Supporters from 3 towns pack kickoff event to full capacity
BY WE ARE PENTUCKET COMMUNICATIONS TEAM
More than 130 community leaders, parents and town officials from Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury packed the entire upstairs floor of Michael’s Harborside to full capacity Thursday night to pledge their support of building a new Pentucket school building for grades 7-12.
The sold-out crowd cheered and applauded a lineup of speakers who spoke passionately about the urgent need to replace the existing and falling-apart middle and high schools with a new building that can adequately serve our students’ academic needs.
Cheering attendees held signs stating "I'll Be There" — words signifying their pledge of support to vote ‘YES’ on the spring ballot.
Sell-out ticket sales, generous donations and a silent auction all contributed to an event that raised over $6,500 for the We Are Pentucket campaign. These funds will be used for community education, campaign events, research, signage, mailers and other print materials.
The program featured speakers from all three district communities as well as officials, including Superintendent Dr. Justin Bartholomew and West Newbury Selectman Glenn Kemper.
Dr. Bartholomew talked about recent tours of newly-constructed high schools in other Massachusetts districts, such as Winthrop and Lunenburg.
“When I step into school buildings in other districts, there is no question that those students have an advantage over our children, and that is not OK,” he said to roaring applause.
Dr. Bart — as he is called by students, parents and teachers — is an alumnus of Pentucket who grew up in Groveland. He spoke about his immense pride in the district and described the educational challenges and restrictions of the building.
“When you drive down 113, what is there is one of the biggest buildings in all three towns, and it is a symbol of how much we care,” he said. “Don’t think of yourself as being from Merrimac, or Groveland or West Newbury. Think about yourself as coming together to make this happen.”
Pentucket High Principal Jonathan Seymour, a Merrimac resident who has four children in the district, described the lengthy and collaborative process involving representatives from all three towns that started nearly four years ago. He also touched on the history of Pentucket and how our shared campus exists today because of teamwork among all of its member communities.
“It's really amazing when you think back to 60 years ago that the three towns came together not just to rebuild a school, but to form a district,” he told the crowd.
“We're at a point now where the school is really tired and old. There are so many system issues that are imminently going to become serious issues for us… We need to design a building to support the collaborative learning environment we are offering to students every day,” Seymour said.
John Guilfoil, a Groveland resident, told the crowd that he decided to raise his family here because his wife Caitlin, a Groveland native, spoke so fondly about her formative years at Pentucket.
“We wanted our children to have the chance to grow up in a wonderful town with a wonderful school system and make the friendships they will have for 30 years or more,” Guilfoil said.
“But students and teachers can only reach their potential if they are provided with the material and space they need to succeed.
“It is time for these communities and Pentucket to show their collective strength and pride by voting yes to approve this project.”
Andy Murphy, a West Newbury resident and former School Committee member, shared details about how one of his son’s experiences attending Pentucket High School impacted his interest in learning.
“I'm sure many of you have worked in lousy offices, and it just gets you off in a negative mindset,” Murphy said. “I'm sure there are many kids who experience similar psychological affects on a daily basis at Pentucket. On that very basic level I think that school actually has a negative impact on our kids’ ability to learn and their excitement about education.”
To learn more about the dilapidated condition of the Pentucket schools, visit the See the Problem section of our website.