Medford School Committee Addresses Budget Shortfall and Mental Health

The Medford School Committee meeting focused on issues, such as resolving a potential budget shortfall for the fiscal year 2024 and enhancing mental health support services for students. The Finance Director presented measures to address the budget deficit, which has been reduced to $216,000, with the committee emphasizing the importance of balancing the budget by the fiscal year-end. Additionally, comprehensive mental health support services for students were highlighted, with various resources and programs discussed to aid in their well-being.

In addressing the Medford School Committee’s fiscal challenges, the Finance Director provided a detailed account of the steps taken to mitigate a potential budget shortfall for fiscal year 2024. Measures such as identifying over-encumbered accounts, utilizing balances from previous fiscal years, and refining the projection model have been employed to reduce the deficit to a current projection of $216,000. The committee discussed the importance of maintaining fiscal responsibility by ensuring that the budget is balanced by the end of the fiscal year, as running a deficit is not permissible. The error in the projection model that caused the shortfall was identified and is being corrected with closer monitoring on a daily and weekly basis. The committee also acknowledged the need for transparency and proactive communication with stakeholders, including the Medford Teachers Association, which expressed concerns about the potential impact of rollover accounts on next year’s budget and potential layoffs.

The meeting also saw an in-depth presentation on the roles and responsibilities of the Department of School Counseling and Behavioral Health at Medford Public Schools. The department, which encompasses school adjustment counselors or social workers, school psychologists, school counselors, BCBAs, and behavior specialists, focuses on providing a wide range of support services. These include direct counseling, group and individual sessions, social-emotional learning programs, and coordination with service providers and parents. The committee reviewed the support provided at the elementary level, including the implementation of the Responsive Classroom and Zones of Regulation programs, as well as the Sandy Hook Promise programming. Middle school services were also discussed, with a shift to include guidance and counseling alongside social-emotional learning programs.

Furthermore, the committee explored the effectiveness of mental health education and support within the schools. The district’s steps program, which offers specialized academic and clinical support to students returning to school after medical absences, was discussed. The district’s approach to restorative practices and social-emotional learning programs at the middle and high school levels was presented. The committee emphasized the importance of collaboration with community partners, including Massachusetts General Hospital and community-based mental health agencies, to provide comprehensive care to students. The introduction of innovative initiatives, such as a wellness coach and the utilization of the CarSolace platform, were highlighted as efforts to guide students and families to community-based care.

The committee also addressed the integration of mental health education within elementary schools, discussing the need for out-of-class support, such as brochures and online portals for students experiencing distress. Additionally, updates were given on the English Learner (EL) program, detailing sheltered English immersion and programs for different proficiency levels. The director of EL and Title III provided enrollment numbers and discussed the fluid nature of the EL student population, as well as university partnerships to train teachers and offer ESL certification. The committee also highlighted the use of two-way communication platforms and translation devices to support multilingual families.

A resolution to reaffirm support for various resolutions, including access to menstrual supplies and the prohibition of Native American mascots, was presented. The committee also discussed updates to the School Committee Member qualifications oath of office policy, requiring new members to complete necessary training and certification. The meeting concluded with the approval of a resolution to update the policy regarding online access to Medford School Committee meetings.

Moreover, the committee voted on a resolution supporting the establishment of a stabilization fund for the City of Medford, aimed at covering unforeseen financial needs. The resolution to allocate $5 million to the fund in spring 2023 was approved, with discussions on the management and implications for the city’s finances.

In addition, the meeting addressed a resolution on the disciplinary practice of suspension, with a focus on ending out-of-school suspensions and reviewing disciplinary practices. A public member shared a personal story about the impact of suspension policies on students with special needs, prompting the committee to consider amendments to the resolution.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Dr. Marice Edouard-Vincent
School Board Officials:
Breanna Lungo-Koehn, Nicole Branley, Jenny Graham, John Intoppa, Aaron Olapade, Erika Reinfeld, Paul Ruseau

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