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.
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.