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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Focus on Ward 4 School Committee Race

In an election season that features Beverly's most competitive Mayor's race in recent memory, and a large slate of candidates for City Council, the one contested School Committee race, in Ward 4, has received scant attention in the press.

The race to fill the seat of retiring member Karen Fogarty features two newcomers, Matt Kavanagh and Michael Gendre.

Kavanagh is a Beverly attorney with three daughters in the Beverly schools, who previously served on the Beverly High School site council.

Gendre is a philosophy teacher at Middlesex Community College, and a member of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, the group that was founded in 2008 to oppose the override. He has no children in the schools.

The two candidates recently sat down with BevCam's Conversation with the Candidates series. Both interviews are posted below, and provide a good introduction to the two candidates, and their views on the issues facing the schools over the next two years.  Take some time to watch.

Both candidates, as well as the City Council and Mayoral candidates will also appear this Wednesday night at the Candidate Night at the Cove Community Center. Click here for more information or to submit a question.

10/27 UPDATE: This week's Beverly Citizen has Q&A's with both Matt Kavanagh and Michael Gendre, and today's Salem News also profiles the race.

Matt Kavanagh

Michael Gendre

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Funding, Communications Focus of Survey

The district has posted what it calls a climate survey that it says "is part of an overall comprehensive plan to engage the Beverly community."

The survey, in many ways, seems to be leading to a new conversation about the level of financial support for the schools from the city. Some examples:
  • Increased funding to ensure quality education is important to me.
  • I understand that property values depend on the reputation of our schools.
  • Are you aware that more students are choosing to stay in Beverly schools for middle and high school. In 6th grade there are about 30 more students than in 7th or 8th grade. In 9th grade, there are 60 more students than in grades 10 to 12. More teachers will need to be hired to prevent increasing class sizes.
The survey then asks point-blank if you believe "the current funding level is adequate to meet this community's education needs."

The survey also asks about how well certain changes that were made over the past year were communicated to the public. Some examples:
  • The high school schedule was changed to a 4x4 Block.  Students take 4 classes on one day and 4 different classes on the next day.  This allows for more uninterrupted instructional time for each class. 
  • All 9th grade students now participate in a Freshman Academy.  This arranges students in teams like at the middle school to help them be successful in their first year in high school.
  • Food Services will continue to be provided in house.  Turning food services over to another provider would not have resulted in sufficient cost savings.
Please take the time to complete the survey, and if you get much of your information about the schools from this website, please give us a write-in vote in that category.

Friday, October 14, 2011

City to Formally Start Process to Replace Briscoe

Today's Salem News reports that the city will file a "statement of interest" with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the first step in a process that Mayor Scanlon says will replace Briscoe Middle School with "the middle school of the future" at the site of the former Memorial Middle School on Cabot Street.

The middle school has been a major topic throughout the Mayoral campaign, with both Scanlon, and challenger Mike Cahill, agreeing that the project should be at the top of major initiatives for the city.

According to the News report:
Mayor Bill Scanlon told the School Committee Wednesday night that he will file a "statement of interest" with the Massachusetts School Building Authority seeking a state grant to help pay for the project, which has been estimated at $33 million.

The plans call for the expansion and renovation of the Memorial Building on Cabot Street into what Scanlon called "the middle school of the future." Scanlon said the MSBA began accepting new applications for school building projects on Oct. 3, and the city plans to submit its statement by the Jan. 11 deadline. 
The Memorial site is seen as the preferable location for the renovated school, not just because the existing building is newer than Briscoe, but because the overall site encompasses 17-acres compared to Briscoe's six, allowing for a much more expansive "campus." 

When the city's two middle schools were combined as a cost-cutting move in 2005, Briscoe was chosen because it was the larger of the two buildings. But the move was seen as temporary because the 100-year old building is, according to school committee member Paul Manzo, "a building that's way beyond its use."

In addition to whatever money can be secured from MSBA, Scanlon says that the city can now afford to finance its share of the project because it is close to retiring the debt from the elementary school renovation projects that were completed in the '90s.