Identity Crisis

Melissa Stagnaro

Like many, I am caught between the numerous boundary lines which seem to criss-cross the Chenango County map with no apparent rhyme or reason.

Technically, I live in the Town of Smithville. But if you ask me where I’m from, that’s probably not how I will respond. My address is Greene, so sometimes that name will come out of my mouth when the question is posed. But most often, I say I’m from Oxford. Why? Because that is where I went to school.

Near and dear to my heart, is the Middle School, where I spent grades four through eight. Since I graduated, it has remained a symbol of learning to me. And I have always felt a connection with the countless students that have been educated in those hallowed halls in its long history.

In my years as a student, Oxford was by no means a wealthy district, but we were always rich in history. The fact that Oxford Academy was one of the first chartered academies west of the Hudson River has long been a source of community pride. And now that heritage, that pride, is being threatened. And not by an outside force, but the very school board and administration itself.

I had, of course, heard rumors that plans were in the works to discontinue use of that stately building as an institution of learning. And while I knew that discussions were under way about a potential building project, I wrote off much of the gossip I encountered as just that.

So it was quite the shock when the first words I heard when I entered last night’s school board workshop were “demolition” and “Academy building” used in the same sentence. I know, I know. They are not discussing tearing the whole thing down. Just one wing. It’s still a desecration.

Oxford Academy’s class of 1993, of which I am proud to be a part, was not a close knit group. If the truth be told, we could barely stand one another. Yet we were also fiercely competitive and always came together when challenged. The only thing we managed to do as a team was win Spirit Week all four years we were in the High School. This was no small feet. We were one of only a hand full of freshman classes to succeed in this coup of the upper classes and the first class in the school’s history to manage it four years running.

It is this same spirit that many in the community feel regarding what they see as a threat to the historic Middle School building. I hope they will get out and show that spirit, and use their combined voice, at the next school board meeting on November 10.