Committee Endorses Naming Foyer to Honor Longtime METCO Director

October 26, 2023
The BHS cafeteria and gymnasium foyer may be named in honor of Irene Parker as part of METCO’s 50th year in Bedford celebration later this school year. Staff Image

The School Committee on Tuesday endorsed a proposal to dedicate a prominent area of the Bedford High School campus in honor of longtime METCO director Irene Parker.

The current director, Akil Mondesir, recommended naming the foyer outside the gymnasium and cafeteria as part of the celebration of METCO’s 50th year in the Bedford schools.

Although they received the idea with enthusiasm, School Committee members didn’t vote on the proposal because the naming policy includes some paperwork. 

METCO defines itself as a state-funded voluntary desegregation program, sponsoring Boston students in participating suburban districts “to expand educational opportunities, increase diversity, and reduce racial isolation.”

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Irene Parker served as Bedford METCO director from 1975 – 2000. Courtesy Image

Parker, who served from 1975-2000, was a local resident and before becoming Bedford’s second director, was a leading advocate of joining the METCO program, which was voted by the School Committee in May 1974. 

The dedication reflects Mondesir’s 50th year theme, “Embracing our future by honoring our past.” He said in an earlier interview that the foyer is significant because historically the METCO students enter the high school there when they arrive daily from Boston.

Mondesir, a 1998 BHS graduate, recalled that Parker “reached out and told me she could see me being a METCO director.” He noted that Parker’s great-grandson is a student at JGMS.

“This is a very happy occasion,” said Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang. 

“What a great way to honor Irene Parker and her family,” said Sheila Mehta-Green. 

Akil Mondesir, Bedford Public Schools METCO director and DEI Coordinator is planning celebrations throughout this year to celebrate METCO’s 50th anniversary in Bedford Schools. Courtesy Image

Brad Morrison said, “I feel honored and privileged to be sitting at this table at this moment in history.” 

“From a student perspective, I think it would be powerful to have that reminder there, so everyone can see the diversity that makes us strong,” said BHS junior Shreyes Shivappa, the student representative to the School Committee.

Parker’s granddaughter, Ayesha Thomas, an educational assistant at Davis School, joined the meeting virtually and said, “It is important to continue her legacy. Her history is not only with METCO but with the town of Bedford.” She cited the annual Dollars for Scholars Irene Parker Scholarship award that has been presented for more than 20 years.

“I think my grandmother would be completely shocked by all of the people who continue to talk about her,” Thomas said.

Mondesir said he hopes there can be a formal ceremony in the foyer during Black History Month festivities in February.

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October 29, 2023 2:02 pm

I have many good memories of Irene sharing her enthusiasm for the METCO program back when it first started in Bedford. She had vision and courage as well as a warmth toward all the students and volunteers that kept things moving forward in a positive way. Without her leadership and commitment the program might have foundered. We were so fortunate to have her leadership at just that moment. I am thrilled to see this recognition of her skills and dedication.

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