NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 29, 2014

For schools secretary, home is where her heart is

By Jim Sullivan
Staff writer

---- — AMESBURY — She is a well-known Bartlett in Amesbury, but she has nothing to do with the museum.

“Amesbury is a really special place,” Amesbury Public Schools’ Central Office secretary Carol Bartlett said. “It’s a wonderful town and I love it. It’s got everything. It’s got the beach, it’s got the mountains, it’s got the city. We don’t have the horrible snow like Worcester does, and we’ve got some really nice people here.”

Except for a brief stint away at college, Bartlett, 66, has been in and around the Carriagetown her entire life. She was a junior at Amesbury High School when it burned to the ground in 1965 and, when everyone else was running out of the building, she was running in.

“I had just gotten my learner’s permit the week before,” Bartlett said. “And black smoke is coming out of the roof and I remembered I had left my pocketbook in there. So I went in against everybody and saved my learner’s permit.”

Bartlett spent a year away at Lasell College but soon found herself right back home. She married former Amesbury selectman and then-state Rep. Bernie Flynn, and the two raised a pair of adopted kids together (Brittany and Ohjae) before Flynn passed away in 1998. Along the way, Bartlett began working for the school system in the superintendent’s office where she has been for the past 20 years.

“It’s just my home,” Bartlett said. “When I went away to school, I came back and I remember thinking that Amesbury is special. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, you can always fit in. You are always accepted.”

Although she has been a fixture in town, a majority of Bartlett’s education career had been spent away from the students, that is until she came full circle in 2009 when the Central Office moved to the new high school building.

“We never saw kids until three years ago,” Bartlett said. “You do all this work for kids but you never see them. So it is so awesome to be here. They have been really, really great. You see kids that come in and you can tell they had a tough time at the middle school and they find their niche. They find a whole connection and it is really something.”

When Michele Robinson arrived as the new superintendent in the summer of 2011, Bartlett was the first person she met.

“Carol is such a warm and welcoming person,” Robinson said. “From the moment I walked in the door, I felt that I had come home. Right away, she made me feel like a part of the school community and the Amesbury community and she has been a wonderful help and support.”

While she has seen the schools go through good and bad times, Bartlett has also been in a unique position to observe her hometown itself.

“You used to know everybody,” Bartlett said. “Somebody was always married to somebody. Now the names are very different.”

“People have moved away, there was a whole French community that was here,” she added. “Many friends’ families spoke French. I walked down the street and I knew everybody. I don’t think I would know people (now) if I didn’t work here. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just a whole different demographic. Everyone my age all moved to Florida.”

While Bartlett has no plans to move to Florida anytime soon, she is about to become a permanent part of the high school, along with former student Peter Randall and former educator Maria Ferrandini. The tree are going to be inducted into the Amesbury Educational Foundation’s Hall of Honor in May. She is also the president of the Foundation for the Amesbury Academy charter school.

“I am going to be buried here,” Bartlett said. “I am going to be hanging on the wall and buried here. I think there are so many more people who deserve it. But this was somebody’s vision, so I’m happy to do it. I can be one of those old people on the wall.”

Bartlett’s family has been in Amesbury since 1674 and she joked that perhaps that is why she is still living and working at home after all.

“My family are Yankees,” Bartlett said. “We are too cheap to move.”

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for a Getting Acquainted feature? Email ndn@newburyportnews.com.