Before the internet and smartphones turned our world upside down, the end of August was time to get ready for school. Do you remember it?
For some of us, it began with a trip to the department store.
Here is a test. Do you remember department stores? Can you still name them? Ready or not, mother would march you into the store to buy new school clothes to replace the ones you liked so much you wore them all summer, except when you were wearing a swimming suit.
Then it was to Woolworths or some other store known as a "Five and Dime" for pens, pencils and paper.
Some of my female friends might remember buying school uniforms. I am told they were universally hated by those required to wear them.
But then, we were the lucky ones. We were lucky enough to be born into families who could afford the cost of new school clothes and uniforms and pens and paper supplies. Today, in our neighborhood, there are lots of kids getting ready for the coming school year who are not as fortunate. And that is why Sue Burge & Co. founded “Set for Success.”
Sue believes in equality. That means that every kid deserves the right to start the school year on an equal footing with the rest of the kids. Sue knows the phrase "All men are created equal," doesn't put pencils and paper in every kid's school desk.
On this Sunday, at the Boothbay “Y,” she and her brave band of fundraising arm twisters will host a party for hundreds of our friends, neighbors, and their children.
It begins with barbecue and dogs, and the chief burger turner will be the schools’ Superintendent Keith Laser.
Then the doors will open, and schoolkids will be marched inside. There they will be directed to pick up the school supplies that their teachers say they should have on day one. They will also get a new backpack in which they can stuff their new supplies. Sue wants everyone to note the backpacks are not cheesy ones. She got them from quality suppliers, like our friends at L.L Bean.
What will it cost the schoolkids and their parents? Nothing, nada, zero bucks. What will it cost it taxpayers? The same, for Sue and her co-conspirators, Nancy Van Dyke, Big Al and the rest of the merry band of volunteer elves, have hustled and donated all the school stuff.
Parents can get lots of other goodies for the kids. Want to get your kid's eyes checked? Just stop at the eye booth where that can happen. You can even get a (gulp) haircut on the house.
The new school superintendent tells me he spent his first year on the job getting to know the school system, the teachers, students, the elected school boards, and committees.
One of the first things he discovered was that it was time to spend a lot of money on the school buildings. It is like your home. Sometimes it is time to paint and fix stuff.
Laser also laughs when he says they had to clean a whole lot of black gunk out of the air vent system. “You know, I can hear the vent fans now,” he said.
So, now that the school maintenance gang has worked through the summer getting ready for the new year, does Superintendent Laser have any advice for the coming year? He sure does. For parents, his message is simple and powerful. “Ask them to love their children. Ask them to get involved with their lives and their teachers. Ask them to do whatever they can to help their kids be successful.”
For the schoolchildren: “Just do your best. Come to school prepared to learn. Be respectful of teachers and others.” For the teachers, he offered a pat on the back. “Do what you have been doing, for you are doing it very well.”
And, for the taxpayers and the community, he wants them to know the schools are focused on preparing the children to succeed in the 21st century. He says the schools are focusing on helping the students acquire the skills they will need to survive in a community, a state, and a nation that is changing at a pace unheard of in history.
For grades pre-k to nine, it all begins on Thursday, Aug. 29. Older students report the next day.