Sandwich School District Does Away With Fees For Bus, High School Parking

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By: Michael J. Rausch
Published: 07/20/12

The school district has nixed a plan to charge bus and parking fees for Sandwich students in the coming school year. That piece of good news for parents of Sandwich students was announced by Superintendent C. Richard Canfield during Wednesday’s school committee meeting.

Dr. Canfield told the committee that he had been informed by Sandwich Public Schools Business Manager Michelle J. Austin that the town will be receiving $6.5 million in Chapter 70 state school aid.

That new amount represents $132,400 more than the school expected to receive.

The additional money will now be used to eliminate the transportation fees that had been announced as part of the budget for the coming school year, Dr. Canfield said.

The transportation fees had been adopted earlier this year when the school committee was faced with closing a $300,000 budget gap. As they tried to balance next year’s budget, the school committee was confronted with either imposing fees or cutting staff or programs.

The majority of committee members expressed their dislike of fees, which former school committee chairman Shaun P. Cahill likened to another tax on families already over-burdened financially. However, the committee was even more opposed to reducing staff and programs offered to students.

At that point, the budget already called for cutting four full-time staff positions.

In March, the committee reluctantly agreed to impose a $100 bus fee for students in grades 7 through 12. Students who drove to the high school would have to pay a $100 fee for a parking sticker. The $100 fee would have covered both bus and parking, so if a student could not drive to school for some reason—a bad weather day, for instance—they would have the option of riding the bus.

Ms. Austin said that to arrive at a balanced budget, the goal had been to raise $140,000 through the transportation fee. She said that the entire $132,400 will be allocated to eliminate that fee, which will leave a shortfall of $7,600.

Dr. Canfield assured the committee that the school administration will be able to find a way to cover that $7,600.

To reach their balanced budget, the school committee had also increased activity fees by $20 per student, per year, for grades 7 through 12, and tapped into School Choice funds that traditionally would have been set aside for the 2014 school year.

Committee member Robert P. Catalini asked Dr. Canfield that he consider using some of the Chapter 70 funding to roll back the $20 increase in activity fees.

“I would just like to be fair and consistent across the board in terms of fees,” Mr. Catalini said.


3 Responses to "Sandwich School District Does Away With Fees For Bus, High School Parking"

  1. It is good to see that the School Committee and Superintendent are working to keep costs down for our families with school age children. I am concerned as to how Dr. Canfield will pay for all that is on his "plate". What plans does the School Committee have for funding the anticipated settlement with Dr. Johnson? I believe, through her attorney, Dr. Johnson is asking for $300,000 plus damages. As I recall, the Town's insurance provider paid one-half of the settlement with Dr. Johnson's Assist. Supt. (who was hired then left go for an alleged lack of funds). If we use the $300,000 figure, then the School Committee will have to find $150,000 in the Johnson matter. Where is the funding for this in the budget? Will the School Committee be reinstating these fees? If the insurance provider walks away from the table..... will the Town be asked to make up the difference? Will the settlement include Dr. Johnson's legal costs? Many more questions than answers here... and they are all expensive. I can only imagine the frustration that our teachers and staff feels watching the budget spent on legal fees and salary payments to non-existent staff. Let's hope the "Dr. Johnson Matter" is settled quickly with minimal impact on our students. If Dr. Canfield can accomplish this, there is a job waiting for him in Washington.

  2. The School Committee that overturned Dr. Johnson's contract renewal had an agenda and knowingly followed it regardless of the consequences. The selectman I contacted said they were powerless to intervene in the disaster as it unfolded. Weak government at it's best. If there is any justice, Dr. Johnson will get all she is seeking and Sandwich tax payers will be on the hook for it. Is it fair to the taxpayers? It is hard to say because the School Committee and Selectmen are elected by a majority vote among those that voted. It is probably the population that didn't vote that should be chastised the most. Common sense did not prevail in this situation and the townspeople are responsible for the government they get wether they vote or not. Remember this during the next elections for the School Committee and the Selectmen.

  3. The question remains: Where was Town Counsel and the School Board's Counsel when this decision was made? Don't blame the taxpayers.... There are HIGHLY COMPENSATED professionals who are hired to act in the best interest of the Town. In this case they punted the ball away and we ended with an opinion from an Assistant District Attorney who is not experienced. Yes, we the Taxpayers will take it on the chin again. Don't blame the victims.

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