, Newburyport, MA


August 14, 2013

Current name of Bresnahan School is perfect

To the editor:

It strikes me that to have a conversation about renaming the Bresnahan School, at this late date, is not only inappropriate but hurtful to Francis’ legacy, not to mention his family.

For those of us lucky enough to know and work with Francis, no one could be more deserving than he to be remembered with this kind of tribute. He was both an educational visionary and genuinely devoted to Newburyport schools — the administrators, the faculty, and the students.

Long before I met him, I heard about his extraordinary accomplishments — most particularly at the Nock Middle School — a model school. As my family was planning our move from Lexington to Newburyport, the director of guidance at the Fiske Elementary School assured me that I was moving into one of the most enlightened school systems in the state. “Francis Bresnahan is the superintendent there. He is both a visionary and a planner. He puts the vision into action. Your children are very lucky.”

Indeed, they were.

The word paideia comes to mind. This is a Francis kind of word. Having read Mortimer Adler’s books on the subject, he became convinced of the viability of this strategy. Fundamentally a Socratic method of teaching/learning, paideia centers around a kind of equal education playing field where personal and text-based information are intermingled so that the teacher and students share information based on the learning goal. That’s a little oversimplified; however, the point is the approach and goal are learner friendly. It brings everyone into the conversation.

Francis Bresnahan lived here before and during the great Newburyport revival. But as much as any of those who worked to keep the historic downtown intact or lure new businesses to the industrial park, Francis worked to build a school system that would be always reaching for higher standards. He was one of smartest and one of the kindest men I’ve known.

There should be no further discussion about renaming the Bresnahan. The current name is perfect.

Vicki Hendrickson


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