News

Mothers’ Club School farewell party June 1

Friday, May 17, 2013

By LORETTA JACKSON

Staff Writer

farewell party for the Bedford Mothers’ Club School, 4 Church Road, is scheduled for 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, at the school.

The school, located in the original and historic Parish House of the Bedford Presbyterian Church, is closing, ending a tradition of preschool education spanning about 60 years.

Last week, students ages 2, 3, 4 and 5 attended their classes as usual, blissfully unaware of the passing of time. They engaged in singing, counting, and learning “Lobster Lore” from an education ambassador from a nearby seafood restaurant, The Weathervane.

Director and teacher Gwen Broder, teacher Nelia Gibson, music teacher Margaret Goodrich and secretary Janet Mousmoules led and witnessed these activities, among the nonprofit’s last.

A letter from the school’s staff to parents announced the closing. In June of last year, after students were dismissed for the summer, the school was informed by the church’s Session members that the coming year would be the last. A need for extensive repairs including a new roof and heating system were cited.

On Monday, May 13, co-pastors Rev. Karen Hagy and The Rev. Dr. Michael Carrier offered their thanks for Broder’s years of dedicated service and her “significant contribution to the families of Bedford for many generations.” They said a coffee hour will be held in recognition of Broder’s many years of service following 9:30 a.m. worship on Sunday, June 2.

The school evolved from the Bedford Mothers’ Club, originally founded in 1946 by Mrs. Cecil Nickolls in cooperation with Mrs. Christine Testa, the minister’s wife. It was their belief that the future depends on children, thriving in a Christian home. The club offered local moms camaraderie, fun and a place to share advice on child-rearing, according to a club history.

The club opened its first kindergarten in 1953. In 1990, when a public kindergarten was opened, the Mothers’ Club School became a preschool, focusing on youngsters aged 2-5.

Documents, old photos and scrapbooks reveal more. The school in those days was operated by volunteers, members of the school board. Paid, trained teachers and aides were prized staffers. Fundraising supported the school. Town activities, parades and various events at the church enabled residents to learn about the school and its principle of providing low-cost, high-quality preschool to all children.

The school offered scholarships, so that no child was ever turned away for a lack of tuition. An average enrollment numbered 30 to 40 children. The school’s goal was to help kids grasp the basics of a solid education and to learn skills such as sharing.

Gwen Broder, director and longtime teacher at the Mothers’ Club School, notes that the Mothers’ Club disbanded in the 1990s, as women more often returned to the workplace.

Then head teacher Broder, who began her career there in 1966, became the school’s director. She had help from talented women like Dianne Caron, who kept the school’s books and managed finances. Broder’s children, Bill and Bob, attended the school in the ´60s.

Last week, Broder finished reading a story to the children and took a moment to share her reminiscences. She said she is looking forward to visiting with former teachers, students, supporters and volunteers at the farewell party.

“There are lasting friendships here,” Broder said. “The parents came in anytime. We’ve always had an open-door policy here for the parents. No need to call, just come. We thank every parent from today and from years past for sharing their children’s lives with us.”

The closing was described as a “huge surprise” by Broder. She said that as a nonprofit with a very tight budget and a small contingency fund, the school “does not have the resources” to move elsewhere.

“I am sad that this will be the end to a Bedford tradition,” Broder said.

Last week, school remained in session for its last students. Charlie Ryding, 4, of Goffstown, said he likes music and, “I like the piano.” Cooper Dion, 4, of Manchester, said he enjoys story time, especially when the teacher reads “Snow White” and everyone sits down to listen.

Then, it was time for the day’s designated snack distributor, Alexander Bruttaniti, 4, of Manchester, to carefully count out five crackers to each of his classmates. Milk was on the way. No more will be ordered.

In anticipation of emptying the space of well-used toys, colored pencils, watercolors, plastic dinosaurs, posters of space ships, very small chairs and other preschool accoutrements, a yard sale is scheduled at the Mother’s Club School, 4 Church Road, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Saturday, June 8.

For more information and to be added to the evite for the Farewell Party, which will be hosted by the Bedford Mothers’ Club School alumni at the school, 2-5 p.m., Saturday, June 1, email aprilnaftali@comcast.net.

For more information on the Mothers’ Club School, call 472-3621.

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