Lofty goals in Marblehead

December 20, 2016

Town reports, written annually and often read only by the people who wrote them, can be dry documents summarizing the status quo in fancy language.

But Marblehead School Superintendent Maryann Perry veered away from this safe approach when she wrote her portion of the 2015 town report. Perry took a step forward and used space allotted for the School Department in the report to outline challenges and lofty goals.

Almost 11 months have passed since the town report became official and it will be interesting to see in the 2016 report how Perry summarizes the school department’s success in achieving its 2016 objectives.

The 2015 report identified textbook inventory as a department priority concern. Even in an age of digital technology, textbooks remain an education staple and Perry and her staff relied on what the report described as “family and community feedback” to identify the best plan for continuing to use texts based on the department’s commitment to updating learning curriculums.

Perry also described how school employees took a nuts-and-bolts approach to long-term school building maintenance. Like textbooks, building maintenance is not the most exciting concern making its way across Perry’s desk every day. But Perry and top school aides realize tracking school building upkeep is an opportunity for savings benefiting local taxpayers.

Even with a state-of-the-art high school, Marblehead must stay ahead of the curve when it comes to maintaining nine local school buildings. The Elbridge Gerry School is the oldest town school and it has not seen a major renovation in 110 years. Town residents in their wisdom gave town officials permission to push ahead with an expensive and exhaustive review process that will conclude with important decisions about the Gerry’s future.

School building renovation or new construction projects are expensive and school officials have made the right decision by minding maintenance dollars and cents.

To her credit, Perry did not shy away from school spending problems in the school department summary for the 2015 town report. She warned of rising costs and “increasing pressure” in describing school financial challenges. But she also offered specific solutions to balancing the school budget.

“While we know we have budget pressures in our future, the traction, trust and collaboration we have gained this year sets a strong foundation for continued good work,” she wrote by way of summarizing school spending challenges.

It will be interesting to see how Perry sums up in the 2016 town report new challenges faced by town schools and efforts to overcome them.