Save the Seashore

A lifetime of Education and Value

I have fond and lasting memories of my experience as a student at Morse Pond School.  I remember Principal Howard Campbell and his colorful pants with whales on them.  I remember giggling in a corner with friends as we attempted to get away with calling him "Howie."  I remember the distinctive smell of the late Paul Morway's cologne and and how you could tell he was coming down the hall before you could see him.  I remember learning the art of photography with Joe Patrick and developing pictures in a real darkroom in a closet off our classroom.  I learned about Native Americans with Jen Pine and Allen Parsons and created our own villages out of clay.  I can picture myself as if it were yesterday standing on the sunken ball field on Jones Road peering down the shaft of of a real arrow and shooting it well over the target as I learned archery from an ageless Billy Andrade (how come I got older and he didn't?) .  I can hear myself panting and groaning running what seemed like an endless lap around the playground.  I had a boyhood crush on Kristy McNichol and Sally Pavao and had my Cub Scout meetings in the lighthouse at Nobska Point.  Those were wonderful, carefree days.  Of all the cherished memories from that era, though, my fondest ae of our class visit to the Cape Cod National Seashore in 5th grade.

Before team teaching was a recognized concept, Ms. Martinsons and Ms. Woodruff did everything together.  Our trip to the seashore was during an autumn cold spell, and I shivered in my Toughskins as we were introduced to our new combination school and home.  The staff was kind and welcoming, knowing full well that many attendees on this educational adventure were away from home for the first time.  During our stay at the seashore, we hiked through the dunes, found and categorized seashells and other miscellany of marine life, ate and interacted like a family in the large, weathered house, and learned that our teachers had a human side outside the walls of Morse Pond.  These are lessons we could never learn in the classroom, lessons that are still with me today.

It was with sadness and alarm, then, that I learned the news this week that the Falmouth School Committee will soon be considering eliminating this decades-old tradition and educational experience for the youth of Falmouth.

We are in the toughest of financial times, with cutbacks, furloughs, and even layoffs being offered as potential budget balancing solutions.  As a longtime public official, I understand the gravity of these potential outcomes and the need to preserve the core mission of educating our young people.  I also understand, though, as a former student in the Falmouth School system and as a parent, that programs like the seashore trip provide unforgettable and educationally sound experiences that have real and tangible results.  I bumped into an old classmate in the coffee shop this weekend and he fondly recollected his seashore trip and linked it directly to his choice to pursue a career in the ocean sciences.  What more direct connection is necessary to prove the worth of this community tradition?

Falmouth is a community that prides itself on its extra effort to make a difference.  It was one of the first municipalities in the commonwealth to be awarded the designation of a Preserve America community.  Locals joined together to be among the pioneers in the "no place for hate" program.  We led the charge to create a land bank well before the Community Preservation Act was considered good public policy.  Having the seashore  that makes a difference in the educational experience and the lives of our young people is similarly significant.  The School Committee has an opportunity to make that statement when they consider what programs to include in next year's budget.  Let's hope they do.

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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