Cheshire Elementary students, staff send letters to sports teams for school funds
Photo Gallery | Cheshire Elementary sends appeal letters to sports teams
CHESHIRE — This will probably be a lesson they'll never forget.
Last week, all 236 students and Cheshire Elementary School's nearly 50 faculty and staff members used their literacy block periods to write letters of appeal for school improvement funds. Teachers taught their students the art of hand writing a "friendly letter," by crossing their t's, dotting their i's, saying "please" and "thank you," and writing sincerely.
On Friday, the whole school walked to the Cheshire Post Office and one by one sent their letters out, some with kisses or whispered wishes of "good luck."
The recipients? Athletes, coaches, office and other staff for the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.
"We're struggling," said Principal Peter Bachli. "The town of Cheshire has always been supportive of the school, but at some point, you can't get blood from stone."
The district started planning fiscal 2016 with a $1 million budget deficit, and already weighs in at about $1,500 below the state average for per pupil spending.
While watching kids go in and out of the school each day, wearing New England sports teams' jerseys, Bachli was inspired to initiate the school letter-writing campaign.
"You read about a ballplayer getting $21 million to play a season and wonder," he said, noting that many sports teams and individual players and executives do donate their time and money to charities and towards supporting others.
He said he got full buy-in from teachers and subsequently students. "I did hear from some people that they were bothered by the fact that the kids now know where our shortfalls are, but I think it's important for them to be aware," the principal said.
In his own cover letter, mailed with the students' appeals, he writes: "The Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics are all a source of pride for our Bay State residents. Our public schools should be too."
Fourth grader Donald Bradley touted his New England pride by wearing a Patriots pullover and mailing a letter to Red Sox all-star David "Big Papi" Ortiz on Friday.
"Our computers are really bad. They're from 2007 and always breaking," he said.
Walking back with him from the post office, Bradley's classmate Chloe Whitman said, "We need money, not in a greedy way, but just so we don't have to close our library."
Bachli said budget cuts included the loss of the school's librarian. A stack of copies of student letters and pictures, from pre-kindergarten to Grade 5 classes, highlighted other issues the school currently faces: A lack of 21st-century technology, a lack of music and physical education staff, aging textbooks, a lack of security cameras and a dilapidated roof.
"Our school needs a lot of work," third grader Ryo Bevins explained in his letter to the Patriots' Travaris Cadet. "We need to replace the roof because the melting snow is leaking and making the tiles look like rotten cheese. The room I'm standing in is from 1922. Every time the heater kicks on water spits everywhere and makes the books on the floor soggy."
"The kids took to the project right away. I was really surprised," said fourth-grade teacher Laurie Cantarella. "The more we talked about it, their writing became more passionate because they wanted to make a change."
Regardless of the response the school might get, Principal Bachli told the students, "This is a win anyway because you did something positive and are fighting for a good cause."
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