Danvers – The city can vote to limit the number of Danvers students who attend Essex Tech each year during the city’s annual meeting on Monday.
Town Meeting members will gather inside Danvers High School at 60 Cabot Road at 7:30 p.m. to decide the fate of 46 articles, including Article 5, a draft boardroom rule that would limit the number of new Danvers in Essex Tech students to 40 every year.
If approved, the cap will come into effect for the 2023-2024 academic year.
“What we’ve been trying to do for about two years now is to move the conversation forward so the Town Meeting can understand what an open commitment to that school looks like…” said Steve Bartha, City Manager of Danvers. “We have tried to make it clear that we are a society with limited resources.”
Partha said the city pays $16,700 to each student who lives in Danvers and attends Essex Tech School. That amount is about $7,500 per student more than the city would pay for their education at Danvers Public Schools.
Essex Tech’s valuation in the city has risen from $2.51 million to $3.87 million over the past four years — up 54.18%, according to a Town Meeting note.
Danvers officials have tried to find an affordable solution to enroll in Essex Tech five times since February 2020, according to the memo. None of them worked.
“It became a very acute budgeting issue three years ago when admissions decisions by the school resulted in a $670,000 increase in the city’s assessment, which I learned about in the mid-budget process entering COVID,” Bartha said.
He continued, “At the time, the city called the school and tried to start a conversation with them…but they didn’t really engage in the conversation.”
Danvers’ population of 28,000 makes up 9.22% of the Essex Tech District, which includes 17 communities, according to the 2020 federal census. However, 17.65% of the students at the school are Danvers.
Limiting the number of new incoming students will allow the Danvers student population to settle at 160 students over the next four years, about 12% of the school’s total population.
Partha said: “(Article 5) will put some barriers in place regarding the City’s commitment to Essex Tech on a basis going forward.
Essex Tech Technical Supervisor Heidi Riccio wrote in an April 25 letter to Town Meeting members that she “strongly opposes” Article 5.
“This petition … arbitrarily and unreasonably denies access to a professional education for prospective Danvers students, making the highly competitive and selective admissions process unfair to these students based solely on the community in which they reside,” Ricciu wrote. “Section 5 deprives parents of Danvers and young residents of their educational options and all benefits that Essex North Shore can offer.”
Riccio wrote that Section 5 would interfere with the school’s broad authority to create and dictate its admission policies. She added that setting an enrollment cap at Essex Tech could only result in Danvers students who were rejected from the school enrolling in other vocational schools in the area, requiring the city to continue paying for their outside education.
“While we recognize that the city’s desire to increase student enrollment and invest more resources in its public high school for the benefit of these students is commendable, this cannot and should not circumvent Essex North Shore admissions decisions and should not come at the expense of students seeking a professional technical and agricultural education,” Ricciu wrote.
The Town Meeting would also decide Section 38, a proposed citizen petition that would allow Danvers officials in elected office at the city level, who have more than six months in their term, to be removed from office through a no-confidence vote.
Under Section 38, residents will have to file a subpoena with 350 or more signatures so the city can hold a vote of no-confidence, which will take place within 64 to 90 days of the petition’s ratification, according to the memo. The Select Board voted 4-1 in April to submit the article with an unfavorable opinion. Partha said this wasn’t because the board didn’t approve of the article idea, but rather because they thought the process behind it was a quick response to the past two turbulent years in Danvers.
“I can’t speak for the Select Board, but some of the comments were…pushing something like this in reaction to something like this seemed like a very different process than putting the question on the table and thinking about it well and making sure it will coexist well with all the governing documents,” said Partha. others in the city.
Members will determine the city’s budget for fiscal year 2023, vote on the appropriate Chapter 90 funds to maintain the streets and decide to re-approval accounts for the city’s revolving fund to operate its non-tax programs.
Section 24 proposes that $440,240 be used to improve buildings in schools, fire stations, Endicott Park, the Peabody Institute Library, and other town-owned buildings. Similarly, Section 25 will allocate $219,000 to improve land on city parks and properties. If approved, Article 28 would allow the town to spend $150,000 earmarked for a citywide strategic plan. The plan will help Danvers set their priorities for the next decade, particularly in meeting the needs of their residents, according to the memo.
Several articles dealing with improving city sanitation and repairing local dams will also be voted on.
Connect with Caroline Enos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.