, Gloucester, MA

May 7, 2013

Letter: O’Maley and an elementary consolidation

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

I recently had the opportunity to tour the O’Maley Innovation Middle School in anticipation of my niece’s entering 6th grade next year.

I was curious to see first-hand how the school had evolved since the late 1990s, when I was a student there.

Although I spent just under an hour at the school on my recent visit, I learned a lot and took away the following:

There are some very enthusiastic, devoted educators on hand and the school as a whole is dedicated to continuing its already commendable accomplishments in incorporating STEM curriculum and the effective integration of technology and education. Some of the graduating eighth-graders will be entering high school ready to take Algebra 2; most will have been exposed to engineering activities the likes of which I had only previously seen available in Coach L’s science classes at GHS.

However, I also took away that O’Maley is seemingly forced to do more with less due to budgetary constraints. And I can’t help but imagine that the choices being made by the city in regards to the elementary schools are a contributing factor.

I walked by the same broken lockers I used in 1996, learned that various specialists like gym, art, and home economics had been either reduced in scope or eliminated since I left, and saw that the STEM lab was making do in part with old equipment taken from Fuller.

As I did, I wondered how much could be done to restore what was lost or repair what is failing if, rather than spending $30 million for a new West Parish (and unknown future millions to renovate or replace the other four elementary schools), the city decided to consolidate several elementary schools into a renovated Fuller.

Instead, the City appears bent on depriving the vast majority of students of potential resources based on the notion that we must have several, small, elementary schools.

That reminds me: while at O’Maley, I took away one other interesting bit of information. Despite being a citywide school of hundreds of students across a range of ages, students spent 4 hours of each day inside their 4- or 2-classroom houses with the same classmates from their homerooms and traveled to specialists with their homeroom peers as well. I was told this provides the small-school familiarity that many suggest is beneficial to the educational process.

Much like O’Maley’s innovation curriculum itself, that should really make you think.