports that one of the candidates, Marie Doyle, has withdrawn because she is a finalist for several other Superintendent positions. The report also says at least two of the other candidates have other options, as well.

    Saturday, February 6, 2010

    New Superintendent Finalists Chosen

    Word from the School Committee is that finalists have been chosen for the new Superintendent interviews. The public can attend (but not speak at) the next sessions, which will be held Tuesday at 5:30pm and Thursday at 6:30pm at the Memorial Building. Your input was most valuable at the Focus Groups, and it will be essential to maintain vigilance over these final steps. Candidates will also be visiting our schools so keep an ear to the ground for a visit near you!

    Hayes Challenges Mayor's Statement on Hiring

    As we predicted in the previous post, Superintendent Hayes is taking issue with Mayor Scanlon's statement last week that "while the number of employees on the city side of the budget was reduced by 10 last year, the School Department added the equivalent of 23 full-time employees."

    In a front-page story in today's Salem News, Hayes says "That number of 23 is so flawed,"

    "When you just throw these numbers out there, there's the impression the school district is out of control," Hayes said yesterday.
    In fact, Hayes said, many of the new positions were either paid for by grants, are self-sustaining or were existing jobs that were not counted in 2008 but were in 2009.
    Hayes and Scanlon publicly battled over the employee count and other statistics throughout the 2008 budget cycle. With this year shaping up to be equally painful, it seems things are getting off to a similar start.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Scanlon: Tough Times Ahead

    In his "State of the City" address last night, Mayor Scanlon said that with projections showing a $3.5 million gap for FY11, tough times are ahead.

    "While we continue to move the city forward, we are struggling to adequately fund some of our most basic services, and sometimes we come up short," he said. "The money simply isn't there."

    Scanlon said that "city and school officials can no longer 'shy away' from making the painful decisions that will be necessary as the city confronts a multimillion-dollar budget gap"

    Today's Salem News has more details of the address.

    In a statement reminiscent of some of the battles in 2008 over school personnel counts and other statistics, the Mayor claimed that "while the number of employees on the city side of the budget was reduced by 10 last year, the School Department added the equivalent of 23 full-time employees."

    If 2008 is any guide, we would expect to hear that figure challenged by the Superintendent.

    Other figures of note: 15% of the total city budget goes to health care, and the much discussed option of having city employees join the state group insurance plan (GIC), has still not become a reality.

    Governor Patrick recently announced that local aid would not be cut for FY11 but, as the Mayor pointed out, even level funding amounts to $2.5 million dollars a year less than the city received a decade ago, and the budget still has to go through the state legislature, which could make further cuts.

    On a positive note, the Mayor says that the high school is on budget and on schedule, and that the city was able to obtain a more favorable interest rate, so the ultimate cost of the project will be less than expected.

    2/3 UPDATE: The city has posted the text of the Mayor's speech here. The Beverly Citizen also reports on the speech.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Scanlon Delivers State of the City Tonight

    Mayor Scanlon will deliver the annual State of the City address tonight at City Hall. With the release last week of the Financial Forcasting Committee's report showing a $3.75 million budget gap for FY11, and Dr. Hayes announcement Thursday night that the schools are showing a $3 million gap for next year, fiscal issues should be the most pressing topic.

    Today's Salem News has a report card on the Mayor's priorities as stated in last year's address.

    The address will take place tonight at City Hall as part of the regular City Council meeting, which starts at 7:00 pm. It will be shown live on BevCam (Channel 10).