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.

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.