Some members of the Peabody School Committee, citing student safety and disruption of the educational process, would like ban the city from using schools as polling locations on Election Day.
How do you feel about the issue?
I’ll weigh in during the discussion, but for now I just wanted to get our readership’s reaction to the Peabody City Council last night voting pay raises for the Mayor, School Committee members, and City Councilors.
Here are the basic details. (You can read more in this article from the Peabody Patch.)
The City Council voted 8-2 to hike the Mayor’s pay from $94,933 per year to $105,000 per year (10% increase). It’s the first mayoral raise in 12 years.
Councilors also voted 7-3 to increase their salaries to 9 percent of the mayor’s salary, starting in 2014, and give School Committee members an $1,100 raise. School Committee members will now earn $5,100, while councilors will earn about $9,450 (up from $7,466).
Please give me your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll try to weigh in with my opinion during the discussion.
Although we like to get into the meaty side of the issues here on The Eye, we also like to take time out to celebrate nice accomplishments in our community.
So, today we’re pleased to inform you of a noteworthy honor bestowed upon my Alma mater, the West Memorial School.
This morning, US Department of Defense representatives will be at the Bow Street School to honor those at the West with the prestigious Seven Seals Award, an acknowledgement the DoD created to recognize American employers for patriotic support for soldiers serving in the National Guard and Reserves, and their families.
Massachusetts National Guard Staff Sgt. David Nicholson, a West parent, started the ball rolling on having the West receive this award when he wrote a letter to the DoD. In the letter, Sgt. Nicholson praised Principal Tom Cornacchio “for his patriotic assemblies, for his attention to the condition of the flag outside of the school, and for his daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance over the sound system,”
The students at the West also learn about the Gettysburg Address, have school ceremonies for Patriots Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and are sending care packages to U.S. soldiers overseas.
Sgt. Nicholson, a West School alum, is a former member of the 18th Army Airborne. He is about to depart on another tour in Afghanistan with the Mass. National Guard.
In these days when some public schools in other communities are cautious about celebrating patriotism for fear it might offend someone, it’s nice to see that Peabody still knows how to celebrate love of country, and appreciate those who protect our freedom.
Congrats to Principal Cornacchio and the entire West Memorial School community. Way to go, Wildcats!
And to Sgt. David Nicholson: Thank you, sir, for your service.
His approach makes sense without playing into the hysteria. The recent tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, have caused Peabody Schools Superintendent Joe Mastrocola to do what commonsense, and not hysteria, dictates.
He’s received approval from the school committee for obtaining an expert to do a safety/security assessment of Peabody’s schools.
There’s no talk here of putting armed guards at all of the doors. No one is panicking people by insisting it could happen here. No knee-jerk reactions.
Just a well-conducted assessment, and action plan to ensure that we’re doing all of the right things to protect the safety of out kids, and school department staff.
“I want to let the community know, and the school committee know, we continue always to make safety our first priority in the school district,” said Mastrocola at Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting, as reported by the Peabody Patch.
Like all school systems, Peabody currently has comprehensive procedures and protocols designed to protect its students and teachers. But what this expert will help us learn is where gaps might exist, and where we can do better. It might mean replacing locks or altering some protocols, but it won’t be extreme, and it won’t turn our schools into unwelcoming, intimidating, armed fortresses.
Mastrocola says safety within the city’s schools is a “primary goal” for the district, along with teaching and learning, and I think that’s right.
It’s a commonsense approach amid national hysteria and suggestions that we should arm our teachers.
So far, so good on a number of fronts for Peabody’s new super.
Join us tonight, 8-9 p.m., on Channel 99 as we welcome legendary co-host Dick Jarvis for our first live “You Make The Call” show of 2013.
Please tune in, and give us a call! Or send us a question through our Facebook page.
There are challenges yet to come, but as we prepare for the ball to drop in Peabody Square in a few days (OK, not really), we pause to assess the rookie year for Mayor Ted Bettencourt.
From where I sit as a taxpayer, I’d sum up the Mayor’s first year performance this way:
It hasn’t been perfect, but it has been very good.
Not an A-plus, but certainly a very high B, bordering on an A-minus. Look folks, even Ted, we feel, would appreciate it if we left in some room here for growth.
So here goes … a look at what just one taxpayer, this taxpayer thinks of Year 1 of the Bettencourt Administration. These are what I feel were his three best and biggest accomplishments:
1. Passing an early challenge on healthcare
With the city stuck in neutral when it comes to revenue growth, the Mayor gets an A-plus for his leadership when it came to reaching an agreement in June with the city’s unions to enter the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Going the GIC route could end up saving the city between $10 and $15 million over the next four years.
Just months into his first term, it took guts for this rookie mayor to first draw a line in the sand, and then bring all of the city’s unions to the table to work out a smart, commonsense solution. But some of the credit also goes to the unions too. In these days when stories abound about the greediness of some union leaders, Peabody’s unions proved that collective bargaining can be a wonderful thing when neither side acts exclusively in their own self interests.
2. The Education Mayor
Bettencourt showed leadership again in the spring, getting unanimous support from both the city council and school committee on the construction of a new Higgins Middle School, as the city scraped its original plan for renovating the existing, dilapidated, sprawling facility. The new school will cost Peabody taxpayers about $45 million after state reimbursement, but it’s definitely much-needed, and for Bettencourt—a young mayor with a young family—it shows that he is intent on becoming the Education Mayor.
Getting new schools built in Peabody the past 20 years has been a huge struggle, but somehow this one seemed easy, and it came with almost universal acceptance from taxpayers. I know it wasn’t all Ted’s doing, but he deserves a lot of the credit here.
3. The Pro Business Mayor
Understanding right from the start that Peabody has a revenue problem, Bettencourt made good on a campaign promise to make the city more business friendly in an effort to expand our commercial tax base. If we’re going to get the money we need to pay existing and upcoming bills, and also improve infrastructure and schools, the burden can’t keep landing on residential taxpayers. More businesses, mean more tax dollars. So, with that in mind, Bettencourt did the following in Year 1:
As for Year 2 …
Not that he’s taking advice from me, but if I were Ted Bettencourt I’d start leveraging some of my “political capital” in 2013, something that I feel will make him unbeatable when it comes to re-election next fall.
What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes I get the impression that the Mayor doesn’t fully realize that there is power in his popularity. We saw this during the spring when he sat on the sidelines during the special election to replace Senator Fred Berry. Meanwhile, Mayor Kim Driscoll got every Salem elected official on board behind Joan Lovely, who is now our State Senator. Suddenly, when it comes to that very influential seat, the power has shifted to Salem.
Love him or not, you have to respect how former Mayor Peter Torigian would have anointed one of the two Peabody candidates, either John Slattery or Mary Ellen Manning, and strongly insisted that every city councilor, every school committee member, light commissioner and library trustee support that candidate to ensure we didn’t lose that seat to Salem.
Ted Bettencourt has earned some tremendous “juice” in Year 1. He is popular in Peabody, and has done the job. Now, will he use that “juice” to take it to the next level, and wield the type of regional clout we saw in the past from politically powerful Mayors Nick Mavroules and Peter Torigian?
Want to let us know how you feel Mayor Bettencourt has fared in his first year? Let us know by taking our poll.
The Peabody Patch reports that the citywide parent-teacher organization, Peabody PTC, is asking all students, parents, faculty, staff and the community at-large to wear green and white for the day. Green and white are the school colors at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Very nice idea. Can I also suggest that everyone else wears green to work tomorrow?
Want to catch up on your Eye on Peabody reading this weekend?
Please let us know in the comments section which posts you enjoyed most, or got the most value from this week. You can also use the “Send a hot tip” link to let us know what you’d like to see us right about go forward.
Today officially is the three-week anniversary of Eye On Peabody. During that brief span, we’ve had 41 posts, almost 400 comments, and more than 10,000 visitors. Thanks so much for visiting. We hope it’s been informative, entertaining, and helped spark some discussions where you live.
Gould says he has decided not to run for state rep. See the updated version of this story by clicking here.
The race to succeed late State Representative Joyce Spilliotis is unofficially underway, with at least three potential candidates already making calls to line up support.
EOP has learned that School Committee member Beverley Dunne, who was a close friend and supporter of Representative Spilliotis will run for the seat in a yet-to-be-announced special election.
Others who have been calling around town seeking out early support include current Councilors At-Large Tom Gould and David Gravel. Dunne and Gould would run as Democrats, meaning there will be a primary sometime after the first of the year, likely in March. Contrary to what we reported earlier tonight, EOP is now not able to confirm if Gravel would also run as a Democratic. A Facebook friend source told me tonight that he heard Gravel would run as an independent.
EOP has also learned that former Rep John Slattery, who recently lost in his bid to replace retiring Senator Fred Berry, is unlikely to run for the state rep seat, which was held by Spilliotis for 10 years until her death a week ago. The district includes Peabody Wards 1-4 and part of Ward 5.
Dunn is a very popular member of the school committee, who would have been up for re-election this fall. Gould in 2011 topped the ticket during the Councilor At-Large race in his first run for public office, and Gravel has served on both the school committee and city council.
As for pure speculation, I wouldn’t be surprised if Councilor At-Large Anne Manning, who lost twice in state rep races against Spilliotis, might also be considering another run.
So far, there seem to be no candidates on the Republican side, but if we were to simply speculate, it wouldn’t be outrageous to wonder if former Governor’s Councilor Mary Ellen Manning might be
interested. Mary Ellen Manning recently finished third to Joan Lovely and Slattery in the Democratic primary for Berry’s seat, and right after that loss left the Democratic Party by changing her voting status to “unenrolled.” Of course, if her sister Ann Manning is in on the Democratic side, it’s highly unlikely that Mary Ellen will run.
Then again, is it also possible that Anne Manning might run as a Republican, since she was a supporter of Republican Richard Tisei in his unsuccessful recent run against Democrat Congressman JohnTierney.
Speculating even further, another Republican with a track record for winning citywide is School Committee member and attorney Jarrod Hochman. But a source told me tonight that Hochman said today he would not run.
Definitely more to come on this story …
It’s a good idea. It’s an innovative idea, and Joe Mastracola, Peabody’s Superintendent of Schools, should get props for coming up with something that could add a nice chunk of incremental revenue, while giving our school system some positive diversity.
Mastrocola wants to attract foreign students to attend Peabody High School with the assistance of an agency called Educatius International. The big benefit to taxpayers would be that each of these students would pay Peabody $12,000 per year to attend.
In the small school district of Groton-Dunstable, where Matsrocola previously served as super, the policy reaped up to $175,000, according to the Salem News. The program this year alone has meant almost $300k of found money for Arlington High.
All of the students, who would be here on F1 visas provided through Homeland Security, would be put up with host families, who would be compensated by the students’ families. The students undergo strict background checks.
Not only would this give the Peabody schools some much-needed extra revenue, but these international students typically come from strong academic backgrounds, and having more kids with scholarly track records is never a bad thing for Peabody High.
The question might be, how can Peabody be competitive when it comes to attracting these students? For example, both Arlington and Groton-Dunstable have better academic credentials right now than Peabody, and we’ll also be competing against Catholic high schools. Speaking from personal experience of having seen this program work well at Wakefield’s all-girl NazarethAcademy, many of the students come from upper class conservative families, and have parents who seek schools that offer religion and the type of disciplined atmosphere you typically find at a small or private high school.
But it’s a great idea for Peabody to apply, and I don’t see any negatives. It’s definitely innovative thinking by our new superintendent.