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Sparks Fly Over Medford to Minuteman School Bus Funding

Parents accuse the Medford schools of using their children as bargaining chips.

By offering their kids only MBTA passes to get to school, parents of students at Minuteman Regional High School believe Medford Public Schools are using their children as bargaining chips.

Medford Superintendent Roy Belson sees it differently.

"The Medford Public Schools are no longer going to be a doormat for Minuteman Vocational," Belson said Tuesday. "We're going to stand up."

The proposed Medford school budget includes cutting $50,000 in funding for a school bus to transport Medford students to the school, located in Lexington, and replacing the bus service with MBTA passes for students.

Belson appeared before the city council in a meeting at City Hall to review the School Department budget. Parents of Minuteman students also attended.

Getting to Minuteman from Medford via public transit would be no easy task. Many students would likely have to take a bus then a subway then another bus to make it from Medford to Lexington. Lisa Connearney, who's son plans on attending Minuteman next year, said she felt her child was being placed in the middle of a negotiation.

"Why are our children being used in the middle of this, and being placed in an unsafe situation?" she said to Belson.

Belson admitted that Medford -- and other communities, including Boston -- were in negotiations over funding for Minuteman and other regional high schools, but also pointed out Medford Public Schools are taking cuts in the proposed 2013 budget.

"I'm balancing two very delicate needs right now," Belson said.

Fee increases from Minuteman to Medford Public Schools have been consistently on the rise, he said. Medford's 2013 school budget has $1 million earmarked for out-of-district vocational tuition.

"They've been allowed to increase their fees at an astonishing rate," Belson said. "This is the year we put our foot down."

Belson said he believed the state would get involved and the issue could come to a resolution, other than having kids take the T, sometime this summer.

"When the Boston delegation speaks up on this, you're going to see Minuteman take a hit on the head," Belson said.

City Councilor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said that wasn't good enough.

"As a mom, if this was my child, I would need to know," Lungo-Koehn said.

City Councilor Michael Marks disagreed with Belson's tactics.

"I don't think we should hold these kids hostage here," Marks said.

The real problem lies in the shortcomings of Medford Vocational High School, Marks said. It doesn't offer enough programs in modern technology, leading students to leave for Minuteman, he said.

"We have to take a hard look at the Medford Vocational School," Marks said.

Angela Moore said her two kids would have to take two buses and a train in order to get to school each day.

"I felt I was being blamed for the state of Medford Vocational School," she said.

Councilor Paul Camuso told Belson that only offering public transportation passes to Minuteman students was unacceptable.

"I'll be damned if Medford kids are taking public transportation that far." Camuso said to Belson. "I expect you to know kids shouldn't be taking public transit 16 miles."

The Medford School Committee approved the school budget last week. It is currently in the hands of the Medford City Council.

stevieB June 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM
If the mayor didnt let medford high school become such a poor place of learning then kids wouldnt have to leave the city..its on his watch..he owns it..disgraceful.
elaine low June 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM
MR Belson should be more concerned with providing a good education for all the kids in Medford than "BEING A DOORMAT FOR MINUTEMAN". If Medford provided a proper education, our kids wouldn't have to leave the city to find one. Our son graduated from Minuteman, with honors, this year. While in the Medford school system, he was refused help with reading for four years in a row and struugled all through middle school. The teachers wanted to help but were restrained by the administration. Minuteman turned it around within one year. We can't say enough good things about Minuteman. Unfortunately, we had to leave Medford in search of a good education for our son. This is the city of Medford and Mr. Belson's shame. Fortunately, he found a challenging, supportive, and Inspiring educational system at Minuteman and is on his way to colllege this fall. Something we know he wouldn't have been prepared for if he had remained in the Medford Public Schools.
ann June 20, 2012 at 12:26 PM
These students should not have to be subjected to public transportation. They are still students of the medford tax paying city. Why was there a school committee meeting when a majority of parents were attending the McGlynn Middle School graduation. Please reschedule another meeting so all parents can attend and voice their opinion.
Bill O'Keefe June 20, 2012 at 12:30 PM
The money could be found easily. Look at the perks the current school committee recieves. 1K to be chairman of the school committee, 2200 to be secretary of the school committee, 600 to be vice chair. They also each get a travel stipend for 1200 a piece and then still submit travel vouchers for their travel. Then you have these professional development conferences. Look at all the travel vouchers his administration team gets as a perk.....can't make it up but when it comes time to pay for the kids.....shameful.
Jan June 20, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I realize people send their children out of Medford for education for a variety of reasons. But, lets not bash the school system as a whole. I sent my child to private school and he took 2 buses and a train. It didn't kill him and we paid for it, not Medford. It was our decision and we dealt with it.
Emma C. June 20, 2012 at 12:50 PM
The Mayor ans Mr Belson should know that the clear resolution going forward in the future would be to look at the educational issues at Medford High School as well as The Vocational School and bring them both up to date, strengthen them, keep the city's education competive and the children and famalies will stay in Medford. What Parent would not love to keep the convience of having their children stay in the city they live in? You have to make it worth the while! But until then take care of the childrenand the safety of those kids who have to seek a better education outside of Medford. A long term solution needs to be put in place with Medford's Education and it needs to begin at the Elemantary Level. We need a strong Vision for our city!!
Lisa June 20, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Hey Jan, youre right! That was/IS YOUR decision. Some students should be offered other alternatives to their education and vocational choices. Especially students with disabilities who ARE going to minute man as well. Some of these kids have not yet learned to take a train and/or bus alone so they should be penalized? I'm sorry, if there is a child going to Minute Man (which at present I do not) who is allowed a FAPE -free and appropriate public education which includes transportation, then I'll fight to get that. Not sure what kind of private school you're talking about, but you know what? Good for you for being able to afford that and having children who ARE able to take the trains and busses on their own. Count your blessings. As for Mr. Belson: Shame on you. There are other avenues. I said back in 2007 when I ran for sc Medford was a city who did NOT chg parents for transportation. I collected data at that time on some cities and towns who do charge for transportation. I also said that this would be something to look into in the future. This should be looked into closely. Back then, I noted some cities and towns paying anywhere between $400-$700 per year...sometimes per child, sometimes per family. I'm not saying to gouge us, but perhaps this would alleviate some of the problem.
MO June 20, 2012 at 01:40 PM
When parents speak up they are shut out. Most school committee members are puppets carrying out the wishes of the School Committee Chairman (Mayor), Belson and the administration, and we pay them for it. What a joke! Remember at election time next year that some of these members really don’t “give a hoot” about you or improving the academics in our schools.
Joe Vellucci June 20, 2012 at 01:52 PM
How many students would be going to Minuteman? With a little creative thinking could they be transported there on a private bus? Could the city not afford to buy a bus, a van or something to get the kids to school? Could the MBTA perhaps provide a bus/van etc. that would go from Medford Sq. to Minuteman? If the city purchased a vehicle perhaps they could offer local business advertising on the vehicle in exchange for funding of the vehicle...Just some ideas.. Joey Vellucci
lisa connearney June 20, 2012 at 01:58 PM
mr. belsons lack of professionalism should come under scrutiny in this situation. while at last nights meeting, i observed him rollling his eyes, cleaning his glasses on his tie and staring into space while parents were voicing their opinions regarding this matter. he purposely held back chapter 74's, my sons in particular, in an attempt to force minuteman to pay for buses. he was sarcastic and rude to me and several other parents at last weeks school committee meeting. he claims that we are angry because we dont like what we are hearing, but i think he is the one that is not happy with what HE is hearing. he expected us to just accept his decision to take away the buses from kids who's parents are taxpayers from medford. Medford has an agreement with minuteman to provide acceptable transportation to the students choosing to attend minuteman, and mr belson is not upholding his end of the agreement by offering MBTA passes to these students. he is putting our kids in the middle of his war with minuteman in an effort to force the children of medford to choose medford vocational, which is badly in need of improvements. @ jan, minuteman is a public high school which is why there is such an agreement. we are not bashing medford school system, my son so far has gone thru the system and i have another who will attend middle school in medford. i am angry because mr. belson seems to have no regard for the safety of these children, only in bashing minuteman.
MO June 20, 2012 at 02:08 PM
This is why Belson refuses to implement a school wide calendar. He strategically uses it to his advantage, as in this case.
CeCe June 20, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I may not always agree with Mr. Belson or the School Committee, but I do believe if a parent chooses to send their child to another school, it should not be on my tax dollars to get them their. There are children in the city who live too far away to walk and must take public transportation. It may not be far but the parents still have to pay for their t-pass. My children all went through Medford High School and got an unbelievable education,went on to great colleges and because of their MHS education, they received wonderful scholarship money. MHS (and MVHS) may not be for all but the city does pay these other schools when a Medford child does not attend their local high school, so your tax dollars are paying for the education. Transportation should not be the problem of the city, but of the individuals. T-passes for kids are not that out of reach. I wish people would stop bashing MHS, it is a wonderful school and would not change a thing for my children. People should start taking responsibility for themselves and stop blaming others.
Jan June 20, 2012 at 02:34 PM
All I was saying was that there are a lot of kids in Medford, and a lot of them are going to public schools. We need to consider the needs of all of them from the honors/advanced kids to the kids who need extra services. And I do count my blessings every day. And Lisa we sacrificed to afford to send our child out of public school. My husband worked 2 jobs and I also worked. We worked opposite so that we could still care for our children. And really I am tired of being made to feel as though I am mean because I don't automatically agree with everyone. What about a parent carpool for the kids going to minuteman? And is the issue really that these kids are unable to negotiate busses or is that just a way to make a point?
Jan June 20, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Thank you CeCe! I agree with all of the above. I had other children attend MHS and it was a great experience. It just wasn't the right fit for one of them. A little personal responsibility from everyone would be welcome! I wish their were more voices like you on here.
Lisa June 20, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Jan, I'm sorry if I made you feel 'mean'. That was not my intent. No doubt you guys worked very hard to get your kids into an appropriate school for them. The situation at hand is that people/families should be responsible to pay some dues to get transportation. Everyone pay their fair share..but NOT to exclude any one type of individual or choice of school. Medford does have an agreement with Minute Man. Medford is still responsible for a child who attends an out of district placement--to a point. They are just playing hardball right now because the funding isn't being (and i'm guessing) allocated in all the right areas? The more people that come together on this, the better chances they will not cut these services. Good luck everyone. Let me know if I can be of any assistance.
Kim Leonard June 20, 2012 at 09:14 PM
If I'm not mistaken, it's not a Medford agreement with Minuteman to provide transportation, it's the state law (Chapter 74 Sec 8A). The law doesn't require a bus, so I guess a T pass would comply with the letter of the law. But I don't believe in my heart that the administration in both Medford and at Minuteman will end up forcing Medford students into 3-hour round trip commute on the T. With the high cost of sending Medford kids to Minuteman, it really makes no sense to put up barriers to their success before the school day even begins. Things frequently get worked out over the summer -- I hope this is one of those things!
ann June 20, 2012 at 09:40 PM
There should be no insulting any school private, public or tech. Every child has different degrees of talent they want to further. Medford High does not offer the classes my son is going to take at minuteman. There should not discussion when it comes to the safety of transportation to and from a school in the city or out of the city. There are plenty of other ways to cut from the budget and/or make money. Maybe they should make free lunch at the schools a litle harder by actually having to submit a W-2 when parents pass in their applications. A lot of money would not be going out the window under false circumstances. Leave the bus alone and offer a variety of education to all children who seek alternatives.
ann June 20, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Also, another meeting needs to be held so all parents who have students going to Minuteman can attend and voice their concerns about the situation. Thanks
MO June 20, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I give the administration full credit for being completely aware of the hardship taking away this bus would cause. Do you really think they would give back the bus out of the kindness of their hearts? If the parents didn’t call them out on their tactics for shutting them out of the meeting by not allowing them the chance to speak this would be a done deal. Or maybe you’re right, and these administrators didn’t think things through, and therefore aren’t qualified to be making such decisions. The last thing parents should do is sit back and wait for something to change over the summer. Belson would love that!
Concerned Citizen June 21, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Wake up Medford - the towns around us charge for transportation. Figure out what the cost is, divy it up across the board and charge everyone beyond the 2 mile limit. You will see quite a few parents step up and carpool. How many houses have cars out in front of the house while the kids hop on a free bus ride.
Patricia Flynn August 26, 2012 at 07:09 PM
CeCe I too have had children graduate from Medford High School. One son due to attend UMASS in the fall and another graduating law school this year. However my current son would not have succeed with the current support offered at Medford High School or the Medford Vocational school for various reasons. I looked into all options. And it's our tax dollars as well. I own a home in and support business in Medford. And to Jan who implied that some parents maybe embellishing that their children may not be able to negotiate the MBTA or may have other safety concerns, shame on you. I know first hand that parents DO have LEGITIMATE safety concerns.
Patricia Flynn August 26, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Hi Kim, Guess again!!! I hate to be the bearer of bad news but......Minuteman students will be dropped off at school 35 minutes before school starts and are not due to be picked up from school until 3:30, one hour after school ends. Thats just the wait, now comes the actual time on the bus which varies. First child picked up at 6:10 am arrives at school at 7:15am School doesn't begin until 7:50 am. School ends at 2:30 pm, pick up at 3:30 pm last child dropped off approximately 4:35 pm then the walk home. What life is that child have? What time do our children get up? What kind of life are they going to have? What about life outside of school? Why can't they enjoy out of school activities like their peers? Never mind the social, emotional, mental and physical problems this will incite. What about their safety? 55 bored teenagers in one area in the am and one hour in the pm?
Patricia Flynn August 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Dear "Concerned Citizen", Why as a Medford Tax payer and business supporter should I pay to transport my son to a public school that he was offered to attend? How would you feel if your street were a public street and you were charged to have it plowed when your neighbors are in the same situation on the other street did not have to pay to have their street plowed. You were charged because the city felt it was now to costly to plow it because it was longer..??
ann August 26, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Why as taxpayers do we have to pay for any services offered to different age groups, seniors, disabled etc. We do it because it is part of living in a city. Just because a family decides their student wants to attend a school that offers other tech/skills that medford high does not the student should not be condoned. It is no up for discussion and should only be the concern of the student and family. The bus service was offered in the past and should not be taken away for safety reasons. Private, public or tech school is a choice and that is why we live in the country for freedom of choice. We all pay taxes and we all fund all kinds of programs that we use or will never use.
Patricia Flynn August 26, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I am sorry Ann, I don't think I was very clear. I was speaking as a Minuteman Parent and the point I was trying to make (all be it, not very well) that my family and I pay taxes and support our local businesses. Why should our child who is utilizing The Minuteman Vocational program that he was OFFERED and approved by Medford, not receive transportation as he would as an in district resident.
Deborah G August 27, 2012 at 03:49 AM
You chose to send your child to a private school which means you budgeted accordingly. I can't afford a private school so public it is and since Medford's Voc doesn't offer the classes my child is taking we were told he could go to Minuteman and Medford would pay the cost for this. Now all of a sudden they don't want to pay for transportation at a reasonable time. They need to treat our kids exactly the same as the other Medford kids who go to public school.
Deborah G August 27, 2012 at 04:01 AM
CeCe, I have lived in Medford my whole life. I went to Medford High no problems there. BUT Medford allows the public school students to go to Minuteman as an alternative to Medford High/Voc. Why offer it as an option and then have a problem with it? If transportation should be the problem of the individual then that should be the case citywide, which would cause an uproar. I also have a child in Medford's school system so I'm all about Medford. Could you imagine how disruptive it would be for kids to all find their own way to school, how many kids would be late or too early to get into the building or worse, not get there at all. SO, stop be defensive and realize how foolish you sound saying that it's the individuals problem and not the city's.

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