The School Committee tonight went through the latest itemized list of proposed cuts and other cost savings proposals that were suggested by Superintendent Hayes, and generally supported most of the items on the list. These cuts included elimination of one elementary specialist (art music & PE) team, reorganization of food services to utilize part-time workers, and changes in the teaching schedule at the high school that would require teachers to teach six courses rather than the current five (resulting in a loss of 5 teachers). The budget also calls for elimination of free bus transportation for students living between the the currently provided 1.5 miles, and the mandated 2 miles.
The Committee also voted to include one item that Superintendent Hayes had suggested be taken off the table [see clarification below]. As we mentioned in the previous post, Dr. Hayes had determined, based on new enrollment numbers, that he no longer supported the plan to selectively deny open enrollment in three grades at Hannah, and one grade at Cove, so that a class could be cut at each grade. Hayes told the Committee that two of the scenerios (Hannah's 5th grade, and Cove's 2nd grade) were no longer workable. He also said that the other two scenerios resulted in class sizes that he believed were too large.
The committee discussed the matter and decided in a straw vote that they were comfortable with the class sizes in the two grades at Hannah, as well as a newly identified class that could be eliminated, a 5th grade class at Ayers. The Committee reasoned that since the district's policy sets the maximum class size at 30 students in grades 3-5, that as long as the numbers were under that limit, they should support the measure.
The rusultant class sizes in the three approved grades are as follows: Hannah 3rd grade will have 2 classes of 26 and 27 students each; Hannah 4th grade is projected as having two 28-student classes; and Ayes 5th grade is projected as having one 28, and one 29-student class.
The committee has tentatively scheduled the next budget meeting for May 17th. A public hearing has also tentatively been scheduled for May 27th, five days before the June 1 deadline for submitting the budget to the City Council.
Please contact your school committee representative to express your concerns over any of these proposals, particular the proposed elementary class sizes.
If you missed our link earlier, here is what we posted two years ago about class sizes in Beverly (before the closing of McKeown) compared to other area communities, and research on the effect of class size on a child's learning.
5/6 CLARIFICATION: Dr. Hayes has asked us to clarify his position on the open-enrollment pushback. He says that after he revisited the enrollment numbers, he realized that the class size numbers were larger than the previous time he analyzed them. While the class size numbers were within the district's maximum guidelines of 30, he "anticipated that they would be unacceptable to the School Committee" so he moved the proposal to the "not included" list. He wanted the budget figure for the meeting to reflect only the proposals he believed the Committee would support. Bottom line, he says, is that he does not oppose that option.
We have also requested a copy of the overall projected sizes for all the elementary schools, which Hayes says he will provide when it is complete.
This is probably a good point to add a personal note of disclosure. While I always try to be as objective and accurate as possible on this blog, and get input from members of all the school communities, I am the primary author. There are certain issues that hit a little closer to home than others, and may end up getting more attention than some might think they deserve. With two kids at Hannah (one who will be directly affected by the above proposal), several big issues this year have fallen into that category. I always welcome other members of the community to offer ideas for posts, or even become regular contributors. Please contact me any time with ideas for stories, or offers to help. And it would be great if people would start to comment more on here also, so that this site could become a true voice of the school community. -John Hall
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.