On Wednesday night, Dr. Hayes presented the FY11 school budget to the City Council, and answered their questions about many of its provisions. The presentation was very similar to the one presented at the public hearing on May 27, but contained a few new or updated details.
The two core curriculum teacher cuts at the high school have been identified as English and Social Studies. A science teacher was added back after the last minute maneuvering that occurred at the final budget meeting. The other incidental cuts that were identified at that meeting are seen in the "cost center impact" page where the administration's share of the cuts jumps from a 14% reduction—by far the highest percentage of all cost centers—to a whopping 17% overall reduction from last year.
Hayes has also posted a note on the district website, where he says "The School Committee plans one more budget meeting on Monday, June 14, at 5 pm to determine a 'restoration list' should any funds become available in the weeks and months ahead."
This presents school advocates with one last opportunity to lobby the School Committee to restore some of the teacher and program cuts that we feel are most important.
At Wednesday's meeting, Councilor Maureen Troubetaris questioned the steep cuts in the building budget for each school, which range from 20% for each of the elementary schools to $50,000 at the high school. Mindful of the the perception in some circles that the city doesn't take care of its buildings, (see the condition of the current high school) Troubetaris wondered how this would affect maintenance of the buildings. Hayes responded that the building budgets covered school operating expenses and supplies, rather than upkeep of the building. We would point out, however, that the Buildings and Grounds budget was also cut by 9.5%, so Troubetaris' point still seems valid.
Councilor Pat Grimes also chastised Hayes and the School Committee for the lateness of the budget approval. Grimes said that the City Charter says that the school budget must be approved, and the public be given the right to speak on it, at least 21 days before the date that it was due to be submitted to the Mayor and City Council [June 1]. While the final budget "number" was approved on May 4th, most of the actual items in the budget were still in flux for another four weeks. The public hearing was not held until May 27th, and the final vote by the school committee on the actual elements within the budget did not occur until the June 2nd Committee meeting, at which changes were still being made. Grimes said this was a flagrant and "outrageous" violation of city regulations.
After the Superintendent's presentation, School Committee President Annemarie Cesa spoke about the anticipation that next year's budget would likely present even more challenges than this year's. Cesa said that the Committee, along with incoming Superintendent Marie Galinski, plan to form a strategic planning committee this summer to study three major areas: class size guidelines, facilities, and outsourcing services. Cesa added, however, that any talk of reducing class size guidelines is limited by the fact that all the elementary schools are currently utilizing all of their classrooms, so that any plan that creates additional classes would have to deal with this reality.
Many in the community believe that the "facilities" debate will likely return us to another conversation about an Early Childhood Center, or a further restructuring of the elementary schools into some type of K-2 and 3-5 or similar pairing arrangement that would allow the district to better manage class size irregularities. The Committee has said previously that all options will be on the table.
The public hearing on the overall city budget will be held on Monday, June 21, at 7:00 pm, and the Council votes on the budget on Monday, June 28, also at 7:00 pm. Both meetings will be at City Hall, and televised on BevCam.
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.