Sunday, August 29, 2010
Historical Society to Host
Cherry Road School Alumni
On September 29, 7:00 p.m., the Historical Society will host a Cherry Road School alumni panel, facilitated by the moderator of this blog. Panel alumni will represent the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
They will share remembrances of their days at Cherry Road School, and will discuss questions such as: How was it that the little school, born in a chicken coop in Willis Parsons' cherry orchard, successfully held together a community struggling through The Great Depression? What were the ways that Miss Parsons was able to make the school relevant in a time of economic flux and social change? Are there lessons to be learned through the endurance of Cherry Road School for schools and communities today? What were the values of the farm days that remain relevant for students in 21st century classrooms?
Evidence of the impact and endurance of Cherry Road School are the hundreds of alumni, many in their 70s and 80s, who still meet regularly to share memories of what has become one of the most important times of their lives, and the woman who has become their first and most beloved hero and role model, Miss Marion Parsons.
The meeting will take place at the Geddes Town Hall in Solvay, N.Y. on the evening of the 29th.
The discussion will inform the book in progress: The Brass Bell.
The Historical Society is sponsoring work on the Cherry Road School history project. Founded in 2005, the mission of the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society is to collect preserve, and showcase historical artifacts of the area. Over the past five years, they have expanded their collection and their membership.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The Brass Bell
In my last post I said that the book is about a community and a school. That's the surface of the book. The story is about the woman who led the school into the 20th century. It's a story about duty and loyalty. It's about a community's will to survive in the face of economic disaster that was about to rip the entire country to its core. At its heart, it's a story about how one woman's loyalty and courage inspired generations of students and saved a struggling farm community from extinction. Miss Parsons understood the importance of the values of the past and the importance of the innovations of the future. The brass bell represents the link between the two.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
The Brass Bell
For those of you who don't know, this blog is in support of a book project: The Brass Bell. This is the story of a hen house that grew to be one of the highest-regarded schools in New York State, Cherry Road School. It's about the woman, Miss Marion Parsons, who founded the little school in her father's cherry orchard. The Brass Bell is a story of a small farming community that grew to be a thriving Central New York suburb.
Marion's grandparents, Edwin Clark Parsons and Julia Armstrong Parsons were one of the early settlers and farmers in the area that came to be known as Westvale. Their youngest son, Willis, was a very successful fruit farmer and operated two farms on the old Genesee Turnpike. He was the president of the New York State Fruit Growers Association for many years. Marion Parsons, the middle of Willis's three daughters, followed in the footsteps of many generations of Parsons before her with her respect for and dedication to education.
All the Parsons children, and their cousins, the Jeromes, Armstrongs, Schuylers, and more, attended the Geddes District One School, otherwise known as the Terry Road School. When the one room schoolhouse could no longer hold the children or keep them warm during the frigid winters, the people of this farming community were wise enough to look into the future. They saw the beginning of the industrial revolution. They understood the importance of an education befitting the times.
These same community members, Judge Farnham, the Parsons brothers (Willis, Frances, Charles), The Jeromes, and others, joined forces and formed a board of trustees. Willis donated nine acres of Cherry Orchard; Judge Farnham led the charge to raise money to build the school. Marion, who would later be known to her students as Miss Parsons, enlisted the help of the women picking fruit in the orchard to help her clean up the chicken coop where classes would be held that first year while the brick school was being built. The first floor, the first edition of many was finished later that year, circa 1926.
Miss Parsons was presented with the brass bell from the old Terry Road School. Tears must have sprung to her eyes as she held the bell, high above her head to ring for the first time, the bell whose resounding clang had once signaled her and her cousins and friends to the long wooden benches in the tiny one-room schoolhouse. As she rang the bell for the first time, she may not have imagined that nearly 100 years later, Cherry Road School would be the alma mater of thousands who remember Miss Parsons as their first and greatest hero.
The Brass Bell will tell the story of how that came to be.
Monday, August 2, 2010
A good teacher is formed over time in the memories of students. This is a conclusion that might be drawn from a collection of posts on the subject on a national Education Week blog: Walt Gardner's Reality Check. Last week, Walt, a 27-year education veteran from the Los Angeles Unified School District, entertained this question on the blog. He based the discussion on a recent event in Washington, DC. In July of this year, 241 teachers were fired for poor evaluations or lack of proper credentials. Another 737 teachers were put on notice that if they don't improve their teaching, they too could wind up on the street.
What is this evaluation based upon, you may ask. Well, in grades four through eight, 50 % is based on student growth on standardized tests. In other words, are they doing better on their test scores each year. If not, this teacher may not be a good teacher, according to this system.
Other variables considered on these evaluations were classroom performance, though the Chancellor from D.C. admitted, allegedly, that she did not know the numbers when it came to this distinction. And what is classroom performance? It might include classroom management skills or teacher popularity. The answer to that is not clear.
Mr. Gardner rues the idea that our classrooms have become "test preparation factories." So do I. Is it the teacher's fault if a child is failing? There are so many factors involved. And besides, what will the child remember from those standardized tests in 20, 30, even 50 years?
The numerous Cherry Road School alumni I've spoken with over the past two years agree that they hold Miss Parsons in their hearts and minds because she commanded respect. It also seems to have been clear to all of her students that she cared about them and about their education. Years later what people remember is the kind, yet firm, woman who they still strive to please, even though she's long gone.
Mr. Gardner put it this way: "...I've long believed hindsight is the fairest way of evaluating teachers....the influence of teachers doesn't show up until years after students graduate. With the passage of time and the insights of maturity, students are in a far better position to evaluate their teachers."
What do you think? Please feel free to post your opinions by clicking on the "Comment" button.