Concerns Voiced Over Proposed School Funding Cuts

Students, parents and teachers turned out for a meeting at Medford High School Monday.

Medford school officials heard from students, parents and teachers Monday night who don't want to see the middle school foreign language program essentially eliminated.

Brittney Rodriguez is a sophomore at Medford High School who will be in level four honors Spanish next year, and she would not be where she is without middle school Spanish, she said.

“How are we supposed to compete at the same level as our peers when our foreign language opportunities are being taken away?” Rodriguez said to school officials in a public hearing for the school department budget Monday.

Cutting foreign language at McGlynn Middle School will save the school district about $119,000, equal to the salary of two teaching positions, according to the school department.

The cuts are proposed in a $47.4 million budget for the 2013 school year presented by Superintendent Roy Belson. The proposal is a $2.5 million increase from the 2012 budget, but falls about $1.6 million short of offering level services, Belson said in a phone interview Monday morning. The school department limited its budget to a $2.5 million increase at the direction of the city, Belson said.

The lion's share of the increase goes to paying previously negotiated raises for union positions that were back-end funded, Belson said. The raises total about $2.1 million, he said. Another $300,000 goes to fund positions previously funded by a federal grant, he said. Medford schools also faces needed increases in maintenance, transportation, special education and other services, Belson said.

Along with the foreign language department, the budget also calls to cut $50,000 in funding for athletics, eliminate five elementary school teaching positions totaling $243,000 and eliminate all kindergarten aides, which equals about $100,000.

At proper staffing, the middle school foreign language department would have six teachers, Beverly Nelson said. The program intends to allow students to enter high school at second-level Spanish, but with such limited staff it is rarely accomplishing that goal, Nelson said.

“It’s not that this is something we don’t want to do, it’s something we know is not working," Nelson said.

Nelson said students sixth grade would still have foreign language in their schedule once per week, and 7th and 8th graders would have more focus on foreign cultures in social studies classes. Newly-implemented computer technology in the middle school could also help, she said.

For over an hour, students, teachers and parents took to the microphone to voice their concerns over the proposed cuts.

Medford resident and Medford high foreign language teacher Elizabeth Gomez said the cuts would put Medford students at a disadvantage to their peers, and was skeptical any type of middle school foreign language program would ever be restored.

"Once a cut is made it is not restored," she said. "The cuts already made to the language department aren’t temporary, and this one will also be permament."

Gomez also presented a petition with nearly 400 signatures in support of the middle school program.

Most members of the school committee voiced opposition to the cuts. Committee member John Falco said languages are becoming more important, and schools should be looking to add more, not cut.

“I think this is completely wrong," Falco said. "We’re going in the wrong direction here.”

Paulette Van der Kloot said the focus should be on fixing the foreign language program.

“If the program isn’t working, then the discussion would be, 'how do we restructure it?'” she said.

The school committee will continue its review of the budget Tuesday. Belson may make changes to the proposed budget during the day and bring them forward at another hearing Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Medford High School.

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MO June 15, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Here's are a couple of good places to begin learning about ICLEI and Agenda 21 http://www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com/ http://www.newswithviews.com/Chapman/michael.htm Our children are in need of transportation to get to and from school, textbooks, and water fountains to name just a few. Think about that and then think about what you learned about ICLEI.
Alicia Hunt June 15, 2012 at 12:29 AM
ICLEI is an international organization of local governments that have a commitment to sustainability. Medford was the first municipality in Massachusetts to join and they were very instrumental in Medford developing the first Climate Action Plan in MA, which Medford adopted in 2001. From their website: http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=about ICLEI provides technical consulting, training, and information services to build capacity, share knowledge, and support local government in the implementation of sustainable development at the local level. Our basic premise is that locally designed initiatives can provide an effective and cost-efficient way to achieve local, national, and global sustainability objectives. I can't answer the question about an "ICELI budget" I've never heard that term before.
Jarret Bencks June 16, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Comments in this thread have been deleted for being off-subject. Please keep the conversation related to the Medford School Department budget.
cindy June 16, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Mo I was born and raised in the peoples republic of Cambridge. money was never an issue for the city, unfortunately this is why i was priced out. I got use to living in Medford. it's very different than cambridge, there is a lot that I think should change to compete with the surrounding communities but I try and focus on the good things in the community as well; good working families; convenient location; reasonably priced market; plenty of free parking; good traffic flow; farmers market. most of the personal at city hall are knowledgeable at least for my needs (DPW gave me a hard time in the past).
MO June 16, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Our high school has only 6 of 37 water fountains working. The ICLEI employee was invited by the school committee to the meeting regarding this. It's intertwined with the school budget, but I understand.


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