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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Committee Gives Final Approval to FY11 Budget

After some last minute maneuvering that cobbled together enough savings out of small line items to save one additional teacher at the high school, the School Committee tonight voted to approve each cost center in the FY11 budget. They had already approved the bottom line budget number at an earlier meeting. This effectively brings the FY11 budget season to a close.

The high school teacher was saved by eliminating or reducing the budget for such small items as furniture, conferences, student surveys, postage, and enough other incidentals to add up to the equivalent of one teacher's salary.

No change was made to the teacher cuts at the elementary schools, or any of the cuts at Briscoe.

Other points of discussion tonight:

Committee President Annemarie Cesa said that she had been approached by the union that represents the food service workers about the possibility of accepting other concessions in leau of the proposed cuts to hours and benefits.  The Committee indicated that they would support such a move, as long as the cost savings were equal.

Karen Fogerty asked for clarification on the cost savings of eliminating the EEC [Elementary Enrichment Center], as it has been reported that if the program were eliminated the EEC teachers would be returned to traditional elementary classrooms, and "bump" lower salaried teachers, resulting in less than the stated savings. This fact seemed to be confirmed.

A heated exchange developed just before the vote between Committee member David Manzi and Mayor Scanlon over the lunch workers' benefits.  Manzi, who the Salem News reported last week collects the benefits himself because of his role on the Committee, objected to taking benefits away from long time workers, but Mayor Scanlon countered that although he agreed that it was unfortunate, there are no other options, and said that a system where benefits cost the city more than the workers' salary is unsustainable.

A handout [we will try to obtain a copy to post] with answers to questions from the Committee was also circulated.  Among the items listed, some of which came up for brief discussion:

  • Q: What is the cost of Foreign Language at both Briscoe and BHS: A: BHS: $480,166; Briscoe: $327,037
  • Q: What is the savings if Freshman Sports are cut: A: $36,698, but with an equal loss in revenue, suggesting that the program pays for itself with fees.
Several Committee members also seemed concerned by the number of district clerks and administrative assistants that were cut, and hoped to find a way to add some additional help back, or possibly transfer some of their work to city administrators.

Prior to the budget discussion, the Committee voted to approve Maryellen Duffy, currently the director of education services in Hamilton-Wenham, as the next Assistant Superintendent.

We somehow missed the story linked above, and the fact that this position was even at the hiring stage.  We're in good company, however, as the Mayor also seemed unaware that interviews had even taken place, saying "I have no objection, but I've never met the lady."

Cesa said that there were 38 applicants, 10 had been interviewed initially, and two were moved forward to the Committee.  "She fit what we were looking for," said Cesa.

6/3 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has more on new Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Duffy.

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