Regional School Committee approves fund to support student trips

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Members of the 2019-20 Regional School Committee include (back row, left to right) Superintendent Laurie Hunter, Yuval Erlich, Eva Mostouf, Cynthia Rainey, Director of Finance and Operations Jared Stanton, (front row) Court Booth, Heather Bout, Regional Chair Wallace Johnston and David Model. (Photo by Sarah Hart)

The Regional School Committee (RSC) unanimously voted to establish the Sharon Young Travel Scholarship Fund during the May 14 meeting. Sharon Young is retiring after 16 years as the principal of the Alcott elementary school in Concord and the fund is being set up to support students who want to participate in Concord-Carlisle High School’s (CCHS) travel and exchange programs. The allocations of funds will be managed by a committee including high school administrators, although the exact process is yet to be determined.

Superintendent Laurie Hunter said that since she started almost two years ago, she has heard feedback that work needs to be done to make the high school trips more accessible to all students. Until now she has not had the vehicle or the funds to address the need. She said, “We have had occasional processes for financial assistance but not a consistent, structured approach.” 

According to Tracey Marano, who presented the request to the RSC, trips typically cost between $2,000 and $5,000. Students sometimes participate in fundraising activities in a group or on their own but they do not raise enough to cover the expense. She also pointed out that some students do not even consider going on trips because they worry that their parents cannot afford the cost.

RSC member Court Booth asked if there was any discussion of defraying costs for all participants. Marano said no, but noted that it is possible to negotiate some of the costs with the companies that run the trips.

The original motion specified that funds would be allocated at the discretion of CCHS Principal Mike Mastrullo but during the meeting it was stated that process would involve a committee that would include high school administrators but would not include any parents.

Hunter said that she and Mastrullo are planning to conduct a more in-depth review in the fall. They will inventory the trips, look at the cost range, where are they going and why. She wants to build a process and a vetting system and make sure that they offer trips that provide opportunities for all students. Marano added that the high school is in the process of gathering all the trip information and making it available on the website. That way parents can plan ahead and students can potentially plan and participate in fundraising ahead of time.

RSC member Dave Model advised the committee to be aware that there are legal issues around fundraising. Jared Stanton explained that a revolving fund can only be used for the specific purposes for which it was set up. Any solicitations for the fund must state that donations are for the Sharon Young Travel Scholarship Fund and it must be clear that the funds will only be used by the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Distric​t.

Model also noted that, as a new member to the committee, he did not expect to hear about an initiative for the first time and vote on it in the same meeting. RSC member Heather Bout said that the committee has heard about it in the past and said she felt comfortable voting. 

During the meeting the RSC approved two trip requests. One request was to give David Nurenberg permission to begin planning the 2019-2020 Japan trip. The other request was for a trip to Germany from June 12 through June 20 which is less than a month’s notice. Model noted that the second request was quite last minute and asked if the students had signed up already. Hunter said yes, the students have signed up and the administration has “really struggled with getting [the trip requests] to this committee in a timely way.” She added that she turned down a last minute request for a domestic trip because there was no time to approve it. She said that she and Mastrullo need to work with the staff to communicate the trip approval process. New RSC member Yuval Erlich suggested that, in the future, it would be better to approve the complete list of trips for the upcoming year instead of having them trickle in bit by bit. ∆