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.

Monday, November 2, 2015

School Community Unified on Mayor's Race

While the past two Mayoral elections saw some divided loyalties in the school community between those supporting Mike Cahill and those supporting his challengers (ex-Mayor Scanlon in 2011, and City Councilor Wes Slate in 2013), there appear to be no such divisions this year. In fact, its tough to find any school community leaders, or elected officials that are supporting this year's challenger, current Ward 1 School Committee member David Manzi.

The Salem News endorsed Cahill last week, but a much more forceful and well-researched endorsement of Cahill and indictment of Manzi's alternative middle school plan—on which he's resting the bulk of his candidacy—ran in this week's Beverly Citizen.  Of Cahill, the Citizen states:
Incumbent Michael P. Cahill has done a significant amount of work in his short time in office. From getting the DPA lifted on the waterfront and helping to establish a task force to address homelessness on the North Shore to promoting green initiatives and updating the city’s parks, Cahill has worked tirelessly to improve the community. 
He is extremely passionate about the youth in the community, which is demonstrated by his new summer learning initiative. The program gives at-risk first graders the opportunity to enhance their literacy skills in a six-week program during the summer....
Cahill is eyeing a future with free full-day kindergarten by phasing out the current fee charged to families seeking the service. Also on Cahill’s to-do list is a continued effort to address the ever-increasing substance abuse epidemic in the city.
And of Manzi and his plan:
His challenger, David Manzi, on the other hand, seems to have lots of ideas, but not a lot of facts or figures to back them up. Take his middle school plan, for example. Anyone can claim a project could save tens of millions of dollars. But, with no actual price tag attached to Manzi’s middle school plan, it’s difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Manzi is insistent that he’s never been fully in favor of the 5-8 middle school model. However, throughout the extensive vetting process with numerous community meetings and hearings coordinated by the School Committee, of which Manzi is a member, he made no mention of his qualms. The committee then went on to vote unanimously in favor of that configuration in February of 2014.
Manzi is also claiming he can build a state-of-the-art grades 7-8 facility for less than $50 million, though the only numbers he actually has are comparisons to “similar” projects — one an academic building filled with just classrooms, labs and offices and the other a renovation-addition project of an existing school. Essentially, they really aren’t all that similar.
Another important read on the lack of credibility in Manzi's plan is this letter to the editor of both newspapers from School Committee Chairman Paul Manzo, one not generally known to be as vocal on citywide politics as some of his colleagues:
While Mr. Manzi is free to express frustration that his plan has gained little traction with these boards, the fault is not with the dedicated individuals who have spent many hours in study and discussion of the more viable alternative. Instead, Mr. Manzi should have either requested a comprehensive discussion of both plans, or focused his efforts on improving his favored option to address the glaring fiscal and educational deficiencies that are apparent to the members of the middle school building committee, School Committee and the City Council.
An essential trait of any committee member is the ability – following debate and discussion – to support the consensus decision regardless of individual opinion. The fact that Mr. Manzi has decided to follow a self-serving path after failing to convince his colleagues that his plan is superior to that endorsed by the middle school building committee only highlights the fatally flawed nature of his alternative.
The fact is that the middle school plan, which was the result of nearly four years of open and public process, was approved by the Middle School Building Committee by a vote of 20-1, with only Manzi dissenting and passed the City Council unanimously. The 5-8 configuration had previously been approved unanimously by the School Committee—including Manzi—even though Manzi now calls the 5-8 configuration a "failed model".

The project has been enthusiastically supported by the Mass School Building Authority (MSBA), who praised Beverly's process of designing a building to support a very forward-looking educational program as a model that other communities should emulate. It's very unlikely that the MSBA would look kindly on, or fund, a complete 180 by the city on a plan that they have already invested so heavily in.

In concluding the previously noted endorsement, the Beverly Citizen summarized the electorate's choice as follows:
What it boils down to is that residents of Beverly deserve more than just vague concepts and unsubstantiated claims; our current mayor has a proven track record of getting things done, all while conducting business in an incredibly transparent manner.
Cahill has earned our endorsement and deserves your vote.
We, and most who want to see continued progress in the Beverly Public Schools, wholeheartedly agree.

We also encourage Ward 2 voters to turn out and support Paul Manzo over his clearly unqualified challenger Adam Hartmann for the only contested School Committee seat, and Ward 3 voters to support incumbent Jim Latter over Rick Marciano for City Council.

Both of these challengers would also attempt to derail this widely supported plan—none with any clearly defined alternative.  Such a move would be a major setback to our schools and our city.

Please vote, and encourage your friends and neighbors to vote on Tuesday.  In a low turnout election, as is expected this year, each vote matters more than ever.

Note: BevCam interviews with the six candidates for these three contested seats appear in the post below.