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, May 21, 2012

BHS Honored for Innovation

Saturday's Salem News detailed a new honor for Beverly High School, which has been receiving considerable notice recently for both it's 1-1 laptop program, as well as its Smaller Communities Learning Grant.

The school recently received notice that it was among a select group of schools in the nation invited to present at a Washington DC conference on innovative public schools to be hosted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals
"We're aware of schools all across the country and most of them have tried different things, but they haven't been as effective as Beverly has," said Joe DiMartino, president of the Center for Secondary School Redesign, which helps select schools for the conference. "They're doing a lot of innovative things with good results, not just innovation for innovation's sake."

Beverly High came to the attention of conference organizers through the school's implementation of a $1.2 million, five-year federal grant that it was awarded in 2010. Beverly was one of 28 schools in the country to be awarded the Smaller Learning Communities grant, which is designed to improve academic achievement in public schools with enrollments of more than 1,000.

Beverly High Principal Sean Gallagher said the grant has been used to "take a big high school and personalize the learning." The school established a freshman academy that groups ninth-graders in teams, and created an advisory program that assigns 10 students to a staff member, who meets with the group twice a month. ...

... Gallagher said preliminary data show a drop in the failure rate and disciplinary incidents among freshmen and an increase in the daily attendance rate. He said teachers have made a point to call and write to parents when their students are succeeding, not just when they're in trouble academically.

"What's made us unique is that the program is really utilizing our upperclassmen as role models for the freshmen throughout the summer," Gallagher said. "Their impact on the school, especially the senior class, has been really great in the sense of developing a positive school culture."
Beverly is the only school from Massachusetts invited to participate in the conference, which will be held on February 28th of next year.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hannah Class Sizes Main Topic at Hearing

The quietest budget season in many years also featured a very quiet public hearing last night at the high school. About 50 people listened as Dr. Galinski presented an overview of the budget, which included no major cuts, and a net gain of staff positions despite the loss of some revenue. Most fees will rise by 2.5%, and administrators will receive their first raise in three years. The budget also contains a reserve line for union negotiations, which are still in progress.

Today's Salem News has the full story, as does the Beverly Citizen. You can also view the full hearing on BevCam's website.

After the presentation, about eight audience members spoke, mostly Hannah School parents (including myself) who are upset about the large class size projections for grades 4-5 and the inequity in class sizes across the district. Our primary point was not simply the size of next year's classes, but the fact that this is the third year in a row that Hannah's upper grades have occupied two of the top three spots in terms of class size across the district, and to point out the burden the repeatedly overloaded classes is putting on Hannah teachers, staff and students.

We also pointed to Hannah's sudden drop in MCAS scores and failure to make AYP (Adequite Yearly Progress) for the first time ever (see accompanying graphic) as one indicator of the result of the district's class size policies. 2011 was the first year of testing after the district compressed Hannah's 3rd and 4th grades from 3 sections to 2 resulting in class sizes between 27-29 in both grades. It has since done the same to the 5th grade, and many parents whose children were in those classes see a connection.

Other speakers spoke about class size concerns in grades 1-2 at North Beverly, and the need for an additional adjustment counselor, and improved technology infrastructure at Briscoe.

As is the norm, the evening ended without any comment or answers from the Committee.

UPDATE: A revised class size projection Galinski presented at the hearing (see below) that includes "pushback" of open-enrolled students to their "home school" shows Hannah's numbers slightly improved, and Ayers 4th grade edging ahead in terms of largest class size. Little change is noted to the grade 1 & 2 numbers at North Beverly and Ayers that were also of concern. But Galinski warns that the numbers regularly fluctuate up until the start of school, and beyond. Numbers in blue indicate sizes that the administration considers in danger of going over guidelines or in need of additional classroom support, and is monitoring closely.  Apparently the Hannah and Ayers 4th and 5th grade numbers no longer fall into that category by district standards. We doubt most parents and teachers would agree.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Class Size Projections Show Wide Disparity

A close look at the class size projections contained in the just released  FY13 Budget Draft  [see post below for full summary of budget] shows a slight improvement overall on elementary class sizes with fewer classes in the 25+ range that most troubles parents. But there is also a wider fluctuation between the schools than in past years. The district maintains an official class size limit of 25 in grades 1 and 2, and 30 in grades 3-5.

Hannah has the two largest class size projections with 28.5 projected for the 4th grade and 27 for 5th. Ayers also shows a projection of 26.7 for 4th grade. These 4th grade numbers contrast sharply with Centerville, which shows 19.7 students per section next year.

Last year, Centerville parents made a strong showing at the public hearing to speak out against their large 3rd grade class.  The class, which was compressed from 3 sections to 2 last year, will return to 3 sections in 4th grade. In addition, the district is adding a section for next year's 3rd grade class.

The Centerville numbers overall stand out as—by far—the lowest in the district [see update below]. In addition to grade 4, the numbers range from an almost unheard of (at least by Beverly standards) 15.5 in 1st grade to 20 in grade 2, 20.3 in grade 3, and 21.7 in grade 5.

In the lower grades, North Beverly's 1st and 2nd grades are both bumping up against the district's maximum 25 with projected sizes of 24 and 24.7 respectively. Ayers also has a projected 24.3 first grade, a far cry from Centerville's 15.5.

Below are the full class size projections for all the elementary schools:

Class size is generally the most discussed issue at the annual budget hearing, which will be held Tuesday night at 7pm at Beverly High School. Please make an effort to attend.

Disclosure: This blogger's daughter will be a Hannah 4th grader next year, the class with the district's highest projected class size.

5/5 UPDATE: School Committee President Maria Decker has provided some more insight into the projections. She says that the current numbers reflect existing placements, and that school choice students (students from outside of Beverly), as well as open-enrolled students (students from Beverly who choose to attend a school other than their home school) may be moved to produce more balanced class sizes across the district.

She also says the additional sections at Centerville were created in part to accommodate more students expected from the new housing development in Gloucester Crossing that will attend Centerville.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

FY13 Draft Budget Posted; Hearing Next Tuesday

The proposed FY13 district budget is now available to view on the district website. This is the first view many of us will have of the document, which the school committee has developed through one of the quietest budget seasons in quite some time.

The district again this year will utilize fellows from both Merrimack and Endicott Colleges to supplement classroom and special education teachers.

The Northshore Education Consortium's [NEC] Recovery High School program, which had been renting space in the Memorial Building for the past 5 years will be relocating in FY13 which results in a reduction of $125,000 in rental income for the District. The District continues to rent the McKeown School to the NEC, and also plans to move 4 sections of full-day Pre-K to the NEC building on Sohier Road to free up space in the elementary schools.

The FY13 Budget contains changes in staffing, operating budgets, programs and revenues. These changes are reflected below. The changes in staffing result in a total increase of 3.8 full-time equivalents (FTE).

Here are other highlights, as stated in the document:

A. Positions/Adjustments
1. At the district level (effective FTE changes = -2)
  • Addition of clerical support for Business/Personnel ($20,000). 
  • Add salary increases for individually contracted employees. These employees have not received raises for three years. 
  • Add $50,000 back into the budget to pay a salary that was previously covered under the revolving account. 
  • Remove $2500 from revenues due to loss of sales from beverage agreements. We no longer have vending machines in schools due to nutritional guidelines. 
  • Cut the position of Academic Division Leader due to retirement. 
  • Cut a Title I teaching position due to retirement and replaced with tutors. 
2. At the elementary level (effective FTE additions = +2.2)
 Ayers Elementary School
  • Increase 1FTE in Grade 3 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Decrease 1 FTE in Grade 1 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Add .2 TLC teacher to support social/emotional learning. 
Centerville Elementary
  • Decrease 1 FTE in Grade 1 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Increase 1 FTE TLC teacher to support social/emotional learning. 
  • Increase 1 FTE teacher in Grade 3 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Increase 1 FTE in Full Day Kindergarten due to projected enrollment (moved from Ayers). 
  • Increase 1 paraprofessional in additional Full Day Kindergarten class (Moved from Ayers). 
Cove Elementary School
  • Decrease 1 FTE in Grade 2 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Increase 1 FTE in Grade 3 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Increase 1 FTE in Grade 5 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Increase 1 FTE TLC teacher to support social/emotional learning. 
  • Decrease 1 FTE paraprofessional for TLC support no longer needed. 
Hannah Elementary School
  • Increase 1 FTE in Grade 3 due to projected enrollment. 
  • Increase 1 FTE TLC teacher to support social/emotional learning. 
  • Decreased 1 FTE paraprofessional for TLC support no longer needed. 
  • Increase 1 FTE Full Day Kindergarten teacher due to projected enrollment (moved from North Beverly). 
  • Increase 1 paraprofessional for additional Full Day Kindergarten class (Moved from North Beverly). 
North Beverly Elementary School
  • Increase 1 FTE for TLC to support social/emotional learning. 
  • Decreased 1 FTE paraprofessional for TLC support no longer needed. 
  • Increase 2 Fellows to help support large class size in Grades 1 and 2. 
3. At Briscoe Middle School: (effective FTE additions = +.6 FTE)
  • Decrease of .4 Reading teacher due to decrease in class size for Grade 6 Reading program.
  • Increase in 1 FTE for Special Education to support social/emotional learning. 
  • Decrease in Fine Arts Facilitator due to retirement and consolidation with other departments. 
  • Increase a Math and Science Facilitator due to the retirement of the Academic Division Leader for Math and Science. 
  • Add a special education facilitator to help address oversight of programs at the middle school. 
  • Add additional teaching 6th for the SBI program due to large class size in Grade 7. 
  • Increase expressive arts rotation for technology to prepare students for high school and reduce class size in expressive arts. 
4. At Beverly High School: (effective FTE additions 3 FTE)
  • Increase custodial overtime to support maintaining new high school building.
  • Replace the Certified Medical Assistant with an LPN due to medication administration.
  • Increase 1 FTE in English to reduce class size from 30+ to 25.
  • Increase 1 FTE in PE/Wellness to reduce class size from 30+ to 25.
  • Increase 1 FTE in Foreign Language to add ASL to electives to support Mass Common Core requirements for all students.
  • Increase teaching 6th to reduce class size.
B. Operating Budgets
  • Operating budgets are based on enrollment figures for FY12.

C. Program
  • Restore the TLC program at the elementary level to retain students from out-of-district placements.
  • Project a 3% increase in special education collaborative tuitions.
  • Increase technology expressive arts opportunities at the middle school to prepare students for high school one-to-one.
  • Enhance the Foreign Language program at the high school to provide for students to choose another option to complete the Mass Common Core requirement.
  • Relocate 4 Full Day Pre-K classes from Cove to Northshore Education Consortium.
  • Relocate 4 sessions of Half Day Pre-K from Hannah to Cove.

D. Revenue
  • Plan for an increase in General Fund Revenue from the City of $1,140,000 (2.5% increase of FY12).
  • Project a 60% level of reimbursements for the Circuit Breaker program. This will result in a loss of about $100,000 in revenue due to the increase in the foundation amount upon which the reimbursement is based.
  • Plan for a decrease in revenue from the Northshore Education Consortium (NEC) due to the relocation of Recovery High School ($125,000).
  • Plan for an increase in revenue due to the plan design of health insurance ($100,000).
  • Decrease in health insurance liability due to drop in enrollment numbers ($165,000).
The public hearing on the budget will be held next Tuesday, May 8th at 7:00 at the high school.