Exactly one year behind schedule, the School Finance Task Force – often referred to as the Blue Ribbon Task Force – will present its findings at a joint meeting of the School Committee and City Council on Sept. 4 at City Hall.
The Task Force is made up of a panel of leaders that were appointed by Mayor Carlo DeMaria in Feb. 2018 following the School Department’s first financial meltdown – and subsequent public rallying call at the City Council. In exchange for providing the School Department millions in stopgap funding, the mayor called for the Task Force to analyze the finances of the schools and come up with foundational recommendations to save the City substantial monies.
That was expected last year at this time, but the final report was slow going, and it lingered until now.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria will be front and center in the process – having initiated it 18 months ago.
“I am extremely pleased that the Blue Ribbon Task Force has completed its report and look forward to reviewing their recommendations. I also want to thank members for their work on this critical issue,” he said.
Dr. Omar Easy – who had chaired the Task Force while he was working at City Hall (he moved back to the School Department late this summer) – said he was ready to put the changes out there and get feedback.
“That process is really coming to an end to where we can present the findings,” he said. “They will address the challenges of financial resources in the schools and the things that went on with the schools.”
On Monday, at the School Committee meeting, members were upbeat about the meeting and the results.
“I’m really encouraged by this,” said School Committeeman Frank Parker. “I think it’s a great outcome for us and the City. I’m not afraid. It’s not bad. I just want to know a little bit about the report in advance.”
Chair Tom Abruzzese said he, Parker, Bernie D’Onofrio and David Ela had been with the Task Force a number of times to discuss school finances and potential changes. He also said he wasn’t scared of the findings and felt they would be a good roadmap forward.
“We interviewed with them and went over a lot of things,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re on the same page. There’s a lot of things in the about changes we need and what we’re going to do going forward…It’s all positive and it’s the City and Schools working together to keep budgets under control.”
The measure was very controversial when first introduced by DeMaria in 2018, with School officials speaking out against the idea. But since that time, many things have changed in the School Department, including the former leader, Fred Foresteire – who was adamantly against the Task Force looking at changes to school finances. Now, Interim Supt. Janice Gauthier and most of the School Committee seem open to the Task Force and its final recommendations.
The final report has been closely guarded, and though many in City Hall have reviewed it, the School Committee has not. Also, the general public has been kept out of the loop on the matter as well.
That will change on Sept. 4.
The Task Force included: Samuel Tyler, former president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau; Dr. Dwayne Thomas, of Thomas Leadership Solutions; Jon Fullerton, Executive Director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University; and Barry Sloane, President and CEO of Century Bank.