Inspectors Deem Eldredge Safe; School to Reopen

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich, R.I. – After spending most of the day at Eldredge Elementary, structural engineers told school officials Wednesday the main part of the building was safe following a partial ceiling collapse in the school gym Tuesday.

“The engineering group came back and said we were cleared to be in the building,” said Supt. Victor Mercurio Wednesday evening. “We’re still looking at the root causes of the actual ceiling collapse itself.”

“The gym is off-limits, potentially through the rest of the school year,” he said. The classrooms above the gym have been deemed safe, he said.

Mercurio said he also submitted a waiver to the state Department of Education to ask if Eldredge could end the school year with the rest of the schools on June 22. He said he should have an answer in a couple of weeks.

Tests of air quality came back negative for any problems, Mercurio said. 

“We dodged what could have been a very catastrophic event,” he said. “Now it’s just a question what the extent is what the repair is for that facility, but it’s going to be extensive. There’s no question about that.”

Here are a couple of pictures of Eldredge from the year it was built, in 1927, courtesy of Alan Clarke.

Painting the third floor hallway at Eldredge School in 1927.
A classroom at Eldredge School before it opened in 1927.


 

Part of Eldredge Gym Ceiling Collapses During PE Class; No Injuries

The portion of ceiling that fell onto the gym floor at Eldredge Tuesday.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

There will be no school at Eldredge Wednesday so the whole building can be inspected. 

East Greenwich, R.I. – A section of plaster ceiling in the gymnasium at Eldredge Elementary School, including a light fixture, fell Tuesday morning during a third grade gym class. No one was injured.

School officials said the incident happened at approximately 10:55 a.m.  Students and two faculty members were in a different area of the gym at the time. Principal Dan Seger sent an email to parents on Tuesday.

Here’s a portion of that email:

Fortunately, no one was hurt.  Both Ms. Peduto and her students were quite obviously shaken by this event, and we have called in student service supports for anyone requiring them.  The Director of Facilities is on the scene, has locked off the gymnasium, and has contacted the building inspector to review the entire area.  The portion of the facility is closed until further notice.   We are taking all necessary steps to ensure student safety.

“We avoided what could have been very catastrophic,” said Supt. Victor Mercurio Tuesday evening.

He said one student said the collapse looked as if the ceiling came “unzipped.”

According to Mercurio, the ceiling over the gym is a different type than ceilings in the rest of the building but that, as a precautionary measure, ceilings in the entire school will inspected by Halliwell Engineering Associates Wednesday. There will be no school.

“As a precaution, we said, let’s get an engineering firm here and look at the whole building structurally,” said Mercurio. “I want to err on the side of caution.”

In an email sent out to Eldredge families, Mercurio said he would follow up with Wednesday afternoon, “upon completion of this structural engineering review.”

He said the initial inspection showed no sign of asbestos.



 

 

After Summer Exodus, School Department Welcomes 4 New Administrators

The resignations came in a bunch over the summer – first Special Ed Director Brad Wilson and Frenchtown Principal Cheryl Vaughn, then Eldredge Principal Dom Giusti and EGHS Vice Principal Tim Chace. In a district with only six schools, the number of departures was daunting.

But, with the appointment of Dan Seger as Eldredge principal Sept. 19, Supt. Victor Mercurio has managed to fill all four positions. Now, he only needs to find a replacement for Seger, who had been vice principal at Cole Middle School. (Thomas Montaquila is serving as interim vice principal.)

“I have been deeply appreciative of how quickly Victor’s been able to move those hires forward,” said School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark in September. She and Mercurio credited the Transportation Subcommittee for taking on the nitty gritty transportation details this year.

“Last year, I put my head up and it was October,” Mercurio said, referring to the very complicated transportation picture in September 2016 that resulted when the district moved from three tiers to two as well as pushing back the start times for the middle and high schools.

“We’ve been trying to support our superintendent so that he could really do his work,” Mark said.

Here are EG’s new school administrators:

Frenchtown Principal Maryann Crudale

Maryann Crudale is the new principal at Frenchtown School.

For Crudale, being named principal at Frenchtown has been a homecoming – she spent 10 years teaching second grade at the K-2 school. In her final year at Frenchtown, she entered the Principal Residency Network (PRN) and worked closely with then-Principal Vaughn. Feedback from others in the program convinced her that she needed to broaden her elementary ed experience. So, when an opportunity arose to teach fifth grade at Eldredge, she took it.

Then-Eldredge Principal Giusti had also gone through the PRN program.

“I asked if he’d be willing to be my mentor in my last year, and he said absolutely,” said Crudale. After she finished the program, however, she stayed on at Eldredge. She’d been thinking she needed to try to pursue an administrator post when she learned Vaughn was leaving.

“To me, the dream would be coming back to Frenchtown and being able to move it ahead and be that leader of education and of learning and teaching here. But did I ever think that dream would come to fruition? No!” she said.

“I am thrilled.”

According to Rita McGoff, who teaches at Frenchtown, the feeling was mutual. McGoff said she and her fellow teachers gave Crudale a standing ovation at their first meeting of the school year.

Crudale is happy that many of the staff at Frenchtown saw her go through the PRN program.

“The last they knew of me, I was transitioning to be an administrator so it wasn’t as if they didn’t recognize me as a leader. They immediately knew I was here to lead them,” she said. “There’s an excitement about being able to be part of the future of Frenchtown School. This is the foundation – Pre-K to 2. This is the foundation of what our children become in middle school and high school. What better place to be?”

Crudale lives in Cranston. She and her husband have two adult children.

Eldredge Principal Dan Seger

Dan Seger is the new principal at Eldredge Elementary School.

Dan Seger is familiar to anyone who’s had a child at Cole over the past several years. He taught social studies there (on the Rip Tide team) then became vice principal under Principal Alexis Meyer in 2012. Last year, he served as acting principal while Meyer spent the year on a Rhode Island Department of Education fellowship. Seger was planning to resume his role as assistant principal when Eldredge’s Giusti took a job in Coventry (Coventry got Brad Wilson and Tim Chace as well).

“I have a passion for this work, serving kids and families in this respect, so it was a really big opportunity,” Seger said of being a school principal. After a career spent on the middle school level, moving to a school of third through fifth grades has been a change, but it’s not entirely new to him either. He has two children and they happen to be in second grade and third grade.

“There was certainly a draw to this age group,” he said, but he acknowledged he will miss both his colleagues and the students at Cole.

That’s the toll you pay when you transition to a new place,” he said. “The saving grace is they are about a minute’s drive from here.”

Seger said he was very lucky to have worked with Meyer and Giusti (with whom he served on the administrators council).

“They are both principal mentors,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to watch them model this job.”

Seger said he and Giusti share a common philosophy and approach so it was a “natural fit” coming to Eldredge.

“You can certainly see [Giusti’s] impact here. Eldredge has a strong familiar relationship and bond here with the faculty and the rest of the community,” said Seger. “From day one walking in as acting principal, the culture here is so warm, so positive. It immediately resonated when I walked in how tight knit the community is. It’s wonderful to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to many years in this community.”

EGHS Assitant Principal Jeff Heath

Jeff Heath is the new assistant principal at East Greenwich High School.

Jeff Heath thought he wanted to be a college professor. Even in middle school, that had been his dream. But by the time he reached that goal, he’d already had a taste of working with high schoolers and, it seems, the dye was cast. So, after two and a half years teaching at Rhode Island College, Heath took a job at EGHS as vice principal. He started in mid-September.

At RIC, he said, “I had some great conversations with kids that really kind of pushed my thinking about educational philosophy, just education in general and what it could be.”

But, he said, “one of the things I was missing was the teenage age demographic…. I had a hard time personally going through middle school and high school, just finding myself. So I really sympathize with this age group and what they go through on a daily basis. That socio-emotional component was missing when I was at the college. I didn’t expect to miss that but I did.”

He also missed “the daily application of education and seeing the practical fruits of a teacher’s labor,” he said. “On the college level it’s really theoretical.”

Heath found East Greenwich attractive because of the district’s strategic plan.

“I read the strategic plan on the website and I love the focus on the integration of restorative justice as a discipline practiced here,” he said.

Restorative justice is an approach to discipline in which the focus is shifted from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community.

“It places a heavy emphasis on the school community and how every person in this building – staff, student, faculty – has a position in the sense of you’re valued, you belong here. This is a place for you,” said Heath.

“When you deviate from norms that are established in the school then you cause damage,” he explained. The harm may not be tangible – maybe it’s a student who skips class – but it affects the school community so it is looked at from that prism.

Heath said he liked that approach as opposed to demanding that a student sit somewhere for an hour or a day.

As something of an acknowledged tech geek, Heath said he was really happy to be at EGHS, where each student has a Chromebook and teachers and students are encouraged to use technology to further their learning.

“It’s really progressive,” said Heath. “Those are things I don’t see around a lot of schools in Rhode Island.”

Heath and his wife live in Portsmouth with their 8 month old daughter, Jaden, and their dog, Jax.

Director of Student Services Lisa Hughes

Lisa Hughes is the new director of student services for EG schools.

Lisa Hughes was named director of student services for the EG school district on Aug. 18 and she hit the ground running. She had to. In charge of special education, Hughes has a caseload of students in every grade and school, and even a few students who have needs that require schooling out of district.

This is Hughes’s first administration job. Before this, she served as the special education department chair in Scituate.

“Special education has been my life’s work and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said recently. “I have always been drawn to students who learn differently. I’m passionate about inclusive practices and developing a growth mindset for all learners.”

Being director of student services can require a number of skills – listening to parents, working with students, and dealing with sometimes harsh budget realities. Hughes appears undaunted.

“I am honored to be working in this capacity in the East Greenwich schools. The welcoming school community has been wonderful in my transition to this position. I look forward to the challenge of working collaboratively and creatively with all stakeholders to continue the legacy of excellence in this community,” she said.

When asked what she’d found in her first weeks on the job, Hughes said the first month had been “exhilarating!”

She continued, “I have been across the district in meetings, classroom visits, and interacting with our incredible faculty and staff, students, and parents. I love the student-centered problem-solving school culture in East Greenwich. I look forward to continuing to support this rigor and determine other ways in which to advance and celebrate the excellent teaching and learning in this district.”

Hughes – who is in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Johnson & Wales University – lives in Scituate with her two children and, she said, “way too many pets.”

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

First Week of School Gets Mostly Positive Reviews, Except For Bus Woes & Closed Library at EGHS

After a disastrous new bus schedule rollout last fall when the school system went from three tiers to two, the School Committee formed a Transportation Subcommittee that spent hours upon hours revamping the entire East Greenwich bus system. Last week, with the start of the new school year, the new system was put to the test.

What went well: most of the buses got kids to school on time – no small feat with parents snapping first-day photos and young bus riders getting the hang of things. What didn’t go as smoothly: last minute changes were confusing, some children have bus stops a half mile away and buses are crowded. In addition, some parents are protesting the loss of a bus to Cole Middle School for the Hill and Harbor neighborhoods.

“The busing situation has been a nightmare in our household,” said Jenn DeLuise via email. “They took away our bus stop for Meadowbrook and now we drive to a bus stop a half mile away. This was done the night before school started so we had to scramble to figure out how to get the kids to school.”

DeLuise said communication had been “a mess,” and she also was unhappy that her 9-year-old had to cross South Pierce Street on her walk to Hanaford. 

While saving money was one motivating factor behind the bus system recalibration, Transportation Subcommittee head and School Committee member Jeff Dronzek said the whole bus system was outdated and relied on inaccurate information. The subcommittee focused on encouraging parents to fill out the transportation form earlier this summer to gauge just who was using the buses and to see if the district could lower the total number of buses needed. [This paragraph was amended and the quote below added at 10 a.m. Sept. 4.]

“We were more stringent in having the transportation form filled out so we could track those opting out of bus service.  By doing so, we were no longer creating bus seats for people who would never use them,” said Dronzek.

The longer distances between bus stops is one result. As are the more crowded buses. But, he emphasized, they will continue to look at everything as students settle into the school year. That includes those buses – three, he said – that have been arriving late.

“The buses that have run long, we’re going to watch for a week or maybe a bit longer to see if it’s just the start of the year,” Dronzek said. The subcommittee met for three hours Friday. Dronzek said he would have an update at the School Committee meeting Tuesday.

Here’s a roundup of the schools:

Meadowbrook Farms

“Our start has been amazing,” said Principal Neil Marcaccio. “I cannot get over the positive energy and engagement. So proud of our students, staff and families.

Several parents agreed. 

“I would like to comment on the superb team at Meadowbrook, led by Mr. Marcarccio,” said Mara Derderian via Facebook. “We find him to be extremely welcoming and open. His communication and responsiveness has been amazing.” Derderian, who has twins in kindergarten this year, also complemented the kindergarten orientation, calling it “exemplary.”

Christine Dembinski said she was “impressed and appreciative of Mr. Marcaccio’s communication leading up to and during the first week of school.” She said one email the first day was particularly welcome – a message noting that all the buses had arrived and that he’d visited all the classrooms.

New to the district, Kelly Rennick said she was impressed by how organized and prepared the staffs were at both Meadowbrook and Eldredge. “Both of my kids came home happy and excited to go back,” she wrote on Facebook.

Parent DeLuise, who was not happy with the bus situation, did note Principal Marcaccio was one bright spot during the first week.

Frenchtown

Frenchtown Elementary has a new principal this year, Maryann Crudale, but she is not new to the school. Crudale has taught at Frenchtown and Eldredge schools and did a yearlong principal shadowing program at Frenchtown a few years ago. Her familiarity with the school may have helped her get settled quickly – she was only named principal in August.

I have a kindergartener at Frenchtown and was very impressed with the new principal during the orientation,” said Nicole Curley. “She seemed very professional and well-prepared given she was on maybe day three in her new job.”

Hanaford

Hanaford is under construction this year, getting a new, more secure entrance, but that doesn’t seem to have hampered the start of school. A temporary entrance at the other end of the building was set up and Principal Beth Cauley said the first three days had gone about as well as she could have hoped.

“Beth Cauley has been amazing as usual,” said Lisa Pomeroy. “She greets everyone with a smile and by name and is never afraid to jump in with both feet.”

Carla Molina has two daughters at Hanaford this year. “Both of my girls have raved about their experiences so far. They love their teachers and are very excited for the year ahead. Molina also gave a shout out to the Hanaford PTG: “Our PTG has been wonderful about communicating via Konstella and not overwhelming families with information.”

Eldredge

Eldredge also has a new principal this year, Dan Seger, who came to the job after several years at Cole Middle School, first as a social studies teacher, then assistant principal and then as principal last year while Principal Alexis Meyer was participating in a special leadership program.

Seger was named acting principal just before school started.

“The first week as Acting Principal of Eldredge has been a wonderful experience!” he said. “I continue to be very appreciative of the warm welcome and support from the Eldredge community during this time of transition. . . . The biggest immediate challenge will be learning about the students as individuals and as learners, starting with names, of course! Needless to say, I am excited to jump into that work.”

Parent Kelly Rennick, new to EG, said, “At Eldredge, my son’s teacher went out of her way to get him settled, even assigning him some ‘buddies’ to show him the ropes. I was concerned he would be sad with the transition, but he has had nothing but positive things to share.”

Kim Cavanaugh really liked that her third grader was invited to come to school the day before school started, to see the classroom, meet the teachers and even put away school supplies. “It was a good start,” she said.

Cole Middle School

“The start of school went exceptionally well,” said Principal Alexis Meyer. “It was a pleasure to have both staff and students back. Students and staff are pleased to have Mr. Montaquila at Cole [as vice principal]. He is known in the community as he is the grandparent of some EG students. The vast majority of his career was spent as a teacher and administrator in Providence schools.”

Meyer said the biggest challenge might be getting used to the new schedule, but that it’s gone fairly smoothly so far.

Parent Mary Ward said her kids had had a great first week at Cole but she noted that their bus – Bus 13 – was very crowded, with three kids to a seat in many instances. “The third hanging on into the aisle is a safety concern if anything were to happen to the bus,” she said. Bus 13 was one of the buses arriving late to school.

Johanna Paola said her new sixth grader was “loving her first days at Cole.” She said the teachers were great and communication between school and home had been good.

East Greenwich High School

The high school has borne much of the brunt of the staff cuts made by the School Committee when settling the budget in June. In particular, there is no librarian at present so the library is not open to students. In addition, there is no chorus teacher this year and the senior project coordinator position is only half time, after having been full time for the past several years. EGHS is also without an assistant principal for now. Mr. Chace left over the summer to take a job at Coventry High School.

One bright spot was the renovation of the life skills classroom that serves students with significant developmental disabilities.*

The changes to the life skills suite are fantastic and are a wonderful improvement to a space that really needed an update,” said Principal Michael Podraza. “Overall I think it was a very good and positive week. By all accounts new student orientation and professional development were both well received.”

Podraza noted that the school has more students than its had for years – the Class of 2017 was unusually small because kindergarten cutoff moved from Dec. 31 to Aug. 31 that year.

“The building and classrooms feel a bit different now that we are back to all four classes being around 180 to 200-plus students,” he said. “Not having the library open and only having Senior Project support half time are definitely going to be challenges this year. Fortunately our students, faculty and staff are fantastic and seem genuinely energized for a great school year this year.”

“I’m quite upset that the Chorus program at the high school has been cut as well as the lack of a librarian there. Both are completely unacceptable,” said parent Sheila Sanzi via Facebook.

School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said the School Committee would discuss the impact of budget cuts on the high school at its Sept. 19 meeting.

Chromebook distribution was delayed this year, but they arrived late last week and will be distributed starting Tuesday, Podraza said.

Meghan Giannelli said her two children – one a 6th grader at Cole and one a 9th grader at Eldredge – both “came home happy every day last week. Both had great things to say about their teachers and had lots of stories to tell about the cool things they did in class. Great start to the school year,” she said.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

* Full disclosure: My son is a student in the life skills classroom.

Summer’s End Is Friday!

In addition to the Navy Band Northeast Pops Ensemble, there will be four opening acts selected from a special audition concert at the Odeum last spring.

 It’s time to pull together your picnic supplies, chairs and a cozy blanket – the annual Summer’s End concert takes place on Friday, Sept. 1, at Eldredge Field. The Navy Band Northeast Pops Ensemble is headlining again this year with its usual roster of standards, show tunes and patriotic songs. What’s special this year are the 4 opening acts culled from an original list of 40 submissions in a selection process that took place during the spring. Those 40 acts were narrowed to 12 for a show at the Odeum, with 4 eventual winners.

“It was a much more thorough process than we’ve ever done before,” said Summer’s End President Phil Nutting. “We’re very excited by the quality of the acts.”

Summer’s End 2014.

Local talent Sophie Speca and Maggie Callan – EGHS juniors – will start off the music at 5:30, with Sophie on guitar and Maggie on vocals.

At 6 p.m., Victor Main takes the stage. Main is a guitarist whose performances are tinged with classical, jazz and folk influences.

Country singer Bethany Lynn begins performing at 6:30 p.m. Her performance might include a yodel or two.

The final opening act, on at 7 p.m., is the Billy Harpin Band, a trio from Northern RI who play rock covers and some of their own compositions.

The Navy Band will begin at 7:45 this year.

Nutting thanked sponsors, especially two new sponsors: The Savory Grape and Pierre R. Michaud MD. The Town of East Greenwich is also an important sponsor which, in addition to a financial contribution, provides logistical support and police, fire and rescue assistance throughout the event.

Gates at Eldredge open at 4 p.m. While the event is free thanks to sponsors and individual donors, donations are encouraged Friday ($20 is suggested). Bring your own food or pick up food from vendors at Eldredge. No pets allowed.

And, while we’re on the subject of Summer’s End, Nutting said they are in need of new board members. If you have fundraising or event planning experience, or just love Summer’s End and have some hours to give, send an email to summersendinfo@gmail.com. Learn more about Summer’s End at their website here.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

School Updates: Resignations at EGHS, Eldredge; Teachers End of ‘Work to Rule’

Two more school administrators submitted their resignations last week, bringing to four the number of vacancies in top positions in the East Greenwich public schools just weeks from the start of the new school year. Eldredge Principal Dom Giuisti and EGHS vice principal Tim Chace both announced last week they have taken jobs in Coventry. They join former Director of Student Services Brad Wilson there, who resigned in June. Cheryl Vaughn, who had been principal of Frenchtown Elementary for 13 years, has taken a job in Cumberland.

“We are immediately posting the positions and the hope is to find good candidates and to get people in place if not on the first day of school then shortly thereafter,” said School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark. Interviews have been taking place for both the Frenchtown job and the director of student services position and Mark said she hopes to be able to vote to fill those positions at a special meeting Friday at 8 a.m.

“Everybody’s who leaving has left us in a good place in terms of getting the new year started,” Mark said. “Better for it to happen now than to happen three weeks from now.”

As to why so many administrators have decided to leave now, Mark said she wasn’t sure but suggested that recent budget challenges may have played a role.

“I’m very concerned that the last six months in East Greenwich has just tipped things and has caused people to make the decisions they’ve made,” Mark said. “We haven’t always been able to pay top dollar but East Greenwich has always been a great place to work.”

With the situation less certain, she said, perhaps “there were other opportunities out there and they decided to seize them.”

On a more positive note, the teachers union voted last week to end “work to rule,” a protest tactic that had teachers refusing to take part in any activities outside the exact hours of the school day.

“I have not officially been notified that work to rule has been called off,” said Mark. “I was delighted to read about it on Facebook. If it’s true, then, yay! I’m really looking forward to a fresh start and working with the teachers to make sure it’s a great year.”

Last year was tough, Mark said, acknowledging the difficult teacher contract negotiations.

“But at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team. I just really appreciate that they are going to go into the new year with a fresh start.”

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Muckleball in the Mud

https://mmafootball.files.wordpress.comBy Bruce Mastracchio

Growing up in East Greenwich, as I have said numerous times, was a unique experience. Three separate and distinct areas of town: a shore and cove, a Main Street, and farmlands made it different from almost anything else I have encountered. I have been in all 50 states, and talked to a lot of people so I think I have some cred in saying so. The experiences could have been had by almost anybody, but not quite like those we experienced here.

As kids here just about every day was taken up with sports. On vacations we left the house at 7 in the morning and played and romped ‘til suppertime, then went back out again for more games or whatever adventure or plan popped up.

Most of us dreamed of playing for the Avengers, the Crimson & White of EGHS. We wouldn’t think of going elsewhere to play. Hometown born and hometown bred, most of us were. Not everyone, some still left town for the Catholic high schools, but even some of them came back.

Our training grounds were the fields and streets of EG. We played tackle football in the street, a good preparation for what was to come (another story for later).

Another earlier prep for football was a game called MuckleBall, which was indigenous (to the best of my knowledge) to Eldredge Elementary School.

A while back I introduced a version of this game to the kids in a private school where I worked. I gave them the history of it, and, of course, a little story. Not sure if they understood, but it will reach them down in the depths, eventually, just like it reaches everybody else.

So, today, in this version, I will talk about MuckleBall, and Eldredge, and the game and let you translate it anyway you want. To how you played your version or not, or whatever.

Remember, you only get to dance here for a short time, so always live in the present, and look to the future. But, don’t forget the past, especially the good times. You can learn a lot from the past, and the good memories always make me smile, especially when I am dancing my way across the mountains of the moon. It is good to smile. I have to smile, and dance, just to keep from crying.

Muckleball was a  game that was peculiar to Eldredge School and field. It was kind of like a “King of the Hill” football, and I’ve never seen or heard of it being played elsewhere, though I suppose it was. Of course, now, I have introduced it in a few other climes.

We had our own sandlot football teams. Later it was junior high school football (they wouldn’t let me play – too small), and then, of course, the ultimate for us town kids, who grew up living and dying with the legend and lore of this town.

The realization of our dream. Donning the Crimson and White and playing for the East Greenwich High School Avengers, E>G> or Grenitch as we called it.

But, muckleball was played before that. It was a training ground, so to speak, to see what you were made of. It was only played at Eldredge during our younger years and was played before school or at noontime  recess, which lasted an hour in those days. An hour really being an hour, not 45 or 50 minutes as they say today.

The rules were simple – one ball and 20 or 30 screaming kids. One kid gets the ball. Everyone else tries to muckle him. That translates to tackle him. Pulverize him. Crush him. Make him give up the ball. Once “muckled,” the ballcarrier had one or two choices. He could get up again and give it another try. Or, he could toss the ball to another victim, and give him a chance to get creamed.

For the ballcarrier the strategy was simple. If you were fast you turned on the jets and motored out of harm’s way. Of course, if you were fast enough to outrun everybody then your would hear cries of “chicken” in your ears and your only recourse would be to reverse course and run back at the pack of boys chasing you, who were just waiting to get a shot at you to knock the snot out of you.

Again if you were muckled you could get up again and keep the ball, or toss it to some other unfortunate. You could be tackled in a numerous number of ways. Some boys would hit you with a regular tackle with shoulder and arms around the waist or legs and drag you down.

Some might hit you with a “billy goat” bump to take you off your feet and others would just jump in the air and wrap you with a flying headlock to hurl you viciously to the ground.

Most  times if you were the victim of a single tackle, it wasn’t so bad. But, when a slew of boys hit you at once, it could hurt, and even result in injury. They would pig-pile you to the ground and the boys coming up behind would jump on the pile crushing those underneath.

The best players were usually the best athletes. Mick was among the best I ever saw, along with Pini and Fats. Of course, Mick was full grown in the sixth grade and he just crushed you when he ran into you. Fats was a crusher too, while Pini combined speed, quickness and toughness all in one, and could run away from you, around you, or through you, sometimes all at once. He was only 5’2” tall but started varsity in all three sports as a freshman and, not just played, but starred. Muckleball never got him. High school sports couldn’t stop him either. Grades did though. As big as Mick was he was hurt though most of his high school career. Fats never played. But others from that Muckleball Field went on to don the Crimson and do quite well.

I never saw Ducky play muckleball, but based on what I saw of him on the gridiron, I think he might have done all right. Muckleball was just a test along the road of life as you might say. One of the “rites of passage” for us EG kids. Most of us used it as a proving ground, and tough as it was it never hurt as much as tackle football on the asphalt street at Tar Ucci’s Memorial Stadium. We all wanted to prove we were tough enough to play for the Avengers. EG was the smallest school in the state, with only 90 boys at the time and, in my day,we went up against bigger schools like Cranston HS (not East), which came out with 107 players dressed to our 33. We tied them, but beat bigger schools like Woonsocket, Barrington, South Kingstown and North Kingstown, who were two and three times bigger than we were. We reveled in playing for our hometown team and as kids we couldn’t wait for that to happen.

It’s funny, I’ve been to a lot of places. Kids today don’t seem to have the same feeling for sports that we had. We knew the high school players and what they had accomplished. We knew the legends of the past, semi-pro too. We wanted to be in their shoes one day. They played the high school games at Eldredge Field, too, right where we played our muckleball games.

They walked over from the Academy and we walked with them. I used to collect all the player’s capes and pile them over me  like I was a manager, and thus, walk through the gates without having to pay.

We reveled in their season. Their ups and downs. The rivalries. We looked forward to the Columbus Day and Thanksgiving Day games. It took on special meaning when we got to high school and played North Kingstown, our bigger rival from right down the road.

We owned them, even though they were a bigger school, and have owned them over the years. Since 1958, I don’t think they’ve won more than 10 times. We just expected to win and then go home and enjoy our Thanksgiving Day dinner. We relished enjoying our turkey dinner and spoiling theirs.

There was no doubt about it. Sure, the games were tough, but we’d had our training in muckleball and street tackle, and what could be tougher than that? When you’ve taken on the world how could a few paltry Skippers from NK stop you. That’s how we felt. That’s why we won.

Since those muckleball games and high school games, many fields have known my sound.Thanksgiving has been spent in California, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts and Nevada (and now back in Rhode Island). But the time frames still bring back memories of Eldredge, the high school games and muckleball.

MuckleBall in the mud. In March. What could be better than that?

This story is dedicated to all of the “old gang.” To those who played muckleball, street tackle and ever donned the Crimson & White for old EG High, and put it on the line on those crisp, fall, Saturday afternoons, and especially, on Thanksgiving Day in November.

GOOOOOOOO, GRENITCH ” as Dave Baker’s Mother used to say.

Bonus:

Stand up and cheer     
Stand up and Cheer for
East Greenwich High School
For today
we may
Crimson & White
Above the rest          
Above the rest
Oh give a cheer
OUR BOYS
are fighting
For they are bound to win the fray
We’ve got
THE TEAM!     
RAH RAH
We’ve got  
THE STEAM!   
RAH RAH
For it’s East Greenwich High School’s Day!!!


Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich and had the pleasure of growing up among these colorful characters and even knowing more than a few of them. They made life interesting.

Health Dept. Cafeteria Violations for Cole, EGHS & Eldredge

eghsLast week’s article by GoLocalProv outlining the 50 school cafeterias with the highest number of health department violations found three EGSD cafeterias on the list – at East Greenwich High School, Cole Middle School and Eldredge Elementary.

Aramark did not respond to EG News’s request for a comment but Supt. Victor Mercurio put out this message on Friday:

This week GoLocal ran an article on health department food services inspections of schools in Rhode Island. The article referenced citations given to Eldredge, EGHS, and Cole Middle School. As is it has done in response to all of the recommendations cited by the GoLocalProv article in the review conducted in October, the school district has (as it did immediately after the issues were brought to its attention in October) and will continue to work with our vendor Aramark and facilities/maintenance staff to ensure that all of the schools in the district are state standard compliant. Student, faculty, and staff health and wellness are top priorities for the district. As such, while the particulars of the responses enacted by Aramark and the district will be discussed as an upcoming School Committee agenda item, I wanted to assure the members of our community in the interim that any substandard review of any of our facilities is unacceptable and that we have and will continue to work with our vendor Aramark to take aggressive steps to take any corrective action necessary to ensure cleanliness, compliance, and student safety.

Aramark will be at next Tuesday’s School Committee meeting (March 10) to discuss the situation. Here are more details about the violations – each school name is hyperlinked to its page on the R.I. Health Department website.

East Greenwich High School

Visits from RI Dept. of Health in the past three years:

Oct. 22, 2014

5 violations, including for failing to have a food safety manager on site and a deli slicer that was in poor repair

Oct. 7, 2014 (by a 3rd party auditor)

4 violations, for old mouse droppings in a storeroom floor and milk crates stored on the floor instead of raised up at least 6 inches

March 25, 2014 (by a 3rd party auditor)

2 violations – for old mouse droppings in a storeroom floor and an improper defrosting method

Cole Middle School

Visits from RI Dept. of Health in the past three years:

Oct. 29, 2014

8 violations, including for a dirty can opener, lack of food labeling for items like flour that are out of their original packaging, and the use of single-use containers (such as yogurt containers) as scoops.

Oct. 7, 2014 (by a 3rd party auditor)

3 violations, including no thermometer in the freezer and a dirty can opener

March 25, 2014 (by a 3rd party auditor)

4 violations, including taco meat at 120 degrees instead of 135 degrees, and workers not wearing hair restraints properly.

Eldredge Elementary School

Visits from RI Dept. of Health in the past three years:

Feb. 26, 2015

6 violations, including for improper handwashing signage, a dirty can opener, and salad dressing requiring refrigeration stored without it.

Oct. 15, 2014 (by a 3rd party auditor)

5 violations, including a sneeze guard on the salad bar that needed to be lower, a dirty soap dispenser and an entrance from the outside lacking a tight-fitting door.

April 2, 2014 (by a 3rd party auditor)

7 violations, including unclean non-food surfaces, an entrance from the outside lacking a tight-fitting door and dirt in the freezer

The other schools had fewer violations but here they are:

Hanaford had 2 violations on Oct. 14, 2014, and 3 violations on April 1, 2014

Frenchtown had 5 violations on Jan. 15, 2015, and 4 violations on Oct. 14, 2014, and 5 violations April 1, 2014

Meadowbrook had 4 violations on Oct. 14, 2014, and 2 violations April 1, 2014.


Sign up for the EG News newsletter  here. You can like us on Facebook  here, or follow us on Twitter (@egreenwichnews)  here.

And, if you like what you’re reading, consider supporting East Greenwich News by clicking here.

 

Queen of the Sweetheart Dance

www.myvlink.orgPrejudice is a funny thing. We are all prejudiced in our own way. Some of us like chocolate ice cream. Some like vanilla. Me? Well, I like frozen pudding and pistachio flavored ice cream. But, then again, I always was different.

Growing up here, in the smallest town, in the smallest state, in the greatest  country in the world, third rock from the sun, I was exposed to a lot of ethnicity.

Not diversity, which I didn’t encounter until I traveled out West,but ethnicity. A small world granted, but a world still of Italians, Irish, French, Germans. Polish, Swedish, Jewish, African-Americans, WASPs and the like.

East Greenwich was a true melting pot and I don’t think I ever encountered real prejudice until I got to college.

I was also lucky to have a friend who was wise beyond his years and who was a beacon of tolerance. His ideas were way ahead of not only his peers, but the town as a whole, including a lot of adults.

His nickname was Picks. He was the son of the Episcopalian pastor in town and he was the model for who you might want your child to be. He was gifted in every area, be it athletics, academics, art, music, the whole kit and kaboodle.

Of course, we did not always look at him as “perfect” like our parents did, as he had a devilish side to him, and a bit of rebelliousness too.

But, we did appreciate the things he brought into our lives.

He introduced us to the Cape (Provincetown, in particular), a quiet reflection on things, the mysteries of the hooded monk, and books we never would have thought to read on our own.

He was kind of a crew-cut hippie. A boy ahead of his time. He practiced acceptance and tolerance, and love your neighbor, and freedom of thought and action, way before they ever became the buzzwords of the day.

Girls were on his mind constantly, and even though he was the son of the pastor of St.Luke’s, he had a different outlook on religion and death and dying. He died too young himself, before I ever really thanked him for all the gifts he gave to me.

With Picks, there was always more than one way to skin a cat, and he explored all of them in just about everything he did.

So, I dedicate this particular story to Gyppy, the last Earth Mother of their clan, and also to Bertha C., Ella M., Strunge, Bubba Jay, and to Ruthie, my first date, and to anyone who can remember going to a Sweetheart Dance at Eldredge, or even at the Swift Gym.

February, Valentine’s month. Usually a cold, wet, muddy month replete with more than enough storms for Rhode Islanders. It is a month for a lot of indoor activity. As students at Eldredge, we could stay in for the hour-long noon recess period and watch movies and cartoons that Mr. Cole (principal-superintendent) used to get to while away that hour on a cold, dreary winter day. Or, on other days we participated in indoor, low-org games like dodgeball, basketball and such. Eldredge was a grade 1-7 school. The high school held grades 8-12. From grades 1-4, maybe even grade 5, boys did not give much thought to girls. But, all that soon changed in grades 6 and 7.

From kindergarten up, you observed the older kids from the relative safety of the upper playground as they cavorted on the big field below. Not only did you hope to one day access that turf, but as you advanced grade by grade, you began to notice a difference in the sexes.

Dances were acceptable forms of recreation once you reached the sixth grade.

You went from harassing girls to eating lunch with them, and maybe, if you were lucky, walking your favorite, hand in hand, home from school.

In the seventh grade, dances were not only acceptable, but also much anticipated – a case of emerging hormonal buildup I guess, and the school obliged with events like the Welcome Dance, the Harvest Dance, the Christmas Ball, and in February, the Sweetheart Dance.

I don’t know why Picks decided, in our seventh grade year, to go stag to the Sweetheart Dance, but he did. He had his reasons, I guess.

I had a girlfriend (if that’s what you call a seventh grade crush) and had taken her to a couple of dances already, but Picks wanted to go stag, so go stag we did, me not being the fearless, take charge guy that I am today.

When we got to the dance we found almost everyone else paired up. However, we were determined that was not going to stop us, or slow us down a bit. We just jumped in with both feet and went about having ourselves a good time. Besides, you don’t have to have a date to fill up on cookies and punch, and I was definitely top notch in that department.

Not long into the evening Picks noticed that no one was dancing with Lillian Johnson, who had also come stag. He mentioned it to me and said he was going to ask her to dance. After he danced with her, he asked me to dance with her. I was a little reluctant, but agreed to do it.

We danced with Lillian. We danced with other girls. We danced in the group dances. We went back and danced with Lillian. We all had a great time, and, because of Picks’ unselfishness, Lillian had a great time too.

Oh, we spread ourselves around! But, we made sure that not too many dances went by before we included Lillian again. We did the Hokey Pokey, the North-South-East-West, the Bunny Hop, the Box and a few others.

In short, we had a good time and we were more than a little disappointed when the witching hour of 10 p.m. came. Still, we had a great night and went home full of ourselves and happy.

The next day my mother received several phone calls. Picks’ father did too.

Remember, it was the early ‘50s, and even though we were up north, it did not mean that everyone clung to the same ideas of what was considered right and proper. We had our rednecks too, even if some of them were blue bloods.

People called to tell my mother. Or, tell her off. The Reverend Pickells got the same. My mother said nothing to me at the time, but Picks told me later what it was all about.

You see, though we as kids had never really seen, or experienced prejudice, we were not privy to the thoughts and actions of the adult world. Behind their Sunday smiles and friendly handshakes, some people still fell prey to the seven sins and the devil’s thoughts.

Picks told me that the reason people called was because we had done something unthinkable, even here in peaceful, quiet East Greenwich! People called to ask my mother and his father why we had danced with Lillian Johnson.

You see, Lillian Johnson was the only black girl in our class!

So, there you have it. A true story. Happened right here in little, old East Greenwich. Whatever people thought. Picks and I always thought it was the right thing to do. I still think that.

I never got to thank Picks for that. He drowned off the Cape on a cold winter day, very much like the ones we get in February. Had he lived, I eventually would have thanked him for that lesson.

He’s probably up there now looking down at me and smiling.

We never have friends like those we have when we’re 12. Or do we?


Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich and loves telling stories of his boyhood in a simpler time, in a small town, filled with outstanding people, amazing characters and adventures by the barrel full.

Eldredge Students ‘Trot’ Canned, Dry Goods to Food Pantry

For the fourth year in a row, the student body of Eldredge Elementary School marched from their school down Prospect Street to the food pantry at St. Luke’s Church, carrying the nonperishable foodstuffs collected during November.

The Eldredge “Turkey Trot” was supposed to take place before Thanksgiving, but was delayed to Monday because of the cold, rainy weather last Tuesday. They got a perfect day for “trotting.”

In all, the students collected 807 canned and dry goods for the East Greenwich Interfaith Food Pantry. For pantry director Steve Bartlett, it’s a win-win.

“This is just a wonderful event for both the children and the food cupboard. We will have our storerooms full because of this and that will carry us through February,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful thing that the teachers do.”

The drive has been shepharded by three Eldredge teachers in particular: music teacher Mary Smith, special education teacher Bonnie Correira, and 4th grade teacher Kara Ratigan.

“It’s so important for the kids to get involved and it’s an easy way for them to get involved in a way that’s meaningful for them,” said Smith. “It’s going right back into their community.”