North Adams School Committee OKs New Name for Conte

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Silvio O. Conte Middle School will be renamed Colegrove Park Elementary School. Above, a postcard of Colegrove Park circa 1909 with Drury Academy peeking above the trees, courtesy of Paul W. Marino. More on Colegrove's history can be found here.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Drury, Conte ... Colegrove.

All three were notable individuals who left a legacy in the city and region.

They also each had a school named after them — the same school.

The School Committee on Tuesday approved a recommendation to name the former Conte and Drury school as Colgrove Park Elementary School.

"I think it's a fresh start. It's going to be a beautiful experience and a beautiful school," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "It ties right back into significant history."

The naming committee had been mulling a number of possibilities raised by members, residents and the school community.

Superintendent James Montepare said the guidelines, according to School Committee policy, was that a name should have some significance within the community but should not be contemporary, or "the flavor of the day."

The committee was comprised of Montepare, Alcombright, last Conte Principal Diane Ryzcek, Steven Green, the Rev. David Anderson, Historical Commissioner Justyna Carlson, and former and current School Committee members Ronald Superneau and John Hockridge.

About two dozen names of educators, politicians, historical figures and landmarks that came up the most frequently were discussed.

At the naming committee's initial meeting, Montepare had hoped the school could be named for a woman who had significantly contributed to local education, but nothing stuck. The mayor had advocated for a neutral name, such as neighborhood or landmark.

Superneau had argued against naming it for an individual, unless it was Drury, because of issues that might crop up.

Carlson, with fellow Commissioner Paul W. Marino, had come with a lengthy list of historical notables.

"We were looking for something that came with the inspirational beginning of a new school," said Montepare. "And hoping to have a feeling this was 'out with the old and in with the new.' "

The choices were whittled down to three, with keeping Sullivan or Conte third; Drury or Nathan & Freelove Drury Academy (Freelove's given name did not go over well) second, and Colegrove Park Elementary first.

Jeremiah Colegrove owned a grist mill near where the School Department's Educational Center on West Main Street had been, and he or his family had owned the land, originally a cemetery, in front of Drury. He had purportedly sheltered a runaway slave and aided her in obtaining freedom.

Montepare said "Colegrove" didn't click until "park" was added. "It changed the feeling of it."

Alcombright said there was a sense of permanency in the name, since the land is protected in perpetuity as a park by the Legislature. It also evokes a neighborhood feeling, he said.  

Mary Lou Accetta motioned and Alcombright seconded that Colegrove Park Elementary School be the new name. The committee agreed with no further discussion.

There was hope that at some point the park itself could be renovated.

In other business:

• The committee heard a presentation by Food Services Director Cory Nicholas on a biometrics system using "intersection points" of a fingerprint rather than cards or other mechanisms.

The purpose would be to increase efficiency and eliminate the stigma of free and reduced lunches. The committee expressed interest, but some skepticism, and requested more information.

• The committee approved tuition rates of $10,612 for high and elementary schools, $19,128 for special education and $25,506 for E3, autism and transition. Montepare said tuitioned students were expected to drop by about of 20 in the next year.

Tags: Colegrove Park,   Conte School,   school project,   

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