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Second Graders Learn about Advocacy through a Thoughtful Exchange with the Village of Tarrytown’s Mayor and Trustees

One of the wonderful benefits of being part of a historic community is that students in the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns sometimes have the opportunity to learn about local history right in their backyard, or even right on their river. And because Tarrytown is a tight-knit community, our students sometimes have the chance to interact with leaders in their community. Case in point: when Ms. Losito’s second grade class decided they wanted to see a famous retired fireboat, they wrote letters to Village Mayor Karen Brown and The Trustees of the Village of Tarrytown.

It all started with a conversation between a student and their bus driver. The driver, Miguel Valle, told the student about the John D. McKean FDNY Fireboat, which has quite an illustrious history. The conversation continued into their second grade classroom where students learned that Tarrytown was considering housing the boat at the harbor. Some of the students told Ms. Losito they would like it to go to Tarrytown so they could see it; what followed was an important lesson in civics including a letter writing campaign by her class to the Village of Tarrytown’s Mayor and Trustees.

“Dear Village Trustees, It is not every day you get to go on a field trip, so if I may ask, would you let John D. McKean dock at the Tarrytown harbor? Because it would be an educational trip and I have a lot of questions,” writes Miles. Others in the class shared Miles’ sentiments about wanting to learn more and added other reasons to visit. Soon, they would receive a reply from Mayor Brown and the Trustees. 

“What a joy to read your letters!” the letter begins. “As Mayor and The Trustees of the Village of Tarrytown, we receive many letters about things that people care about, but your letters have been the best so far.”

The letter goes on to compliment the students on their writing abilities and accompanying drawings, and to explain why the McKean could not dock at Tarrytown. A campaign to make Tarrytown the boat’s permanent home ended in February with a decision related to safety issues.

“Some people wanted the fireboat to be docked in Tarrytown,” the letter says. “Many people have talked about it. But it was decided that our docks need to be in better repair before a big, retired fireboat can dock here safely. Safety is very important to us, especially the safety of children like you who might want to visit the boat.”

The John D. McKean is now a museum, currently docked at Stony Point on the Hudson River. It was restored in 2019 by the Fireboat McKean Preservation Project. The letter explains that the kids do not need the Village’s permission to see the boat – they can visit it as long as their teacher and principal say it’s ok.

The letter from the mayor and trustees serves as a terrific example to students that they will be heard if they communicate their thoughts and feelings to adults in a respectful manner. Tarrytown Schools Superintendent Chris Borsari says, “We always look for authentic ways for our kids to share their experiences and opinions. Ms. Losito and her students seized upon a chance conversation between a student and bus driver to advocate for the fireboat.”

A little history about the John D. McKean Fireboat:

The McKean served the New York City Fire Department as Marine Company 1, starting in 1955. It was named for Marine Engineer John D. McKean who died in an explosion on the George B. McClellan. Though the boat is officially retired now, it participated in two major twenty-first century events. The McKean was one of a handful of boats that responded to Manhattan on September 11, 2001, to supply firefighters with water when water mains broke after the collapse of the Twin Towers. In 2009, the McKean responded to the amazing landing of a US Airways flight on the Hudson River by rescuing passengers and helping to secure the plane from sinking. That landing was known as the Miracle on the Hudson because under the leadership of Captain Sully Sullenberger, all 155 people onboard survived.