Tuesday’s groundbreaking for the new, $80 million Winthrop Middle/High School complex truly marked an epic event in the 152 year history of our community. Every new municipal construction project in a community represents an historic occasion for the simple reason that they occur so infrequently. Winthrop’s Town Hall, for example, was built in 1929 and there are no plans (that we know of) to build a new one any time soon.
As for schools, the groundbreaking for the present Winthrop High School occurred almost exactly 50 years ago in the summer of 1964 and it replaced a structure that was built in the early part of the 1900s. So a new high school only comes along about every half-century (or longer) in the life of a community. (Our new elementary schools 10 years ago replaced schools that were built 75 years previously).
There are many individuals who should be commended for bringing this state-of-the-art facility to Winthrop in 2016:
The School Building Assistance Committee, led by co-chairs Marylou Osborne and David Dockendorf, whose committee was launched three years ago and who worked tirelessly to come up with the best option for a new high school and middle school;
Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo and State Sen. Anthony Petrucelli; Town Council President Peter Gill and the Council; School Committee Chairman Gary Skomro and the School Committee; Town Manager James McKenna; Supt. of Schools John Macero; and the Winthrop Is Worth It Committee.
Principals Eileen Belastock and Martha Kelliher (Winthrop Middle School) were present for the event, as were past principals John Domenico, Jim Noiles, Arthur Cummings, and Gail Conlon.
However, in the final analysis, the credit for our new school complex belongs to the 65 percent of voters who decided to raise their own taxes in order to pay for the school at the Prop. 2 and 1/2 debt exclusion override. Asking taxpayers to increase their taxes never comes easy; construction of the present high school 50 years ago was delayed by a year because an anti-school taxpayer group initially prevailed and defeated the issue at the ballot box.
However, Americans are coming to the realization that, unlike 50 years ago, we are living in a highly-competitive world in which our general superiority no longer can be taken for granted. We are amidst an era when formerly third-world countries are now outcompeting us in the free market. The American Century of so-called American Exceptionalism has come to an end.
The thousands of voters who gave their approval for the new school clearly realized that the future of their community, state, nation, and indeed, the world depends upon maximizing each and every child’s educational opportunities — and they were willing to put their money where their vote is. As Town Manager Jim McKenna aptly and simply put it in concluding the program, “Thank you Winthrop. Our prayers have been answered.