While walking the trails at Harwood this past Saturday, I observed a small woman in the distance. Stooped over, her hands moved quickly over the soft and saturated soil within Kate’s Garden. I thought it strange to see someone working in Kate’s Garden on a Saturday. School custodians don’t usually work on Saturdays.

Kate’s Garden is a beautiful perennial garden located in the courtyard behind the cafeteria. It is one of Harwood’s points of light. It is a place that administrators, students and faculty can enjoy while eating lunch. It provides a relaxing respite from the hectic school environment. It is filled with beautiful perennials. It is unique. The flowers of Kate’s Garden are timed to blossom in May and early June while school is still in session. It is a showpiece. School administrators would often display it to visitors.

I quietly approached the woman working in the garden. She introduced herself as Mrs. Abajian. The Abajians donated money to build this beautiful garden in memory of their daughter Kate. I met Kate when she was a freshman student at Harwood. Kate was a beautiful, cheery, thoughtful young woman. She could be seen during the passing time between classes with one hand of her diminutive frame firmly attached to an IV pole that contained her oxygen supply. Kate had cystic fibrosis. CF is an inherited respiratory disorder that has no cure. Many would consider this a handicap. Not Kate! She was one of the warmest, friendliest and kindest students I ever met. Her smile bordered by small dimples was infectious. She was one of the student body’s points of light. The garden was built out of love for this student and her love of nature. A small plaque in the corner of the garden with an illustration of Kate feeding a chipmunk is very symbolic. The garden exudes the love and kindness of Kate.


In 1999 the Abajians fully funded the creation of the garden including the surrounding landscaped stone walls. For 20 years, Mrs. Abajian and her family have steadfastly maintained it. Family members did the weeding and mulching. They also provided funding for materials and tasks their individual efforts could not provide.

Mrs. Abajian explained that after the garden was built in 1999 she assumed the school administration would keep it maintained. This was not the case. After three years the garden had weeds that were 2 feet high. Anyone who has a perennial garden knows that they require a tremendous amount of work to maintain. For the past 20 years, Mrs. Abajian has worked to maintain this garden herself. It is a labor of love. Mrs. Abajian explained that as she gets older she does not know how much longer she could individually maintain the garden.

This maintenance could easily be fully funded!

When I think about all of the unnecessary expenses at Harwood – installation of video cameras that are not turned on, unnecessary supplies, financing of “educational” trips for school administrators – it truly makes me upset.

Harwood is a learning institution. What lesson are students’ learning from this situation?

Although not usually an extremely sensitive person, while standing in the garden on that cool, foggy spring morning my emotions got the best of me. I could see the color, feel the warmth and experience the brightness exuding from both the flowers and Mrs. Abajian. But as a former faculty member I felt ashamed. Ashamed that the Harwood administration was disregarding this loving mother’s efforts. Ashamed that they are claiming the final product as their own! My emotions were even more compounded when I felt the embarrassment of realizing that I had been living with this hypocrisy for almost one-half of my tenure as a Harwood teacher.

To the Harwood Unified Union School District administration:

Shame on you! You can do better!

Kerrigan lives in Duxbury and is a former HU coach and teacher.