, Newburyport, MA


April 1, 2014

Our view: Amesbury students send clear message

If there was ever a compelling argument to be made for the importance of arts, theater and music programs in our local public schools, students in Amesbury have made it.

On Friday, over 150 students marched from the high school to Market Square, in protest of a School Committee proposal to eliminate the music teacher, tech education and early college program for next school year. The budget has not been set yet, and so there is time for negotiations and changes to occur.

The march was an impressive event. Planned by former Amesbury High School student Cody Care, it quickly drew support from students throughout the high school, as well as many parents. The students were well-organized and well-disciplined in their march to the downtown, and they delivered their message effectively.

All of the qualities that arts, theater and music instill in a young adult were on display — self-confidence; the ability to think independently and act; poise; organization; and effective delivery.

The vocations of art, theater and music place students on a stage — literally sometimes, figuratively other times — and demand that they step forward and perform. These are clearly strengths of character that are well worth instilling in young adults. A few years ago, the high school’s administration would have quietly suppressed such a public show of independent, contrary thought. It’s encouraging to see that is no longer the case.

Where will the money come from to fix this? This is going to be the first real test for newly elected Mayor Ken Gray.

Voters sent a strong message to City Hall last year when they elected Gray, a relative newcomer to town who had no prior political experience. But Gray hit the right notes with many voters by acknowledging Amesbury needs to get its taxing and spending under better control. There is a strong desire to change the status quo and to tamp down Amesbury’s tax bills. Amesbury homeowners have long paid high taxes, particularly considering the income levels of the average taxpayer in town.

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