By Walter Thibodeau, South Attleboro Resident and Former Member of the Attleboro Municipal Council
As a member of the Attleboro Municipal Council, I would often attend events in the public schools or hear presentations from school officials. But since retiring from my seat as the Ward 1 city councilor, I have had the opportunity to think both about the unique role the public school system plays in our city and specifically about the impact of a new Attleboro High School. I would like to share some of those thoughts.
My own life experiences have brought me to the conclusion that if the generations before me did not pay for public schools most of us would not have had the opportunity to attend school as children and into our adulthood. In effect, the knowledge we obtained, the skills we developed, and the relationships we forged, all of that happened through the financial and moral support of our predecessors. The responsibility to pay this forward is arguably the very first lesson students are afforded by their community.
I grew up in the North End of Seekonk, graduating from Seekonk Junior High School. But when junior high came to an end, there was no Seekonk High School for my classmates and me to attend. Years earlier, decisions were made that prevented young adults from pursuing our secondary education in our hometown. In other words, the chance to form relationships both amongst our classmates and with our town was diminished because there was no local high school to take us.
Unlike the situation playing out in Attleboro, back then there had not been adequate preparation for a new Seekonk High. We were forced to attend either Tolman or Pawtucket Vocational in Pawtucket. Other Seekonk students from the South End were forced to attend East Providence High or Dighton Regional High. Students who had formed important bonds were shipped off to different places in the region, and needless to say, there was no social media to help us keep in touch.
Attleboro has reached an important moment in our history. This decision is a challenging one and will undoubtedly require genuine sacrifice. But the reasons to approve the proposed new Attleboro High School are not limited to the fact that this is the most cost effective option available. The true benefits of the new AHS are the messages it will send:
It is a message to students that we care about their future.
It is a message to teachers that we value and respect their work.
It is a message that will echo throughout every neighborhood in Attleboro: that we are our one community with a shared future that is defined by our shared values and a continuously improving quality of life.
I commend the city and school leaders on the development of this proposal and for the care they have taken to ensure it is a fiscally responsible one. And I am extraordinarily happy for the children, including those my grandchildren’s age, who will attend the new AHS together as friends, and as members of the same community: the Attleboro community.
Walter Thibodeau is a long-time resident of South Attleboro and served from 2000 to 2016 as a member of the Attleboro Municipal Council.
Guest Post: James Quaglia, Attleboro Resident and CTE Administrator
To anyone who believes that the current Attleboro High School facility can continue
indefinitely, I would respectfully ask that you seriously reconsider your stance. Although the
price tag may at first seem staggering, I can say with certainty, that construction in the modern
era is breathtakingly expensive. Rather than argue over exact dollar figures, I prefer to appeal
to my fellow citizen voters with logic. If we do not act now, with an aging and failing AHS that is
well past its useful life – then when?
I have lived my life in Attleboro and spent my career in the trades and as an educational
administrator, including for a period of time as the head of Career and Technical Education
(CTE) at AHS. As you may have guessed, I support the goal of providing a technologically
enhanced facility for future generations of Attleboro’s learners. And integral to that goal is the
continued support and promulgation of our CTE programs.
I know that some may question the necessity of CTE programs out of a desire for cost
containment. However, the question of whether the elimination of CTE would even yield any
verifiable savings notwithstanding, no one can deny the importance of CTE programs within the framework of the Attleboro Public Schools. Nor should we ignore the deep the roots of
technical, trade and service industries in our city. In my opinion, as we embrace rapid
technological change, we cannot lose site of the importance of training our students to be the
creators and stewards of our physical, societal and technological infrastructures. All of that
begins with the excellent training honed in AHS’s CTE programs.
For decades there has been ample research pointing to the integration of technical education
as a primary means of deep learning. Often overlooked in examining the benefits of CTE is just
how well students excel in their other academic pursuits, including college participation.
Anyone holding on to the anachronistic notion that CTE students cannot or do not attend
college is simply misinformed. The percentage of college enrollment of CTE graduates
statewide is one that rivals many strictly academic districts, and national research shows a
lower dropout rate for college-matriculated CTE grads.
We should be proud of the industrial and blue-collar roots of the Attleboro workforce, and we
should acknowledge the shift over time to residents who work in professional, and importantly,
technical professions. These shifts have precipitated changes in the composition of CTE
programs at AHS, thereby producing graduates who are technologically oriented and eminently prepared for multiple post-secondary options.
The history of AHS (our truly comprehensive high school) has been one of great success. It is now time to support a building project designed to ensure success for decades to come.
James P. Quaglia is a lifelong resident of Attleboro, former tradesperson, former Director of CTE at AHS and former member of the Attleboro Municipal Building Commission. He currently serves as the Superintendent of the Blue Hills Regional Technical School District in Canton and President of the Massachusetts Vocational Administrators Association.