By Sue Painter
Forty-three years ago, in December 1975, the fifth graders in Robert MacDonald’s class composed a letter to President Gerald Ford regarding their views on animal protection. And...they received a reply!
In part the president wrote: “Your concern for animals is a first step towards making the world better-- not just for animals, but for people, too. Keep up the good work!” Perhaps this was a precursor of the MCDS Mission which includes “...to challenge [our students] to envision and work toward a better world.”
The mid-seventies were a somewhat unsettled time in the Bay Area as changing lifestyles, political viewpoints and differing approaches to education bumped against each other. At MCDS, the youngest students were in classrooms named various colors, many of which were mixed grade-levels. Fifteen students were in the ninth grade which had been created because high schools in San Francisco didn’t begin until tenth grade. There was a terrible drought in Marin which caused the school’s talented gardener to move to France.
The 1975-76 school year became part of MCDS lore as “the year of The Rock.” Just before winter break, a parent who was a civil engineer brought his geology class over from Berkeley to see the large rock overhanging the old music room and Step-Up courtyard. They noticed a crack, and the State Geologist deemed it unsafe — it could fall in an earthquake — and required that The Rock be removed immediately. For the first two weeks in January the entire school moved to Dominican College, then returned to dynamiting and dust which continued well into the spring.
Through it all, MCDS students and teachers were fully engaged in a shared learning adventure. Kids were encouraged to express their opinions in an appropriate way. Bob’s students decided to write the President about a cause they cared deeply about. A few months ago we received a packet of materials for our archives from Bob, who has fond and enthusiastic memories of his four years at MCDS. We’re grateful to have these materials and his memories of a unique school community and a strong partnership with families.
Sue Painter is Director of School History & Advancement Projects