Parents and community members ponder Gateway’s strengths at forum

HUNTINGTON – The Gateway Regional School District invited parents and community members for pizza and brainstorming at a second Gateway 2025 visioning forum on Wednesday evening. About twenty-five residents came to share their thoughts and hopes for the district at the event, which was sponsored by Mass 1 to 1, which also paid for child care.
Following food and conversation, participants were split into three groups, to discuss three main topics which emerged from the first forum in February: improving student opportunities, increasing parent involvement and support and marketing Gateway programs to others.
High School and Junior High School principal Jason Finnie, Assistant Principal Anthony Sabonis and Elementary and Middle School principal Megan Coburn led the group discussions, while Gateway superintendent Dr. David B. Hopson served as the timekeeper for the hour-long discussion. Representing the School Committee were members Martha Otterbeck and Shirley Winer of Chester, and Tara Balboni of Russell.

Seventh grader Parker Atkin attended the Gateway 2025 visioning forum on Wednesday.  "If I could get a say why wouldn't I want to share my opinion and make a difference," Atkin said. (Photo by Amy Porter)

Seventh grader Parker Atkin attended the Gateway 2025 visioning forum on Wednesday. “If I could get a say why wouldn’t I want to share my opinion and make a difference,” Atkin said. (Photo by Amy Porter)

One of the comments heard consistently throughout the room was the need to turn the message about Gateway in the community to a positive one, highlighting its strengths, including the quality of its teachers, small classrooms, and beautiful facility.
Ideas on how to market the school included creating a brochure for real estate professionals, highlighting its strengths, and also putting a virtual tour and teacher biographies on its website.
Also important to the attendees were opportunities for both students and teachers in the creative arts and elective courses.
Parker Atkin, a seventh grader who participated in the forum, said for him band and drama were “incredibly” important, and one of the first things considered for budget cuts.
“If they cut music, a lot of my friends wouldn’t go to Gateway,” Atkin, who plays trumpet and piano, said.
Finnie said one of the reasons the high school went to a seven-period schedule was to add all of the electives that people wanted to take.
One idea that started to take shape at the forum was getting the community involved in building a playgroup for Littleville Elementary School, which currently doesn’t have one. “It would bring the community together,” one parent said, suggesting it be accessible to the public on the weekends.
In order to get parents more involved in the school, a database of volunteers that tapped into what parents like to do was suggested, along with a monthly listing of volunteer opportunities. Another suggestion was to get students at the high school level more involved in volunteering in the community.
One difficulty mentioned in involving parents was their having to choose between leaving their kids at home and attending meetings.
“Last year, if we had four more people in Chester say yes (at the annual meeting), we wouldn’t have had to go through December for a budget,” Hopson said to the group.
At the end of the brainstorming session, Hopson said that all of the comments would be gathered and posted on the Gateway website, along with comments from the first forum.
“If I could get a say why wouldn’t I want to share my opinion and make a difference,” Atkin said following the meeting about why he attended the forum.

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