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 15, 2013

Committee Goes with Hiersche

The School Committee went with the most experienced candidate tonight, giving the top vote for Superintendent to Dr. Steven Hiersche over the three other finalists. Hiersche is a former superintendent in Framingham, Watertown and Plymouth, and currently the Interim Executive Director at the ACCEPT Education Collaborative in Natick.

Members had praise for each of the other candidates, and seemed especially high on Wellesley High Principal Andrew Keough, who both Kris Silverstein and Annemarie Cesa declared as their top choice. Committee member Matt Kavanagh also suggested that Keough would have been his personal favorite, but felt that Hiersche was the experienced hand that the district needed right now, considering the void at the top of the administration, which currenly also lacks an assistant superintendent. In the end the committee agreed that experience trumped all the other considerations at this point in the district's evolution.

The vote to endorse the choice of Hiersche was 5-2 with Silverstein and Cesa voting no. Following the initial vote, the committee voted to reconsider, and gave Hiersche a unanimous 7-0 vote of support.

In-house candidate Sean Gallagher received universal praise for his performance as principal of Beverly High, and was credited by Paul Manzo for his vision in leading many district-wide initiatives. But all members felt that he was not yet ready for the Superintendent role compared to the other, more experienced candidates.

Next week the committee will conduct site visits to confirm their choice of Hiersche, before negotiating a contract, and making the choice official.

NOVEMBER 16, UPDATE: Today's Salem News has more details on the selection of Hiersche and details his lengthy resume:
Hiersche is the interim executive director for the ACCEPT Education Collaborative, and he served 17 years as a superintendent in Hopkinton, Framingham, Watertown, Plymouth and Orleans. He was also a principal in Vermont for nine years. He has a master’s degree in education from Westfield State College and a doctorate in education from the University of Sarasota. 
as well as some of the potential cautionary points:
Misgivings about Hiersche include the fact that he will continue to live in Bourne, although it was suggested he could stay in Beverly during the week. “My concern isn’t just that he doesn’t live in the city,” said Manzi. “He’s two hours away.” He added, “I’m a little cautious of his style to a degree. ... Some people are going to love it. Some people are not going to love it.”

“He has a big personality,” noted Kavanagh.

Cesa noted that Hiersche had won the superintendent’s job in Mashpee earlier this year only to have contract negotiations break off and another candidate given the job. Not mentioned was a May 10 article in revealing that “some school committee members expressed concern about Dr. Hiersche after Framingham media outlets alleged that school officials had mishandled sexual assault cases while Dr. Hiersche led the district.” But his supporters on the Beverly board dismissed the Mashpee matter as a contract dispute.
The Mashpee situation, which was known to members of the Beverly committee, is of some concern, but further research shows the situation may have been as much a result of tribal politics in Mashpee as anything.

Below is the BevCam video of the School Committee discussion and voting session:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Superintendent Interview Videos

BevCam has begun posting videos of the interviews with the four Superintendent candidates.  As they are available, we will post below.  Also, keep an eye on Channel 22, where you may be able to see them in a more timely manner.  The first began showing last night.

Also, while we are still hearing conflicting reports on what the Friday afternoon wrapup and vote will entail, at last night's School Committee meeting, Dr Argenziano outlined his hopes that the committee will indeed select a single candidate at Friday's meeting, which will be at 4pm in the high school library.  This is "imperative" he says, due to specific compeition for two of the candidates with another district.

Argenziano also addressed another concern heard in the community and by some on the committee, that the candidates in general do not rise to the experience and education level that they had hoped for.  This, he stated, is due to the budget available for this position.
"You know, everybody wants an experienced Superintendent with 30 years, but we have a budget, and we have to live within our budget, so that somewhat dictates how we proceed"
BevCam's video of last night's committee meeting where this was discussed is available to view here. Scroll down, and its the top link in the list of videos.  The particular exchange about the Superintendent Search begins at 31:50 in the video. Argenziano also goes into further detail on the process and budget considerations at the beginning of the first candidate interview below.

Superintendent candidate interviews begin below, and will be updated as others become available.

Sean Gallagher
Current Principal at Beverly High School

Christopher Malone
Current Assistant Superintendent in Revere

Dr. Andrew Keough 
Current Wellesley High School Principal

Dr. Steven A. Hiersche 
Former Superintendent in Framingham, Watertown and Plymouth

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Superintendent Interviews Begin Today

The School Committee will interview BHS Principal Sean Gallagher today at 4pm to begin a week of interviews of the four finalists for Superintendent.  The full schedule is listed in the post below.  Friday, the Committee will meet again 4:00 to discuss the interviews, but its still unclear whether they plan to vote on a choice, narrow the field, or proceed with site visits to all four candidates districts.  Today's Patch has their take on the process.

BevCam will film the interviews, and tell us that they will post, as well as broadcast on Channel 8 withing 24 hours of each interview.  We will embed or link to the interviews below this thread when they are available.  Please check back.

NOVEMBER 14 UPDATE:  No videos have been posted yet by BevCam, but the interview with Sean Gallagher is showing on Channel 22 today (Thursday) at 9am, 2pm & 8pm.  No other showings have been announced.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Superintendent Finalists to be Interviewed

Dr. Argenziano, interim Superintendent of Schools, today released this video, announcing times for next week's interviews with the four finalists for permanent Superintendent. In it, he also states that the interviews will be recorded by BevCam and televised, but not until the following day. The public is invited to attend the sessions, and will be able to submit questions to the candidates.

The finalists include Beverly High School Principal Sean Gallagher, and former Beverly High Assistant Principal Christopher Malone.  The candidate biographies were posted last week by the district, and the Salem News also ran a story on the choices.

The finalists will be interviewed at the high school on the following schedule:

Sean Gallagher
Current Principal at Beverly High School
Tuesday, November 12, 4-6 pm

Christopher J. Malone
Current Assistant Superintendent in Revere
(former Assistant Principal at BHS)
Tuesday, November 12, 6:15-8:15 pm

Dr. Andrew Keough
Current Wellesley High School Principal
Wednesday, November 13, 4-6 pm

Dr. Steven A. Hiersche
Former Superintendent in Framingham, Watertown and Plymouth
Thursday, November 14, 4-6 pm

What happens after that seems somewhat unclear. [SEE UPDATE BELOW]

According to the most recent agenda, and the video posted above, the search committee will then meet the next day, Friday, November 15th at 4pm to vote on their top choice.  This meeting is also at the high school, and will be open to the public.

But the full search process schedule, which is posted on the district website shows an additional two weeks of site visits and "Thorough Background Checks on Four Finalists," following the interviews, and no final decision made until the week of December 2nd. Last week's Salem News story also listed this schedule.

From what we've been able to confirm from school committee sources, the newer, more compressed schedule appears to be the one they are following.  Please contact your own School Committee Rep if you'd like to clarify or comment on the process or share your views on any of the candidates.

If you'd like to get an advanced look at some of the finalists, two were recently candidates for Superintendent in Hopkington, and video excepts of their interviews can be seen here: (Keough) (Hiersche).

NOVEMBER 8 UPDATE: Members of the school committee have confirmed that the committee will vote on Friday the 15th, and attempt to make a choice among the four, or at least narrow to two.  They will then do background checks and a site visit to that candidate(s)'s current district.  This is being done in part, it seems, because the candidate pool is limited, and there is often competition between districts for top candidates.

Bottom line, anyone who is able to, and wants to be involved in the process should try to attend the interviews, and the Friday evening vote.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Visnick Victory Reshapes School Committee

Coming on a night when the city reshaped its entire political power structure by electing a new mayor and four new city councilors,  the results of a school committee race in a single ward still created nearly as much excitement among school activists. 

Lorinda Visnick, running in her first political campaign soundly defeated 8-year school committee veteran, and current president Maria Decker by a margin of 1,192 votes to 972.

The victory in Ward 6 followed the general theme of this election season across the city, the desire for more transparency and inclusiveness in city government. It can be seen as a public rebuke to Decker's management style as much as to Visnick's strong grassroots campaign and connections within the community.

While doggedly pushing through the beginning stages of the middle school project and the process of hiring a new superintendent, Decker often did so in what even some of her own committee members felt was a closed, and less than inclusive process. Talk of a "toxic" environment, and of a clash between the committee leadership and district administration were commonplace over the past two years.

Visnick, a well-known voice in the school community campaigned on many of these issues, and drew endorsements from across the city, including from many current and former school committee members and PTO leaders.

Today's Salem News reports on Visnick's victory:
“I knocked on a lot of doors. I got my message out, and I had a lot of help,” Visnick said. “Nobody wins a seat by themselves.”

Visnick, a software engineer, said there’s been only one public forum on the project to build a new middle school, and she wants to bring more transparency and openness to the project to make sure people aren’t left in the dark. The new school will be built at the site of the former Memorial Middle School, with a September 2017 target date to open.

“That whole process has to be blown open,” she said, in terms of information getting out to the public. “I think we need to look at the superintendent candidates and see if any of the four of them are really qualified and the best person to lead Beverly where it needs to go.”
The new committee, which will take over in January,  must immediately choose a new president, and continue the major tasks of hiring of a new Superintendent, and continuing the middle school rebuilding process, in what all hope is a more transparent and inclusive manner.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ward 6 School Committee Debate

If you missed the Ward 6 School Committee debate earlier this month, you can now view it online thanks to BevCam. This race pits current School Committee President Maria Decker against challenger Lorinda Visnick, a well-known voice in the community. Given some of the conflict within the school committee over the past two years, and the recent departure of both the superintendent and the assistant superintendent, this is a very closely watched race, not just in Ward 6, but across the city, as it has become something of a referendum on Decker's leadership.

Major decisions await the next school committee, including the hiring of a new superintendent and assistant superintendent, as well as the middle school building project and the very important decision as to whether that building should include 5th graders. That is a decision that many feel has still not received a full and public debate as to the educational merits of such a structure. These issues and others are discussed here, and the candidates demonstrate a stark difference in their perceptions on the state of the district administration. The school committee debate leads off the video, and is followed by the city council, and mayoral debates.

Friday, October 18, 2013

School Committee Races Heat Up

There are two contested races for School Committee this year.  The most closely watched citywide is in Ward 6 where Lorinda Visnick, a well known voice in the school community is challenging Maria Decker, the current committee president. Visnick and Decker will participate in the Centerville Improvement Society's Candidate's Night next Tuesday, October 22, at 7:00 PM.

The other contested race is in Ward 5, where incumbent Annemarie Cesa is being challenged by Duane Anderson.

Below are BevCam's interviews with each of these candidates:

Ward 6 Lorinda Visnick

Ward 6 Maria Decker

Ward 5 Annemarie Cesa

Ward 5 Duane Anderson

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Follow Us on Twitter

I apologize for not keeping this site as current as it used to be, but for the most part I've moved to posting most school news through our Twitter feed. Please follow that for the latest Beverly school news.  When there is important or breaking news, I'll still try to post here, and will also try to keep the curated links to the right relatively current. Also, if there are any parents who follow school news closely and want to take over and re-energize this site, please contact John.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

FY14 Budget Highlights

A public hearing on the FY14 will be held Tuesday night at 7pm in the auditorium at Beverly High School.  The draft budget can be viewed here. Today's Salem News has a brief summary.

The administration list the following changes in staffing, operating budgets, programs and revenues. The changes in staffing result in a total increase of 8.9 full-time equivalents.

A. Positions/Adjustments
  1. At the district level (effective FTE changes = +1.0)
    • Add .5 nurse at Memorial to oversee the preschool classes. ($22,000) This is actually a full time position shared with Recovery High School.
    • Add a .5 K/PreK position due to increase in enrollment ($25,000)
    • Health Insurance increase due to loss of grant funding ($100,000). No increase in premium cost for FY14.
  2. At the elementary level (effective FTE additions = +4)
    • At Ayers Elementary School
      • Increase 1FTE in Grade 1 due to projected enrollment
    • At Centerville Elementary
      • Increase 1 FTE in Grade 1 due to projected enrollment.
      • Decrease 1FTE in Grade 2 due to projected enrollment
      • Decrease 1FTE in Grade 4 due to projected enrollment
      • Increase 1 FTE in SSP classroom (position repurposed)
    • At Cove Elementary School
      • Increase 1FTE in Grade 1 due to projected enrollment
      • Decrease 1 FTE in Grade 3 due to projected enrollment
      • Increase 1 FTE in Grade 4 due to projected enrollment
      • Increase 1 FTE in Full Day K due to projected enrollment
    • At Hannah Elementary School
      • Increase 1 FTE in Grade 4 projected enrollment
      • Increase 1 FTE in Grade 1 projected enrollment
      • Increase in 1 FTE Literacy Coach (parity with other schools)
      • Decrease 1 FTE in Full Day Kindergarten (to North Beverly)
    • At North Beverly Elementary School
      • Increase 1 FTE in Full Day Kindergarten (from Hannah)
  3. At the middle school: (effective FTE additions = +.5 FTE)
    • Add a teaching 6th for Foreign Language to reduce class size in Reading ($8,500)
    • Add .5 School Adjustment Counselor to support transition of student from grade 8 to 9.
  4. At the high school: (effective FTE additions = +3.4 FTE)
    • Increase .4 FTE Nurse at BHS for 3 hours a day to cover medication administration ($18,900)
    • Increases 1 FTE in Science (Physics) to align with Common Core for labs ($50,000)
    • Increase 1 FTE PE/Wellness Teacher to reduce class size ($50,000)
    • Increase .5 FTE Music Teacher to reduce class size ($25,000)
    • Add .5 FTE School Adjustment Counselor to support transition of students from grade 8 to 9.
B. Operating Budgets
  • Operating budgets are level funded for FY14.
  • Project a 4% increase in utilities.
  • Project a 3% increase in special education collaborative tuitions.
  • Health Insurance rates are level funded.
  • Loss of $100,000 from Edujobs grant in FY13; grant ended.
  • Provides for a 1.5% salary increase for union contracts.
  • Provides for an average salary increase of 3% for Principals and Central Office Administration.
C. Program
  • Upgrade of the Briscoe and Elementary School Networks to support more one to one learning
  • Movement of 3.5 preschool classes to Memorial Building
  • Added funding for social emotional support for Middle and High School students with social/emotional needs.
  • Tuition and fees increased by 2.5 % except: Transportation, Athletics, Kindergarten.
  • HS parking reduced to $100.
D. Revenue
  • Plan for an increase in the General Fund Revenue from the City to $1,100,000 (an increase of 1% over FY13)
  • Project a 70% level of reimbursements for the Circuit Breaker program This will result in an increase of about $211,355
  • Increase in school choice revenue by $4,976
  • Increase in Chapter 70 Funding ($108,375) 
Elementary class size concerns appear less of an issue, and slightly more uniform than in past years.  Highest class size projections are in the 4th grade at Centerville and Ayers (27.5 and 28 respectively).

The only controversy we have heard about centers around the issue of school security at the elementary schools, which is being pushed by a group of parents at North Beverly and Hannah.  They have circulated an email to parents saying that security at the schools is less than it should be, and asking the school committee to "include funds for more security at our five elementary schools."

BevCam will televise the hearing live on Channel 8.

5/15 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has a report on the public hearing.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Former Somerville Super Picked for Interim Job

The School Committee voted  6-1 Friday evening to offer the job of assistant superintendent to retired Somerville superintendent Albert Argenziano. Committee members detailed overwhelmingly positive reports each had personally received from a variety of former colleagues who had worked with or observed Argenziano over the years. The list even included a U.S. Congressmen, former Somerville mayor Michael Capuano, who served as mayor during much of Argenziano's 12-year tenure.

Saturday's Salem News has further details on the appointment:

Without exception, the reports paint Argenziano in glowing terms, calling him an extremely effective leader, even "a superstar." Argenziano was so respected in Somerville, in fact, that he has a school named after him. 

After hearing the reviews, there seemed to be few reservations among those on the committee that Argenziano was well-qualified for the position, and would be an asset to the district in helping to select a new permanent superintendent, which appears to be the primary role at least some on the Committee see for this position.

But there was still quite a bit of discord on the committee over the manner by which Assistant Superintendent Duffy was passed over for the interim position, and whether the proper role of an interim superintendent should be to guide the search process, or to maintain continuity.  Annemarie Cesa, who has been the leading champion for Duffy, and had been pushing for her to be named the interim Super from the onset, again brought up the subject of Duffy before the committee could get to the business of discussing Argenziano.

Today's Salem News details the dispute this way:
The vote was not without controversy, however. Two committee members, Annemarie Cesa and Kris Silverstein, favored hiring Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Duffy as interim superintendent.

Duffy did not apply for the job, but Cesa said she should not have been required to go through the interview process. Several school administrators called her expressing support for Duffy, Cesa said.
“She can step into the job seamlessly,” Cesa said. “I think it’s being silly inviting someone we interviewed for three minutes when she’s been doing it for three years.”

Mayor Bill Scanlon, who is a member of the School Committee, said the committee wanted an interim superintendent who can help with the search for a permanent superintendent.

“It didn’t appear that (Duffy) could help us (in the search),” Scanlon said.
At a Committee of the Whole meeting last month [viewable on BevCam's streaming archive], Committee President Maria Decker maintained that Duffy would need to formally apply for the position and compete against the other outside interim candidates if she was interested in the position, a view supported by at least some of the other members.  While they agreed that she has performed well in her current role, they considered one of the primary responsibilities of an interim superintendent as helping to lead the search for a permanent leader. These were skills they didn't believe that Duffy brought to the table.

But Duffy never officially applied for the position, and the next week announced that she would also retire effective at the end of June.

Cesa said Duffy would maintain a sense of continuity while the district searched for a permanent leader, and viewed that as the most important role of an interim superintendent.  This view was echoed by several members of the district staff we have spoken with, and others with close contact to the day-to-day functioning of the schools. In fact, many seemed more concerned with the vacancy in the assistant's role that they were with the top job, especially since only the superintendent can legally hire a new assistant.  The assistant superintendent writes grants, and has more of a day-to-day direct interaction with administrators and teachers on curriculum issues across the district.

In this role, Duffy has strong support, and to those who see continuity in this area as the most important issue during this transition, keeping her in place and focusing on those duties while the School Committee managed the search process was preferable to hiring someone in the superintendent's role to guide the search.

Cesa said she was convinced that Duffy would have accepted the position if it were offered to her, and maintained that it is "fiscally irresponsible" to pay for a seasoned executive whose primary purpose is to conduct the search.

Member Matthew Kavanagh, submitted two motions that were intended to bridge the divide, and show the community that the district intends to maintain continuity during the transition by mandating that the new superintendent form a transition team, and consult with the current leadership, or possibly create some type of interim associate position as well, one that perhaps Duffy could fill. But most members felt the motions were unnecessary, since that type of continuity would be a normal part of any transfer of leadership.

In the end, members on both sides of the debate conceded that the process had gotten messier than it should have, and many in the community worry about what appears to be a fractured (some say "toxic") dynamic on the school committee, and what affect that may have had on the decision of the two top leaders to leave.

But in Dr. Argenziano, the district will for the first time in at least a dozen years, have an experienced leader from outside the district to assess where we are from a fresh perspective, and begin what committee member Paul Manzo called, "the next version of the Beverly Public Schools."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Committee Moves Toward Decision on Interim Super

The Beverly Citizen has posted a summary of Tuesday's interim superintendent interviews, and reports that retired Somerville superintendent Dr. Albert Argenziano has emerged as the leading contender. This view was confirmed by several community members who attended both the afternoon interviews and a meeting later in the evening at which the committee discussed the interviews.

The majority of the committee moved quickly past the other two candidates, and settled on Argenziano as the best choice of the three. Mayor Scanlon reportedly was so enthuthiastic in his for support for Argenziano that he initially made a motion to vote on his selection on the spot, pending a positive reference check. The motion was later tabled until the next meeting, which will be held on Friday evening.

But while it seemed to be the consensus that Argenziano was the strongest of the three, not all members were sold on whether he possessed all the skills they were looking for. According to the Citizen:
After the interviews were concluded, some members of the committee were not ready to make a choice on the three, the consensus among the committee being that Dr. Argenziano was the strongest candidate in leading the search for a permanent superintendent but not for taking care of the day-to-day operations of the district.
The fact that this person also needs to immediately hire an assistant superintendent is also a major consideration. 

Community members who attended Tuesday's meetings report some frustration with what they see as a hasty, and less than inclusive process into an important decision for the district. The three contenders were chosen in just over a week's time, and the first public report of their identity was in Tuesday's Salem News. They were interviewed in short half-hour sessions that were attended by principals and administrators, but only a handful of members of the public. There appear to be no plans to conduct a follow-up interview, or consider other candidates.

Some were also troubled that the later evening discussion meeting was not announced to the public or most staff at all, except at the joint School Committee/City Council meeting that preceded it, which itself was so poorly publicized that only four members of the community attended.

As it stands now, the committee is checking the references of Dr. Argenziano, looking into the possibility of retaining Assistant Superintendent Duffy on a per diem basis, and planning to meet again Friday at 5pm in the library of the high school.  It appears likely that they will take up Mayor Scanlon's motion to vote on the hiring of Argenziano, but it is unclear how the full committee will vote.

Given the importance of this decision to the continuing progress of the district, and the swiftness at which this process is moving, its important that interested members of the school community attend Friday's meeting, and pay close attention to the process by which this and other decisions within the district are being made.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Decker: "We’re not looking for a change agent”

Today's Salem News reports the identity of the three candidates for Interim Superintendent that will be interviewed today at the high school. The candidates, all retired former Supers from locals districts include former Somerville Superintendent Albert Argenziano, former Swampscott interim Superintendent Maureen Bingham and former Rockport Superintendent Joseph Lisi.

School Committee President Maria Decker, who, as evidenced at the recent State of the Schools presentation, is very bullish on the direction of the school district, tells the News that "We’re not looking for a change agent. We’re looking for someone who can stay the course as we move through this transition process.”

An advertisement for the position stated that the district was seeking a candidate with "extensive experience as a superintendent and building administrator, strong interpersonal and communication skills, familiarity with the new teacher evaluation process, and a history of successful team building."

The interviews will be held today at 4 pm in the library at Beverly High School, and the sessions are open to the public.

The News also confirms our report in the previous post that Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Duffy will also leave the district at the end of the school year.

There is also an unrelated joint City Council/School Committee meeting tonight at 7pm, in the high school auditorium. On the agenda for the school side is ROTC, city/schools consolidation committee, PILOT/SILOT and an update on the middle school statement of interest.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Duffy Out Too; Committee to Interview Interim Super Candidates

We have learned from multiple sources today that Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Duffy has announced her intention to retire when her contract is up this June. This announcement comes on the heals of Superintendent Galinski's announcement that she would also retire this June, a year before her contact is up, and leaves the district without its two top administrators.

The subject of a succession plan was debated at last week's Committee of the Whole meeting [which can be viewed on BevCam's streaming archive], and the committee decided to opt for an interim Superintendent.  The debate was somewhat contentious between the members, particularly on the subject of whether Duffy should be given the first opportunity to interview for the interim job.

At the meeting, which was held before Duffy announced her intentions, committee member Annemarie Cesa made a strong case for Duffy to be considered as an interim candidate, saying that she has strong support from administrators within the district. Cesa also pointed out that Duffy's contract expired this June also, and worried about the district being without its two top leaders if Duffy decided to leave also.
"My biggest concern is that we're going to end up on June 30th with two people gone from our administration, and have to hire two people who don't know our district...That scares the hell out of me." said Cesa.
Some members, especially Cesa,  also seemed annoyed that School Committee President Maria Decker had already reached out to potential interim candidates before discussing the process with the rest of the Committee.
"I'm a little concerned that you have called people, when we haven't even had a conversation about it."
The district has a long history of appointing new Superintendents from within the district, and there is a feeling by many within the community that it's time for an outside perspective.  That sentiment was summed up at the meeting by Mayor Scanlon, who stated:
"The community probably wants us to do a broad consideration, regardless of what we ultimately choose."
The School Committee plans to  interview several interim candidates on Tuesday at 4pm at the High School.  The meeting is a open to any interested members of the public.  There is also a joint School Committee/City Council meeting that evening at 7:00, also at the high school.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Superintendent Galinski to Retire in June

The Salem News is reporting today that Superintendent Galinski has announced her plans to retire effective this June, a year before her contract was set to expire. 

Galinski, who has served as superintendent for three years, and before that as assistantant super for six years recently surprised the school committee by announcing that she was a candidate for superintendent in another community, only months after the committee gave her raise and contact extension.  She later withdrew from consideration for that position.

In a press release Galinski stated "After nine years in the district, I feel it is the appropriate time for me to pass the torch to another superintendent, one who will lead the district to the next level"

The report was posted early this morning on the newspapers website, but does not appear in today's print edition.

3/13 UPDATE: Wednesday's Salem News has more details on Galinski's announcement.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Severe Overcrowding" Cited in Middle School Pitch

Monday's Salem News reports that the city's revised Statement of Interest to the MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority) for a new middle school cite's "severe overcrowding" as one reason for the need.  The original statement of interest, filed a year ago, listed only the deteriorating condition of Briscoe, which resulted in a priority 7 judgement from the state. Adding the overcrowding issue could bump up the city's ranking on the priority list to a number 2.

According to the News:
An influx of more than 200 students has prompted officials to cite “severe overcrowding” as a reason the city needs state funding to build a new middle school.

Total enrollment in all of the district’s public schools was up to 4,506 students as of October, an increase of 214 students, or 5 percent, over the previous school year, according to officials.
This year, the district has had to rent outside space for preschool classes, and total enrollment is expected to grow by another 100 or more next year.

School Committee President Maria Decker tells the News that the distict has seen an increase in students at all levels in recent years, a result of what she says is the improved reputatation of the city's schools, particularly the high school, and some innovative new programs:
"Our numbers are growing steadily at all levels,” Decker said.

Decker said Beverly has seen an increase in school choice students from other communities, in special education students from Beverly moving back from out-of-district placements, in Beverly students choosing the high school over private or parochial schools, and in preschool and kindergarten students. The high school enrollment is up 35 over last year.

Decker said the district is becoming more attractive due to its innovative programs, including laptops for all high school students and science specialists in the elementary schools, and the newly built high school. Beverly High was recently accorded Level 1 status, the top status granted by the state, for the first time since 2007.

“That reputation catches up with you,” Decker said. “You’re doing cutting-edge things. I love that people are choosing the Beverly schools, but at the same time we’re so in need for a new middle school in order to house all of our children up and down the spectrum.”
The district closed the nearly-new McKeown school in 2008 as a cost-cutting move only three years after closing the city's other middle school and combining all middle school students at Briscoe. Since that time, space has been at a premium across the district.

The city's improved reputation—much of which is based on the new high school building, as well as the innovative programs cited by Decker—has caused many students who may have choiced out, or attended private schools in the past, to remain in Beverly. It also has made the district attractive to students from other area cities as a school choice option.

While most community members we have spoken to acknowledge the improved reputation of the city's schools, large class sizes remain a frustration for many parents, and many also continue to wonder why the district seeks and accepts out-of-district students (who are mandated to remain in Beverly throughout their high-school years once they are accepted), when simultaneously claiming a space crunch.

2/13 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has details on yesterday's tour of Briscoe by State Treasurer Steve Grossman.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Galinski May be Heading Out as Superintendent

Today's Salem News reports that Superintendent Marie Galinski is one of three finalist for the Superintendent job in a central Massachusetts school district.  Galinski has held the top job in Beverly since July of 2010, and was Beverly's Assistant Superintendent for 6 years before that.

According to the News:
Galinski was named one of three finalists for superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District on Wednesday night. She is scheduled to be interviewed by the district’s School Committee on Tuesday.

Beverly School Committee President Maria Decker said she was “surprised” when Galinski informed the School Committee before the holiday break that she was an applicant for the job in Groton.

The School Committee gave Galinski a $6,000 raise last June, boosting her salary to $151,000. Decker said Galinski then asked for a contract extension over the summer, and the committee agreed to a one-year extension to June 2014.
The current superintendent in Groton-Dunstable oversees just over half as many students as Beverly (2,600 compared to Beverly's 4,600), and his salary is $157,000 ($6,000 more than Galinski is currently paid).

Whether the salary was part of Galinski's decision is speculation, but administrative salaries in Beverly have been raised as an issue in the past. A chart in the Salem News last Spring listed Galinski's salary dead last among Superintendents' salaries on the north shore, and lower than the state average. Even with her recent increase she would rank last. (Danvers, the one lower than Galinski in the list raised the salary of their Superintendent to $157,000 in October.)

Galinski's tenure has been somewhat smoother than that of her predessesor, James Hayes, who oversaw the closing of two schools, and the threatened closure of two others.  She oversaw the opening of the new high school, and the community seems to be much more content with the state of the schools than it was during Hayes' tenure.

School Committee President Maria Decker said of Galinski's announcement:
“She’s been here nine years, and she’s done a lot of good in the city and the school district,” Decker said. “We’ve got some wonderful building superintendents and administrators, and we can continue all the great things we’re doing should she be selected. We’ve got 4,600 children in the Beverly public schools that are always in the forefront of my mind and the rest of the School Committee’s minds. The superintendent is doing what’s best for her, and we have to respect that.”
Galinski says that if she doesn't get the position in Groton, she would stay in Beverly at least until the end of her contract in 2014.

1/22 UPDATE: Saturday's Salem News reports that Galinski has withdrawn from the running for the Groton-Dunstable job, but the whole episode doesn't seem to be sitting well with some members of the School Committee, which had recently extended her contract, and upped her salary.

School Committee president Maria Decker, told the News that "dozens of administrators, teachers, parents and students from the Beverly public schools spent time last week with members of the Groton-Dunstable search committee who came to Beverly for a day to inquire about Galinski":
“It’s unfortunate given that lots of people made an investment on her behalf that she did not see this process through to completion,” Decker said.
Further details on what went wrong were reported in Saturday's Lowell Sun, which also reported that not just Galinski, but one of the other two finalists had withdrawn:
[Groton-Dunstable] School Committee Chairman Allison Manugian told committee members that Bradshaw and Galinski had asked that their names be withdrawn. When pressed, Manugian said that the specific reason given was too frank discussion among School Committee members at a meeting Wednesday at which members indicated that there was a general lack of enthusiasm for any of the finalists, despite a search process that had yielded 26 applications. 
In the Salem News report, Decker stated that "Galinski will remain superintendent until her contract expires in June 2014," but it seems that this episode has begun the public conversation of what Beverly wants in its next school leader.