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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

5-8 Model Approved; Success Hinges on Execution

As expected, the School Committee voted unanimously last night to approve the 5-8 model for the new middle school, but made it clear that the vote was just the beginning of a long and detailed process.  The plan's success, they say, depends on proper execution in the building's design, which would create separate spaces for 5-6 and 7-8 grades. Equally important is a well-planned preparation for the transition, including development of a revised 5th and 6th grade academic program as well as a detailed focus on the social/adjustment issues of the transitioning elementary school students.

Critics of the plan feel that the move is being made more for budgetary and space issues at the elementary schools than for academic benefits of the 5th graders. While it is clear that those issues were major factors in the committee's decision, in the end it appears that they were convinced that done right, the benefits of the plan to the district as a whole far outweighed the drawbacks.

Today's Salem News has details on the thought behind the plan:
School Committee members said last night that they visited several districts with a grade 5-to-8 middle school model, and the reports were largely favorable.

“I kept waiting for that red flag, the one that said, ‘God almighty, don’t build a 5-to-8 middle school,’ and it never came,” School Committee President Paul Manzo said.

Some parents had expressed concerns about fifth-graders mixing in with older middle school students. Committee member Kris Silverstein said those worries will be addressed by designing the school as “literally two small schools within a building,” with a lower school for grades 5 and 6 and an upper school for grades 7 and 8.

[Mayor] Cahill said the plan is to “keep our lower and upper school middle-school students separate whenever possible.”...

...[Ward 4 School Committee Rep Matt] Kavanagh said the model will only work if the plan is executed properly.

“To move your young son or daughter out of elementary school is a difficult thing,” he said. “If we prepare well for that transition, it will work well. If we don’t, it won’t work well. It’s all in the execution.”
Over the past several weeks city and school officials have held five public forums that brought together administration officials, as well as educators from outside districts familiar with the 5-8 model to detail the plan, and address the community's concerns. Throughout the process it became clear that the board was heading toward this decision, but that much had been learned about public process from recent city and school events. The amount of public information and outreach was unprecedented in Beverly, and the committee and administration seem well aware that the ultimate success of the plan demands continued focus and transparency.

BevCam filmed last night's meeting and vote, and we will post a link when available.

For those parents new to this issue, a lot of the earlier history of the plan can be found in the archive of this site, beginning in December of 2011, and working backwards from there.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Final Middle School Forum Tonight; Configuration Vote Wednesday

It's your last chance to hear the presentation on the proposed grade 5-8 middle school model - TONIGHT at the Cove School, 6:30pm. Please let your School Committee representative know what you think about this proposal - they vote WEDNESDAY NIGHT! Contact information School Committee members and all new elected officials is located here.

If you can't make it tonight, the video of an earlier forum is in the post below.

2/27 UPDATE:
Below is the video of the Cove forum, as well as an earlier forum held at Hannah School.  The North Beverly forum is embedded in the previous post.

Cove Forum:

Hannah Forum:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Middle School Configuration Forum

The district has been holding a series of forums to discuss the proposed grade 5-8 configuration of the new middle school.  Embedded below is the video of the North Beverly forum provided by BevCam.

If you'd like to attend one of these forums in person, the final date, at Cove School has been rescheduled for Tuesday 2/25 from 6:30-8:30pm

The School Committee plans to vote on the configuration at its meeting on February 26th.