School Committee candidates Philip Benincasa and Jennifer Munn spoke of student fees in Concord and the ongoing bus transportation issue during Sunday’s League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle Candidates Forum.
With two open seats on the School Committee, this year’s race is uncontested, but both Benincasa and Munn took to the forum to answer a series of questions and offer voters some perspective before entering the ballot box on Mar. 6.
On the topic of outsourcing school buses, both candidates related the importance of transparency. Benincasa related his belief that residents were not fully informed of the plan before it was set in motion.
“This process represents a number of missteps,” he said. “I don’t think they were necessarily ill intended, but this is a community that needs to know how the leaders of the school system came to the decisions that they did.”
Benincasa said that people are very passionate about the subject and that he doesn’t “want to ever see that kind of division in a future issue.”
Munn pointed out that this type of issue is sure to impassion residents because there are kids involved, and that parents are concerned about the safety of their children, including the issue of getting home from school in a timely manner. She also agreed that residents were kept in the dark somewhat.
“We were looking at this issue in the fall and were told that various options were going to be looked at, but later meetings made it feel like not all of the options were looked at,” she said.
Munn continued that all involved parties should be giving the situation the proper attention that it deserves and, like Benincasa, acknowled that the community is divided on the issue.
“We should do everything we can to make sure that the general public is involved in every step of the process.”
Asked about increasing fees for students and their parents in Concord, Benincasa was quick to get to point out that Concord Public Schools “is a free education.”
He added, “I would like to see fees go away, but the practical answer is it is not going to happen anytime soon.”
Benincasa said that given the opportunity he would do he could to eliminate fees, but also relating that the town has to be mindful of seniors and other residents who do not have children in the school system.
Munn said that she is someone who pays extra fees for athletics and other school programs, and that it’s not something that is ideal, but that “we owe it to the folks who don’t have kids in school.”