Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's in a name?

Recently Mayor Correia pushed through a name change for the new Slade and Small Elementary. The names that have been familiar to generations of Fall Riverites have been discarded for those of "updated role models."

Personally I have been troubled by this decision. Changing names, to me, seems like cheapening the very reason you would dedicate a building to someone. How sincere is the gesture if in the future someone else can simply remove the honor, like shaking an etch-a-sketch. Still, these are new buildings and perhaps now is the right time to dedicate them to "updated role models" but as a community we should have a voice in this. The whim of the mayor should not be the final say.

Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way and earlier this week former candidate for Mayor, Eric Poulin voiced his opinions and concerns in a letter to the editor published by the Herald News. Mr. Poulin was kind enough to submit a copy of his letter to this blog and I offer you the unedited version here.

In a recent edition of The Herald News, I read about Ralph W. Small, a teacher who came to Fall River in 1910 to teach Latin at B.M.C. Durfee High School and who later became a Vice Principal at the school for 29 years. It seems that this educator made enough of a difference in the lives of his students, his school community, and to the people of Fall River that a decision was made to name a school after him. All of that though is about to change with apparently very little discussion or debate on the issue.

I also read about the Slade School, named after the Slade family who operated the Slade’s Ferry across the Taunton River and who rose to prominence in the city’s textile industry. Again, a decision was made to erase this name from one of our schools with little or no debate by the School Committee.

The people of Fall River are being told to forget the names of what some would call “average people,” teachers and ferry operators, and instead what is being dictated is that we need to rename our schools in order to give the students of Fall River “updated role models.”

So, with the goal of providing “updated role models” in mind, two of our schools will soon be renamed the Mary L. Fonseca Elementary School and the Carlton M. Viveiros Elementary School. A review of Fonseca’s resume as documented in The Herald News is impressive. The article states, “She served on the Fall River School Committee for eight years beginning in 1945 and during her time as a legislator, Fonseca is credited with aiding in the establishment of Bristol Community College and the formation of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s predecessor, Southeastern Massachusetts University.” Certainly, with such a resume, one could make a legitimate argument that Ms. Fonseca is worthy of having a school named after her, but must it come at the cost of erasing the names Small and Slade? Fall River’s “Master School Building” report calls for 11 new schools. We have completed some and are obviously completing more but the final phase of the plan calls for 2 brand new elementary schools, one in the Downtown and one in the East End. These would be entirely new schools and perhaps we could consider naming one of them the Mary L. Fonseca Elementary School in her honor and as an alternative to losing the names Small and/or Slade. (I believe that this idea merits some debate at the least.)

As far as the Carlton M. Viveiros Elementary School, Mayor Viveiros is the longest serving Mayor in Fall River’s history. His contributions to education in Fall River during such a long time frame must be well known but unfortunately weren’t documented in The Herald News to the extent that Ms. Fonseca’s achievements were. I confess that I was young at the time so I do not recall a good deal of Mayor Viveiros’ tenure. However, if we are considering changing the names of some of our schools then why not “Dr. Irving Fradkin Elementary School?” Since Ms. Fonseca is unfortunately no longer with us I think that former Mayor Viveiros should be approached about his willingness to give up having a school named after him. It would be a hugely unselfish gesture on his part but could also get Mayor Correia out of some hot water for the way he went about the process of renaming the schools, i.e. to not take any input from the public when school buildings in fact belong to and are funded by the people of Fall River. (This also does not prevent us in the future from potentially naming one of our schools Carlton M. Viveiros Elementary.)

Here is the story from the website of Scholarship America regarding Dr. Fradkin: “In 1958, an Optometrist in Fall River, Mass., had a simple but profound idea—if everyone in his community gave just a dollar to an educational fund, it would be enough to help nearly every student in the community who wanted to attend college. Dr. Irving Fradkin called his plan "Dollars for Scholars," and it has expanded into what, today, is the nation's largest non-profit, private-sector scholarship and educational support organization. Since its founding, Scholarship America has distributed more than $1.5 billion to more than 1.5 million students across the country through various programs including Dollars for Scholars® and Scholarship Management Services®.”

Dr. Fradkin to this day continues to be an advocate for education in our city, state and country. If we are going to rename our schools perhaps one could be named after him, or we could at least name one of the last two schools contemplated in the Master School Building plan after him. While I certainly hope that Dr. Fradkin remains active and involved for a long time to come, as long as we are contemplating the renaming of schools I would suggest that now would be a good time to consider honoring him. If there is or was a bigger advocate for education in our city over the years then they too should step forward and submit their name and enter this debate. (That is if there were any debate but sadly there is not.) I believe that “Dr. Irving Fradkin Elementary” has a nice ring to it and that there is no time like the present to consider making that name change and to honor the good doctor.

Please consider writing or calling the Mayor and members of the School Committee. If we push hard enough for “Dr. Irving Fradkin Elementary” perhaps they will listen. The lack of any debate on this issue, quite frankly, has been very scary and I would have thought that someone with Dr. Fradkin’s resume would make an obvious choice when it comes to naming or renaming a school.

Eric M. Poulin is a lifelong Fall River resident, former mayoral aide and a former candidate for Mayor of Fall River.

I agree with Eric wholeheartedly. Naming or renaming a school, or other building, is something that warrants public input, debate, and discussion. I also agree with Eric that if we're going to rename a school Dr. Fradkin's name deserves to be the first name considered. For 50 years Dr. Fradkin has dedicated himself to helping make the dream of higher education a reality. He wasn't elected to do this, or even asked to do it and that's what makes it all the more remarkable. Eric believes if we push hard enough that we'll be heard. I think it's time we take a page from Ronald Reagan's playbook and tell our mayor that when it comes to these new schools, 'we bought them, we paid for them and we're going to name them'


Anonymous said...

It is clear that the issue of school names was introduced at the meeting without any notice. In fact, the issue did not even appear on the agenda of the School Committee meeting.

Therefore, since there was inadequate notice of the topic, the vote by the School Committee could be or could have been challenged under the MA Open Meetings Law.

The most likely result would be that the issue would appear on the agenda of the next School Committee meeting where public comment would be accepted during citizen input time.

That being said, I don't see how a reconsideration of the previous vote and additional discussion would change the minds of the School Committee members.

just jenn said...

I think that the "Bob's Rubber Stamp" committee members thought that this would fly under the radar and no one would notice or make a big deal.

If it came up again at a meeting and the stamping committee saw/heard from the number of residents against the re-naming of the schools, they may ~ i hope ~ reconsider their mistake.

Anonymous said...

I believe the schools should remain with the same names. The buildings have just been rebuilt. The honor bestowed upon an individual when naming a school building after them should not be taken lightly. The naming of a part of these new schools such as an auditorium or library could be given to Viveiros and Fonseca. This would not remove the history that has been in existence for generations.

General said...

I would rather see them keep the old names.

But if there was to be a renaming I agree with Eric Poulin.

Dr Irving Fradkin eats, sleeps education. This man has led a crusade for more than 50 years to improve education, not only in Fall River, but throughout the country.

His organization has helped thousands upon thousands of students.

What did Carlton do when it came to education?


semass said...

I think you people are all missing the point. If these new schools were only going to house the students from the Slade and Small schools I would agree with you, but they're not.

Where is the ruckus over the disappearance of names like Belisle, Connell, Coughlin, Fowler, Osborn, Healy, Lincoln and Westall whose students will also be attending these two new schools? Slade and Small students will be a minority of the students in the new schools.

The students of these schools are coming together to form a new student body in a new building. Considering the fact that we can't include the names of all these schools in the names of the new schools, a new name makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Yes, perhaps a new name does make sense but as a taxpayer I'd like to have some say in the matter.
All of us are paying for these buildings and will be paying for them for a long time to come.

As a Herald News editorial correctly stated Ed Lambert could've named a school after someone he liked or that supported him the way Correia did with Viveiros elementary but he didn't, he made it a communitywide process. The same thing should've happened here.

I know Carlton was Mayor for a long time but I also know that he did newspaper and radio ads for Correia. Renaming the schools in this fashion appears to be some form of political payback.

Let's rename them since as Semass pointed out several student bodies are going into them but let's involve the community in the process and names like Dr. Fradkin should certainly be considered.

Anonymous said...

If the "CHILDREN" need updated roll models the it would be more approiate to name the schools after a person the children can relate to ...

Hanna Montana
Snoop Dog

The list goes ON AND ON ...Sure the above candidates are not from Fall River but the KIDS don't care

Anonymous said...

Carlton Viveiros is an update? I thought he was a throwback. I guess when you are Bob Correia's age...