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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 12, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Mystic Valleys MCAS scores put Medford to shame but they only accept new students up to 5th grade. Mystic Valley uses direct instruction, core knowledge and saxon math. The high school was just ranked 5th best in MA. See the article over at Malden Patch.
kc June 12, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Charter schools would only hurt Medford more. They take money from the public schools and would put Medford public in a worse situation! Charter schools also get to do what they want, create a curriculum they want, and lack necessary services for special education! Look into what the MTA says about them. If people want this they should go to a private school that they pay for, not resort to taking money from the public schools for charter schools!
MO June 12, 2012 at 03:52 PM
The taxpayers should have a say where their tax dollars are spent educating their children. If the public schools can't do the job then the money should go with the child...anywhere. Competition is good.
raymay June 12, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Charter schools drain critical resources from the public schools, can't say I'm in favor of them. But I agree that we need to empower the public schools to get rid of underperforming teachers. It can be a tough determination, though -- is that older teacher not teaching well, or just too expensive, relatively speaking?
MO June 12, 2012 at 07:02 PM
It's the older teacher's that are doing the best job. They know what works and how to teach. I'll take a seasoned teacher in a class of 30 kids over one of these newbies in a class of 10 any day.
MO June 12, 2012 at 07:11 PM
The substitute costs for the maternity leave is what's too expensive. It's not good for the students either!
cindy June 12, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Look into what the MTA says about charter schools? of course they would disagree with competition. I don't see how taking money from one place and giving it to another would make the city worse than it is. what will they cut sports? if students are going somewhere else the money has to follow so therefore (public school) wont need as much teachers. And why should someone pay for private school when they can get the same thing in a charter school for free. I'm not too sure about charter schools public education policies so I can comment on that.
cindy June 12, 2012 at 11:37 PM
good luck getting rid of under performing teachers, the teachers union is a very strong union just like the nurses union. It will only happen with competition.
cindy June 12, 2012 at 11:43 PM
my friend who lives in Malden put her girls in prospect hill academy in Cambridge so yeah you can try and get in nearby communities.
kc June 13, 2012 at 01:10 AM
The public schools are doing the best they can with budget cuts year after year. Both veteran and new teachers have something to bring to the table. There should be some sort of performance evaluations but those cannot rely on how the students in the classroom do on the mcas. Also to the person who was negatively speaking about maternity leaves, it's a law that women have to be provided this! Also did you know maternity leaves utilize the woman's sick time and when she runs out it is unpaid? Charter schools drain the little that is left in public school budgets. Yes they provide options but in my opinion that is what private schools are for. Charter schools take away options from public school children whose services can no longer be provided when the money for that service is paying for the charter school. Some districts provide public school option schools like Bostons bilingual schools or how Medford used to have the Hervey. Charter schools aren't the solution
MO June 13, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Our budget for substitutes is in the red! The children suffer due to this. High MCAS scores can earn a student free tuition at a state college. If you're a taxpayer in MA you have a right to have your child's teacher held to teaching these standards and if a teacher fails, it's time to go. This is about the children and their futures.
kc June 13, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Have you ever taken the mcas? It is a game. Some students excel while others suffer but it is not based on what they are taught rather their raw skills. What about students whose second language is English. This test was not set up for them. It is also being phased out. Yes some students who get advanced on both exams and are in the top 10% of their class are eligible for the John and Abigail Adams scholarship for free tution. Tution at a state school is roughy $1,000 dollars, it is the fees that are expensive. In all honesty we are over testing our students and those districts that "excel" teach solely to the test
MO June 13, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Tuition at UMASS is around $5000 last I heard. That amount doesn’t include fees. $5000 can be a game changer for many children making the difference whether they attend college or not. MCAS is a necessity and is mandatory, and for those that don’t like it, they are the ones who shouldn’t be in MA public schools. You have other options. For the parents who want to escape the indoctrination wrongfully taking the place of academics, maybe legislation is necessary to allow these students to take their tax dollars with them to private/catholic schools?
kc June 13, 2012 at 02:04 PM
http://www.umass.edu/ug_programguide/admissions/expenses.html $1,000 dollars and it isn't garunteed if you do well roughly 50 kids in Medford will get it each year. MCAS is not a necessity, no one test can determine wether or not you should graduate. This is why the state is phasing MCAS out and will be replacing it with a national test that focuses more on core curriculum. I also feel Maine has a good idea, they require every student to take the sat's to graduate and the state pays for it. This keeps doors open to student whom may have never thought of college. At the end of the day Medford Public Schools are doing a great job at preparing our students for college and life!
MO June 13, 2012 at 02:22 PM
http://www.umb.edu/bursar/tuition_and_fees/ $5703.50 for 2011/2012. Those fond of the indoctrination camps our schools have become all think our schools are doing a great job!
MO June 13, 2012 at 02:44 PM
UMASS also offers National Merit Scholarships which cover the full cost of tuition, fees, room and board. Not going to get one of those without strong academics. http://www.umass.edu/umfa/aidtypes/scholarships/
medfordparent June 13, 2012 at 03:57 PM
My child attends a Medford public school and it is excellent. The teachers are stars -- no under-performing in any way. Please stop blaming teacher and unions; you are being fed a bunch of Koch borthers' bull. Charter schools perform well on tests scores because they are a filtered system in two ways: 1) Only families who are involved and are advocating for their children bother applying for the lottery and 2) They can bounce students who don't meet their criteria: Charter schools are not mandated to teach ALL. They frame learning delays and disorders as obedience issues and then eject your child. Public schools must educate EVERYONE. Medford schools are underfunded because Medford has a ridiculously low tax rate and a vast majority of people in this town have a misguided belief (fostered by decades of confirmation bias) that to get a good education, you need to send your kid to parochial schools. They don't understand that THEY are the problem. If the public schools had more advocating families involved in them, the overall system would benefit. When you drain a system of funding and education-minded families, you are responsible for the undesired outcome.
MO June 13, 2012 at 05:10 PM
There most certainly are star teachers in Medford. They're the one's who know how to work the lousy Medford curriculum. As for the unions, they're losing favor all over the country. Have you heard about Wisconsin?
MB June 13, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Ridiculously low tax rate? Speak for yourself! Are you a taxpayer? Our tax rate has gone up by the max allowed by law for as long as McGlynn has been in office, in case you don't understand how long that is, it is going on three decades! What is your idea of a fair tax rate? I know I pay more than a fair amount!
Alicia Hunt June 14, 2012 at 12:39 PM
MO >MO >3:11 pm on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 >The substitute costs for the maternity leave is what's too expensive. It's not good >for the students either! Did you just say that teachers shouldn't be allowed to have babies during the years when they are teaching? I"ve found that youing teachers are excellent because they are motivated, excited and not jaded. The six young teachers I've dealt with in the past 3 years in Medford have all talked about what they have learned in the past summer about education and what processes they are bringing to the education of the children. The children are also very comfortable with them and there fore spend more time learning and less time being intimidated by the teacher. I have nothing against older teachers, but young teachers bring a lot to the table. Also, current union and cut back policies favor older teachers, forcing schools to get rid of the least senior teachers already.
Alicia Hunt June 14, 2012 at 12:46 PM
MO - Wisconsin is being bought by the billionaires. Wealthy radicals and SuperPACS poured millions of dollars into the state to brainwash the residents. A populations has to be incredibly mad to get over a million people to sign a recall petition on its own Governor. The rich who are funding these actions and campaigns have an agenda, and that includes keeping themselves unbelievably rich.
MO June 14, 2012 at 04:11 PM
The voters don’t agree with you Alicia. At least that’s what the majority of voters in the recent Wisconsin, San Diego and San Jose polls overwhelmingly stated quite clearly. Budget Question: Do the salaries for Medford’s ICLEI dept (aka Agenda 21) and ICLEI dues come from the taxpayers? ICLEI is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO). One would think that an NGO shouldn’t be funded by the taxpayers. Any insight? Maybe this money could be used for Minuteman Transportation. Our children deserve and are entiteld to this choice.
Alicia Hunt June 14, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Oh, you're the person that stands up in front of the City Council and goes on and on about ICLEI. This isn't the right place to debate ICELI. I couldn't tell who you were from your username or profile.
MO June 14, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Guess again. Why not discuss the ICLEI budget here? Are you afraid of the public finding out about your green agenda and why our city is falling apart and why indoctrination is replacing academics in the schools? I'd just like to know how much these services you provide are costing us Alicia.
cindy June 15, 2012 at 12:16 AM
what is a ICLEI budget? Iv'e only been living here two years.
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 (Editor) 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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