The following was submitted by Medford Superintendent Roy Belson in response to comments on a previous article regarding Medford's busing program.
For the record: Medford does not pay to transport students to either the Malden Charter School or to the Essex Agricultural School. Tuition payments are made through the Department of Revenue “Cherry Sheet” as a reduction in local aid.
The morning start time has been changed by approximately 15 minutes so that we can pick-up students at ten different stops across the community, travel to Lexington/Minuteman, and return in time to transport elementary student to an in-city school. The multiple uses of this bus will save Medford taxpayers $60,000. this year. In some other cities students are expected to be at a single stop. For example, Waltham has students gather at Waltham High School. When students arrive at Minuteman in the morning they are allowed to go to the school cafeteria where they are supervised. It is anticipated that Medford students, on a typical day, will arrive at Minuteman 20-25 minutes before the first bell. This provides a margin for error in case of traffic or inclement weather. I am told by the bus company that most other students are arriving 15-20 minutes before the first bell. Some students drive their cars and arrive even earlier.
The afternoon bus must complete a Medford Elementary School Run before it can head to Minuteman. We expect that Elementary trip to last one half hour and enable the Bus to reach Minuteman by 3:30 p.m. On Wednesday afternoons the elementary schedule is modified so that the bus can reach Minuteman by 2:30 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays Minuteman schedules after school assistance for all students until 3:30 p.m. I would hope that Medford students take advantage of this time to seek help or extra instruction from the Minuteman faculty. If the bus left at 2:30 on these days Medford students would have no access to the afternoon help sessions. On Mondays and Fridays I would hope that our students participate in such activities as athletics or extra-curricular organizations or use the Minuteman Library to get a head start on their homework. Minuteman Superintendent Bouquillon has assured me that students will be supervised.
Regional School student transportation is reimbursed at the rate of 65% this year while Non-Resident student transportation (Medford) is reimbursed at a rate of 12%. Medford is fighting for equity with the state. Some 43 % of all students attending Minuteman are non-resident students. The cost to attend Minuteman is the highest for vocational education in the state and this year Medford will pay a minimum of $3800. per pupil more than last year. My colleagues and I from the non-resident school districts have raised these issues because we seek a resolution from the state that has been ignored for too many years. The State DESE has agreed to set up a task force to address this matter so that next spring we could have a better situation. My efforts are not designed to punish student who choose to attend another school for a legitimate program, but rather to ensure that the 220 students who stay home at our Medford Vocational School have the resources to pursue their vocational choices. These are and have been difficult financial times and we all must pull together to ensure that all our students get a fair share of taxpayers’ contributions.
Medford’s Minuteman students are being transported daily in new and safe buses. The issue of using public transportation that got every ones attention is off the table. Medford is providing bus service to Minuteman for a full five day before Medford students go begin school. This is not true of some other non-resident communities. No Medford student has been denied a program of their choice to explore or to major. Over one million dollars is projected to be spent on approximately 50 Minuteman students.
I look forward to productive discussions this year that will address the inequities inherent in the current Chapter 74 vocational programs. I expect that the state will address the issues of unfunded mandates that affect communities like Medford in an adverse way. I’m committed to pursuing these issues with my colleagues so that meaningful solutions can emerge that serve the best interests of all our students and families. Thank you for considering my position on this matter.
Roy E Belson, Superintendent of Schools