As most residents know by now, the Massachusetts School Building Authority voted January 29 to approve our Statement of Interest, thus giving the town a once in a generation opportunity to renovate or construct a new Stoughton High School.
This never would have happened without the help and advocacy of our state representatives, Lou Kafka and Bill Galvin, and our state senator, Brian Joyce.
It was a joy to be in Boston with our legislators, Superintendent Dr. Marguerite Rizzi, High School Principal Julie Miller, and School Committee Chair Joyce Husseini to witness the vote and the invitation into the process.
It felt as if we had been outside of the ball park for years listening to others cheering inside; and now, not only were we inside, but, as Senator Joyce said, we were on first base.
The 2012 overwhelming Town Meeting vote appropriating $1,000,000 towards a Feasibility Study, ahead of an invitation, attests to the readiness of our town to tackle a project such as this, as well as the recognition of the need. We now begin the process of addressing the deficiencies of an outdated building which resulted in an accreditation warning from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
High school is the springboard for our students’ lives; there is much in our town that can and should be done to help students move into the next phase of their lives whether that be higher education or a career, but because of the constraints of the existing building we are simply unable to provide what our students need.
Many people in Stoughton are working hard to lift our town and we are at a crossroads: we will either move forward or slip backward compared to surrounding towns. Any town’s most valuable resource is its school system, and the flagship is the high school. A new high school will be a catalyst for economic development in Stoughton, as it has been in other towns such as Milton. A vibrant town attracts young families and new businesses. And now, as a result of the MSBA vote, we are eligible for tens and tens of millions of dollars of state money towards renovating or constructing a new high school.
This success came about because we came together as a town. Our legislators were willing to help because they saw community-wide support for this project. We haven't always worked collaboratively, and that’s been to our detriment.
We still have a long way to go and will continue to need to work together, but many good things are happening: we have a Master Plan for the town, and the same day that I witnessed the momentous MSBA vote I heard good news about the train station, the State Theater, and the old Shaw’s Plaza.
Many thanks to the students who wrote touching letters, signed the petition, gave speeches, handed out postcards, and sent emails asking for a new high school. Many thanks also to all the parents who mailed in postcards, wrote emails, and made phone calls. Now I ask that you all send a note of thanks to our legislators who advocated so fervently on our behalf.
I would like to close with a sentence from the petition written and signed by students at the O'Donnell Middle School: "We believe that every student in Stoughton deserves to go to a world class high school that meets their educational, health, and social needs."
Amen to that!