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Minuteman Bus Cut Gets Parents Fuming

Superintendent says cut was necessary.

Parents of Medford students who attend Minuteman Regional High School accused Superintendent Roy Belson of exposing their children to bullying, and bullying, himself, during Monday's Medford School Committee meeting.

Medford Public Schools used to provide a bus exculsively for transportation to and from Minuteman, but that stopped this year in a cost-cutting move. Since Minuteman's first day on Aug. 27, a bus takes students to Minuteman about 6:30 a.m., returns to Medford to run Elementary school pick-ups and drop-offs, and returns to Minuteman about 3:30 p.m. to bring students back to Medford. But that leaves students at the school with about an hour between school's end and the bus arriving.

During Monday's meeting, several parents accused Belson -- who previously cited a combination of rising transportation costs and increases in costs payed to Minuteman as reasons for consolidating buses -- of putting children in the middle of bargaining.

"For the past two weeks the Medford students who ride the bus to Minuteman have been the victims of bullying," parent Angela Moore said Monday. "...We are astonished that such animosity is allowed to dictate our school system."

Before instituting the current plan, Belson had previously called for funding for the Minuteman bus to be cut entirely and replace it with MBTA passes for students. On Monday, he admitted those initial plans were partly made in an effort to bring attention to what he views as issues with funding for the school.

"We needed something to get people to be really interested in what was going on," Belson said.

Medford Public Schools pick up a portion of the tuition cost for Minuteman students who live in Medford. The district will pay over $1 million to the public regional school this year, with the cost per pupil going up $3,800 from last year, Belson said.

Days before the start of school, an agreement was reached where Minuteman would provide the return bus service for Medford students by adding on to the bus that runs to Arlington, Belson said. But the regional school backed out of that agreement when they learned they wouldn't receive as much transportation reimbursement from the state as they expected, he said.

On Monday, Belson defended his decision to cut the bus, a move he said saves the district about $60,000 and has approval of the state's Department of Education.

"Reality tells us that we have to do something to recapture our cost if we aren’t going to take away from students who stay in Medford," Belson said.

The bus arrives at Minuteman at 3:30 p.m. for pick-up everyday except Wednesday, when it arrives at 2:30 p.m., since Medford elementary schools have early release that day, Belson said. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Minuteman offers help time with teachers for an hour after school, he said, leaving only Monday and Friday as days without structure for the hour.

 "I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our students getting afterschool help," he said.

But Patricia Flynn, a Medford resident and parent of a Minuteman student, said that time leaves her son and other students vulnerable to bullying.

"This is not an inconvenience, this is an attack on a child’s education," she said Monday. "This is unsafe."

Belson said he disagreed that the students were unsafe, and if bullying occurred it should be handled by Minuteman.

"If they are being bullied in the Minuteman environment, then what is Minuteman doing about it?" he said.

Mayor Michael McGlynn, chairman of the school committee, said he would to review the matter with the city's procurement and finance offices and Belson would have to discuss the matter further with both Minuteman and the city's bus provider.

"I thought it was a little better than I’m finding out tonight," he said Monday, "but it’s not going to get solved tonight."

School Committee Member Erin DiBenedetto suggested holding an emergency committee of the whole meeting to address the matter, but Belson disagreed. Better progress would be made behind closed doors, he said.

"Letting a bunch of people vent, that might be a good exersise, but it’s not going to get you very far," he said.

ann September 16, 2012 at 10:06 PM
WOW Let it go. The biggest problem with the bus schedule is that no one was informed the bus was being cut until the end of August with school a week away. It does not give parentsor students advanced warning. Then we were told the students were getting T passes. Other students applications were denied because Medford decided they were not allowing students who chose two particular areas of interest were being moved to Roxbury and Cambridge. This was all done a week before school was starting, unfair!!! It is the right of every family to chose the best education for their children. Stop the insults and bullying. Everbody is allowed their opinion whether is be MHS Minuteman Charter School, etc. The whole situation was hush hush with no communication to parents. It is a concern because of the way it done by Mr. Belson. It was sneaky. Now it is still up in the air about the schedule. The students just want to get to and from school in a timely manner. So if you have negative comments about the children going to Minuteman too bad. It is an option and if you chose it great, and if you don't fine. Be polite.
MO September 16, 2012 at 10:51 PM
When the safe and timely transportation to and from school for each and every child in this city isn’t a top priority of the administration, then it’s time for a new administration.
Patricia Flynn September 17, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Absolutely!
Patricia Flynn September 17, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Thank you, I don't understand why some people are being so "mean". I showed a few friends, colleges and family members and they were very surprised at some of the comments and criticism.
Patricia Flynn September 17, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Agreed

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