By: D.J. Deeb – Feb. 2017
There has been much discussion on social media regarding residency requirements for students attending Methuen schools. Unfortunately, most of the information appearing on these social media outlets is not true.
Methuen Public Schools works on a regular basis to ensure that all of the students attending the schools are city residents. The School Committee adopted a policy several years ago that requires proof of residency when registering students and random checks are conducted on a regular basis to ensure that this is the case. Even so, some members of the community have suggested an even tougher policy and members of the School Committee are now reviewing ways to make a good policy better and stronger. As always, I welcome community input and feedback on our policies and practices in Methuen public schools.
Methuen public schools are truly fortunate to have school resource officers in each of the school buildings during the school day while schools are in session. Every month members of the School Committee are updated by Methuen Police Sgt. Joe Aiello, the Unit Supervisor for the School Resource Officers. In addition to helping to provide traffic assistance and enforcement in school zones and monitoring bus stops, School Resource Officers have been busy conducting at-home residency checks “to insure the legal residence of students attending Methuen public schools,” according to Sgt. Aiello.
School Resource Unit Officers are also trying to be proactive with enforcing residency in other ways. Sgt. Aiello reports, “School Service Unit Officers will be performing Out-of-State vehicle checks for residency compliance.” In a memo dated February 2, 2017 to the Superintendent, he added, “A full report will be submitted upon completion to the city and the school department.”
Finally, School Resource Officers are currently working with Superintendent Judy Scannell and Wellness Program Director Jeffrey Osgood to put together a standardized district school resource officer curriculum to be implemented at the upper grades at the elementary schools.
I want to take a moment to recognize and thank the school resource officers for being proactive and for all of their hard work in our schools. Although I support taking a look at our policy in order to see if improvements can be made, I also want members of the community to know what is being done to enforce student residency requirements currently.
We are also beginning budget discussions for FY 2018. As I wrote last month, I am disappointed to report that I do not believe that all of our tax dollars are being spent wisely and I believe that some Methuen city officials are being negligent in their oversight of these tax dollars. I feel that given the city’s budget situation there should be a hiring freeze on all new positions. At the November 14th business meeting, I voted against the posting of two new part-time positions for the Methuen Public Schools, which passed based on the recommendation of the mayor, a Medicaid Billing Assistant and an MHS Auditorium Manager. There are people in place that clearly and should be performing these tasks efficiently already. It is unfair to ask the taxpayers to front additional costs for these positions even though they are supposed to bring in more revenue to the city than the cost of their salaries. I plan to be a hawk when reviewing both the proposed city and school budgets in the coming months.
On another note, the Methuen School Committee voted to appropriate $350,000 in a special meeting a few weeks ago for the lease of Google Chromebooks over the next three years. The purpose of these laptop computers is to administer the new MCAS 2.0 Test to Grades 4 and 8.
Although Technology Director Ed Lussier and his team did a remarkable job securing this low bid, I take issue with the need to lease these computers as another unfunded state mandate being put on the taxpayers of Methuen. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now requiring that students take their MCAS tests on specialized computers. What a gimmick scheme for the big corporations! Because of this, I voted against the appropriation of $350,000 for this purchase. I reached out to State Rep. Frank Moran, who had sent me a letter earlier, explaining this unfunded mandate and how it is adversely impacting the taxpayers of Methuen. I also took the opportunity to ask Rep. Moran to push for the immediate repeal of Common Core in Massachusetts. I was told that there is a major push to do just that during the coming year. I am pleased to say that Rep. Moran was very receptive and responsive and promises to keep in touch during this legislative session. Now, if I could only get our State Senator Katy O’Connor Ives to return phone calls.
Unfortunately, she has been missing in action on the important issues facing our city. Sen. Ives certainly wasn’t missing to vote for the recent legislative pay raise though!
I want to take an opportunity to extend heartfelt congratulations to the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) at Methuen High School. Our JROTC was recently designated as an “Honor Unit With Distinction” during the 2016-2017 School Year by the U.S. Department of the Army. The award received by the Methuen High JROTC acknowledges “Exceptional performance in all areas of the Junior ROTC Program.” Kudos to these students!
With the winter season upon us, it should be noted that the decision to close school and/or institute delayed openings rests with Superintendent Judy Scannell. All delayed opening and cancellation messages are sent out through ConnectEd phone calls to parents and staff as well as carried on major television and radio stations, including WCCM, the Methuen School Channel (Channel 99 for Comcast and Channel 31 for Verizon), and on the Methuen Public Schools website.
Remember your influence counts. Use it.
D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and member 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).