by Dr. Thomas Smith, Superintendent, Hopewell Valley Regional School District.
On a recent Saturday morning, I had the privilege of joining members from the class of 1969 as they toured Central High School led by long-time CHS teacher, Ms. Cindy Glover. As part of their 50th reunion weekend, they asked to tour their alma mater and see the renovated spaces as part of our recent referendum.
As I walked the halls with our CHS graduates, they joked about being called to the main office for having long hair or wearing jeans. They recited the names of the principal and vice principals and their favorite teachers. They remembered a time before the science wing, the turf field, and Performing Arts Center existed. Fifty years later, there was still some good-natured ribbing between graduates from the three towns of the Valley. (HVRSD regionalized in 1965 after a hotly contested vote by residents of Hopewell Township, Hopewell Borough and Pennington Borough to merge their schools.)
Their conversations turned serious when members of the class of 1969 shared stories about the unrest in our Country, punctuated by the civil rights movement and the student protests against the government and the war. As we walked past the CHS Vietnam memorial dedicated several years ago, an important learning experience for our students meant something more to the members of the class of 1969. The individuals on our memorial were their friends, neighbors, and classmates, lost too soon. Some paused at the plaque honoring students from the Hopewell Township who lost their lives in World War II. Thousands of us have passed this plaque, but few have gazed at it through the eyes of the members of the class of 1969. These were challenging times, not the simpler times that we often romanticize.
Throughout its history, Central High School has transcended what many of us may have experienced in our own high school. It is a very special place that has played an integral part in the lives of many graduates and in the community of Hopewell Valley. I am heartened by the number of CHS graduates who return to “the Valley” to raise their own families in our schools and graduates who proudly tell me that their grandchildren are now attending HVRSD. Hearing from these graduates underscored the importance of CHS and our district in the lives of many.
Over the past several years, this current generation of students have experienced their own, seemingly insurmountable challenges, often compounded by social media. We still have work to do to achieve our mission, but I am confident that by working together, our District will continue to be a special place that plays an internal role our community. As the caretaker of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District during this part of our history, it is my hope that when the class of 2020 returns for their 50th reunion in 2070, they, just like the class of 1969, will look back fondly at their time in HVRSD.
Note: With help from Carol Schroeder from the class of 1969 and former CHS parent Jim Lebbad, we are designing a Legacy Wall in the alcoves of the new CHS entrance. We hope to recognize each graduating class since the opening of CHS in 1952. We are also displaying HVRSD history (yearbooks, graduation programs, class pictures, etc.) in our Board Office and in many of our schools. If you would like to share any item of HVRSD history for these displays, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org