Leaving Minuteman Again

On September 20, 2016, Belmont voted by a 72-28% margin against Minuteman’s school rebuilding proposal, creating a pathway for Belmont to withdraw from Minuteman. On October 19, 2016, Belmont Town Meeting members voted by the same percentage margin to go ahead and withdraw. On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, Belmont Town Meeting members voted not to rescind that decision.

Belmont Town Meeting members made the right decision in voting last week against a proposal to rescind their previous decision to withdraw from the Minuteman Vocational School district.

You can view my Town Meeting statement on the issue at this link — select “Town Meeting, Part 1 – 11/13/2019” and click to 2:12:30. This post makes the same argument more fully.

The Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical school had a clear historical mission: to prepare students to become trades people – plumbers, electricians, carpenters, mechanics.  Students with the necessary vocation/technical education could move straight into their chosen career, without need for further education.

The number of students from Minuteman member districts who are choosing traditional trades has dwindled over time.  Instead of right-sizing itself or seeking to consolidate with neighboring vocational technical schools, Minuteman has chosen to preserve itself by expanding in two ways.  First, it has chosen to admit students from non-member districts.  More troubling, it has chosen to expand into a variety of other fields like biotechnology, web design, and environmental science which will likely require a college degree. 

By admitting non-members and expanding into the college track, the school is competing with the high school programs of its member communities and other surrounding communities.  This redundancy is fundamentally wasteful. 

The redundancy is especially troubling because the member communities have little control over Minuteman’s budget.  The bond covenants creating the Minuteman district oblige member communities to pay for whatever Minuteman’s board chooses to spend.  Minuteman’s board has historically been very closely allied with the school’s leadership.  As a result, Minuteman is the most expensive vocational school in the state, spending $35 thousand per student — more than 50% above the average of the other 28 vocational schools. 

For comparison, Belmont is spending $14 thousand per student and Watertown is spending $22 thousand per student, including out-of-district special education costs.   Tuition going to Minuteman reduces the resources available to the students in the regular public schools.

Per Pupil Total Expenditures (FY2018)Per Pupil Administrative Expenditures (FY2018)
Minuteman $34,957$2,593
28 Vocational Schools Statewide Average$21,872$1,130
Belmont$14,246$412
Watertown$22,301$709
All Schools Statewide Average$16,465$562

Source: Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

In the immediate future, Belmont students will still have the option of attending Minuteman.  Belmont, like Watertown, will pay the non-member tuition for its students, which is actually lower than the member tuition. 

For some at Town Meeting, the primary questions were:  What if Minuteman fills up and stops accepting students from non-member districts?  Should we be assuming the liabilities of a member and paying the higher member tuition as an insurance policy against that possibility?  Discussion of these issues devolved into speculation.

But what is the worst case risk of leaving?  The concern should not be that a student might not be able to get an early start on a career in the trades.   I do believe that students seeking to prepare to enter the trades will find good options, but ultimately, no municipality has a legal or moral obligation to provide any particular vocational program whether for aspiring plumbers or aspiring doctors. 

The obligation of the municipality is to provide a good basic education defined by the state’s curriculum mandates.  That basic education will be valuable for any person as a citizen and in any career.  Even the building trades are becoming more and more complex – they require continuing learning to master new building systems and environmental rules.

The most compelling argument for the Minuteman school is that it does provide an alternative for students whose learning or emotional needs are not well met in the public high school.  Town Meeting heard moving testimonials from parents who felt Minuteman had been a better fit for their children. 

Students might seek an alternative for any number of non-vocational reasons.  High school is a time when many students experience stress and emotional discomfort as they struggle to figure out how they fit in to the world socially, academically and professionally. 

But Minuteman is not a fit for all struggling students anyway.   We should not embrace an unmanageable open-ended commitment as a possible solution for just a few.  Instead, we absolutely need to keep striving to do a better job in diversifying educational and extra-curricular options for students within our schools so that every child can find their way.

My career-long mission has been to support our public K-12 schools with the resources so that they can do exactly that.  I will persist in that mission.

For more statistical details and discussion, please see my original statement on this issue prior to the 2016 referendum. See also my staff’s FAQ on referendum.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

Join the Conversation

48 Comments

  1. I was a long-time Belmont Town Meeting member where I became frustrated with Minuteman’s leadership and budget. In recent years, I have only observed from afar. Thank you, Will, for your factual, dispassionate analysis and conclusion.

  2. I think I would probably side with the parents who spoke
    for Minuteman being a good fit for their children.

    1. The vote wasn’t about yanking Belmont students out of Minuteman. That isn’t going to happen. Other non-member districts send far more students than we do, and Belmont will continue to send and pay tuition for a sizable contingent every year. The vote was about saving $3,000-$10,000 per student, such that we have money available to fund teachers and programs for the thousands of children who remain in-district. They also need and deserve smaller class sizes and access to better programming, including exposure to VocTech at Belmont High School.

  3. I found the arguments on both sides of TM discussion quite compelling. I also found it interesting that even some of your most ardent supporters were in disagreement with you. It is for sure a difficult subject to understand. I see everyday the shortage of people willing to work with their hands and feel this is becoming a crisis of sorts. I do agree with you that Minuteman has shifted from what we always considered as vocational courses and trades to now looking more like a Prep School than a trade school on taxpayers backs for the most popular careers involving science and medical fields as opposed to plumbing , electric automotive etc. trades.

    1. Frank, I whole-heartedly agree with you that we need students who are prepared to enter the trades. We also need to treat these options as respectable and even desirable career paths. A huge advantage of these jobs is that they can’t be out-sourced. A technician in China or India isn’t going to help me very much when I need a qualified plumber, electrician, or mechanic. No one who contacted me to lobby to stay in MMT talked about trades. The hype around MMT was all about high-tech, bio-tech, media, and hospitality. No one talked about auto shop. NO ONE.

  4. I voted “remain” after having voted “leave” three years ago, but these are interesting statistics. Everyone who has sent kids to Minuteman loves it; everyone who has dealt with the administration there hates it. The $2600 per-pupil expenditure on administration is telling.

    However, a big part of the difference in cost in class size, and Belmont’s class sizes are horrendous. Most Belmontians I know who can easily afford it (and plenty for whom it’s not easy) send their children to private school, largely because of the class sizes. A smaller class size is a lot of what Minuteman parents get for their children. If those children can’t go to Minuteman, some of them may end up as special education placements, at town expense.

    Belmont should not be spending less per student than the state average and much less than Watertown. It should not have class sizes approaching 30 students per class. (And, if we want to control traffic, it should make school buses free and ban parent drop-offs.)

    1. It is now more than ever vital for our future success of our students and to fill the current and future needs of trades members that we recognize the importance of a trade school. I have personal family success with my son and cousins sons graduating from Minuteman all are successful in their fields. I have grown up in Belmont and I am sad to see this town act as though we are Lexington or Weston, we are not, and have never been. Belmont has chosen to build a 300mm dollar High school with no trades availability as a former TM member (15 yrs.) I am discussed that this schools expense will drive us out of town financially, Good Luuk to you all!

      1. Honestly, Belmont is really acting like Watertown, which sends many more kids to Minuteman than Belmont does. Watertown has consistently made the sensible decision not to join Minuteman, despite repeated entreaties from Minuteman. We are in good company.

    2. Sue, see my response below to Azra Nelson regarding special education. Frankly, I feel that this was an issue MMT proponents were deliberately using to justify the annual tuition of $36,000-$40,000 per year. A much better solution is to fund programs that allow these students to thrive in-district, rather than shipping them off as if we aren’t responsible for them. Keeping some of that money in-district would fund more teachers and high-quality programming that would allow us to embrace special needs children.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree that BPSD should have great Voc Tech classes as well as ability to better deal with demands of SPED or differently-able learners. I can’t see any Belmont parent being against this option.

        But we all know that right now BHS doesn’t offer anything much, and it is questionable if it ever will. BPSD is relaying on out of district placements to offset this deficiency for a long time now.

        Correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I know we have no plans for any Voc Tech classrooms even in our new HS despite $300 million price tag?!

        Anyone looking at where BHS is headed even with an opportunity to include Voc Tech education in a new building, and become more inclusive, understands that town has failed to act and change things for the future. My faith that things will actually positively change with measly savings of not being member of MM is completely lacking at this point. I wish I can see different, more inclusive trend.

        You have also mention in reply to someone earlier how no one asks much about car repair program at MM. That is not a bad thing. I can see future changes influencing lack of demand. We have less cars, our cars are more and more electrical, and becoming sophisticated computers, rather then old fashioned machines of past century. In 20 or so years from now, difference in how we own, repair and maintain cars will probably decimate demand and car shops of yesteryear. We can’t turn the clock back and be stuck on past notions of Voc education.

        I would like to add that it is not Belmont job to determine what MM should teach or not teach. It seems as we have always objected how things were done there, despite their stellar reputation and excellent outcomes.

        In the end, all that matter is that we shouldn’t leave any child behind. And we just did that, willing to gamble access to MM in the future (which will thrive for their dynamic innovative approach to education BHS is lacking).

        Our vote was not in accordance to our stated values. Our reputation will suffer for a few saved pennies here.

  5. I understand the financial logic of the decision, I cant argue the numbers.
    But disagree on the extent that BHS can prepare students for the trades and that it is somehow redundant for students in trades to also receive more traditional academics as part of their training. – The trades are much bigger than old style plumbing and auto mechanics and I think that the addition of newer trades is quite appropriate. Students should not have to spend thousands after graduation to get skill that could easily be incorporated into vocational training
    BHS like most suburban schools is very focused on traditional college prep and the large group seeking elite college admissions trickles down Vocational students need read write, have computer skill and know some math – but there don’t need to be able to write term papers. We should want people who go into the trades to have some broader knowledge – just as it is important to people going to high tech to know more than math and science. And someone headed to the Ivy league should have the opportunity to learn some woodworking as an elective. I wish this was not an either or choice for students and that ways could be found to collaborate between the schools. I am very sorry that todays high schools do not include any vocational training like they did in the past
    I suspect that If kids did not have to leave there town and friends , that many more would choose this as more appropriate option . The perception that vocational school is a place for students not smart enough to go to high school – or that its really a place for students with leaning disabilities or behavior problems – needs a more positive narrative As AI begins replacing may white color jobs in the near future – vocational education may become a much more attractive choice for a larger group of student
    We live in a country that has a glut of professors and lawyers and a shortage of people born and trained here who can fix and build things While we may not have a legal obligation for provide vocational education, it is just the right thing to do.
    While joining minuteman may not be a wise financial choice – I think is very important that young people know that we as a town value and support vocational education and that students and parent who choose this path do not feel that they are second class citizens

  6. I fully agree with the argument presented. One of the reasons for the administrative cost being so high at Minuteman is that until now the student body is about 50% special education, requiring more people resources. This fact would also, in my opinion, tend to lower the overall academic level of the school.

  7. I disagree. The Minuteman School addresses one of America’s most serious problems: increasing inequality. For children who do not want an academic education, it serves an important need. I suppose that most Belmont teen-agers want to attend a four-year college, but what about those who want to enter a trade like carpentry, auto-repair, brick-laying or plumbing, which pay good wages and have strong unions? How will their desires be met?

    1. I can’t see the inequality narrative. I strongly doubt that those seeking entry into the trades will face new barriers as a result of this decision — demand is very strong for them. The stronger argument against the decision is in terms of special needs children. I feel we can and should do better meeting their needs within Belmont.

  8. If there is a problem with the funding structure, we should remain and seek to resolve that issue. I completely understand the need for alternatives, and definitely feel we need trade education which is sorely lacking from the standard curriculum.

  9. I disagree as well. Certainly there are gross and per pupil student costs to consider and perhaps a way to constructively engage in that issue. I too have family members who attended and received good non college track high school educations there. As a nation, we seem to be drifting to an educational system where the wealthier among us pay for premium educations with access to wealthy suburbs, and the entree that offers to first tier universities and everyone else is left to far fewer options.

  10. As a voter, I voted with the 72% majority only because I wanted a debate on leaving Minuteman. As a Town Meeting member, I voted twice to remain because I’ve never heard a complete vision for how we will provide students with quality education if Minuteman is a rousing success and we can’t send students there. When I’ve heard that 72% result used by supporters of leaving (like you are doing) to justify their position, I’ve wondered whether there are voters like me who ONLY voted that way to ensure we had a debate on leaving Minuteman — voting against the school was our only chance to keep our options open on potentially exiting the district.
    The debate on Wednesday was an excellent one, with everyone on both sides making good arguments. This, to me at least, was a close call. However, Will, I was surprised by how dogmatic you seemed (at least to me) on this. I’m used to learning new things from your reasoned thoughts on a topic, even when I disagree with you, and I simply didn’t find that was the case on Wednesday night.

  11. Mr. Browsberger I was taken aback by you comments about MM at TM few nights ago.

    I wasn’t swayed to vote to rescind, but your comment about MM clearly wielded more weight then any other that night, and resulted in Belmont TM vote not to remain the member.
    To me your negative and pretty vitriolic comments were surprise. It seems as there was, and there still is lot of animosity and past grievances between Belmont and MM, but I have hoped that our vote could be looking toward future instead, and in the best interest of all of Belmont kids (and not used to settle scores from past issues).
    Time is marching on. We are clearly in a different century, with a different and evolving vocational training. MM should be congratulated on its flexibility and foresight for the future.
    Small town high schools are not evolving fast enough to accommodate new, and often harsher economic conditions our kids are facing. Our autism and SPED needs rates are high too. In the past century we didn’t have to grapple with this issue on the same scale as we do now. We all know that BHS is not funded to address various and serious needs in this area.
    What was completely omitted few nights ago, is the fact that many Belmont kids going to MM, are on IEP already, and cost to our district is surly higher when IEP and SPED is involved? Your cost chart is painting with a very broad brush without nuances of this reality. MM takes on, where BHS fails. There was no proper accounting, or even discussion of this fact at TM.
    We have just approved $300 million for a new school and imposed fairly large tax increases on all Belmont residents and parents, even if some of our Belmont kids will never be able to attend it, and will need to seek more costly, more stressful far away alternatives. To me cost of rejoining was not as daunting in comparison to what he will spend on new “in town” school.
    I feel ashamed at the chilling message we have sent to many families in our community. Message is cold, and clear. Kids needing different education don’t matter to Belmont, as much as saving very little money does.
    Instead of cohesive peer group and steady alternative at MM, we are now OK with tearing this comfort apart, while embarking into unknown territory, and possibly even more costly coordination between many different schools, including need to create new 1-2 position of coordinators within our district, and of course wild card future transportation costs.
    All is all, to me, this was a very bad call. It was reactionary in its focus on the past, while completely omitting our kids future needs. Maybe this was penny wise today, but most likely very pound foolish in a few years from now.

    (For the record I have no kids in MM, only in BPD, but I strongly believe that saving on education of any particular group of kids is not just plain wrong, but also introduces slippery slope. We might be very well deciding to save on AP and honors classes offerings at BHS next, since we apparently have no moral obligation to support future doctors and scientists either!?)

    1. I respect your point of view. It is fair to say that Minuteman picks up a lot of children with IEPs and that is a factor in their costs structure, but I think it is wrong to think of those children as a group and to postulate Minuteman as the ideal solution for them. They all have very different needs. We need to meet all of their needs. I agree with you that we should not shirk that obligation, but that does not have to mean embracing Minuteman. Our education reform bill will deliver more resources for Belmont and I will continue to push for additional resources so that we can do the best job we can for all our children.

    2. I am a TM member from Precinct 2. The issue of Minuteman and IEPs has been discussed extensively (and somewhat disingenuously in my opinion). Every single person who called or contacted me to ask me to vote to remain in Minuteman raised special needs students–repeatedly–as a justification for staying in the MMT district. I am the mother of a special needs child (who had to be out-placed) and an attorney representing other special needs children (not in Belmont, mainly Boston), so I know a fair amount about this issue, and MMT is not the sole or even primary answer. To comply with both the intent and letter of special education law, Belmont needs to be focusing on developing adequate programs within district precisely so that we aren’t treating special needs children as “other” and shipping them out of the district. The explanation that has been given to date is that there is currently inadequate room in-district to provide the smaller class sizes that these children need. The new 7-12 school should relieve some of the space burden such that Belmont can meet federal and state requirements about giving special needs children the same opportunities as all other Belmont students, which includes adequate facilities and programs to keep them in-district when possible.

    3. I appreciate your clarifications and focusing on cost. I now realize that I misspoke in my originals statement and it should have read that despite your and other TMM negative opinions, I wasn’t swayed to vote against rejoining. I think staying made more sense to make sure we are not regretting it short 3 years later.

      I am pleasantly surprised to hear that you think Belmont can offer more at BHS, but how can we do that if we didn’t make any plans for space or any vocational offerings?

      How and how fast can BHS start to function in more inclusive way?

      All I see is huge rat race getting worse with every passing year, and with it, very elitist attitudes toward education (that we all promote unwittingly) at the expense of anyone not as streamlined (or “groomed” from preschool up).

      I would like to hear plans for immediate future, forgive me my skepticism. Money saved on MM doesn’t seem like it can go that far?

  12. Will
    As long as we have limited control over the Minuteman budget and fields of study at Minuteman, I agree with your decision.
    Also, I never liked the fact that members paid more that nonmembers per student at Minuteman.
    I was among the Belmont taxpayers who agreed to fund a new MS-HS with increasing property taxes. It’s not fiscally responsible for Belmont to subsidize Minuteman’s expansion at this time.

  13. Will, I would be interested in your view on a related MMT issue. The high school, as you know, sits only hundreds of feet from Minute Man National Historical Park, which preserves the place where the American Revolution began and is host to millions of American and international visitors who come to see where (in Abraham Lincoln’s phrase) the “last best hope for mankind” began. MMT seeks to build an elaborate athletic complex that it cannot afford, complete with lighted fields and a PA system–just yards from the National Park. As I understand it, because MMT cannot afford such a facility, it seeks to get someone else to fund it, in exchange for the right to host paying events from anyone who wants to rent the facilities–lights, PA system, and all. Ordinarily, such a rental arrangement would run afoul of the Dover Amendment, since such “businesses” are not protected under Dover. Except that on July 25, 2018, the state legislature–did that include you?– voted to grant a form of immunity from such challenges to MMT (Acts 2018, Chapter 152). So now MMT will have facilities that will intrude on the visitor experience at the Park, and apparently, if the revenues from this venture evaporate, MMT will be saddled with debts that it is unable to pay. Which I assume means charging the member towns even more per student. Not only does this appear to be stunning mismanagement, but it also seems ironic that a high school named after the historic minute men seeks to “sell” some of our national heritage in order to fund a rental facility. Doesn’t the legislature share some of the blame here?

  14. I agree Michael Aronson’s statement about the appropriateness of offering solid training in the trades Michael enumerates. There are students that excel in the trade skills who are not be well suited for success in tradional academic courses . However, many courses offered at Minuteman do not seem germaine to the mission of training people to build skills in the traditional trades . Cosmetology, Culinary Arts and Hospitality, and Horticulture may be helpful training for some individuals, but the high tuition for this sort of training to the Town is hard to justify. Also, most of the “academic” offerings at Minuteman duplicate what is available at our own high school, but come at a much higher price. Some offerings appear to be marketing ploys to attract greater numbers of students to the school. Incoming students cannot be turned down when they request technical education – a godsend to some students and in their best interest. However, looking at the rise in numbers of incoming freshmen to Minuteman, I wonder if some of these students have adequate academic ability, and are opting for the novelty of taking courses in Cosmetology or Horticulture along with their academics in a brand new facility. It seems to me very inappropriate for Dr. Bouquillon et al to be more or less seducing students and their families with non-tech and trendy course offerings, thereby nibbling away at the Town’s threadbare school budget. It is disappointing that DESE is not stepping in to discourage this expensive dysfunctional dynamic.

  15. I graduated from high school in 1973 (in NY State). We had a variety of shop classes (well, the boys, anyway): metal, wood, ceramics, electric, print. It was great to be exposed to all of that, and I believe that learning about type and typography in print shop steered me to becoming a designer decades later. Who would have predicted that? It certainly wasn’t the track that my parents or I assumed I was on.

    This discussion is just about Minuteman, but still, I wish that all of our students had opportunities like that again.

    You wrote, “But what is the worst case risk of leaving? The concern should not be that a student might not be able to get an early start on a career in the trades. I do believe that students seeking to prepare to enter the trades will find good options, but ultimately, no municipality has a legal or moral obligation to provide any particular vocational program whether for aspiring plumbers or aspiring doctors.”

    What are the “good options” for kids who want to learn the trades? How will families find those options? They’re certainly not in Belmont.

    We may not have an “obligation to provide any particular vocational program”, but we do have an obligation to prepare all kids for a successful future. What are the options for kids in BPS who turn out not to be academically oriented? I can believe that discussion of the long-term view at TM became “speculation”, because we don’t know what will happen. But this decision doesn’t seem to be preparing well for the future.

    1. The first and most likely option is that like students from Watertown, students from Belmont will continue to go to Minuteman as non-members. There are other vocational programs in the area that they may also be able to be admitted to. Finally, most of my friends who are in the trades just started working for someone as an apprentice, and came along just fine. Getting a Belmont High School education is a great start for anything.

      1. I have problems with “they may also be able to be admitted to”. And while apprenticeships may be good, educational training seems like a better idea. We support athletics in part because people say it keeps non-academically inclined kids in school. I think technical education will help keep others.

        Our experience with BPS is out of date by a few years (graduations in 2011 & ’13), but it was *not* a great start for our kids. We need alternatives that aren’t so focused on college-bound kids, and need to make sure that the schools support all the kids, whether they’re in special-ed, athletes, college-bound, etc.

        1. Fair enough. I agree we need to keep improving the high school experience for everyone. Improving that experience means adding more resources. My belief is that $1m/year we are spending on Minuteman could do more for the kids who are not having a good experience if we spent it in Belmont.

  16. I was with you until you wrote that the obligation of the municipality is to provide a good basic education defined by the state’s curriculum mandates. The obligation of the municipality is to meet the needs of the students in the community. A school focused on CP (college prep) and AP classes is certainly appropriate for many students in Belmont, but not all. I agree that member status with Minuteman Tech doesn’t make sense, but I see the solution is preparing backup vocational school options in case their space fills up, not to so casually to dismiss the very real, and sometimes life-saving, benefits of vocational education for the students who need it.

  17. Part of the reason that I opposed remaining in Minuteman is because I want to bring more vocational and technical opportunities to Belmont High School. Every interested student should be able to take advantage of Voc/Tech opportunities without having to leave Belmont. The new high school cannot accommodate everything MMT offers, but we ought to fund and provide enough quality programming to give all interested students meaningful exposure to various Voc/Tech fields. Only a small handful of Belmont students can access MMT. Thousands of Belmont students remain in-district, and they likewise deserve these opportunities.

  18. Elizabeth,
    How are you working to bring more Voc/Tech classes to Belmont High? Is there a plan and roadmap? If no, when will there be such a plan with funding and approvals? This will make everyone feel better if actions match the words.
    Like Hal above, I too graduated years ago from to a “Vo/Ag” high school in southeastern CT. The computer science classes saved my brothers life and made him an extremely productive citizen of our country. The diversity of the student body and the classes teaching wood/metal working, and animal husbandry, as well as college prep ELA, Science and Math served EVERYONE in the local and surrounding communities and we were ALL BETTER for it in understanding and respecting others abilities and choices.

  19. Will, we do not disagree on much, but I think you would find that many reasonable people would disagree with what you’re saying about Minuteman, Voc/Tech, and educational mandates. From my perspective, it is clear, we do need to spend much, much more on our schools and expanding options within our schools, and I do appreciate your interest in our getting that right. We operate Belmont schools on too thin a budget as it is. Many families in our town understand that. And the next shot at getting that right is the Nov. 2020 override. With respect to Minuteman, I want to set aside everything else for a moment to focus just on cost and the town budget. Much of what drove the Town Meeting vote was the perception that resources can be driven from Voc/Tech to Belmont Schools. There is no clear path for doing so. First, there is a state mandate for the town to pay for Voc/Tech tuition and transportation. No gnashing of teeth changes that. Second, member or non-member, the cost to send students to Minuteman is almost the same now. So, without a drastic drop in demand for Voc/Tech or our getting squeezed out, not much changes with respect to our cost. Third, by drifting into non-membership, we’ve lost the member town’s assessment formula, which smooths out our costs over four years. Fourth, there just aren’t other high quality Voc/Tech schools to choose from in the area, so there will be continued demand for Minuteman. So, again, there are no really meaningful savings to mine from a Minuteman member exit for Belmont schools. In fact, in FY 2021, partly as a result of the loss of the four year averaging in the member’s formula, we will spend more on Voc/Tech than we did this year. Patrice Garvin, our Town Administrator, seems to get it. She’s set aside an extra $500,000 for Voc/Tech in FY2021’s already oversubscribed preliminary budget. No matter what you think of Minuteman and Voc/Tech, there is no clear path for driving resources from Voc/Tech to Belmont schools.

    1. Thanks, Mike. Reasonable people do disagree on this.

      I would just emphasize that membership encourages more people to go Minuteman which means more money drawn out of the Town fisc. Ultimately that squeezes Belmont schools.

      1. We can’t cover all needs in our schools. When we can’t get it right, parents will look elsewhere and middle school guidance counselors will feel the responsibility as educators to recommend that they do so. That’s completely reasonable and understandable. So, member or non-member, the demand for help will tilt some families to Voc/Tech. And under current state law and regulations, we will be obligated to pay the tuitions and transportation. So, there really is no way to husband the resources some wish for the Town fisc and Belmont schools. There are two ways to approach this–change state law and regulations (which I really do not recommend), or inject sufficient new resources into Belmont schools so that you can begin to whittle down some of the Voc/Tech demand. Both paths are tremendously difficult.

      2. Will, you wrote that”membership encourages more people to go Minuteman” — Is that bad?

        Are you saying that kids who shouldn’t go there would go there if we were members? If it’s a good alternative for some kids, then we should encourage it. And if it lightens the load in BPS, that’s good. And as you noted, we spend less per pupil than other towns.

        1. That’s the thing: It doesn’t “lighten the load”. It increases the load. We can’t think of the school budget as separate from the town budget. All the money comes from the same place. Each student we send to Minuteman is a lot of money out the door so we want to be sure that only those for whom it really is the most cost-effective solution are going there.

  20. Certainly, Will, you know that there has been a sizable shift at the federal level in what you call “vo-tec” to its updated terminology, “Career and Technical Education” (CTE). This nomenclature helps your constituents understand that the vo-tec of the 80’s and 90’s no longer exists. You are incorrect in presenting Minuteman or any other CTE school as “just” for trades – insulting the students, graduates and their families, and all in and affected by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

    There are more pre-enrollments at Minuteman at this time of year versus ever before. The administration is changing, negating the arguments about the historic relationship between Belmont and the school. Students in Belmont will be educated on all of their educational options in 8th grade. And Belmont’s enrollment in Minuteman will increase while DESE will continue to change the formula for member and non-member towns. This will happen during a time where all of our surrounding communities will continue to increase their enrollments as well.

    Basing your argument in reality, public education is flawed and archaic, has far too much road ahead to fix in a reasonable lifetime, and is just plainly and simply not for all. Further, there are no good options to CTE (unless you mean apprenticeships are reserved for high school graduates). Securing one Belmont-backed educational option in CTE while focusing on the best possible outcome for our kids’ lives in the next few years should be a critical component of schooling for our children.

  21. Will, you and I spoke at length about this issue before the town took its first vote 3 years ago. I disagreed with your position then and I still do now. It is only a matter of time before Belmont students are shut out of Minuteman since it will be a more desirable choice for in-district student populations. There is no equivalent public school opportunity for a Belmont student who does not have special needs (as legally defined) and for a variety of reasons is a poor fit for Belmont High School. Learning the skills of a trade while also doing traditional high school course work is a rich and unique offering in a public school setting. Vocational education has and is stigmatized in Belmont and I believe that is at the root of the recent vote. I had one child who thrived at BHS and one who needed an alternative. We were grateful for Minuteman for our other child and he has since graduated from a four year university. I believe it is a short sighted and regrettable decision to leave the district and Belmont’s future students will pay the price.

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