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.