The town of Uxbridge has been locked in a vicious cycle for several years. While America has debated such hot-button issues as embryonic stem cell research, abortion, and now health care reform, Uxbridge has spent its time, energy, and money on the school debate. To build or not to build. The youth versus the seniors. Progress or the status quo. Uxbridge High School, the school which I attended, was built in the 1920’s. Needless to say, certain shifts have taken place in the demands of education; there were, for example, no computer labs in the 20’s. Our building is no longer adequate, as repeatedly affirmed by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges), which has placed the high school on probation. This has led to increasing levels of students school-choicing out as they are fed disinformation about Uxbridge not having its accreditation, which, of course, it does. These students cost the town over $500,00 a year. Clearly, there is an issue that needs to be addressed. And, to no avail, the town has tried.
It seems like every 2 years or so the town again applies for state funding to build the school, is granted the funding, and then, when the it comes to the vote, it does not pass. This is because if the town votes to build a new school, property taxes go up, and many senior citizens, who live on fixed incomes, may not be able to afford it. They also argue that since they turned out all right, we should too. What they fail to recognize is that the world we live in today is not the same world it was sixty or seventy years. A building that was made for students in the world of 1940 is not much use today. NEASC has recognized our academic programs are strong, yet acknowledged that they are also limited by the cramped building that houses them. So here lies the problem: how do you defeat countless senior citizens, many of whom are retired and have all the time in the world to pay attention to town politics and make sure that they vote, with parents and graduates? Especially when most parents work and are occupied with their children, and most graduates are no longer in touch with what is happening in Uxbridge. (The vote is at the annual town meeting in May, so the college students are either just getting our or studying for final exams.)
Yup. The tool that most senior citizens have never even heard of. Today, I have done something that I hope will alter the course of Uxbridge and break the stagnant cycle of paying for a feasibility study, finding that, yes, we need a new school, and then having it voted down. (Quick aside: Any average citizen could tell the state that we need a new school. Why we’re paying them thousands of dollars to repeatedly tell us what we already know is beyond me.) What have I done? No, I haven’t moved the date of the vote to bingo night. Nor have I created a retirement community several thousands of miles away from Uxbridge to ship all our senior citizens. I created a group on Facebook. It’s called “UHS Students for a New School.” Yeah, I realize it’s not too creative. But it’s not like I’m competing with anyone. There’s no “Senior Citizens Against a New School” group. I proceeded to invite all of my friends who reside in Uxbridge or graduated from Uxbridge and instructed them to invite all of their friends eligible to vote in Uxbridge, and so on. The group was formed this afternoon and I now have 104 members. I didn’t even invite that many people. But better yet, there are about 200 invites still pending. This is math teachers call “exponential growth” and I call totally owning the senior citizens. That’s already over 300 votes. And as the weeks go by, I am confident that this number will grow much larger. Through this group, I am able to keep all members informed of the progress of the new school (or renovation, if that’s what the feasibility study finds is necessary… yeah, right), which I will be keeping a close eye on. Then, the most pivotal moment… getting every member of this group to cast a YES vote at the May town meeting. If this happens, the true majority will finally rule. If this happens, our children and our children’s children will reap the benefits that we were denied. If this happens, it will honestly be a vision made reality, a culmination of the dreams of every parent, teacher, and student in Uxbridge. From here on, I sit back, watch the numbers grow, stay informed on town happenings, and then, in May, join my fellow graduates as Uxbridge finally declares
There’s a very good chance that today, one of the least exciting days of my summer, may turn out to be one of the most important in my life, and in the lives of all those who the YES vote will impact.