2012-08-24 / Front Page

Parking fees charged to students

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

John Wheeler, a senior at Scarborough High School, shares his concerns about being charged to park in the high school parking lot at the Aug. 16 Board of Education meeting. Although many students spoke out against the fee, the board ended up passing it 6-1. (Michael Kelley photo) John Wheeler, a senior at Scarborough High School, shares his concerns about being charged to park in the high school parking lot at the Aug. 16 Board of Education meeting. Although many students spoke out against the fee, the board ended up passing it 6-1. (Michael Kelley photo) Despite organized student opposition, the Scarborough Board of Education voted 6-1 to charge high school students $50 a year, or $25 a semester to use the parking lot. Jackie Perry was the only board member to vote against implementing the fees and even went so far as to make a motion to eliminate them after hearing student comments at the Aug. 16 meeting. However, she was the only one to vote in favor of the fee elimination.

Senior Class President Jack Sullivan, who spearheaded a petition drive asked students and community members to urge the board not to impose the fees, said after the meeting he was disappointed with how the discourse of the meeting went.

“I was glad to see Ms. Perry supporting us. I was surprised to see that, but I am very disappointed no one else supported us,” said Sullivan, a member of the National Honors Society and a three-sport athlete.

The money collected will go toward the general school district budget. The fees are to help raise an additional $50,000 that has been built into the budget.

If Sullivan had his way, the school district would not charge student fees and parking fees and athletic and activity fees would be eliminated.

“We have plenty more steps we are willing to go with this,” Sullivan said after the vote.

One of those options is to get a citizen’s referendum on the Tuesday, Nov. 6 ballot to eliminate all fees at the high school.

“We feel that fees all together is not the right way to go,” he said.

While that effort gets underway, Sullivan said students will continue to show their disdain for the parking fee.

“The plan is to flood the buses and show them what we are made of,” Sullivan said. “Boycott the lot and flood the buses.”

Overcrowding of the buses was one of the worries Perry had if students were to oppose paying the parking fee.

“I don’t want to see the students waiting by the side of the road because there is no room on the buses,” Perry said after making her motion to eliminate the fee. “I agree we may need $50,000 in additional revenue, but at the moment I don’t have a suggestion where else that can come from.”

Superintendent George Entwistle assured the students, staff, parents and member of the public at the meeting that the number of buses in Scarborough can provide transportation for all students in the district, although that would take some restructuring of routes and schedules. Assistant Superintendent Joanne Sizemore said that could be done by having a bus route for the high school and routes specifically for the middle school, intermediate school and primary schools.

Sullivan was one of five students who spoke at the meeting. The students, however, were representing not only their own views, but the views of many of their classmates and peers.

“We have spent the last two days collecting signatures of our fellow students and members of the community. We have 500 signatures of people who stand in solidarity behind us,” said senior Merrick Madden. “Should the fee be passed tonight we will not end our quest.”

School board member John Cole said he was glad to have an opportunity to hear directly from the students at the meeting.

“I appreciate all the kids coming out and doing their civic duty. Sometimes that is hard,” he said. “You guys are doing the right thing using your voices for others in the school.”

Sullivan said he was afraid the parking fee would set a precedent that it is OK to charge fees to students.

“This is just the beginning—the tip of the iceberg,” Sullivan said. “(High School) Principal (Dean) Auriemma said in the last school he was at they charged for books and lockers. Is that what’s next?”

John Wheeler, a three-sport athlete at the school, said having a vehicle at school is a necessity for many high school students, especially those who cannot get transportation to and from school from parents.

“I stand up with the majority of Scarborough students. The fee is ridiculous and unnecessary,” Wheeler said.

Mary Cleary, a member of the volleyball team and Key Club, said having a vehicle at school helps her create her own schedule rather than relying on the scheduling of buses.

“If I am not able to park at school, I am limited in my academics because I can’t stay after school to work on certain things with my teachers or make up an exam,” she said.

Maura Mancini, a junior, said the parking fee was something she just could not accept.

“I take pride in Scarborough High School. It’s a great school. I’ve had great years here and I look forward to the two I have left. I would be happy to help the school (find additional revenue), but not on these terms. I don’t like to feel demanded and not asked,” Mancini said.

Despite the vocal opposition against the fee, Mike Gilbert, a Scarborough parent who is helping the students pursue the referendum vote, said those who spoke were not against the Board of Education.

“We are not against you. We are with you. We are the people who support the Scarborough schools. United we stand and divided we fall,” Gilbert said.

Only one person, Paul Koziell, spoke in favor of the parking fee.

“This is a user fee in my mind,” said Koziell, who has a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old. “Some people have said this is unfair and the start of some sort of horribles. I don’t agree with you. I don’t agree with that concept.”

Although the board, as a whole, voted in favor of the parking fee, many of its members said they were against charging fees to students.

“I personally don’t care for fees,” said Jane Wiseman, a member of the board and chairman of the policy committee. “I have a child in high school and I pay them, but I don’t care for them.”

Wiseman said she would have been open to not charging for the parking fee, but only if there was a contingency plan regarding how to collect revenue another way. Such a plan was never discussed at the meeting.

While unpopular, fees are nothing new in Scarborough. Entwistle said the district has been charging athletic and activity fees on and off since at least 2003-2004. At first the fees were minimal and the revenue modest. In 2008-2009, with a souring economy, the fees were “significantly raised” on a per-activity basis.

“Those fees at the time were very unpopular and collection was very difficult,” Entwistle said.

Because of this, Entwistle said, the fee system was dropped in 2009-2010 before being reintroduced in the 2010-2011 school year.

Cole said even though the parking fee was approved for this school year, it doesn’t mean it can’t be changed, or even eliminated in future years.

“If we pass this, we will get some experience to see if it is worth it to continue it. It may not be, but we won’t know until we get it in place,” he said.

Now that the parking fee has received board approval, Auriemma will work on setting up a system of how to collect the money and make sure the system is properly enforced.

He told the Leader last month that students would be required to pay the fee before receiving a placard to display in their vehicle. The placards will be color coded. Staff will not have to pay to park in the lot. How it will be enforced and the penalties for non-compliance have not been determined, as of yet.

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