O’Malley Town Hall Meeting Focuses on Schools, Snow
Reposted from West Roxbury Patch
School and snow related issues dominated the discussion portion of District 6 City Councilor Matt O’Malley’s first West Roxbury Town Hall Meeting on Monday night.
O’Malley, just over three months into his first term representing most of the Parkway, also discussed a number of the legislative issues he has been working on in front of a packed room at the West Roxbury library branch.
When it came time for discussion, schools – particularly in light of Boston Public Schools’ “Redesign and Reinvest” plan – and snow were the most talked about topics.
O’Malley expressed concern about what will come of the eight schools that are set to close across the city, including the Aggasiz School in Jamaica Plain, where he hosted a similar meeting earlier this month. O’Malley said that at a hearing held earlier this month, officials were unable to answer questions about who would shovel around the closed school, or who would turn on the lights at the school for youth sports leagues. O’Malley also said he was concerned about student funding, especially for English Language Learning (ELL) and disabled students.
“There’s clearly a lot more work we need to do,” he said of the plans to implement Redesign and Reinvest.
He also expressed agreement with West Roxbury Neighborhood Council Vice President Stephen Smith’s concern that the schools closing across the city not be sold off to companies who use the buildings in a way that “won’t derive any long-term benefit” to Boston citizens. O’Malley said that any sale of the school will have to come before the City Council’s Education Committee, upon which he sits. O’Malley speculated that some sites could possibly be leased for the 10 charter schools set to open across the city.
O’Malley also classified the number of nearly-empty buses bringing students to school as “inefficient.” The renewal of BPS’s transportation contract is due to be discussed later this year, he said, and “ways to minimize the fleet” and get more vans and smaller buses on the ground will be an important part of that discussion. At-Large City Councilor and West Roxbury resident John Connolly, who chairs the Education Committee, called the bus system “way out of whack.”
Connolly also took the opportunity to speak, telling parents that his committee will, later this month, release a report detailing the entire BPS lottery process, detailing everything from the lottery itself to transportation of students.
Connolly also alerted parents to two public hearings to be held this week on the serving of expired food at four BPS schools. The first hearing is today at City Hall second, and the second will be on Thursday at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury at 6 p.m., and will be open to testimony from parents and students.
Snow-related issues also received quite a bit of attention during the meeting. While most were quick to praise the plow job across the city during the course of the trying winter, several residents were concerned about the shoveling and upkeep of sidewalks throughout the winter’s several snowstorms, particularly at sidewalk corners. O’Malley agreed that the system needed to be improved upon, and said the Snow Committee that he chaired in its pilot season will advance its mission in the seasons going forward.
O’Malley also said that while he thought the city did a good job clearing up snow, the MBTA “deserved a C at best” for its snow clearing efforts this winter.
Prior to open discussion, O’Malley spoke briefly about some of his legislative initiatives thus far, and going forward. They included:
- His efforts to increase the frequency, hours, and locations for hazardous waste material drop-offs across the city…
- His intentions to secure a dog park for West Roxbury, and interest in locating the potential sites and the funding for such a project…
- His support for the Gateway Project, and hope to include it in the budget as the season strolls along…
- His work to eventually establish a means by which to drop off expired medications. As chair of the Environment and Public Health Committee, he said he considers this important, as people shouldn’t be taking expired medicine, and most people don’t know how to properly dispose of it…
- And his groundwork, alongside West Roxbury doctor Jerry Carlson, in exploring the best practices and programs in health centers to combat childhood obesity, in hope of eventually incorporating them into schools.
A few other issues were also discussed during the meeting:
- O’Malley’s father, Roger, talked about Habitat for Humanity’s soon-to-open store next to Work Out World on the VFW Parkway. The store will take in people’s excess building materials to eventually help in the construction of homes for the needy…
- State Rep. Ed Coppinger said that his and a number of legislative offices had convinced Gov. Deval Patrick to “put on hold” proposed budgets to daytime care for senior citizens, to applause from his audience…
- Several attendees expressed their excitement in the removal of the billboards over Kalembar Dune, and said they hoped to see more go down in the future.
O’Malley said he was happy to see so many packed into the library room for the meeting.
“It’s great to see how strong civil engagement is in West Roxbury,” he said.