Friday, January 29, 2010


St John’s Prep Honors Teacher-Coach with Award

On Wednesday evening, my wife and I, attended an award celebration in the Milano Dinning Room on the campus of St. John’s Prep in Danvers. The occasion was the presentation of the first ever Martin Luther King Diversity Award that was provided to long time Prep Track and Field and Cross Country coach, Raymond Carey. The event that was originally scheduled on the holiday that celebrates the birthday of Dr. King, who led the fight to create a more diverse culture in this country, was moved to last night when the holiday morning arrived stormy. The award that was provided to the recently retired history teacher at the school for the extraordinary work that Ray Carey has done during the last 25 years to change the race relations climate, promote tolerance and to reach out to bring young men of color to St. John’s Prep as students.

Coach Carey has played a lead role at the Danvers school as for the last several decades he has encouraged the school’s administration and it’s Board of Trustees to make the changes needed at the school to teach a generation of students the importance of fighting prejudices in race, religion, sexual preference and to promote tolerance. Ray who also graduated from the Prep, served in many capacities in this effort, and helped drive Board of Trustee and faculty committees as they addressed issues of importance to the cause of race relations, tolerance and diversity.

St. John's Headmaster Skip Shannon presented the award last night to Coach Carey, and noted in his remarks that the proof of Ray Carey’s success in this effort is clearly in the number of students of color who now attend St. John’s. When this effort began two decades ago, students of color represented about 1% of the total student body, and now in the 2009-2010 academic year the percentage of students of color at the school have now risen to 12%. The total population of students of color now exceeds 125 students. I was proud to be in attendance last night and to share the evening with Coach Carey and to offer my accolades for his efforts. All of us who have a continuing connection with the school congratulates Ray Carey and knows that he will continue to play a role in this important issue at the Prep in the years ahead.

Massachusetts Not the Only State where Cutbacks are Being Felt

I receive a monthly newsletter from The National Trust for Historic Preservation, and that publication is usually filled with positive articles about efforts around the country to preserve our important American heritage. One of the stories in the most recent issue cites the closure of parks and historic sites in states all across the region. The most prominent of these closures, brought about due to the continuing economic difficulties being experienced nation wide is in Pennsylvania where that State’s far reaching budget cuts have resulted in the closure or reduction in hours of operation of almost all of Pennsylvania’s historic sites and parks. The most recent budget approved in that state reduced the funding for the Historical and Museum Commission by almost $7 million dollars, and that was a 37% cut and resulted in numerous closures. As part of that closure process, nearly 200 positions across that State were eliminated.

The State of Pennsylvania has one of the broadest arrays of state parks anywhere in the nation and the closures are certainly devastating to those in that State that focus on these assets. This year the future of many of these sites will now rest on the ability to attract volunteers to help fill the gaps created by the budget cuts. Reduced hours of operation will be expanded only if “friends” groups or volunteers can be found. The State of Pennsylvania is not the only state to be considering making budget cuts that will impact State parks and other historic venues, as California and Arizona have closed parks, and Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Tennessee have slashed funding for parks, and Idaho and Colorado are considering closures.

So you can see that some of the moves made in Massachusetts to close some of the most visible and heaviest visited Welcoming Centers is not without precedence. The economic conditions that are causing these actions are wide spread, and may make travel experiences this coming summer season a little difficult. I have recently heard that the closure of the much-needed Salisbury Welcoming Center operated by the North of Boston Convention and Visitor Bureau has had some recent good news. Lets hope that something can be worked out at that site as this region certainly needs that center operating as it is the gateway to this region as visitors arrive from the three neighboring New England States to the north, and serves all of the visits from our friends in the eastern Canadian Provinces.

Historic House in Framingham with Ties to this Region in Danger of Demolition

In the Preservation newsletter a second article caught my eye, as a home in Framingham MA now owned by a local bank has fallen into a state of disrepair and local residents are mobilizing to try to save the home. Sarah Clayes and her husband originally built the home in 1693 following the infamous Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Sarah Clayes was the sister of Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty and all three of the women were found guilty of practicing witchcraft in Salem and Sarah fled from Salem to Framingham to avoid being executed like her two sisters.

The local advocates who are attempting to organize an effort to save the house are hampered by improper weatherization and vandalism, plus a very “cloudy” title due to the divorce of the last couple to own the house. The all volunteer group that is trying organize the effort to save the house estimates that they will need to raise $2 million to acquire and restore the property and another $2 million to set up an endowment to support the historic house when opened as a museum. Looks like a tall task ahead of the group. I wish them well.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

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