by Ivan Shadis
“I’ve been to rougher schools than Spaulding,” says Ryan Tran. The 17-year-old is a new student at Barre Technical Center, which shares a campus and many facilities with Spaulding High School. He says that Spaulding students have good personalities and that teachers are kind and loving. He expresses an uncomplicated affection for the school and its people.
“Barre kid” was never a loving refrain, as I heard it while growing up in Montpelier. A Barre kid was rude, rough, and possibly criminal. Tran roundly rejects the stereotype. “This school is a bit of everything,” he says. “There are country people who wear these big boots, that usually have cow manure on them, because they have to do chores and they work on farms … It’s just like kids who like to wear Jordans on their feet, or Nikes, or any fancy shoes. It’s another way of life.”
Spaulderians are aware of their infamy. “Spaulding sometimes feels targeted,” says Cameron Rossi-Crete, a senior, “[Other schools] give Spaulding a bad rap. Just because of where it is–in Barre.” Junior Elysia Manriquez says, “the reputation of Spaulding has kind of become that we are the poorer school. Or the more ghetto school–or, the punks and the rednecks go to Spaulding. I think that that’s just the reputation of Barre right now.”
Both agree that Barre’s blue-collar heritage, as well as the presence of the courthouse and all that comes with it, has long prompted mockery from primmer, better-off communities in the area. Rossi-Crete, who plays on the soccer team, suggests that Spaulding students may sometimes choose to inhabit the caricature put upon them. “When other teams play Spaulding they think we’re just a bunch of rough-and-tumble little hoodlums. … A lot of the kids will hold true to it,” he says of teammates who revel in the opportunity to shock students and parents from preppier schools. But, beneath the tattoos and beards that curl the lips of their opponents, Rossi-Crete says, Spaulding athletes are no more unruly than any others.
All three students agree that Spaulding’s teachers work hard to help students succeed. “The teachers are absolutely amazing,” says Manriquez.
All three also give the impression that students who want to learn get every opportunity to do so. For Rossi-Crete this means enrolling in the new Natural Resources and Renewable Energy Program at Barre Tech. Like Tran, he sees Tech as a path to a job.
Manriquez, who plans to go to college, says Spaulding provides opportunities for everyone, including students who aren’t very engaged. “There are some kids who really do not care and they are put in classes where they will not be challenged. Spaulding is really, really good at seeing that they can get as many people graduated as possible.” She adds that divisions are apparent in the hallways. “Kids who have more money hang out with the kids who have more money-—and the kids who don’t, and live downtown, definitely all hang out together.”
While Tran suggests that a live-and-let-live attitude prevails among these groupings, Manriquez tells a tale of lunchroom bullying—tolerated silently by witnesses—that reminds one that live-and-let-live can also mean apathy and deference to wrong-doers. (Out of respect for the victim’s privacy, The Bridge is not reproducing the story.)
Tran, Rossi-Crete, and Manriquez each said that they did not want to speak for other students—that their perspectives were their own. Still, they were sensitive to the knit of identity and the distinct breeds of student at Spaulding, and had clearly put thought into how to show deference to the students’ differences without denying their common lot—a lesson in balance that some of us could well afford to learn from those Barre kids.