CRANBERRY ISLES, Maine — Though he has won accolades and awards for his work for much of his adult life, children’s book author and illustrator Ashley Bryan says the honor he received on Saturday is one of the best surprises he has ever had.
At the town’s annual town meeting on March 10, voters decided to name the elementary school in the local village of Islesford after Bryan. It is the first time the schoolhouse, which is over 100 years old, has been named after anyone and the first time Bryan, who is over 80, has had a school named after him.
“It was such a surprise to me,” Bryan said Wednesday by phone from his home on Little Cranberry Island.
For decades Bryan, a former fine arts professor at Dartmouth College, has illustrated and written children’s books and has toured the country and beyond to speak to children about his work and to read his books out loud to them. He said that he has made a lot of appearances at elementary schools and libraries over the years because he wants to stress the importance of the arts and of education to children.
“I am very touched that they would name a school after me,” he said.
The town, comprised of five islands accessible only by boat, has two small elementary schools, one on Little Cranberry Island (also known as Islesford) and Longfellow School on Great Cranberry Island.
According to Denise McCormick, town clerk for Cranberry Isles, there are 12 students total from the two islands who attend school on Islesford. The town maintains Longfellow School but sends the four pupils who live there to the school on Islesford as a cost-saving measure, she said.
McCormick said the decision to name the school after Bryan received an overwhelming majority vote from the approximately 60 people who attended the meeting at the Islesford Neighborhood House.
In other business, voters on Saturday approved an overall annual municipal budget of $1.8 million, which is an increase over the 2011 budget of $1.64 million. McCormick said the difference is represented by $175,000 that voters decided to raise for road repairs on Little Cranberry Island.
The $1.8 million 2012 budget includes $521,000 in education-related expenses, the town clerk said. She said the education portion of the budget is about $7,000 higher than last year because of work planned at schools on both islands.
The $7,000 increase is just part of the $100,000 the town expects to spend this year on school improvement projects, which include electrical upgrades at the Longfellow School and safety improvements at the school on Islesford, according to McCormick. She said the town expects to spend a total of approximately $340,000 over multiple years to upgrade the schools.
Voters also decided to ban the use or sale of fireworks in town, the town clerk said, and to create a public safety coordinator position that will pay $19,500 per year. The town’s current Americorps volunteer, Katelyn Damon, is expected to take the post when her Americorps funding ends at the end of September, she said.