SCARBOROUGH – When students return to Scarborough High School in two weeks, they’ll have to pony up a fee for the privilege of parking in the building’s 687-space lot.

By a vote of 6-1, the Scarborough Board of Education on Thursday adopted a parking per personal vehicle of $25 for each semester, or $50 for the full year. The fee was part of a plan baked into the budget voters approved May 15 to raise $50,000 in revenue via new student fees as a small offset to declining state and federal subsidies.

On July 19 the board voted against hiking the price students already pay to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, instead focusing their attention on the parking fee. When word of that decision got out, students rallied, gathering more than 500 signatures on a petition urging the board to reconsider. In response to protests, officials walked back the proposal, voting at an Aug. 8 policy committee meeting to halve the full-year fee from the $100 originally envisioned.

But that was as far as board members were willing to go. At Thursday’s meeting, Jacquelyn Perry could not convince a single director to back her amendment to dump parking from the fee schedule. She subsequently stood firm as the only director to vote against the final proposal.

In response to Thursday’s vote, senior class President Jack Sullivan said he and his classmates would begin a new petition drive at Friday’s annual SummerFest. The plan, he said, is to gather enough signatures by a September deadline to force a referendum question onto the November ballot.

School board member Jack Cole said that vote, if successful, could prompt a legal battle.

“I’m really not sure something like that would be binding on us,” he said.

However, Sullivan said students have an alternative plan, which he hopes they’ll put into effect from the first day of school.

“The rallying cry,” he said, “is ‘Boycott the lot. Flood the bus.’”

That motto is a reference to claims made Thursday by several students and parents – that students actually save the school district money when they drive their own vehicles to school. If every student rode the bus, they argued, the district would either have to augment its 19-bus fleet or shell out to fuel additional runs.

More than 60 parents and students attended Thursday’s meeting. Of the many who rose to speak, only one, Paul Koziell, voiced support for the parking fee.

“It’s a user fee for maintenance of the lot, and it should be paid by people who use it,” he said.

Koziell’s fellow Lillian Way resident, Mike Gilbert, disagreed, although he, too, voiced support for the school board beyond the parking controversy. “We’re not against you. We appreciate everything you do,” he said.

Still, Gilbert said all student fees should be eliminated, with the lost revenue added to the regular budget, to be spread across the tax base.

Sullivan said he and his fellow students oppose burdening taxpayers that way. They also don’t want to lose teaching positions, which Superintendent George Entwistle raised as a possibility. Instead, he said, there is plenty of room to cut in administration costs and technology purchases.

“Every classroom has projectors and half of them are never used,” he said. “For myself, I’m perfectly OK with a good teacher armed with a piece of chalk.”

However the fight over fees ends, everyone at Thursday’s meeting, from parents, to school officials, to board members, expressed admiration for Sullivan and his fellow students, who made their case with well-reasoned arguments and a respectful tone.

“I’m so proud of all of you,” said Bayberry Lane resident Linda Brady, “and I don’t even know any of you.”

Jack Sullivan, senior class president at Scarborough High School, argues before school board members Thursday against a plan to impose a $50 annual parking fee on students beginning this fall. The school board adopted the fee, which also can be paid at $25 per semester, by a 6-1 vote. (Staff photo by Duke Harrington)
The Scarborough school board votes 6-1 Thursday to impose a $50 annual parking fee on high school students, with only Jacquelyn Perry, left, dissenting. Pictured, left to right from Perry, are school board members John Cole and Jane Wiseman, Assistant Superintendent Jo Anne Sizemore, board Chairman Robert Mitchell, Superintendent Dr. George Entwistle III, and board members Kelly Murphy, Aymie Hardesty and Christine Massengill.

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