Good morning. We hope you got some time this weekend to enjoy family and friends.
In last week’s eBulletin, we ran a letter from BPS Deputy Superintendent Muncey announcing that the department probably will change start times for an unknown number of schools. The number of schools is certain, as is the timing of the unveiling of the decision. The uncertainty of the timeframe as well as the decision itself is a huge issue for parents, students, and staff. More than 1,450 of our members, more than double a typical week’s high, downloaded the Muncey letter last week. The importance of this issue to our members and the families of those who use our schools cannot be overstated.
What’s the issue Deputy Muncey described? Simply put, it is most efficient and less costly to use buses for three bus runs each day, for example at 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30. It is also very difficult to coordinate. Buses often leave their first school late and arrive to their second school even later. And so on. No need to explain in this space — you live it every day. This has proved to be a problem that is not solved easily, outside of a schedule tweak here and there. The tweaks haven’t worked. All of this is about to get worse next September with the addition of 35-40 new Schedule A schools. Deputy Muncey told principals in her memo that the department had embarked on an outside study to look at bus schedules.
This problem was not unanticipated. The Schedule A agreement was signed in December 2014, giving the School Department two full years to have worked on this issue. (The underlying issue of the coordination of bus schedules, however, has been around for well more than 30 years.) Muncey’s letter suggests that some new analysis will be completed shortly that may lead to an unknown number of schedule changes at some time in the future. The possibility of a schedule breakthrough – one that is efficient and less costly – is uncertain.
What’s fairly certain is that the process the department is undergoing will be completed after the start of the school registration period, leaving parents, students and BTU members who need to plan their own life schedules in a difficult situation. It is important for the district to do this right, no matter how long it takes. On the other hand, it is just as important for the district to ensure that parents, students and staff aren’t surprised in late winter or early spring with a new school starting time, for example, of 7:30 AM when they had planned or registered for 9:30 AM. The district owes it to all of us, particularly our families, to treat them as Brookline and Waltham would treat their school families: with respect.
Tomorrow is the deadline for enrollment in the flexible spending program, a negotiated benefit that allows our members to use their pre-tax dollars, subject to IRS limitations, on a host of out-of-pocket expenses on medical, dental, dependent care and transportation and parking needs. It is easy to use and can save members up to 33% of the cost of the aforementioned expenses, depending on their tax bracket. Close to 1,000 of our members use one or more aspects of the plan, which is seamless to access.
The OPEN ENROLLMENT period only runs through tomorrow, November 30, and enrollment can be done online. Here’s how to get more information:
- Read more about how the plan works.
- See a flyer from the vendor which manages the plan.
- See the application for enrollment.
See answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
TODAY at 4:30 we are holding a meeting to explain the myriad of 403b plans, also known as tax-sheltered annuity offerings. We’ll explain how the different plans work and which plans to be wary of. We will also give an overview of the public pension system. The seminar will be given by Richard Stutman and Michael McLaughlin. Please read more on the variety of tax-sheltering plans offered in BPS. Refreshments will be served, and you will leave the session with a quick and informative understanding of what plans are best and best to avoid.
AFT MA Scholarship applications are now available. Read more and apply.