When the HSLDA letter hit my e-mail, I almost deleted it without opening it, but on reading it, I thought Mendon was close enough that I could drive over there for the meeting to show support, and take Ben, for a civics lesson on local government, and grass roots stuff, as long as Dan didn’t mind putting M and K to bed without me. The district of Mendon/Upton had changed their policy in May, but sent the information to the homeschooling families in mid July, which meant that if they had not already filed their educational plans, they were already in contempt.
It turns out that there is a Mendon road near us, but actually getting to the town is a bit farther then I thought. Especially once I missed 146N, headed South without realizing it, then followed 122 up the Blackstone valley over one lane bridges by the old canal, railroad and mills. I did see a state park with canoe launch, we might return soon. Ben says we need an actual map, not just a google maps print out, and that I need to return to the main roads once I loose them, not try to figure out a work around myself next time. And no reading of the map myself at stop lights.
The parking lot was full of minivans when we reached the school. One with ecological stickers was parked next to one extolling the Latin mass. Yep, we’re all still here, I thought. The lady nursing a baby in the hallway gave me my first directions to the meeting room, then I bumped into another lady who showed me the exact door. I mentioned the cool things I’d seen while lost in the Blackstone River Valley, she asked me where I was from. She blanched when I said Attleboro, I guess I was impressively not local. She was the president of the school committee, but not attending the special meeting for some reason I didn’t catch then and don’t remember now. She did say seriously, “It’s the law.” I smiled and shook her hand, since I didn’t think I had time to figure out what she was so serious about right then, and found a spot at the back of the room.
The front was full of school committee and parents, the back with younger children reading novels and silently playing board games. I wish the school committee had noticed how well behaved they were, and that the girls at least were reading really impressive books. A big screen was between me and the front of the room, but I could see Michael P. Donnelly’s boots. The acoustics were good. There was a partially walled room within the room with 3 uniformed police and a coffee pot, the committee president wound up in there. A Dad near me was rocking his – I’d estimate 7 year old – daughter, her blond hair swept past his elbow. Ben tried craning his neck around the screen too, he’s taller than me, so I think he saw more of the school committee.
I did not think to take notes on exactly what was said. I wish I had because dialogue is much more interesting than clothing descriptions, but I think I’d be embroidering what was actually said if I attempted it. The committee does seem genuinely nervous that they will face suit if they do not make sure everything is just right for “their students,” and they are interpreting all the fuzzy bits of Charles in inconvenient ways.
There were several issues that did not get discussed, so the moderator promised a follow up meeting. Mr Donnelly mentioned that he’d meet us all downstairs, and we milled our way to the auditorium. I wish the meeting had just been held there in the first place, then I could have seen too.
Mr Donnelly introduced the group to Bill Heuer from MHLA and (I missed his name, blush) from MassHOPE. He praised the families present for acting with grace, collected e-mails from local people willing to convince the school committee to use their authority less nervously, and perhaps to run for school committee if need be. I asked a local lady where the best place to buy Ben his hamburger was, and found 146S on the way home.
But Ben found the landmark, not me.