Ritchie knows uniting New London is a great start
New London – And so another school year commenced in the 06320 Tuesday, a time for hope and wonder and renewal, not easily digestible themes in this, the Land of Personality Conflicts.
Maybe that’s why superintendent Cynthia Ritchie, the new sheriff in central office, trumpets such an enduring message. She cannot sprinkle pixie dust and instantly change the rhythms of the city and its children. But she can utter the one word that promotes productive change.
I sat down with her last week to chat (a wonderful conversation, by the way) and these were the words she kept repeating: United. Together. Us.
I nearly wept. Not necessarily because it’s such an uplifting message, but because Ritchie, in just a few months here, identified the pox on the house.
In the old days, there was a joke about a Red Sox team whose players hated each other: 25 players, 25 cabs. Same with this school system. Awash in personality conflicts that impede progress. Put it this way: Plenty of social commentators already mock New London. So if the dramatis personae inside the system aren’t united, what are the odds any real change happens?
Which is where we’ve been for a while. There’s never a center. No communal agreement. A million little bits of distractive noise that do nothing more than service, reinforce and intensify the predispositions that created the destructive personality conflicts in the first place.
Ritchie will do her best to spread the testament of together among her people. Hope they’re willing to listen.
Meanwhile, what of the rest of us? Are we willing to support the kids of the city in more meaningful ways?
Volunteer in one of the schools?
Show up at the football game Friday night?
Pay off overdue lunch accounts based on the belief that kids have bigger worries than whether they’ll eat that day?
How about being a better parent?
There are many, many ways for the community to mimic the rhythms of togetherness espoused in the Gospel of Ritchie.
I’ve always found sports to be the great community uniter, although society’s fixation with winning often trumps the overall metaphorical richness sports provide. But showing up to watch the games — as well as to concerts and plays — is an easy way to show the kids the most important thing we can show them: what they do matters.
Example: A number of community leaders went to the middle school Tuesday to greet the kids on their first day. One greeter grinned and called the scene “raucous,” alluding to how a bunch of people, simply by showing up, created positive vibes for the kids. Go figure: Get community leaders to school on the first day, thus proving in simplicity there is poetry.
And isn’t that what’s required? Show up. Be there for the kids. As Henry Ford once said: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”
I’m sure a number of you, if you’ve made it this far through today’s discourse, have dismissed this as more idealistic drivel. Know what? Free country. You want to be miserable? Enjoy. Your time is too valuable than to spend it with kids who might sound different, look different and think different? I pity you. You don’t know what you don’t know.
But I wonder about more forward thinkers who have the time and means to take whatever talents God gave them and to simply share them. It probably won’t cost you a dime. Just your time.
How about you?
Because here is where we are right now: I can’t say Ritchie is going to be a home run or a swing and a miss here. Too early. Many personalities and problems to navigate. But her opening message speaks to the core of New London’s troubles. She gets it.
This is bigger than any one person and his or her opinions. This is about moving a school system forward. Together.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro