To the editor:
Was Joseph S. Mattos Jr., a jerk? From all I’ve heard, he was not. Just a child when he enlisted, Mattos served our country in World War I and, tragically, made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause. So it makes sense that Gloucester has dedicated a field and playground in his honor.
What doesn’t make sense is the argument that Gloucester is dishonoring his memory by using the site dedicated to Mr. Mattos to house the new East Gloucester/Veteran’s Memorial Elementary School. Am I to believe that, if Mr. Mattos could be asked whether he would consent to an elementary school (which in its very name is dedicated to those who have served in our military) being built at a present-day ballfield carrying his name, he would object? Are those who would make such an argument suggesting Mr. Mattos would be more concerned that adults would need to drive to Green Street to play softball than making sure thousands of children have access to safe and modern school buildings? If so, you’re making him sound like a jerk — which in itself would seem to dishonor his memory in a far greater way than building an elementary school at “his” field would.
And let’s be clear, I agree the Webster Street site is not the best site to put this school. Not even close. In fact, it is a poor choice at the end of a chain of poor choices that have led us to where we are today:
Selecting the Webster Street site? Lack of political courage to do the right thing. Selling the Fuller property without knowing where we were rebuilding our remaining schools? Shameful lack of capital planning. Reconstructing West Parish without consolidating the facility with another failing school building? Wasted opportunity and taxpayer money. Closing Fuller School and spending millions of dollars on temporary modular classrooms that are already falling apart? Negligent; nearly reckless.
I spoke out and fought against each of those decisions. But the democratic and bureaucratic processes have played out and, now, the new school is either coming to Webster Street or it’s not coming at all. There is no third option where the same school just gets built somewhere else (that window of opportunity has closed). The city can no longer save Mattos Field without rejecting millions of dollars in state funds and killing the chance for some of our highest-needs students to have the space and resources they need to succeed.
Opposing this school because the city screwed up Fuller and West Parish (and/or Gloucester High School in the ‘90s and/or the sewer project in the ‘70s, etc.) is as foolish an endeavor as the Fuller and West Parish mistakes were themselves; it may achieve a short-term goal but will have devastating consequences for decades to come. And suggesting that building the new school conflicts with preserving the memory of Mr. Mattos just makes everyone involved look like a jerk.
School Committee member