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.
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'