Student makes successful case to keep ‘Molly’

Molly Ockett - artwork by Arla Patch for Bethel's Molly Ockett Day celebration.

Molly Ockett - artwork by Arla Patch for Bethel's Molly Ockett Day celebration.

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Everywhere Luke Sekera-Flanders looked, he could see change.

As the new elementary school and Molly Ockett Middle School slowly take shape, the idea was floated that a name change could be in order for the new K-8 facility.

SAD 72 Superintendent of Schools Jay Robinson proposed a “Name the School” contest.

Luke, however, wants to keep the name the same, and penned a convincing argument in early June to keep “Molly Ockett.”

SAD 72 directors agreed. Last week, board members decided to call the new school facility, “The Molly Ockett School.”

Luke’s effort didn’t go unnoticed. He was recently acknowledged for his work during Molly Ockett Days in Bethel.

The MESA seventh-grader’s piece, entitled “Molly Ockett Rededication — 200 Year Anniversary,” follows:

Fryeburg is a small rural town in western Maine, well-known for its annual Fryeburg Fair each fall season. Long before this centerpiece event put Fryeburg “on the map” of rural New England, is our very rich and interesting history. One of the most exceptional and intriguing pieces of local history is the story of Molly Ockett and the Abenaki extirpation.

Before the white settlers came to the area now known as Fryeburg, it was once a major Abenaki Indian village known as Pequawket which meant “crooked place,” as this place is where the Saco River makes a significant change of direction. The Native people who lived here were of the local Sokokis tribe.

This story began in May, 1725, when a group of scalp hunters came into the Pequawket area, planning to raid a nearby village. However, the historical battle of Lovewell Pond resulted. The battle began when a Native hunter was killed near the pond. A chaplain named John Frye, whose surname the town is named for, was the one who took the “honor” of scalping the Native. This was considered very immoral at the time, because the scalping took place on a Sunday and killing on the Sabbath was forbidden (not that killing in general isn’t wrong). Furthermore, it is interesting to note, they retrospectively changed the date of the battle to avoid scrutiny from the Christian community.

At the battle’s conclusion, the Natives of Pequawket were either killed or forced to flee all the way into modern day Canada. Only one brave person remained behind, a woman by the name of Molly Ockett (Mali Aquet). Molly Ockett was the daughter of Chief Paugus and was a very wellknown and a deeply respected healer. She would often travel throughout Maine and New Hampshire, sharing her knowledge of native medicine with the settlers. She saved many, many lives in northern New England communities, one of them being an infant named Hannibal Hamlin, who would one day become the Vice President to the great Abraham Lincoln. While in Fryeburg, she would sleep in a cave that is still well-known as Molly Ockett’s cave at the base of Jockey Cap, which many of us here at school enjoy on a regular basis.

2016 marks the 200th anniversary of Molly Ockett’s death. It would be tremendously special if the school district would rededicate our school to her honor, instead of renaming the school. It is a significant way that our school community could respectfully honor the Native Americans of this region who were the original stewards of this land.

To keep this history alive in our collective memory is important. If we are truly a community connected to our history, I propose that we keep the name “Molly Ockett Middle School” or better yet, name the entire new school complex after her in memory of her kind stewardship and generosity. Her name also serves as a reminder that truth and reconciliation are human values we should all aspire to.

In other school board business:

  • Robert Steller was elected chairman of the school board, and Norma Snow was selected as vice chairman.
  • Committee assignments were also given. They include:

Curriculum: Jane Williams, Kay Lyman, Christopher Burk, Sharon LeBlanc and Linda Card.

Finance: Laurie Weston, Christopher Burk, Jack Jones, Dean Schasel and Marie Struven.

Policy: Norma Snow, Kay Lyman, Mitch Dondero and Kathiann Shorey (one spot is vacant).

Student Affairs: Laura Cummings, Sharon LeBlanc, Julie Ontengco and Louise Myrback (one spot is unfilled).

Facilities: Ed Spooner, Jack Jones, Chris Mattei and Mitch Dondero (one spot is unfilled).

Personnel: Norma Snow, Ed Spooner, Kathiann Shorey, Marie Struven and Linda Card.

Special Education: Sharon LeBlanc, Jane Williams, Laura Cummings and Laurie Weston.

Transportation: Marie Struven, Sharon LeBlanc, Dean Schasel, Ed Spooner and Chris Mattei.

  • The board “accepted the resignation with regret” of Charles Condello as Middle School music/instrumental teacher.
  • Erik Kuehl was approved as a new Grade 8 social studies teacher at Molly Ockett MS.
  • The Curriculum Committee has decided that K-8 students will be using various units from the Lucy Calkins Writing program for the 2016–17 school year. The goal is to use the entire program district wide by 2017–18.

Director Jane Williams reported that for the upcoming school year, New Suncook School will be using the Lucy Calkins Reading program; Brownfield-Denmark will be using Reading Street program for K-3 students and Lucy Calkins program for fourth and fifth graders; and Snow School will use Reading Street for K-5 students.

  • The next SAD 72 School Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., in the Molly Ockett cafeteria.
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