School Supt. Fred Foresteire said the School Department has met with the blue ribbon task force appointed by Mayor Carlo DeMaria once and it was very positive, but he said he is hoping that the collaboration continues before they release their findings this month.
Foresteire said the recommendations are simply that – they cannot be enforced, and he hopes that they will be shared with the Department before the public meeting.
“My whole thing is if they have these recommendations, they have no real authority as far as the School Budget is concerned,” he said. “They can make recommendations and we’ll see what they are. They may have some good ideas. I certainly don’t expect to be blindsided by them. Are we going to hear about them for the first time at a public meeting? If we’re all in the spirit of cooperation, I hope that isn’t the case…They may have good ideas, don’t get me wrong. If everyone is supposed to be working together, I would expect we get these things ironed out beforehand.”
The Task Force has met several times over the past several months following the School Budget dilemma from last spring. The members are private individuals from outside of Everett – such as Chair Sam Tyler of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. The group is preparing 12 recommendations after their study, which included a positive meeting with the schools, and will present them publicly in mid-August.
Foresteire said the School Budget was never in deficit this spring when the budgeting decisions had to be made – some of them very publicly in front of the Council and Mayor Carlo DeMaria. Foresteire said the state has been underfunding urban schools for the past two or three years when they decided to tweak the school funding formula. He said it was necessary to create a situation so as to make everyone see the true seriousness of the situation.
“I doubt we would have seen that $6 million if the mayor didn’t see the dire need we were in,” he said.
The second part of the School Budget study comes in the School Finance Review Committee – a group of councilors and School Committee members looking over the monthly expenditures and procedures within the schools. The committee has met three times, and has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. Now, they have instituted a regular schedule and hope that will bring some momentum.
“I’m glad the goal is to work more closely with the School Department to meet educational needs and to be mindful of the City’s budget,” said Councilor Anthony DiPierro. “I’ve said for a long time the School Department and City hall have operated as two separate entities. We all have to be on the same page to succeed.”
School Committeeman Frank Parker – who also serves on the Review Committee – said things have been slow, but he is encouraged.
“Now that we’re in a new fiscal year and have a set date for meetings, I think we’ll be able to move a little quicker,” he said. “We’re still trying to find our identity and what our role is. With that, there is absolutely a desired goal of maximizing the revenues to the benefit of the public schools – that’s everyone on the committee.”
He said one of the things he is hoping for is that the Committee could make some long-term projections working with the School Department.
“I think no one wants to repeat what happened last year and also there seems to be a new way of being more forward thinking…Personally, I’d like to see a five-year plan…I’d like to have a five-year look-ahead. This budgeting every 10 months for a $100 million City Budget is very crazy.”
On the other hand, Supt. Foresteire said he doesn’t see the purpose of the Review Committee.
“Frankly, I don’t see where it’s going,” he said, noting that they have had three meetings.