Methuen High School Parking Fee Should Be Repealed

By: Dj Deeb – January , 2019

At its December Business Meeting, members of the Methuen School Committee voted unanimously to adopt a $100 student parking fee effective during the 2019-2020 school year. Unfortunately, I was one of those votes and after analyzing the issue further I regret my decision. I have placed a Motion to Reconsider this fee on the January 15th Business Meeting Agenda in order to repeal this fee. I urge members of the community to contact their Methuen School Committee members and ask them to support my motion.

The Methuen School Administration and Mayor Jim Jajuga presented the fee as a way of generating up to $40,000 in revenue for the school in order to defray the costs of lot maintenance. Since students have the option of taking a no fee bus to school, I originally thought that this might be a good option to defray costs to taxpayers for students who choose to drive to school.

Upon further consideration and after speaking with parents in the community, I have placed a Motion to Reconsider the $100 student parking fee at Methuen High School that was scheduled to take effect during the 2019-2020 school year. Even though many surrounding communities have this parking fee already I do not believe that it is good for Methuen. I regret my vote and will now work to eliminate it.

The Administration has stated that the mechanisms are currently in place to collect and monitor the fees. But given the demographics of our community I believe that there are more issues that need to be considered. What about high school students who pick up their younger siblings at elementary schools to bring them home or to daycare? What about high school students who play sports and need to get home at a certain time to help care for their younger siblings?

Social media activist Jay Morin also raised additional questions worth considering on Facebook. Some of these include: 1) Who will walk the parking lot to ticket cars not in compliance?; 2) How will tickets for violations be handled?; 3) What about occasional parking needs?; 4) What guarantees will be put into place to ensure that funds are not shifted?; 5) What if students park at the Tenney and walk over? These are great questions and they certainly should get answers. Hopefully if my motion to reconsider passes we will not have to go down that road of getting the answers.

On another note, unlike the city, the School Department instituted a hiring freeze on all new positions two years ago. At that time, I suggested a freeze on all new city positions until budget spending is brought under control and I repeat that call today. In November and December, I sought to expand the hiring freeze on the School Department to all existing positions and contract renewals. My motion was tabled both times and is scheduled to be brought back for consideration at the January 15th business meeting. I call on my colleagues to support this fiscally responsible move and I also call on the members of the Methuen City Council to follow suit with positions in the city as they become vacant.

The motion that I am proposing has been modified slightly from what I originally proposed in November based on legal counsel recommendations. It now reads: To institute a hiring freeze on any and all positions that become vacant in the Methuen Public Schools except for teaching and substitute positions or contractual requirements until further notice or except by a vote of the School Committee. My reason for bringing this forward is that more than 20 positions became vacant in September and October. Most of these positions were administrative or support staff. With the current fiscal crisis this is a perfect time to examine the need for each and every internal position that becomes available without causing anyone to lose their jobs. Every non-teaching position that becomes available in Methuen Public Schools should have to be justified to the entire school committee and the community. The City should be doing the same with any positions that become vacant across the City. Please reach out to the members of the Methuen School Committee and tell them that you support this Motion to institute a complete hiring freeze on non-teaching positions in Methuen Public Schools.

Finally, I must comment on receiving Tom Duggan’s Bozo of the Year Award for my vocal opposition to the outrageous Methuen Police Superior Contracts.

Although I agree with many of Tom’s views on national issues, I believe he is on the wrong side of the local political debate. Tom interpreted my political column as a personal attack. That was certainly not my intent. I was offering constructive criticism of his comments. I wear that Bozo of the Year Award as a distinction of honor since he chooses to defend the indefensible. Even the legal counsel employed by the City Council to advise them on the contracts has stated that the Superior Police Contracts are invalid.

Last year the Police went from 2 captains to 5 captains in addition to the numerous other promotions for a Department that has just 71 patrolmen. The fact remains that some neighboring communities, including North Andover, do not have police captains. We do not need them either and certainly not at the salaries that they are demanding. Under the currently-funded MOU the police captains are earning base salaries of $188,206.

This is ridiculous!

We could add 3 patrolmen for each captain that is eliminated and we certainly should look at adding more patrolmen to help the City of Methuen address crime rates.

As I wrote about in November, Councilor Steve Saba proposed a reorganization that would have eliminated the captain positions and maintained a necessary number of police patrolmen to keep our streets and City safe. Unfortunately, a majority of the City Council (excluding Councilors Jen Kannan and Lynn Vidler who recused themselves from the votes due to family conflicts) have been complacent in supporting the Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] that has resulted in 24% and 18% raises for five Methuen Police captains while resulting in a $1.8 Million deficit for the Methuen Police Department. The Council voted 5-2 against reorganizing the Police Department and eliminating the captains. This was disgraceful and fiscally irresponsible. Now, there will have to be a much larger reorganization with the impending layoffs that will soon follow.

Your influence counts. Use it!

D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and Secretary of the Methuen School Committee. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Deeb also serves as Social Studies Department Chair at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He is the author of Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace (University Press, 2013) and The Collapse of Middle East Peace (IUniverse, 2003). ◊