Compared to recent Mayoral campaigns in this city, last night's debate was a polite affair. Only fringe candidate Rick Marciano stood in opposition to the majority of Mayor Scanlon's record. For challengers Mike Cahill and Tim Flaherty it was more a debate about management style, and each candidate's vision of where we go from here as a city.
On education, much of the talk centered on the need for a new middle school. Scanlon, who has already begun the early stages of planning to refurbish the Memorial Building as the city's middle school of the future, stated that "we're four years away from putting bricks and mortar down." Cahill and Flaherty agreed that the school should be the city's next major priority, but Flaherty seemed the more cautious of the three on that "aggressive" a timetable, and cautioned that the city must pay attention to the poor condition of Briscoe in the mean time. Cahill said that the city must aggressively pursue new growth to support the project.
On other education issues, Flaherty said we need to focus more on building maintenance and professional development for teachers and administrators, and worried that the schools were passing too many fees onto families: "Are we a public education or are we a private institution?"
Cahill said that he wanted to be a presence in the schools, and take an active roll in understanding where we were succeeding, and where we were falling short. He also stated that we have a wealth of opportunities to tap the "people power" of the city's private and secondary schools and our business community to expand learning opportunities in science, technology, and literacy.
Another candidates forum, sponsored by the group 30 & Main will be held next Tuesday at the high school, and also televised live by BevCam.
The primary election, which will narrow the field to two, is September 20th.
Below is the full video of the debate, courtesy of BevCam. Questions about the schools are toward the beginning. Today's Salem News has a wrapup of the debate.
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.