Letter: Tribute to man who rebuilt schools
With the untimely passing of Stephen D. Barry, Pittsfield lost a lifelong resident who contributed significantly to the quality of life in our community.
In the 1990s, Steve, along with his brothers John and Bill, assembled an architectural team from Boston and Albany to respond to the renovation and reconstruction needs of the Pittsfield Public Schools. Pittsfield had seven schools eligible for improvements -- two middle and five elementary schools, all built in the 1950s. While fine schools in their day, the passage of 45 years brought to them a deterioration in both the efficiency of mechanical systems and the quality of useful educational space.
According to the building formula Massachusetts used in the 1990s, Pittsfield had to begin the seven school projects in four years or lose state funding. Once the financial backing of the community, School Committee, City Council and mayor were secured, Barry Architects set out to redesign our educational space. Among the many design improvements our schools received were full-size kindergartens with bathrooms, special education learning centers, fully handicapped accessible buildings, upgraded science rooms with full laboratory capabilities, and new energy-efficient boilers, heating systems, lighting and windows.
Steve and his team of architects met frequently with school and parent groups to tailor designs to fit the unique qualities of each school and neighborhood. Parking lots were recreated to safely separate buses from student walkers and parent drivers. Playgrounds and gyms were upgraded to accommodate vigorous physical activity and support after-school community athletic needs.
Steve conducted countless construction meetings with the on-site contractors and trades groups to anticipate problems, speed construction, resolve many complex issues and see that these seven projects came through on time and on budget and that all remained of high quality. Throughout, Steve's cheerful, witty personality and tenacious commitment served Pittsfield well.
The improvements to Pittsfield's Public Schools represented a crowning educational achievement. As the bar for educational standards was being raised in Massachusetts and the nation, our students and faculty were able to keep pace with these demands, in large part because our new facilities supported more rigorous learning opportunities. Through Steve Barry's persistence, vision and leadership, Barry Architects guided our community to prepare the Pittsfield Public Schools for the 21st Century. Steve's civic commitment to his hometown will be sorely missed.
WILLIAM D. TRAVIS
The writer is the former superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools.