Fear, outrage, anger and sadness at the closing of Meagher Elementary School have been quelled by the quiet successes of the first day of school. The headline was subdued, but The Kingston Daily Freeman’s story in last Wednesday’s paper praised the events of the day.
The pressure that built up to the opener was relieved. The anxiety caused by forecasts of failure was replaced by optimism. Because people worked together to make the transition run smoothly, it did.
Success, in this case, can be measured at least as much by what did not happen as what did. There were no screaming protesters hurling invective outside the school. Parents did not keep their children home in defiance of the school change. Teachers did not walk out in solidarity with their now jobless colleagues.
We could give credit to the administrators and members of the Board of Education, and they are due some for taking the steps necessary to see the plan through in the face of strong opposition. They did their part, and continue to. JFK Principal Clark Waters says that a day does not go by without real physical help and presence from the Crown Street administrators. ” They come, they carry lunch trays, open juice boxes, help with the books, whatever is needed.”
Waters credits Superintendent Paul Padalino with coming to the school every day, working, always asking, “What can I do for you?” “Assistant Superintendents are helping,” he added, ‘John Voerg was here this week, Sandy Miller was here, and Marystephanie (Corsones) is coming.”
“We are the pilot for next year. We are finding out what’s working.”
Teachers, of course, welcomed the new students as they have in the past, with a personal professionalism, even as classroom numbers grew. They are all to be thanked for making a go of a different circumstance. Waters knows it’s work, but it’s not that complicated. “We’re educators, they’re students; they want to learn,” he said. “If you interest them, if you challenge them, they’ll learn.”
The real heroes, the ones that saved this day and the days since, are the families that did the right thing from both John F. Kennedy and the late Meagher Schools. The families of Meagher sent their children with the confidence of a familiar mid-year setting, and the families already attending JFK went on as if this had been the plan all along.
As a community, let’s applaud this accomplishment by the teachers, administrators, and employees of the district, and let’s really give recognition to the backbone of our schools, the families that make the choices to do the work to make it happen. Former Meagher parents could have told their children that their time at JFK would be rough, so expect the worst. Longer-term JFK parents could have complained about the increasing class sizes, and told their kids that they didn’t stand a chance anymore. But they didn’t. Their decision is clear.
You have all answered the call with distinction, and I, for one, am proud. All of you could have allowed a longing for the past to bog you down in the mire. Instead, you’ve move on with hope and determination to make the future work.
Sooner than seems fair, we will face the same choices over and over. Big change has come, and even bigger changes are heading our way. Beyond that, more are waiting that we have not yet contemplated. Do we choose to carry on with quiet conviction that we can make these changes work, or do we fall apart and complain and guarantee failure with self-fulfilling prophecies of nay saying doom? Do we work to help our children take the reins of their futures, or do we let our longing for a past that never really was drag them down a dead-end road?
When we moved here, we encountered a neighbor that said he just didn’t like change. He lived next door to the same family for most of his life, and he liked it that way. But, we moved in, as did other families, another neighbor moved on, and even he moved to another town, closer to his work. Kids are growing up, other neighbors have died, and still others raise another generation to succeed them. Neighborhood businesses come in to replace some that have gone out. And yes, schools and hospitals close.
Nostalgia is, by definition, steeped in the sepia we paint it. The future can only be seen by the light we turn on it. Next year, let’s apply the lessons of Meagher to Sophie Finn, Zena, and Anna Devine.