Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Education

October 22, 2009

Seifert column: Remembering town's first charter school

What Massachusetts community started a charter school in the 1970s? It was part of the public schools. It did not need state approval. For local historians, you are absolutely right if you said the Town of Andover Public Schools. It started with an idea and became a school. It eventually was known as the Traditional School. Here is my side of the story.

In every community there are people who have a point of view and the strength of their convictions. It is very refreshing to know such people. While superintendent of schools I used to have community visiting hours, Thursdays from 2 to 5. You could come in and discuss, complain, raise questions and more importantly make suggestions on how to do things better. You could make an appointment if you needed time or you could just drop in and share your thoughts. I should have kept a log. I found it quite useful to me and hope it was for those who took the time to give feedback and suggestions. If there were no visitors I had things to do. To be honest, the time was divided 50/50.

One afternoon Dick Graber, who was a gifted photographer and possessed a very creative mind, visited my office and told me he had a group of people who were interested in starting a program that stressed creativity and a few other things they thought were important. Within a month I found myself meeting with a group of about 20 parents and we discussed the feasibility of their vision. I was impressed with their knowledge, sensitivity and dedication in making a difference in their children's lives.

We discussed what was needed for my approval and support. I told them if those concerns, regulations etc. were met I would recommend the plan to the School Committee. They also had concerns that had to be met. Their concerns were reasonable to me and it was not an issue. There were lively discussions about what we felt but there were never any demands. If a member of the group got hot under the collar, I would talk to the leader of the group, off the record, and suggested peace in the valley. It was a two way street and I was informed on how my participation could be more productive. By the end of the process we were like family. Political correctness was considered an impediment to real communication.

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