SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election

October 27, 2010

Cahill's strongest tie locally is through school building projects

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On the campaign trail, Cahill frequently touts what he calls "the most comprehensive reform" to the state's school building program in 60 years. He says he helped craft legislation in 2004 that created the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which identifies and prioritizes school building projects worthy of funding. As treasurer, Cahill is chairman of the program's Board of Directors.

At the time, the waiting list of school projects seeking state funding had ballooned to more than 400.

Several North Shore schools have benefited under the new program.

Beverly became one of the first communities in the state to embark on a school building project under the new system. The new $81.5 million Beverly High School partially opened last month, and the state is picking up some $46.8 million, or about 58 percent of the total price.

The state funding couldn't have come at a more crucial time — the high school was on the verge of losing its accreditation over health and safety issues within the old building.

"I have to give them a lot of credit," Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon said. "They have vastly improved the program they inherited. And the result of it is that we're getting a much better product. The schools being built now are being built to last, to have less in the way of maintenance problems."

For the record, Scanlon has endorsed Patrick for governor, but he still believes that Cahill and — perhaps more so, the program's executive director, Katherine Craven — deserve praise for overseeing the reforms.

"Maybe the smartest thing he did was pick Katherine Craven, who's done such a terrific job," Scanlon said.

Initially, the Building Authority had agreed to fund a smaller percentage of the overall cost of the school.

"Then we got the support of the treasurer and Katherine Craven in getting those numbers modified somewhat," Scanlon said. "We built the school with probably the smallest contingency fund of any school project of its size."

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