I have heard a lot of information recently about the future of our schools in Newburyport. I would first like to discuss the rich history of Newburyport and it’s commitment to education.
I have worked and lived in this community as a social worker for almost 20 years. Many Newburyporters born and raised here have shared with me the importance of their neighborhoods. This has traditionally been a close knit community. Southenders have talked about the Brown School with deep affection. Downtowners have talked with love about the Kelly School. North and Westenders have talked about the warmth of the Bellville School (now known as the Bresnahan). It appears that some of what has knitted this community together is its neighborhoods and the schools where parents meet on the playground waiting for their children.
I know times have changed and the people that have lived here. I’ve been here long enough now that I grieve missing buildings, businesses and people. Nobody likes too much change. We can guarantee this change with the redistribution of children from community schools to city wide schools.
I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Lyons. I know that these changes are due to the lack of financial support on a Federal and State level, not just a community level. I don’t think it is productive to blame any one community group for this.
I also am a graduate of public school education and my son has had the benefit of an incredible education here in Newburyport. I don’t want a private education for my son. I believe some of the most dedicated educators are those in our own community.
I know the teachers purchase the majority of supplies on their incomes. I know that if we averaged the income of those in our community today, they might not reach the income of our teachers. I also believe that part of what makes a community great is its dedication to education.
I recently read a book about Newburyport History, “Newburyport: Stories from the Waterside” by Liz Nelson. I was not aware that in 1843 Newburyport established the first female high school in America. “A newspaper article fifty years later describes….efforts as being “bitterly opposed by the citizens…who could not tolerate…so vulgar a notion” …..The school committee presented a highly favorable report to the town meeting” and it was voted in!
I think that we need to consider as a community what will be said in future generations about us. Will we have established a precedence of caring about education or will it be bitterly opposed? Will we have a close knit community?
I ask you to give citizens of Newburyport the right to vote on the future of our community and its schools. 1) on an override that would only last three years, and 2) if we want a community wide school versus a neighborhood school.
I think that we all should have the right, just as they did in 1843, to decide what our future holds.
(Editor’s note: The quotation above is from “Newburyport: Stories from the Waterside,” Liz Nelson, Commonwealth Editions, Beverly, MA, 2000, pages 54 and 55.)