Our schools are not as supported as they claim to be, or as technically advanced as they should be. One well-placed person asked, rhetorically “Can business help us out?” What did he mean? I think that he was posing a question that we all have, how do we make this the best school system by reaching out to people who do not have an interest, a direct interest, in our educational system. Some businesses do reach out to the professionals in the School Department. WCAP and the Lowell SUN are two of them. There are businesses who try to capture the students at the well-situated Lowell High School. Some of them cater to the students being released at 2PM on Kirk and Merrimack Streets. We have a very good practice of graduating students who go on to colleges and universities. With two colleges in town, we luck out.
One thing about Lowell is that Lowellians dream. They dream amazing dreams. One of the most notable dreamers was my brother-in-law, Paul Tsongas. He came up with the Lowell National Park funding, the Lowell Plan, the Lowell National Park, and other things that few of us saw coming, like the Lowell Lelachuer field. People still come up to me to say that he made a reality out of his ideas. I believe that he did. All of us have our dreams. Perhaps the biggest dream is the Lowell educational system.
When it was started, in 1826, Theodore Edson went into a feud with Kirk Boott who saw few formative reasons for having a school system. Boott said that Edson was a dreamer. Edson went to the people who ran the Merrimack Mills and got the large corporation, whose owners had “deep pockets” (money) to build a school house on the grounds and give the children a place to study. It was an amazing feat. Frank (Francis liked to be called that) Lowell helped engineer the school system. He died a few years too young.
Lowell’s schools were part of the school’s pattern of change. Edson built a school system that was, at first, not well liked. It passed its permanent vote by about three votes by the men who ran the mills. It passed by eleven votes shortly thereafter. Edson threw that vote into Boott’s face. Boott was not amused. Strangely enough, Boott’s last action was to pass in his chaisse, St. Anne’s Church, and lift his right hand as a sign of disgust, at which time, people viewing him saw him fall off of the chaisse, fall into the mud under the horse-drawn vehicle, and breathe his last. It was a telling moment. He refused to have his body buried in his town, but it was removed to Charlestown where it was buried.
Under the presidency of Theodore Edson, the city of Lowell saw its school department grow in multiples. Early School Committeemen were members of great Lowell families. Perhaps one of the most prominent was that associated with Frederic Greenhalge later in the century. Greenhalge, like Benjamin Butler and Paul Tsongas, was elected to a statewide office. He became Governor but was heard to say as he grew older, that he wanted to be remembered as a Lowell Schoolcommitteeman. That was where he saw his greatest moments.
Lowellians have always been very interested in politics. It was no accident that Edson did not want to go on to political office. But, many people have gone on to higher office after obtaining the office of Schoolcommitteeman. One who was happy to be on the Committee was notably Clement Gregory McDonough, among others. I am friends with McDonough’s sons, especially Shane. They are very proud of their father, who served in WWII, and on the Lowell School Committee. Mr. McDonough believed in neighborhood schools, and while it looks like few of us can believe in that school program now, it certainly had its day. I mean, we can say we believe in it, and people always will believe in it, but it is not “part and parcel” of our efforts to have a school system that is not functioning as a diverse unit.
The simple fact is that too many people of a certain race live in Lowell and in just one section of it. The Cambodian community lives with me in Ward 4 and Ward 8. We will not get Neighborhood Schools until the city is integrated. Having the bulk of 27,000 people in one part of the city is bad for that effort.
So, like the Greeks, the Irish, and all of the other people who called Lowell home, the Cambodians need to be assimilated into Lowell’s diverse culture. They need to buy real estate in other sections of the city. When they acheive a balance, they will be introduced to neighborhood schools. It is too bad that neighborhood schools cannot come about by edict. We are considered to be an aberation, we, the court says in its recent voting rights case, are bigoted. I have Cambodian neighbors on all sides of me. I do not feel like I am a bigot. But Ward 4 has to deal with integration with finesse.
So, anyway, that is the clutter around us. We are considered bigoted without so much as a speaking part in the voting rights case. I would have argued for keeping the voting structure the same. Veasna Nuon came in first, Sokhary Chou came in tenth, Dominick Lay is a good School Committeeman, Rady Mom is safely in a good seat in the State House. I would argue that we integrated successfully. Probably, the judge would not have heard me because it looks like his mind was made up.
So, that’s me on Sunday, August 4th. in 2019. I do not have any power and whatever influence I have has been used up. I had a wonderful time going door-to-door yesterday, and my vision seemed keen. I would like to thank the people of Belvidere for their efforts on my behalf to get signatures for the rest of the week. They were wonderful. One person got mad at me because I was pro-downtown on the High School question. But he kept coming back and we had a nice discussion. I wish everything went so well.
So that’s me. Not really talking about strategic and tactical problems in the Lowell schools. I apologize for the title.