Hottest Topic in Town – What will become of the E.B. Newton School?

Saturday, June 20, 2009
By Cary Shuman

How ironic it was that moments after Town Councillor Richard Gill praised the town and community leader Lou Camacho for ensuring that there will be fireworks in Winthrop to celebrate the Fourth of July, the real verbal fireworks began, with much of the critical comments being directed at the Winthrop School Committee.

The issue is the closing of the E.B. Newton School and what the council feels is the School Committee’s slow action in addressing the decision, which falls under the jurisdiction of the School Committee. The closing of the building which houses the School Department offices, including the office of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Jenkins, would result in substantial savings for the town in the neighborhood of $100,000.

There is an obvious disagreement about what action the town should take. Why else would Councillor James Letterie offer an official resolution requesting that the School Committee work with the council to close the building by October 1? However, Councillor-at-Large Philip Boncore instantaneously nixed that resolution when he called on the council to table the measure. But then Councillor Jeanne Maggio lit up the room and surely got the undivided attention of School Committee members Gus Martucci and Michael Goldberg (who were seated about 15 feet away in the audience along with Superintendent Jenkins) when she criticized the School Committee for dropping the ball on the issue of closing the E.B. Newton School.

The sudden change in tenor of what had been a placid, businesslike meeting to that point and Councillor Maggio’s “no holds barred” remarks reminded us that you never know what might unfold during a public meeting.

The closing of the E.B. Newton School is an important issue. Based on Tuesday night’s council meeting, it is the hottest topic in town. Do we continue to use the historic building for town purposes, or do we close it down and sell it to the highest bidder?

And where will the School Department and Recreation Department relocate to?

Subcommittees of the Town Council and the School Committee will be tackling the issue and hoping to resolve it at an upcoming joint meeting.

Stay tuned.

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