As suspected, it has been determined elsewhere (and should be here, also) that the School Committee's entire roster of fees, but especially their newly voted "activity fees" for middle and high school are illegal. So lawyer parents, get your act together and let the district incompetents know that they will not be allowed to run this scam (Robbie's punitive measures because he can't get over the fact that his "certain" override failed miserably). Even the athletics and other fees are deemed illegal elsewhere. Attorneys in Melrose have a strong legal basis to take down this scam (and the incompetent legal staff the schools have been using that are responsible for hugely costly errors and wrongdoing, like the bogus "investigation" that cost MPS in OCR #1).
There was a $3.5 Million-Dollar Surplus at the conclusion of this past fiscal year, most of which Robbie and Patrick insisted be put into various "enterprise" and "reserve" funds. This is all a purposeful and wrong-headed way of manipulating the finances to falsely portray the city/schools as having a budget "crisis." They are furthering their scam by calling the newly approved school budget as "level service," which is most certainly is not. With four department chair positions eliminated and the plan to close out numerous other positions, the SC and super are lying through their teeth in calling this "level service." They have employed a slash-and-burn mentality, complete with plans to disrupt/destroy middle school education. This isn't just incompetence. It is corruption and political gamesmanship at its most disgusting. And apparently the public is going to sit by and let it all happen, based on the total lack of public engagement as was obvious by not a single member of the public showing up last night to speak at the "Budget Hearing."
I agree that these fees are ridiculous considering how much parents already pay for sports. The Middle School sports fees are particularly outrageous ($90 for track for example). Most clubs already ask for dues for material needs which is appropriate and high school sports, drama and music programs all do more than their fair share of fundraising. Charging a flat fee for kids who don't even participate at all sounds completely illegal. People don't show up to speak at budget meetings because of the way they will be treated. Writing letters doesn't work either. I like many other Melrose parents have just given up speaking out to this administration and school committee.
The mandatory fee is ridiculous. But- nowhere in the article does it say that these fees are not legal in Massachusetts.
It didn't say in the article but there should be a DESE policy or a Federal policy. If there isn't one there needs to be one.
Free & reduced lunch students should be treated in a dignified manner too.
Blanket fees sound insane. Sure. Pay if you participate but if you don't? Those who are saying it's a tax are correct.
This should go to court. It's difficult to be an activist though which why someone like Mr. Mroz should be appreciated even if you don't always agree. Same for the former SC member.
Here is a thought. If the schools will require activity fees for students whether they participate or not in activities, they can forget about getting any PTO dues from me. I say drastic moves call for drastic responses. If everyone withheld PTO dues, what do you suppose would happen? Please do not tell me about how the kids would suffer. I don't know about your child, but whenever my kids go on field trips, I am still PAYING AND PAYING. At least we will not be sitting doing nothing. Make a statement.
Sad to say, This is all punishment for the silent majority killing the unnecessary override 2 to 1. Dolan, Taymore, Margaret Driscoll and certain other school committee members are "paying us all back" for going against their will. Fees for everything are going up. Meanwhile hundreds and thousands are squandered defending these hacks from their civil rights abuses; legal fees, PR firms , you name it. Funny that there is also plenty of money to send administrators to conferences on the West Coast and to grant mid-summer bonuses to top school officials. Go figure
I don't think that it's unreasonable to withhold PTO dues money if there's a mandatory activity fee. PTO dues are voluntary & a family's budget only reaches so far. You are substituting a mandatory payment for a voluntary one and you don't need to feel guilty.
If the Melrose Superintendent & SC wants to diminish the Free Market, this is the expected result.
The Free Market here means if you CHOOSE to participate in an school activity you pay for it. If you CHOOSE to be a part of the PTO you pay for it. And you receive a benefit.
Circumventing the Free Market with mandatory activity fees will naturally lead to market correction affecting other school related financial contributions.
I wonder if donations to the MEF will suffer?
It's simple - if everyone has to pay it, it's a tax. A fee is for participation. I don't have a dog in the hunt, but if I did I would challenge it. The message from the administration is pretty clear - you shot down our preposterous override, but we'll find a way to get it from you you have no say over. The arrogance is mind-boggling.
Voters' message to them - "No more money. Make do with what you've got." Their message to voters - "F*** you."
It really is just that simple. And you can bet your butt those very words were spoken out loud in the big office at City Hall.
It is a tax. Either fight it directly or indirectly through zero PTO financial support and most definitely no MEF support. Send your kids to every club available. Choose to join or quit before any (now) extra fees are due.
I just paid $16 for the family to see my child sing at the spring concert at MVMMS. Multiply that by hundreds of participants. Where does that money go? I thought taxpayers already paid for the auditorium? Why do we have to rent it back to watch our children perform?
Time for an Ell Pond Tea Party!
These fees are tantamount to illegal taxes. RD and PDR will get their hack attorney RVC to say it's all legal, but that doesn't make it so, any more than CT's "investigation" after the OCR #1 incident, though it was all "by the book," according to CT (written by a team of incompetent malpracticing attorneys who should be challenged in court and relieved of their licenses). Board of Bar Overseers would love to hear about the many instances of legal misconduct.
It has gotten very interesting here in Melrose. our superintendent, our Mayor, and of course the school committee always looking for new fees to charge us parents. If the budget is that tight, why would you give the superintendent a raise, when the summer begins and everybody is away? I can tell you why, none of you have the you know whats to say no to a raise. It's almost like you warship the ground she walks on. Here's the big question for all of us in the community. How much is the superintendent costing us in legal fees, because of her misjudgement? But better yet, she doesn't even know, because she has hired the best of the best, but the sad part about all of this, us tax payers are on the line for this. Because she doesn't even know what she's being billed for. Because the way she negotiated her contract with these people. Then of course we have the public relations firm that she hired. That's $10,000 or more. And especially if they have to work overtime. So what does this tell us about our superintendent? I find it almost impossible with her education and being a superintendent and licensed, that she needs to use a public relations firm. To speak for herself, the city of Melrose, and the school system. It's pretty sad that Margaret Driscoll thought it was a great idea (for some of you she's the chair of the Melrose School Committee.)Just shows you that the superintendent is in charge and she's not accountable to the school committee like she should be. Lets add to that a little bit. She was asked a question not too long ago, about the rules and regulations in regards to students and parents, about giving proper notice about suspensions, or anything else to go along with that and you know how she answered it? She didn't answer it. She felt the school committee members didn't deserve an answer. She had been put on notice for the past two years now, that she is not in compliance with the law. With the students rights, and the parents right, we all have to understand, these children are under 18 years old and even under 21 years old and they are protected under the law. So when in the hell, is the Melrose School Committee and our mayor, are going to do the right thing and address this issue? Yes, you Mr. Mayor Dolan. We are going to wait until it effects your own children, then you will do something about this. Some of you might think that I am stepping over the line, I am sure not doing that. Mr. Mayor; have you forgotten about the folks in this community, the children in this community? Maybe our city solicitor and the school attorney need to be educated on the law. Oh yes, I'm calling them both out. Why not? Nobody else has. The interesting question here, Mr. Mayor, maybe our city solicitor is doing what you want him too do because you hired him, and he is an elected official in Everett. Maybe you think that this is not going anywhere, think twice. You never know. Once again, this goes back to money being tight. The message that was delivered to the city of Melrose back in December 2015, the citizens voted no on the override because they don't trust any of you. You think that we're a bunch of fools out here, yeah you can say that you don't read the board, we all read the board. The big question becomes, our superintendent has been found guilty, or the city whatever way you want to put it of civil rights violations. I always thought a student would come first, but apparently that's not the case here. The big question for all of us in the community is; 'how do we make Melrose a better public schools system, going up against the Charter schools?' First thing that I can think of is offering something better that the Charter school doesn't offer, but maybe you folks forgot that you are in competition. You do a lot of crying about how much money goes to the Charter schools and vocational schools because the product that they have is no good. Why do I say that? It's very simple. Just look at the board, look at all that's been said. People are talking about real things, but the Melrose Schooll committee and our Mayor and our superintendent don't realize that we do have the pulse of what's going on here. Protect the administration, and tell the parents, you're not going to do anything. People speak at public participation, at the school committee meetings and if you don't like what they're saying, you cut them off after five minutes. But if you have somebody who works for the city, or a person that you really like, they can talk well beyond the five minutes. I think we call that discrimination. That's just an opinion. But the board seems to echo that. So my message to the Melrose School Committee, our superintendent, our Mayor (because the mayor sits on the school committee), why don't you just be honest with all of us in the community. And you may be able to fix some of the problems. Let me add to this a little, Margaret Driscolls blog, is somewhat out of line. She's talking about school committee business if you read it for what it is. It's been on this blog, it's a joke. It's too bad, when you look at the minutes of the school committee and you look at her blog, what a coincidence. In my closing words, to all new elected officials of the Melrose School Committee; if you don't challenge the superintendent and question her morals on what she's doing, nothing is going to change. It has been mentioned on the blog, that she should be fired. Because what is has cost this community, it seems that the school committee and our mayor worships the ground that she walks on and she can't do anything wrong. Oh yes, this is definitely going to hit a nerve of some folks but grow up. The facts always speak for themselves, you can't make this **** up. For all of you, and I mean all of you in this community, just watch how the melrose school committee conducts itself on tv, very little questions about anything. It's almost like its been rehearsed because it seems to me, they don't want us to know anything. Let's go back to one more thing; they want parents to pay for fees or clubs that their children might not even belong to, that's not a tax, that's basically picking peoples pockets. Folks in this community should not give any money to the PTO's forget it. Why bother giving any money? People bend over backwards to help out the Melrose School System. My last words: Mr. Mayor this is getting even more funny, you keep on talking about the override, and how it didnt go through, and how there wont be another override, has it occurred to you that, the people no longer trust you? that's the way that I look at it, I could be wrong. The city has a surplus and all of a sudden it vanishes? Some of you may not like what I said, and some of you will agree with me, but here's the real kicker; the truth speaks for itsself what's going on in Melrose.
By Aaron Leibowitz
Posted May. 6, 2016 at 3:07 PM
Families with students at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School and Melrose High School will pay a mandatory activity fee starting next year.
The School Committee voted last Tuesday to approve a one-time activity fee of $15 for all middle school students and $35 for all high school students, regardless of the extent of a given student’s involvement in extracurricular activities.
The committee also voted to approve fee increases for athletics, music, and the elementary afterschool program Education Stations.
An initial deficit of about $1 million between the district’s proposed Fiscal 2017 budget and the city’s offer to fund that budget has now been narrowed to less than $100,000.
“I believe I’m in a position where I feel we have to raise the fees in order to provide as many services as possible for students and teachers in front of students,” Mayor Rob Dolan said.
Superintendent of Schools Cyndy Taymore proposed the activity fee, noting that some neighboring districts charge such fees but take a wide range of approaches in doing so.
“I’ve seen every configuration possible,” Taymore said. “I think simple is better and keeping it reasonable is better.”
Taymore said the district could in theory charge students varying amounts depending on which clubs they join, but she advocated for a universal fee. Dolan agreed with her approach.
“I think it promotes a more well-rounded student and a more well-rounded school,” Dolan said. “If we start having 15 clubs at 15 different costs, it will absolutely prevent students from making a commitment to things.”
Taymore initially floated a $25 fee at both the middle and high school, noting that her office has not yet run models on what would be an optimal amount to charge.
After Chair Margaret Driscoll suggested the high school fee should be higher than the middle school fee, committee member Jaime McAllister-Grande proposed the $15/$35 split.
The committee approved McAllister-Grande’s motion by a 4-3 vote.
Between the middle and high school, the district anticipates spending about $100,000 on teacher stipends for activities next year. About $45,000 of that cost would be offset if every student paid the activity fee – although Taymore said the district would waive the fee for students who could not afford it.
While the committee seemed to agree that an activity fee of some sort is warranted, some felt the decision was hasty and the approach hard to justify.
“I actually agree that we probably need an activity fee at the middle and the high school, I just don’t know if applying a blanket fee ... is the right solution,” said committee member Jessica Dugan. “It seems arbitrary to me, on top of the high [percentage] of our students that are already paying for athletic fees.”
Dolan voted against the $15/$35 proposal but supported the philosophy behind the fees, saying they would serve not only to help close the budget gap, but also to ensure the continued success of the district’s extracurricular programs.
“This is a mechanism to take a non-core service, which are extracurriculars, and [create] a separate revenue source to sustain them through good and bad times so they’re never eliminated,” Dolan said.
Taymore said about 80 percent of high school students and a slightly lower percentage of middle school students participate in at least one extracurricular activity outside of athletics.
Some committee members questioned the logic of charging an activity fee to students who do not participate in extracurriculars at all, but Taymore countered that even those students are benefitting from the total package of what the district has to offer.
“What is the total experience you’re providing for our kids?” Taymore said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Families enrolled in the Education Stations elementary afterschool program will see monthly tuition increases of 8 percent next year.
The School Committee voted to approve the bump across all of the program’s afterschool offerings. That increase is on top of an additional month of payment that was re-implemented this school year; previously, families paid for only nine months of attendance and did not pay in June.
“It has become apparent we can’t stay on budget with just the nine payments,” program director Dr. Heather Josephson told the committee. “We needed to go back to our original model of 10 payments.”
Josephson has overseen the Education Stations program since it opened in 2009.
Education Stations operates on a budget separate from that of the Melrose Public Schools, but the program transfers some of its revenue – $250,000 in 2015-16 – to the district each year.
“The issue before us,” Dolan said, “is whether we could increase the rate to a point where we push people away, and therefore it’s not in our business interest — because this is a business, it is not a public service — or whether or not, with the 8 percent, we can not only fill the slots, but also avoid layoffs in the Melrose Public Schools.”
Education Stations provides supervision and enrichment to students after school in their own elementary school buildings, allowing families to choose from three scheduling options and anywhere between one and five days of attendance per week.
About half of the children enrolled in Education Stations utilize the most expensive option, the Green Line five-day program, which currently costs $494 per month. Next year, that number will jump to $534.
The increase will bring the program’s hourly rate to $8.48, making it more expensive per hour than its elementary afterschool peers in Stoneham, Malden, Wakefield and Saugus.
Josephson said the increase would lead to about $140,000 in additional revenue.
“I think we’re doing an awesome job with what we have,” Josephson said. “I feel like we’re providing an amazing service and at a fair price.”
In justifying the increase, Dolan cited the failed Proposition 2 1/2 override last November and a lack of state and federal aid.
“I’m normally in favor of trying to limit as best as possible these [fees], but for Education Stations I think we have to remember its intent, unlike the [Franklin Early Childhood Center], was to provide a revenue source for the schools,” Dolan said. “We have no more, because the people will not pay any more in terms of property tax, and we don’t have any other options in terms of the federal government or the state government.”
The increase passed by a 5-2 vote, with McAllister-Grande and Lizbeth DeSelm opposed.
The committee also approved increases to athletic fees for 2016-17 to bring in about $47,000 in additional revenue and offset athletic expenses.
Currently, athletic fees cover about 42 percent of the district’s athletics revolving account. Next year, fees will cover about 47 percent of athletics costs.
“I think that percentage is going to have to continue to move,” Dugan said.
Athletics fees at the high school are presently divided into four tiers: cross-country, indoor track, and track and field ($180 per year); golf, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball ($275); football, swimming, gymnastics and wrestling ($350); and ice hockey ($520).
Next year, there will instead be five tiers with increases between $20 and $80 for most sports: cross-country and track and field ($200); golf, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball ($300); swimming, gymnastics, wrestling and indoor track ($385); football ($450); and ice hockey ($600).
The largest fee hike by far is for indoor track, jumping from $180 to $385, or 114 percent. Football fees will go up by 29 percent and hockey fees by 15 percent.
Elementary school music fees will rise from $225 to $275 in September.
“I still think this is relatively inexpensive,” Taymore said, noting that she explored an outside vendor who charged almost twice as much per child.
The cost per lesson for elementary school music lessons has climbed from $5.15 to $9.17 over the past three years.
Dugan said that, while she would support the proposal, the district should ultimately treat music lessons as it treats other elementary school classes and offer them for free.
“If it’s during the school day, I don’t believe we should be charging fees for it,” Dugan said. “This is a class that we’re offering at the elementary level, and I believe we should figure out how to fund that.”
Taymore also plans to add a new part-time instrumental teacher at about $20,000 per year, raising the number of full-time equivalent instrumental teachers in the district from 3.0 to 3.4.