Editorial: Shop class students learn importance of staying involved

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School juniors Logan Zumbruski, of Vernon, Vt., and Andrew Pratt, of Greenfield, screw a board to a bench in their engineering design class. RECORDER PHOTO

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

Pioneer Valley Regional School’s shop students have been learning how to design, measure and cut as they recently built four wooden benches for an accessible hiking trail, and we’ve got a measure of their maturity and community involvement as a result.

Since last fall, the 10 students in John Passiglia’s engineering design class have been making blueprints, designing prototypes and finally constructing benches that will be installed in Northfield’s first universally accessible trail at Alderbrook Meadow off Route 63.

When representatives from Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust reached out to Passiglia a year ago, he said he was eager for his students to be involved because “I want my students to be civically involved.”

River runs through it

A recent “Second Saturday” in Shelburne Falls was a celebration of the Deerfield River, in art, prose and music. For many years, Shelburne Falls has had a Riverfest celebration, and this newer event has been evolving, according to Carmela Lanza-Weil, director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, which sponsors the event.

Some of the former Riverfest events, such as the Arms Library Book Sale and the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club tag sale, were part of this latest celebration, which featured events throughout the day all over the village: a multimedia performance of stories, memories, and local knowledge about the river; dancers on the Bridge of Flowers, and even boaters on the river spelling out “RIVER.”

It’s always nice to see local communities embrace the natural features of our rural area and to celebrate, weave them into our lives.

Deerfield parents communicate

We saw civics in action, and with a happy outcome, recently when Deerfield Elementary School parents turned up at a school committee meeting to complain they felt disenfranchised and unheard by the administration.

Some of the two dozen parents pointed to changes in the sixth-grade curriculum made without them knowing. As the conversation evolved, it was noted Deerfield Elementary was in technical violation of state law because it doesn’t have an active school council, which are intended to improve communication between parents and school leaders.

“(We) want to be informed. We’re being informed after, and it feels distressing. It doesn’t feel like there’s engagement,” said parent Laura Pontani.

Committee Chairman G. David Sharp admitted the discontent over miscommunication and noted the “frustration here tonight” was “certainly palpable.” Superintendent Lynn Carey promised to create a school council. School officials took down the names of interested parents to create such a council, and many of those frustrated parents left feeling better. Good outcome.

Vote often, vote young

Wendell’s current voters have agreed that their younger residents ought to be able to vote on town matters as early as 16. At the town meeting recently, they voted to petition the Legislature for permission to redefine “qualified voter” as “any citizen 16 years of age or older, so long as they are a resident of Wendell at the time they register to vote and are otherwise eligible under all provisions beside age set for voters” by state law. Anyone wishing to serve in elected positions would still have to be a registered voter and at least 18 years old.

Other towns have considered the measure, which we support, intended to foster more civic engagement by young people at an earlier age.