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School officials have been convinced to add a bus route for students going from Rindge Towers and Jefferson Park to the Vassal Lane/Tobin school building. (Photo: Google)

School officials have been convinced to add a bus route for students going from Rindge Towers and Jefferson Park to the Vassal Lane/Tobin school building. (Photo: Google)

The city committed Tuesday to a new bus route to bring students from Rindge Towers and Jefferson Park to the Vassal Lane/Tobin school building after School Committee member Richard Harding and vice chairman Fred Fantini worried in March about the safety of students.

In that meeting, district Chief Operating Officer James Maloney denied the need for busing middle school students to the building under the new Innovation Agenda policy that made sixth- through eighth-grade students ineligible for a bus unless they lived 1.5 miles from their school or had to cross a major artery. He pointed to the existence of walking routes to the school that were considered safe and cited the prohibitive cost of additional buses and the danger of setting a precedent for other parts of the city.

During public comment seven people spoke about the danger to walking students, including parent Melissa Brown, who came armed with state Department of Transportation data on accidents along their route. In the three years of data there were an average 273 accidents and 48 injuries annually.

Maloney reversed his spring position and said that upon further examination, the situation could be amended with one bus for $55,000, and that this was an isolated situation so “it doesn’t appear we would be opening the floodgates.” Although the busing cost was off-budget, “which is always a major concern,” he signaled that the district would move forward with the busing solution for these middle school students.

The committee voted unanimously to pass the motion by Fantini and Harding to provide the students with busing, to begin immediately.

Public comment

Middle school math: In addition to comments urging school busing for Vassal Lane students, three teachers from the Cambridge Street Upper School spoke about what they saw as “inequity” in the treatment of the students in the new math pathways, which creates accelerated and non-accelerated routes in the seventh and eighth grades.

“When I heard that money was being paid to teachers to provide extra after-school support for accelerated math classes, which in Cambridge Street Upper School’s eighth grade is overwhelmingly white and male, I gasped,” CSUS English language arts teacher Lynn Brown said, “as did every other teacher in my school who I shared that information with. I ask the School Committee to narrow the achievement gap, not widen it.”

Brown said she supported her colleagues, CSUS sixth-grade math teacher Mary Elizabeth Cranton and eighth-grade math teacher Kendall Schwartz, who also spoke, asking the committee to address the “inequity [in] funding to provide support for accelerated pathway scholars with no comparable funding for non-accelerated pathway scholars.”

Library aides: CEA president Terry Gist and Kennedy-Longfellow librarian Susan Moynihan spoke about two library aide positions eliminated in the spring in a library/technology reorganization. Gist explained that as people in those positions were laid off they were “encouraged to apply for open positions.” The two applied for 19 and 23 positions but were granted zero interviews. Moynihan recited just some of the accolades she had written in her aide’s letter of recommendation, and was “shocked” that there were no interviews granted. Fantini also addressed this in a motion that the two aides “be reinstated to assist in this reorganization to ensure its success and also provide an opportunity for them to seek permanent positions.” The motion was passed unanimously. Though he cautioned he was not interested in guaranteeing anyone a job, Harding expressed his support of Fantini in granting interviews: “On this one I feel the administration dropped the ball.”

Placed on file

Responding to city councillor Nadeem Mazen ordering the city manager to ask the school department for a list of summer programs for students, committee member Patty Nolan and Fantini noted that there are reports and resources already available. “They don’t direct us to do anything. The proper protocol is to refer it to the superintendent, [who] will have discretion on how and when to do this,” Harding said.

Rights and responsibilities handbook: A scheduled hearing on the rights and responsibilities handbook was opened and closed without comment.

Sent to curriculum subcommittee: A motion by Cronin and Fantini to conduct a comprehensive review of the high school’s Rindge School of Technical Arts program to see if it can be reworked to coordinate with the state’s impending review.

Sent to governance subcommittee: Revisions to the School Committee rules, for revisiting.

Referred to the superintendent for consultation: A motion by Fantini and Harding to have each elementary and middle school provided with written feedback reports by an expert consultant.

Superintendent’s agenda

Passed: Superintendent recommendations for approval of obtaining family addresses; first readings of revisions to public complaints about school personnel policy, uniform grievance procedures, changing “principal” to “principal/head of school,” and a student welfare policy; gift and grant approvals; contracts for services (here, here, here, here and here), totaling $13 million; math and kitchen materials; paper products, food (here and here) and elementary school ballroom dancing contracts, for a grant total expenditure of $13.4 million; and a grant award of $55.8 thousand.

There was a motion from committee members Fran Cronin and Kathleen Kelly to get an assessment on the “current role of the family liaisons” in the elementary and upper schools and a motion by Harding to explore providing financial literacy courses to high school and possibly upper school students.

Resolutions: A letter of appreciation went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin English teacher Kimberly Parker for getting one of five 2014 Massachusetts Literacy awards; letters of congratulations and thanks went to 10 retiring school system clerks; letters of condolence went to retired committee executive secretary Claire Rodley for the death of her husband, James (Joe) Rodley and to the family of 40-year veteran CRLS teacher and tennis coach, Ward Gay; and a letter of congratulations went to CRLS graduate Laurence Kimbrough on being named head tennis coach at Clark University.