A celebration of consolidation
Few words have been more reviled by students, parents and some elected officials in the last couple of years than “consolidation.”
Consolidation of secondary schools has been made out as the root of why students aren’t getting sufficient teacher attention – after all bigger schools mean students can slip through the cracks, confusion and increased workloads for teachers and administrators. It was reasoned that the School Committee acted hastily and that consolidation should have been staged with Vets High closing first and followed a year later with the closing of Aldrich and Gorton Junior Highs and the reopening of Vets as a Junior High.
Perhaps that would have allowed for greater preparation of Vets with such basic upgrades as a new heating system and classroom renovations. While the auditorium, school entry and gymnasiums underwent improvements, they were criticized as being cosmetic and feel good measures to satisfy the public at the sacrifice of the learning environment. The same was said at improvements at Pilgrim. Bricks and mortar as well as technology are surely important, but if consolidation is to work it requires commitment, leadership and exploring the opportunities of larger schools.
This year is the first year former Vets students are graduating from either Pilgrim or Toll Gate. They are now Patriots or Titans.
The success of consolidation can be measured, as Pilgrim Principal Gerald Habershaw did in his remarks to graduates Tuesday, by the performance of athletic teams and participation in such extracurricular activities as drama club and chorus. On those activities the numbers were up and the outcomes were noticeably improved.
Habershaw acknowledged a lot of negativity accompanied consolidation and there were some bumps. He pointed to combined programs from the two schools and with additional students greater offerings in honors and Advanced Placement courses. He noted that some of the Vets traditions were incorporated with those at Pilgrim. The positive outcomes of consolidation were underscored.
What wasn’t said is that consolidation is also a matter of attitude. The students weren’t as fragile as some parents feared whether at the junior or senior high. It was argued they would have difficulty adjusting to the larger environment. It was going to be traumatic.
Such concerns it now appears were baseless. Young adults, it turns out, are far more able to adjust to change than their parents imagined. In the case of Pilgrim, at least, there was an extensive effort to integrate the Vets students. The native Patriots welcomed their counterparts from Vets.
We find it appropriate that Principal Habershw should focus attention in consolidation at graduation. It’s a metaphor for what so many graduation speeches preach to think and act positively in the face of change because when you do, good things happen.