November 1 – Happy Birthday Dr. Reigh Carpenter

Reigh2Raphael J. McNulty had had enough. He told the Amsterdam Board of Education he would retire on November 1, 1964, two months after the new elementary school named in his honor was scheduled to open. The Board moved quickly to replace him. Their choice was a Long Island high school principal who had received his Doctorate in Education from St. John’s University just two year’s earlier. Dr. Reigh Carpenter, his wife Louise and their three daughters came north to Amsterdam that summer and moved into a home on upper Guy Park Avenue. The plan was to have Carpenter work with McNulty for a few months as Associate Superintendent to learn the ropes. When McNulty fell ill that fall, Carpenter took over two weeks early and for the next four years this former WWII gunner shook up the schools and the Amsterdam community with his brash, bold plans for Amsterdam’s educational system.

When it came to change, Carpenter moved at one speed, very fast. After all, he had just completed his doctorate so he was up-to-date with and understood the latest research and trends in the field of education and he was intent on getting some of them introduced to students in this community. He wanted curriculum modernized and teachers retrained. He wanted a library in every school, a television in every classroom and he wanted student learning taking place outside the classroom (aka field trips.) He wanted to build new elementary schools on both the north and south sides of the city that would eliminate the need for several of the existing neighborhood schools. He was a proponent of using a community’s educational system as a driving force behind economic development and he was a champion of co-planning and cooperation with Amsterdam’s city government. He urged the powers that be to build a high-speed monorail system the length of the New York State Thruway to spur upstate commerce and development.

He also was a champion of making schools true community centers, where people of all ages could come to improve their skills and knowledge. His big dream was to construct a Living and Learning Center, which he proposed building alongside the Mohawk River. This Center would serve as a hub of educational, recreational and cultural activities for what Carpenter liked to refer as “the new Amsterdam.” He even went out and obtained a grant from State Ed that funded and approved the site for this Center and for a time it looked as if he would be able to get both the Board and community support he needed to make this dream a reality. But that’s when things turned for Carpenter…

You can read the rest of my story about this Amsterdam educator in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

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