The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 6, 2000


Guest Commentary

Schools Cannot Do It Alone

The vision statement of the Carlisle Public Schools was crafted by members of the Carlisle School Committee and the administrative team members and has been embraced by our school community as our shared vision for the mission of our school. Each year at our extended summer meeting we reexamine the words and measure our actions against our articulated beliefs. At times we have amended our statements to better reflect our current reality and to reorder our priorities. A few years ago we realized that it is not enough to pledge to educate our students in a world class school which will develop a society of lifelong learners, and to provide them with the behavior, skill and knowledge to thrive, as contributing members of a democratic society in a constantly changing global economy. We identified the need and committed ourselves to the belief that our entire school must embrace the concept of civility and that we must structure our school to enable our students to become responsible members of a civil, interdependent community. In order to actualize this within our own learning environment, we have committed ourselves to examining our programs, our practices and our actions and to develop and support those which strengthen the civility of our school culture.

As we all know, however, despite the vital role which the schools play in nurturing and educating our children, they are only "ours" for a portion of the day. Their first and best teachers are their parents, extended families, faith communities, neighborhoods, friends, youth groups, sports teams, community agencies and countless others. Their actions and interplay provide students with verbal messages as well as interactions which convey concepts of understanding, acceptance, friendship, respect, kindness, helpfulness and caring.

In Carlisle, it is easy to identify examples of caring and civility. Take, for example, the Education Forum, where community members, not all of whom are parents, gather to listen to ideas about education and to then share opinions and perceptions in small group discussions. Likewise, large numbers of Carlisle people participate in and support the Pig 'n Pepper (which, by the way, is October 7 and 8 this year), and their hard work through the Carlisle Education Foundation (CEF) has raised funds to provide much-needed equipment and wonderful pilot programs for our children. The Carlisle School Association is another invaluable organization dedicated to the principle of service to and for our school children. In addition to special event projects, volunteerism is rife in Carlisle. Every day our children benefit from the selfless donation of time and skills by our welcome and important volunteers. This is a commitment and a caring for children and their education that is not found in every community, and we at the schools are grateful and cognizant of the positive effect that such contributions have on our students.

As we begin another school year, we recognize that we must try even harder in every arena to be that which we want our children to be. Sometimes, adults get so caught up in the moment they forget that what they do sets the pattern for their children, and children can be understandably confused by the contradiction between what we do and what we say. This was tragically brought to mind this past summer when two adults involved in their sons' hockey game engaged in a violent struggle which resulted in the death of one and surely the shattering of two families. As reported, the fight erupted when one alleged that the other was allowing the boys to play "too rough."

I believe that we in Carlisle make every effort to provide our young people with a clear message. I believe that we as a community can, do and must continue to measure our actions and interactions so that our children will have the fine role models they need and deserve. To this end we in the Carlisle Public Schools pledge our efforts. We know that, as the saying goes, "We alone can do it; but we cannot do it alone."

Boys and Girls of Summer

This past June, Jeff Bloomfield organized four adult softball teams; games were played on Tuesday evenings at Spalding field. Whole families materialized to watch dads and a few moms run, catch, and bat in the summer twilight.

It wasn't always a pretty sight. Huge holes were torn in gloves when the grapefruit-sized softball roared between players' legs in the best Buckner style. Our league featured the slow-pitch option the pitcher tossed the ball toward home in a slow arch that often landed with a loud smack on home plate. For any aging Ruth or Aaron, the slow pitch is a tantalizing, easy dish. Incredibly, a few of us, like the mighty Casey, actually struck out. Routine pop flies to the outfield acquired the elasticity of flubber and bounced out of waiting hands. Infielders made amazing stabs in the dust only to throw them ten feet over the first baseman's head.

The distance between bases is very short on the grade-school diamond. One bobble at third base could turn a routine ground-out into a single, or even a double if the throw got beyond the first baseman. Towering fly balls to center field, awe inspiring in their first few seconds, inevitably gave outfielders time to gather them in for easy outs.

Aging batters stepped to the plate to crush the ball far into the darkness of left field only to pull a muscle rounding second, and hobble into third, gasping for oxygen. Eager base runners took off at the crack of the bat only to find themselves tagged out when the line drive was unexpectedly snagged at shortstop. What looked like a sure home run somehow was fielded and returned to the cagey third baseman and another overconfident runner, who had just overrun third, was tagged out. No one cried, but torn egos and muscles required a new ice age.

Still, we kept coming back, despite limps, bruises, and public humiliations. A blindingly fast line drive might be snagged with a picture-perfect diving catch. Or a towering pop fly to shallow left field might be caught over the shoulder by a sprinting shortstop. Or a throw home, coming in a second too late to get the runner crossing the plate, might suddenly be cut off and redirected to third in a clean, fluid motion for the out. A hard grounder to short by one mom could be cleanly picked off by another mom, and the throw to first pulled in by a third mom. Every game had its heroic plays. When they occurred, both benches emptied, applauding wildly. If we were sandlot bums, we were also sandlot heroes.

But some of us had actually been to the big leagues. I sat on one bench with a teammate who told me, as my jaw dropped lower and lower, that he had pitched in the College World Series. He had also faced batting champion and Hall of Famer Rod Carew over fifty times in the minor leagues, and had routinely struck him out. There are giants still among us.

One of my best memories of the summer came while watching my pitching-ace teammate step to the plate on the clear, hot afternoon of July 4. He takes a few practice swings, then the slow pitch arcs in. He strides into the pitch like DiMaggio, and the ball is airborne. The right fielder turns helplessly in pursuit. The white spheroid grows smaller and smaller in the intense blue sky over Carlisle.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito