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.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Budget Cuts on the Table

The School Committee discussed the latest round of budget cut proposals presented by the Superintendent at tonight's committee meeting at Memorial.

Among the new cuts, all just proposals at this point, are elimination of the Elementary Enrichment Center and elementary instrumental music; returning to a shared specialist arrangement where art, music, and gym teachers would be rotated between more than one school; and selected open-enrollment reductions in specific cases where returning students to their home school would result in fewer overall classes.

At the high school level, the biggest proposed change would require that teachers teach six classes instead of five.  This would result in the elimination of five teaching positions for a savings of $275,000, but Hayes said this is a change that would need to be "impact bargained" with the union, so some offset cost could result.

Prior to the reading of specific cut proposals, Bill Burke, the director of the transportation department, gave a presentation on some of the ideas that have been discussed about reducing busing costs.  His presentation covered several different issues including: possible outsourcing of some or all bus services; keeping city-run bus service, but reducing the number of employees that work more than 19.5 hours, and therefore qualify for benefits; and increasing the distance at which busing is provided to the state mandated 2-miles.

Mayor Scanlon and some of the committee members seemed to object to the way Burke dealt with all these issues together, rather than looking at the issues individually.  Finally, the Mayor suggested that this was too complex an issue to decide "on the fly" and suggested that a task-force be formed to determine the best approach to the busing issues.

Karen Fogarty also announced that the unions had failed to agree to any restructuring of their contacts, as the Committee had requested.

Toward the end of the meeting, Dr Hayes tried to pin down the Mayor as to whether the level of funding expected from the city could really be counted on, or whether we could find we need to still make further cuts. The Mayor responded that it was going to be tough, but he would "have to find a way," then suggested that there could be more money to be found in the "trash enterprise fund," if absolutely necessary.

The cuts proposed by Hayes, together with a list of other options that could be considered as alternatives and any savings found by the busing task-force give the School Committee and the community many specifics to discuss over the coming weeks.

Tuesday's Salem News has more on the meeting.

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