By Rosalie Tirella
Years ago, I was an inner-city kid. I, along with my sisters, attended the old Lamartine Street School in Green Island. We were labeled the City of Worcester’s first “inner-city” school. But I had the best public school teachers in Worcester! Mr. John Monfredo! Mr. Gillman! Mrs. Napoli/Zaterka! Mr. Chickarian! All of these folks ran their classrooms like well oiled clocks, where learning was serious business, but they also made learning fun/hands-on and managed to convey a genuine fondness for us kids – all of whom were poor, many of whom were very rough around the edges.
Going to Lamartine Street School was the best part of my childhood! A magical place where books were plentiful, games were fun (and educational), adults didn’t scream at each other, hamsters and other pocket pets were cared for (usually by little bookworms like me!) and … after school activites were made available to us kids.
I don’t think any of the teachers at Lamartine got paid for their extra efforts after school – I do know everyone had a lot of fun. Mr. Gillman, my fourth grade teacher, played the accordian! What a cool – BIG – musical instrument, I thought when I saw him take it out during class to play Christmas songs for us. I immediately began whining to my mom to get me a starter/kid accordian with cool rhinestone buttons on the left and fake ivory inlay over the keyboard at right. And in between – squezze box! A bunch of Lamartine kids felt the same way and their parents got them accordians too. So Mr. Gillman began teaching every accordian toting kid – after school. Giving us music lessons. For free. Boy! Did I sound horrific, but my chest swelled with pride whenever I carried my pretty little accordian (which my mom rented for me from some teeny music store on Pleasant Street) to class.
After school fun that kept a smart kid like me from going home to sadness … At Lamartine I did not have to get sad over my father or our living situation.
About two decades ago, I had an epiphany. I remember walking out of Union Hill School – an adult now. School had ended about 20 minutes ago. And what did I see? A six year old boy running around the street in front of his home WITH A STEAK KNIFE. A steak knife!
What a godsend that Union Hill had an afterschool program, I thought. That little boy needs to join the Union Hill afterschool program. Nothing heavy – nothing amazingly acacademic. Just a classroom where the Unioh Hill kids could: create little arts and crafts projects, finish up their homework, color mimeographed pictures or play in the school yard – maybe kickball or dodge ball.
Nothing fancy happend at Union Hill’sd after school program. Just like nothing too fancy happened at Lamartine Street School for me years ago. But guess what? Activities like these keep some kids out of trouble/steak knife drawers, provide a quiet place to do homework (our three-decker apartment could get noisy with all the arguing: my baby versus my dad versus my mom!) or just hang out and color in a coloring book – in an attractive, safe place. Your neighborhood school.
So much more than babysitting! Life-saving, actually!
And last night I watched the Worcester School Committee worry about: paying WPS teachers who are too cheap to volunteer – want to get paid $60 per hour for their work (90 minuites of work). The city doesn’t have the bucks to pay all these teachers – and Mayor Joe O’Brien (wisely ) said that the system should just hire regular folks to run some kind of after school activites – not really teaching academic.
But of course, the WPS teachers plan to sue over that. They want the money that the city doesn’t have.
They, unlike, my old Lamartine teachers, don’t give a shit about the kids. Don’t care about their safety or happines. They are gonna go to the mat for a lousy $60 an hour. Over folks who may be able to run a good afterschool program getting payed 10 or 12 or 15 bucks an hour.
What a way to bring in the holidays!