Towns

  1. You have chosen to ignore posts from poppy609. Show poppy609's posts

    Towns

    Hello all,

    We are trying to sell our condo and move to a single family outside Boston.  These are the towns we are currently contemplating:

    Andover
    Arlington
    Bedford
    Lynnfield
    Melrose
    Middleton
    North Reading
    Reading
    Wakefield
    Winchester

    If anyone would like to share any info they have about any of these towns, I'm interested in anectodal info.  I have gathered a bunch of data, specifically on the school systems, but I would really like to know the feel of a town before we decide if we want to live there.  For example, if we move to Winchester we will undoubtedly be buying the least expensive house in the entire town (only way we could afford it), and having worked in Newton for 10 years I really don't want my DD growing up being told she lives in the "bad" or "poor" part of town.  This happens in Newton ALL the time, and girls especially are bullied because of it.  It makes me sick and I would not move to Newton because of it. 

    Basically, I want to know about the essence of a town, rather than just how it looks on paper.  That's why I thought I'd ask you all for your thoughts on any of the above towns.

    Thanks!
     
  2. You have chosen to ignore posts from Winter2011Bride. Show Winter2011Bride's posts

    Re: Towns

    Poppy, did you leave Stoneham off the list on purpose?  It's a great little town with a good school system and you will get more house there then in Wakefield, Reading, Lynnfield or Winchester.

    North Reading has many houses with septic tanks, you may not want to deal with that.

    ETA:  We bought a house in December and looked in some of these communities; Winchester, Reading, Wakefield some of the houses were considered the bad part of town or right across the street from the train station.  The houses were also smaller or needed a lot of work then a regulathen the one we bought.
     
  3. You have chosen to ignore posts from LiveLoveLearnEnjoy. Show LiveLoveLearnEnjoy's posts

    Re: Towns

    I have heard a lot of complaints about Arlington's school system going downhill.  A woman I met who taught there for 20+ years said she is saddened by what her friends who still work there have been telling her because it was a great school system when she worked there.

    I live in Melrose and love it.  I have met a lot of wonderful people and most people are really friendly.  The downtown is very nice and has stores and restaurants you will actually want to go to.  Having the train and subway is fantastic for getting into Boston.  It is also accessible to a lot of highways.  The houses so far have kept their value and whenever I see houses on the market they have sold and quickly.  There is a lot of town pride and a lot of things to do like in the fall there is the Victorian fair, they do trick or treating in downtown on Halloween and all the businesses take part, they have 4th of July events and shows and concerts at the Beebee Estate.  The library has lots of great things for kids too from music, to crafts to discounted tickets for places.  The North Suburban Family Network is in Melrose and is a terrific place with drop in play time and classes and such and they email all the great stuff going on around you (not just in Melrose) to do with your kids.  Lots of parks too. 

    I do think the schools need more work but they are working hard on improving and taking the steps to improve. (In curriculum and the facilities.)  I know a lot of people who send their kids to the Mystic Valley Charter School which impacts the Melrose Schools but having grown up here I see a lot of improvement and more importantly I see how much they want to and are working towards improving. 
     
  4. You have chosen to ignore posts from betty7. Show betty7's posts

    Re: Towns

    I will second the recommendation for Melrose.  We spent at least 2 years looking at houses in different towns, actually almost every single town you listed! We ended up in Melrose.  It has cute houses which are affordable. It has sidewalks (this was important to us for some reason). It has a a nice community feel and there are tons of families.  The downtown is like a baby parade on the weekends. :) 

    We've only been here a year and have a baby, so we can't comment on the schools. Good luck with your search! 
     
  5. You have chosen to ignore posts from ajuly09. Show ajuly09's posts

    Re: Towns

    I'm going to sound like a broken record here and recommend Melrose!  Guess we have Melrose pride on here! A year ago we were looking at many towns in the area and Melrose wasn't even on the list. We liked Winchester but there was not one house we could afford, Arlington was the happy median between the towns we were looking at.  We looked there for months and found that it was very overpriced and we would have a tiny lot. A friend recommended that we look in Melrose (I had never even been here before), and we loved it.  We got a pretty big house for the price and a large yard and garage.  LLLE gave all the reasons it's great for young families.  We live near the Common, which has a fenced in play area for kids we'll take advantage of once our LO is bigger.  I love the restaurants and when I've brought DS, even to Turners, there were about 5 other infants there so I didn't care if he cried!  We refinanced and had to have the house appraised and it went up in value in a matter of months.  I just read an article stating that the value of the houses in Melrose have stayed steady even though other towns around took a hit. 
        I think Arlington is a great town for it's shops and restaurants and would not mind living there, but like I said before I think it's overpriced. The schools get better ratings than Melrose, based on MCAS. As a teacher myself, I don't even really like to use this as a basis of a good school system.  I have a co-worker who has kids in Arlington schools and she says her daughter is basically drilled before the tests and that's why the town does well (or at least her school) on the MCAS.  If a child is taught well to begin with then they'll have the knowledge to do well on a standardized test IMHO.   
      Good luck in your search!! 
     
  6. You have chosen to ignore posts from June08bride. Show June08bride's posts

    Re: Towns

    Poppy where do you work?  Middleton can be a tough ride depending where your job is located.  Andover is really nice, but again its one of the 2 cities that could potentially be your longest commute.  Reading is also a really nice area and prime location to routes 1, 128 and 93.  I live in Tewksbury and I really like Melrose as well...my OB is there and I love going into the center of town.  Actually Im going to Melrose Commons tomorrow with my little ladies!
     
  7. You have chosen to ignore posts from poppy609. Show poppy609's posts

    Re: Towns

    Thanks everyone!  Winter - I have wavered about Stoneham, mainly because the parts I've been to I haven't loved.  However I will give it a second look.

    I work in Malden, and would like to have a commute of no longer than 40ish minutes.  So, for example, the only houses I'd look at in Andover are the ones that are close to the highway, and south of 495. 

    It's funny that so many of you love Melrose.  I have been trying to convince my husband to seriously consider it because I think it's a very pretty town and have heard great things from people who live there, but he is convinced that the schools are not good enough.  But I still want to drive him through there and go to some open houses.  We'll see...
     
  8. You have chosen to ignore posts from SarahInActon. Show SarahInActon's posts

    Re: Towns

    Bedford is part of the Dual County League school system for sports and is generally considered excellent.  Its close neighbors and peers are Concord-Carlisle, A-B, Lincoln-Sudbury, etc.  Those schools are generally considered some of the top in the state and even the country.  Housing prices are pretty high because of this but there are some fixer-upper deals to be had.  And the Whole Foods there is great and the town center is nice with summer farmer's markets  I've also heard nothing but negative things about the Arlington schools, my boss has three kids and lives in a VERY VERY nice home close commuting distance to Rt 2 but he had to put his kids in Belmont Day because they just aren't as good as they used to be.
     
  9. You have chosen to ignore posts from Winter2011Bride. Show Winter2011Bride's posts

    Re: Towns

    Poppy, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by Stoneham.  They have a nice common and have a Farmer's Market during the summer and have concerts, etc, on the lawn.
     
  10. You have chosen to ignore posts from CTSept06. Show CTSept06's posts

    Re: Towns

    We moved to Winchester 3 years ago and love it. Yes, the houses are expensive, but for us we had a very hard time narrowing down towns because my husband and I commute in opposite directions, and it ended up being the best choice for us.  The schools are excellent, and while I was nervous about being able to meet people and everyone being friendly, we have had a great experience.  I agree with above posters that where you work should be a consideration. The commute into Boston is a breeze, but while we really like our child care provider, it has been hard to find affordable options in the area.  Just some things to consider- happy to answer more questions if you have them.  We looked in several other towns you mentioned on your list and you have some great choices, I'm sure you will find what's right for you. Good luck!
     
  11. You have chosen to ignore posts from Krystabel. Show Krystabel's posts

    Re: Towns

    Hi Poppy,

    I'll second Bedford, Your commute will certainly be longer than Melrose to Malden (that is probably 15 minutes depending on the side of Melrose you choose) so you should consider that as a quality of life decision.  

    I actually grew up in Melrose and now live in Bedford.  It is a very different feel.  Melrose is slightly more urben, and it make a difference which towns you are bordering, the closer you get to Malden the smaller the plots of land and the closer the houses are together.  My personal opinion is that the nicer neighborhoods are closer to Saugus, Wakefield & Stoneham.  I wasn't thrilled with the school system when I was a student there, but that was too many years ago to really count as an opinion - I'd defer to those who live there now as that is definitely a fluid thing.  My "complaint" at the time was that they cut music and art quite a bit, but the teachers for the most part were very good.

    Bedford has a bit more of a rural feel, (we have deer and bunnies in my yard very often - the only "wildlife" I saw in Melrose was geese and perhaps a squirel or two) unless you are right in the center of town, the lots of land are bigger so there is more space between you and your neighbors but is still very close to anything you'd need and easily accessable to the highway.  There are definitely the $M+ houses, but I don't think it has the snobbish feel that you described feeling in Newton, I'd say it is pretty firmly middle class.  I've lived there for 8 years and love it... I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.  My LO is yet to be born, so although I've heard the schools are good, I can't personally attest to that.  I've been told that Lexington schools are among the best in the country and have the highest percentage of graduates that go to Ivy leage schools, but my guess is that is might have that "Newton" feel you described, but I definitely don't know - just my perception.

    I've never lived in Reading or Wakefield, but I have a good perception of them (family friendly - good schools) and know people with kids who are very happy there.

    HTH  :-)
     
  12. You have chosen to ignore posts from Maple76. Show Maple76's posts

    Re: Towns

    We moved to Winchester about a year ago. After looking in several towns, this was the only place we really wanted to be. We looked for a few years on and off and lost a couple of bidding wars, but the waiting paid off. We actually found something affordable! It can happen. The neighborhood is great and very down to earth and family friendly. You definitely need a Winchester agent if you decide to move there. It is a very small town and you can learn a lot from the rumor mill/local agents.

     
  13. You have chosen to ignore posts from Ctowngirl78. Show Ctowngirl78's posts

    Re: Towns

    I've been a lurker for the past few months and have learned so much from all of you!  Thank you!  My husband and I are looking to move out of the city and are particularly interested in Winchester.  We've been looking on and off for a while but haven't found anything right for us yet.  We are picky!  Maple and CT (or anyone else), could you recommend a reputable agent in Winchester?  Also, do you know anything about the elementary schools in relation to one another?  I know that Muraco has tended to score higher on MCAS (which I hate!) but is it really better than the others?  We don't have kids yet (hopefully soon!), but schools are a #1 priority for us. 

    Sorry to highjack this thread!
     
  14. You have chosen to ignore posts from CTSept06. Show CTSept06's posts

    Re: Towns

    Ctowngirl78- feel free to email me at katie25@gmail.com and we can chat offline
     
  15. You have chosen to ignore posts from ajuly09. Show ajuly09's posts

    Re: Towns

    Poppy your husband is right, the schools are nothing to brag about in Melrose, but I have learned that the elementary and middle schools are pretty good, but the HS is not. Many parents send their kids to private HS, we figured we have a baby and are not worried about HS right now anyway! 
     
  16. You have chosen to ignore posts from poppy609. Show poppy609's posts

    Re: Towns

    ajuly - that is how I feel as well.  so it will stay on the list!  :)
     
  17. You have chosen to ignore posts from medfordcc. Show medfordcc's posts

    Re: Towns

    I am enjoying this thread in case we move in a few years!

    It sounds like many people are already tuned in to this issue, but beware of assuming a causal relationship between the schools and their MCAS scores.  One of the strongest correlations with standardized test scores is income, and, in general, schools/districts with a higher percentage of low income students have lower average MCAS scores.  So a town with more economic diversity is at a disadvantage when comparing by this measure.  And little can be said about how the schools impact the scores unless all external factors (like income) are controlled.  Not sure if this controlled data is available for MCAS anywhere.

    Please, please note that I am NOT saying that low income students cannot excel in school or on standardized tests.  Just that these are the facts when looking at the aggregate data, and they're often the only (misleading) thing people have to rely on when talking about "good schools".

    p.s. Where is Medford on your list?  ;)
     
  18. You have chosen to ignore posts from poppy609. Show poppy609's posts

    Re: Towns

    Medford - well said about MCAS.  :)  There really isn't much controlled data like you mention at the state level, although you can look up the percentage of kids in district who have free or reduced lunch and take that into consideration.  There is a new way of tracking students' progress, called the "growth model" which I think can be a better measure than focusing on MCAS scores.  You can find all of this info at:

    http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/

    You type in the name of the town you are interested in (I just use the "quick search" window at the top left) and click on the district or school you want to research, and then you can look at all sorts of indicators, scores, rates, etc.  The "Students", "Assessments", and "Accountability" tabs I find the most helpful.  I've started a spreadsheet to gather information about all of the towns I listed, including the factors that I find important (such as sped info). 

    And no offense!  I want something less urban than Medford.  Melrose may even be pushing it a bit, depending on lot size. ''

    ETA: Medford, you can sort of see the results separated out here (this is just for Melrose, because I happened to be looking at Melrose at the time): http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/mcas/subgroups2.aspx?linkid=25&orgcode=01780000&fycode=2010&orgtypecode=5&

    ETA 2: Let me know if any of you would like help navigating this system - I know a lot about it.  :)
     
  19. You have chosen to ignore posts from JKFDais15. Show JKFDais15's posts

    Re: Towns

    I'll add my post for bedford.  We moved there a year and a half ago from stoneham.  School system is great and it was on the top list of HS worldwide last year.  I love the town and the feel of the community.  they are revamping the town center too.  there are a lot of activities for kids and they have a group known as the bedford family connection.  they also have Bedford Day which is a fun day for kids and families, people of any age in fact.  while pregnant last year we ran the road race, saw part of the parade, and walked around to see what they had to offer to know for the future once we had kids.  housing prices in the town haven't dropped that much however but you can still find affordable houses and large lots!  Many of my friends bought in Melrose recently too, and two bought in Andover.. all are happy!  good luck!!
     
  20. You have chosen to ignore posts from medfordcc. Show medfordcc's posts

    Re: Towns

    Poppy - spreadsheets? growth models??  You are a girl after my own heart!

    And I was just kidding about Medford.  :)
    When we move (hopefully in a few years) we will consider Medford, but definitely some of those other towns you mentioned as well.  Although I was in Davis with the baby yesterday and missing our old Somerville location... always trade offs.
     
  21. You have chosen to ignore posts from Arcain. Show Arcain's posts

    Re: Towns

    We just moved to Wakefield after searching for two years and it seems wonderful, though I've been here for too short a time to comment on the essence of the place. We are city people and tried desperately to stay in Somerville (Medford, I hear you on that -- I'm in Davis once a week and I still get weepy when I have to leave) but cost and school quality ultimately sent us Metro North.

    Everything I found in my research on schools in Wakefield was good, the downtown is cute (though I'm bored by the restaurant selection after being in Somerville/Cambridge!), there seems to be a lot of civic activity, and we live right near Lake Quanapowitt (sp?) which is beautiful to walk around and always FULL of people with babies. I know I'll be in good company here when my little one comes, though the homogeneity here does give me a little pause after living in a much more diverse city :-). Commuting to the city is doable (easy if you're willing to fork over the $ for the commuter rail, which we've resisted so far).

    We almost bought in Melrose, and I think the two towns have comparable house values -- way better than anything we found in Somerville, Arlington, Winchester, or West Medford. There are some kind of iffy looking areas in Wakefield and I'd say our house (and others we found in our range) are kind of on the line between "nice" and "questionable" areas, but we've had no problems so far. Ultimately, we went with Wakefield over Melrose b/c the places we could afford here are much closer to downtown and public transport.
     
  22. You have chosen to ignore posts from pittftw. Show pittftw's posts

    Re: Towns

    I have to chime in on Stoneham's behalf. We moved there about 2 years ago and have been very happy with it. I've also heard good things about the schools, though we don't have a child in school yet. It's very conveniently located and an easy drive to just about anywhere you'd want to go.
     
  23. You have chosen to ignore posts from Winter2011Bride. Show Winter2011Bride's posts

    Re: Towns

    Pitt, we just bought there in December, my son is old enough to start 5th grade there, but he has asked if he could stay in his catholic school until 8th grade.  I told him we will use a year by year approach. 
     
  24. You have chosen to ignore posts from EZola. Show EZola's posts

    Re: Towns

    My relatives who live in Stoneham have complained about crippling property taxes and a lack of public resources resulting from the tax problems in that town (they say that it's a result of so much of stoneham being untaxed public land). Any of your Stonehamites experience this, or are my relatives just complainers?

    Poppy, why do you want to leave Somerville? It seems like a great place to raise a kid. That Mayor Joseph Curtatone seems to have something going on every day of the week for families.
     
  25. You have chosen to ignore posts from jewelsagem. Show jewelsagem's posts

    Re: Towns

    Arlington is a great town in many ways (bike path, close to Camb/Boston, good people (I grew up there :)), but is not in two very important ways - house prices for what you get and schools.  The schools are suffering terribly right now due to budget issues.  It wouldn't be my top choice from your list for schools for that issue.  Houses are so expensive and the yards, for the most part, are postage stamps.

    We moved out a bit to Burlington and got a ton more house and land for the money.  Love the area, love the town.  A major benefit of this area (Burl/Bedford/Wakefield) is its proximity to absolutely everything.  You can get to Boston, N. Hampshire, Gloucester, or Ikea Stoughton in 20-40 minutes. 

     

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