By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – Town Meeting took different paths on two different articles regarding the naming of school property last week, with the hope of arriving at a conclusion that’s satisfactory to everyone by next June.
On Article 21, the meeting voted unanimously to name art room in the new high school in honor of Eleanor C. Dell, a beloved former teacher at NRHS who passed away in January of 2013 and left $625,000 to establish a scholarship fund for NRHS students.
NRHS Principal and Superintendent-elect Jon Bernard said naming the art room in Dell’s honor will preserve her memory and perpetuate her legacy.
Known to her friends and colleagues as Ellie and to many of her students as “Ma Dell,” Eleanor C. Dell taught English at North Reading High School for 30 years. “She was a mentor and a friend to teachers and students and gave generously of her time, energy and loving attention to everyone at the school,” said Bernard. Dell retired in 1994 and passed away in 2013. Last spring her trust donated $625,000 to establish a scholarship fund for NRHS students. “Ellie was dedicated to helping her students succeed and the scholarship fund extends her commitment to future generations of North Reading students,” he added.
While Dell’s main career was as an English teacher, she had wide ranging interests in music and art. She was an art collector and sold artwork at The Pebble, her studio near her summer home in Goose Rocks Beach, Maine.
“She represented artists and displayed their works on the walls of her beach cottage. She loved to be surrounded by art,” said Bernard.
In addition to the scholarship fund, Dell’s trustees also donated $15,000 to equip the new high school and middle school’s 3-D art room and to purchase a plaque in her name. The School Committee voted unanimously to name the room after Dell in recognition of her generosity and love of art. “With her outsized personality, wonderful and irreverent sense of humor and generous spirit, Ellie maintained many close friendships with her former colleagues, students and members of the North Reading community,” Bernard said.
Selectman Stephen O’Leary, NRHS Class of 1972, spoke in support of the motion, saying he was one of many beneficiaries of Dell’s “generosity in sharing her enthusiasm for learning. She was one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had in relation to instilling a love of literature, reading and art and the humanities as a whole. This is a well deserved honor and I wholeheartedly endorse this action,” O’Leary said.
Naming of Middle School
The next and final article in the warrant was a citizens’ petition to name the new Middle School in honor of another beloved teacher, former Middle School vice principal Charles Jones. Pat Lee, sponsor of the article, moved to pass over at this time.
School Committee Chairman Jerry Venezia explained the naming of a school building requires a vote of the School Committee and approval by Town Meeting. The School Committee has a long standing policy dating back to 1974 not to name the Middle School or the High School after any individual.
“We are currently reviewing our policy and will be seeking public input in the near future and will make a decision after carefully weighing the matter,” said Venezia. This would not preclude the school board and the town from naming something else in the Middle School in honor of Jones who, like Dell, inspired a love of learning in generations of students. Jones started and organized the school’s well known western trips for eighth grade students and ran the trips for many years, even after he retired.
Lee commended the School Committee for agreeing to take a look at its policy and taking this as an opportunity to open the matter up to public discussion and consideration.
That signaled the conclusion of the first town meeting held in the new high school and its performing arts center, the first of many to be held for the next 50 years or more.