PLAISTOW — Yesterday was going to be the second Day of Compassion at Timberlane Regional High School.
But the event was canceled, with administrators citing concerns that it would interfere with class time.
May 19 marks the anniversary of the death of Evan Dube, a 2011 Timberlane High graduate who died in Scotland in 2012.
Last year, Gov. Maggie Hassan declared the one-year anniversary of his death as a statewide Day Of Compassion.
The school held its Day Of Compassion on May 5 last year. It was organized both years by the school’s Timberlane Leadership Committee, a group Evan was a member of.
Last year’s event fell on a Sunday, scheduled as a makeup day after too many snow days, principal Donald Woodworth said. About 90 percent of seniors showed up for the event’s first running.
This year, it was billed as a day of workshops and large group presentations centered around the theme of compassion, Woodworth said. There would have been 35 to 40 presentations.
But it wasn’t held, to the dismay of those keeping Evan Dube and random acts of kindness in their thoughts.
“We just heard about it through the grape vine,” said Whitman Constantineau, a 17-year-old senior and member of the committee. “It definitely hit home when I heard it was being canceled.”
Eileen Dube, Evan’s mother, said the event was never meant to be about her son.
“He was a catalyst for it, that it was important to love, have compassion,” she said. “It was meant to make Timberlane a better place.”
Superintendent Earl Metzler declined to comment on the cancellation, saying it wasn’t newsworthy, according to executive assistant Catherine Belcher.
At a School Board meeting May 8, Metzler announced the event was canceled. He also detailed an audit of classroom instruction time.
The audit is designed to see what takes students and teachers out of class and away from direct instruction. The goal is to keep classrooms operating, he said, thus improving rigor, achievement and evaluations.
“It was brought to my attention we were planning a Day Of Compassion where all the kids were going to be out of class the whole day,” Metzler said at the meeting. “That’s not happening. That’s going to happen on a weekend or after school.”
That isn’t to say he didn’t like the idea.
“Great idea, love it, support it, but we really need to take a hard look,” Metzler said. “What is the percentage of time kids need to be getting direct instruction from teachers?”
Woodworth said he made the final call to cancel the event.
“In terms of every student missing every class for a full day, we thought that was tough,” he said. “It wasn’t fully developed and we were looking at a lot of work that would have been going on last week to achieve this. For the students organizing it and the teachers involved, it was a major undertaking.”
But there is room for compassion at Timberlane High, he said.
“The reason why this type of thing has happened here is because we have people who have a caring attitude, who are looking out for each other, understanding the importance of compassion,” Woodworth said. “That’s not the thing we want to lose. But it doesn’t mean we have to have a full day of school to do it.”
Instead, yesterday the committee urged students to carry out smaller acts of kindness and compassion, Constantineau said.
Some students paid for others’ coffee and food in the cafeteria; others handed out origami lotus flowers with messages inside.
“It’s not the grand, sweeping gestures that make our community compassionate,” Constantineau said. “It’s the little things.”
Dube said she understands why administrators canceled the event, but there’s still a place for it at Timberlane High.
“I believe there’s a role for this in education. Kids will learn better in an environment like this. The data supports that,” she said. “I also understand and appreciate that there’s a challenge for time in the classroom.”
Woodworth agrees the event should continue.
“We’ll be meeting with kids and the adults who helped set it up to see if it’s something people have the will, energy and time to do,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing now, regrouping to see what’s possible.”