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, September 5, 2011

School Community Divided on Mayor's Race

Local school activists appear divided over the upcoming Mayor's race, with support spilt among the three major candidates, incumbent Bill Scanlon, and challengers Mike Cahill and Tim Flaherty.  The primary on September 20th will eliminate one of these candidates, and set up a showdown in November. (disclosure: my business created the Cahill for Mayor website, and has informally advised his campaign on communications and social media.) 

While many in the community are not fans of Scanlon's management style, and would like to see a more open city government, the current Mayor is given much of the credit for the successful high school project, and for securing a large reimbursement from the State.  Sources say he has recently started to push more aggressively for a new middle school as well. His most recent term has been relatively free of some of the skirmishes with the schools that marked previous terms.

But Cahill and Flaherty are both well-known, and generally well-regarded figures in the community, having both served as council presidents, as well as on many boards and associations in the city. Cahill was also State Representative for ten years, and his connections on Beacon Hill could be a plus were he to be elected Mayor.

The candidates, along with a fourth candidate, perennial long-shot Rick Marciano, will participate in two upcoming debates. The first, sponsored by BevCam and the Salem News, will be held at 7pm on September 8th at Beverly High School and televised live on BevCam. And on September 13th the group 30 & Main will sponsor a candidates forum, also at the high school focusing on issues of interest to younger citizens in the city.

This week's Beverly Citizen features interviews with the candidates on a variety of topics.  Here are some of their statements with regard to the schools:

Bill Scanlon:
Most recently we moved forward with the major High School project that saved our accreditation. Even in these difficult financial times, this project, like many of the others, is on time and within budget. ...
If re-elected, I will immediately pursue the Middle School project by generating a Statement of Interest with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, necessary to ensure State funding for the project. For our most recent experience (the High School project), we were able to get State funding for more than 58 percent of allowable costs. We would use the state funds, new growth, and the sale of the current Briscoe School to pay for this project. In addition to securing funding, we would also complete design of the Memorial School improvements and develop construction plans and specifications during this time.
Mike Cahill:
Our schools educate thousands of our children each year. In partnership with school leaders, I’ll regularly spend time in the schools, meeting with staff, observing classes, and learning more about the delivery of our educational programs. We’ll celebrate the ongoing greatness in our schools. As we identify areas of need, we’ll be honest with ourselves, work together, and constantly improve. Every parent will be proud to send their child to the Beverly Public Schools. Every taxpayer will be confident the schools they support are truly outstanding.
Tim Flaherty:
Investment in our public schools is another top issue facing our city. With unfunded mandates and declining revenues we must continue to provide our children (I have four currently in BPS) the same educational services generations before them were afforded. Therefore, I will serve as a proud, active, and invested member of the School Committee.
Our school’s students, administration, and faculty need to continue to build upon a foundation of excellence in efforts to meet and exceed their own potential and our expectations. To accomplish this, I will ensure that our teachers have opportunities for professional development that meet the needs of our children in the classroom.
Marciano has not much to say about education, other than this claim about the new high school: 
It is my understanding that our new 50 percent smaller high school compared to the 1965 school is already falling apart which includes cracking walls. This needs to be inspected immediately and not covered up. Also before the school is signed off releasing the contractor the soil around the school needs to be professionally tested for contamination.
The primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 20th.

Above photos from WickedLocal:Beverly used under Creative Commons licence.

9/9 UPDATE: Today Salem News has a wrapup of the first debate.

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