Bridge Street School Response

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Dear concerned Suffield voters,

I’m writing in response to The First Selectman’s Update in the December 2020 – January 2021 edition, concerning the status of the Bridge Street School (BSS). To the thousands of children who had attended it throughout 80 years, there is a very meaningful lesson that was presented to students one generation after the next. The lesson is: “Be Accepting, Respectful, Truthful, and Kind.”

There was a time during the early 1900s, where designing schools for public education with a setting that enhanced the learning experience was very highly regarded. In towns and cities everywhere, the large sunlight filled, and well-ventilated rooms outfitted to include art, music, and recreation suited growing a nation that would lead the world into peaceful prosperity. Often times these buildings doubled to function as community centers. Examples of this type happened right here in Suffield, most notably at Bridge Street School. A grand investment was made to employ the finest materials here, and renowned architect Walter B. Chambers offered a selection of flexible plans. He had replicated colonial styles for Yale University and proclaimed his structures would “last a thousand years” if cared for.

The First Selectman’s Update beginning with “Difficult News” stands not as a heartfelt lament for some natural turn of events, but rather the difficulty Mrs. Mack faces in attempting to fool all of the people, all of the time. Her remarks, including reference to specific documents, are entirely distorted, misrepresented, and false. One small example is the untruthful comparison to the Babb’s Beach project. The fact is that an application for State and National historic registration for BSS was blocked by her office.

Not a single aspect of the reverent ‘five-word lesson’ did this First Selectman apply in the matter of the 2015 Bridge Street Community Center (BSCC) voter resolve. It is a debacle of evasion and unilateral flipping from success and value into failure and destruction.

I discovered that unique and profound five-word example of classic American schoolhouse knowledge in 1999 at the 75th anniversary party in the school. On the shining faces of teachers, staff, and families gobbling ice cream and ”Happy Birthday Bridge Street School” cake, a glow of pride in community heritage radiated. Seniors who had attended the first class of 1924 were present, and it inspired the creation of a commemorative word and picture documentary released in 2005. The current 20-year journal has expanded into a 95-year Suffield School History book.

Political figures relentlessly making untruthful claims are much like newsprint pages that fade away. Factual historic accounts containing evidence of abusing the power of office, violating public trust and dereliction of duty will outlast them. Hopefully, the true story will reconcile that the tragic and disgraceful incident witnessed today, will never happen again.

It’s ironic that while visiting Suffield’s 350 historic milestone, what would have been a magnificent institution being preserved for education, cultural pursuits and total free time recreation was cast down to be replaced with a ‘jungle gym’ playscape.

Ray Pioggia 
Town Activist

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