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.

Friday, November 4, 2011

School Community Still Split Over Mayor's Race

With the election only four days away, the campaign for Mayor between incumbent Bill Scanlon and challenger Mike Cahill has taken on a decidedly more combative tone. The race is also pitting some well known figures in the school community against each other, and many of the contributors to this website find themselves in opposing camps. (Disclosure: my business created the Cahill for Mayor website, and has assisted his campaign with communications and social media.)

The primary campaign was mostly cordial and the candidates often agreed on the issues and respectfully presented their differing management styles and visions of the office of Mayor. The general election, however, has turned more heated as Scanlon, who trailed Cahill in the primary voting, has attempted to define his opponent. His campaign has put out almost daily 4-color mailers touting his accomplishments (many of which we acknowledge), but also belittling Cahill's record, work ethic, and experience in often snarky tones reminiscent of some of his previous campaigns.

One particular charge that Scanlon and his supporters on the School Committee have attempted to make an issue of relates to Cahill's less than stellar attendance record at School Committee Finance and Facilities meetings, which they say Cahill appointed himself a member of.  

When asked to respond to this charge, Cahill explained to the Salem News that he "appointed himself to the committee when only one other councilor, Wes Slate, volunteered to serve. Cahill said his role was to cover for Slate when Slate could not attend." Cahill added that he has a near perfect attendance record in his primary responsibility as City Council President.
Much of the establishment within city government seems to be coalescing around Scanlon, with many actively campaigning for him. In a letter sent to both local newspapers as well as to Save Beverly Schools last week, four members each of the City Council and School Committee (Annemarie Cesa, Maria Decker, Karen Fogarty, David Manzi, Paul Guanci, Wes Slate, Maureen Troubetaris , and Kevin Hobin) endorsed Scanlon stating:
As elected members of the Beverly City Council and School Committee we have had the unique opportunity to work closely with both Mayoral candidates. We have been able to experience and see firsthand their work ethic, ability to work collaboratively, and their vision, drive, and tenacity. By far Mayor Bill Scanlon far exceeds his opponent in all of these areas.
Scanlon also received the endorsement of both the Salem News and Beverly Citizen.

But at least one School Committee member, Kris Silverstein, is on the record as supporting Cahill, saying:
"I am convinced that he will be able to carry Beverly into the future. He is collaborative and willing to harness the talent of those who have ideas that they are willing to put into action.  My experience with Mike is that even if we both don't agree with each other, we can engage in dialogue that is meaningful and leads us both to explore a situation more thoroughly. ... I believe that Mike's vision is inspiring and will bring Beverly the new energy we deserve."
Cahill also seems to have strong grass roots support, as evidenced by the lawn sign count across the city.

Both candidates have many supporters within the school community, some officially or unofficially working for one side or the other.

Given the personal involvement and split among our contributors and the school community, this website does not plan to endorse either candidate this year, as we did in the last election cycle.  We believe both men have made significant contributions to the city and its schools, and that both have strong plans for guiding the city for the next two years. The biggest difference we see is in management style and vision of the role of Mayor. We leave it up to our readers to weigh the pros and cons of each candidate, and come to an informed decision.

Below are videos, provided by BevCam of the two candidates' interviews from their Conversations with the Candidates series.

Mike Cahill

Bill Scanlon