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Today we opened the doors on a new school year. After a long, hot summer it’s good to see the students returning to school. One of the best parts of having the high school right next door to City Hall is it serves as a consistent reminder of why municipal government matters. Our children deserve to live in a safe, clean, healthy, vibrant community where they can get the best possible education we can give them. When we deliver on that, it helps move the entire city forward.
It is also the community value we most want to pass along to our children – that we should always strive to do better by the next generation. Inside of that are the seeds of progress and civic responsibility. It drives us to tackle our current problems rather than pass them along to our children. It provides us with the reason to resist an ill-advised decision made for a quick buck. Most importantly, our children will mirror the pride we have in our community, building upon our achievements (provided we have achievements to pass along).
My perspective on the school year also has changed in recent years. Once upon a time my vantage point into the schools was as a City official – Mayor, School Committee member, Alderman. I believed in the importance of good schools. I cared about the school system which educated me back in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet having children of my own in the Somerville school system has enhanced my appreciation for the work we do there.
For instance, as we strived to get the flood-stricken Capuano Early Childhood Center ready for the opening of the school year, I was equal parts Mayor and parent. Fortunately, thanks to my Mayoral predecessors, Somerville is not a city that cuts corners. The safety and well-being of the children in that school was never a negotiable item for anyone involved in that project.
Yet, as a parent, I better understand the trust placed in us by the parents in this community. I’m one of them. We want our children to be ready for a competitive world and we demand they be educated in clean, safe schools. Parents do not lightly hand over their children to us each school day. That is a trust we must constantly earn. Mayor Joe has to answer to Joe the parent, and he’s a better Mayor for it.
I also sympathize with our returning students. I’m back in school myself these days, seeking an advanced degree in government. I suppose it would be easy to pretend I know everything I need to know, but one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that you can always learn more. School requires commitment and long hours. Sometimes I’d rather do anything other than my school work, but I want to do my job to the best of my ability and that school work is going to help me achieve it.
So my advice to every kid heading back to school this week is to write down your goals for this school year. And make sure to include all those promises you make to yourself about how you’re going to buckle down and get your homework done early and stay ahead on all your big projects. Those are good promises to make and I guarantee you will have best school year ever if you keep them. It won’t be easy, but it will pay off for you by the end of the school year. Just stick with it.
Remember, we’ve all got a lot to learn.