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.

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.

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