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, March 27, 2012

New SPED Boss Pick Same as the Old

After an "exhaustive" three-week search process, Dr Galinski today announced her pick for Director of Pupil Personnel Services (Special Education Director).  And the new new boss is the same as the old new boss: Cove Principal Stacy Bucyk.

The announcement was made to all parents through another rather vague Connect-Ed message, and a more complete explanation on the district website.

Earlier this month, Galinski's original selection of Bucyk ran into some controversy due mainly to her selection without the knowledge of many in the SPED community, and without any search process.

This time, according to Galinski's note to parents, a committee of 19 interviewed Bucyk and recommended her as one of three potential candidates for the position, which is one of the top jobs in the district :
After an exhaustive search with a committee of 19 (representing administration, educators, school committee, and parents), the search committee for the Director of Pupil Personnel Services completed their work on Thursday, March 22, 2012 and recommended to me three finalists for the position. 
After conducting interviews and completing background checks, it was clear that our in-district candidate was the best choice for the position. It gives me great pleasure to announce that Ms. Stacy Bucyk will be the district’s Director of Pupil Personnel Services. Ms. Bucyk has long been recognized as possessing strong leadership skills as part of our district team and I am so glad that the search committee selected her as a finalist for this position. Ms. Bucyk understands the needs of the district well. We are so fortunate to be able to give Ms. Bucyk the opportunity to advance her career here in Beverly!
Galinski also posted Bucyk's resume for the public to view.

The selection still needs to be approved by the School Committee, which will take up the matter tomorrow night.  The committee was reportedly divided on the original selection of Bucyk, but never had the opportunity to vote, as the appointment was withdrawn in order to conduct a more thorough search.

It remains to be seen whether the committee and the community will support what still seems to many to be a rather abbreviated exhaustive search with a predetermined result.

3/29 UPDATE: The School Committee last night unanimously approved Bucyk as the district's new Director of Pupil Personnel Services.  Today's Salem News has more on the search process, and says that Busyk apparently has the support of those in the SPED community who initially opposed her selection:
The search committee recommended three finalists — Bucyk; Jeanne Saunders, director of special education services in Hollis and Brookline, N.H.; and Donna Straight, director of special education in Battle Creek, Mich. 
Galinski interviewed the three finalists. She said Bucyk was the most qualified because of her experience as a teacher and principal, and her familiarity with Beverly and with Massachusetts law, including the new state teacher evaluation program. 
The other finalists have no experience in Massachusetts or as a principal, Galinski said. 
"That would be a big learning curve," she said. "Stacy was the most qualified and the best fit for the position. She really has a passion for Beverly and what she needs to do with the special education department."... 
... Amy Donovan, co-chairwoman of the Beverly Special Education Parent Advisory Council, said she was pleased that a search was ultimately conducted and that parents were included. Donovan was among the parents who served on the search committee. 
"It's healthy to do a search process," she said. "And I think it's good for Stacy to come into the position knowing that different people from the community were involved."
The district will now begin a search to find a new principal for the Cove School.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

SPED Director Pick Stirs Controversy

Today's Salem News has details on the controversy that's been brewing over Superintendent Galinski's pick to replace retiring Special Education Director Debra O'Connor.

The position is one of the most senior and important administration positions, overseeing a program that serves nearly 25% of the district's 4,300 students and manages a budget of $11 million.

Galinski initially selected Cove Elementary Principal Stacy Bucyk, who had previously served under O'Connor in the SPED department, as her choice to fill the position, and began a public search for a new Cove School principal.

An interview and vote of approval by the School Committee had been scheduled for last Thursday, but was abruptly cancelled after a group of parents led by members of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council raised objections about the closed nature of the process (many SPED parents didn't even know O'Connor was leaving), and the fact that no search process was undertaken to look at outside candidates.

Then on Friday, Galinski sent a ConnectEd message to the entire school community announcing in very legal terms that a public search would be done for the "Director of Pupil Personnel Services." The message gave little background on the previous developments, and it wasn't even clear to the layman that this was the Special Ed Director position:
To ensure that all constituents have an opportunity to participate in the selection process in compliance with various interpretations of state statute, the Director of Pupil Personnel Services position will be posted, and a search committee formed. ...
... The search for a principal for the Cove School has been suspended until the process for the Director of Pupil Personnel Services has been completed.  
Galinski tells the News that she chose Bucyk in part because of her qualifications in Special Education, but also because the salary that Beverly is offering for this position (which we believe is set by the School Committee) is not competitive with what is being paid by other districts:
Galinski said she selected Bucyk without a search because she is well-qualified and there are few qualified candidates available. She also said the salary that Beverly is offering — between $95,000 and $105,000 — is "at the lower end of the scale." Similar positions in other districts pay up to $127,000, she said. 
"I obviously know what the pool looks like on the outside. I have contact with superintendents," Galinski said. "It's a very difficult position to fill. There aren't a lot of candidates, and we don't pay a competitive salary. 
"It was apparent to me that we had somebody in-house that was qualified. I recommended to the School Committee that we don't do a search. They agreed to do that and then changed their mind."
According to the News, there also seems to be some confusion over who has the authority in hiring for this position:
School Committee President Maria Decker said the interview was canceled due to "varying opinions" on the proper search process....
... Decker acknowledged that pressure from parents played a role in the School Committee's change of mind. She said there was also confusion over whether the School Committee or the superintendent has the authority to hire the special education director. 
State law says the School Committee "shall appoint a person to be its administrator of special education." But the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has recommended the hiring be left to the superintendent.  
Amy Donovan, co-chairwoman of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council, which was the driving force in persuading the School Committee to back off on Bucyk's appointment told the News that she is pleased that the School Committee decided to open up the process:
"The main thing we were hearing from parents is that they really wanted to see a search process," Donovan said. "It wasn't anything specific to the candidate that the superintendent was recommending. It's a major position in our district. It's a very broad population, and it impacts every school in the district."
As was the case with the initially closed method by which the administration and School Committee developed and planned to vote on the 5-8 middle school model last fall, the objections here seem to not necessarily be with the specific candidate that was chosen, but with the lack of public notice and inclusion into the process.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

District displays its "high expectations"

While challenges remain, this week's State of the Schools presentation went into great detail in presenting the many new initiatives throughout the district that leaders say are aimed at transforming a good school system into "great" one, and to showcase what high school principal Sean Gallagher called the district's "high expectations."

The Salem News had a good wrapup of the night's presentations in Thursday's edition, and if you missed it, you should take some time to watch the entire event, which can be seen on BevCam's video archive here (note: there is a lot of dead air at the beginning, so skip up to about 8:40 to start). You can also view the evening's Powerpoint presentation here.

Presentations included:

  • Superintendent Marie Galinski explaining the district's Strategic Plan.
  • High School Principal Sean Gallagher detailing the many new initiatives that were funded in large part by the Small Learning Communities Grant that the school won last year.
  • Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Duffy outlining district initiatives funded by federal Race to the Top funding, most aimed at improving student achievement.
  • Briscoe Principal Matt Poska on the specifics of the Statement of Interest for a new middle school.
  • Technology Director Judy Miller showcasing the many ways in which technology is weaved throughout the district's curriculum, and plans for the future.
  • Citywide PTO President Julie DeSilva in the PTOs' contribution to csupplement students' leaning and enrichment experiences.