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GROTON — You may be asking yourself, “What’s in a hyphen?” Plenty when its existence is the center of confusion among residents.

It was pointed out to Superintendent of Schools Alan Genovese that the school district had a problem with the lowly hyphen; the small, but important dash that separates the two halves of its name.

It seems the hyphen between Groton-Dunstable has had a habit of disappearing from a sheet of stationary here only to reappear on a T-shirt there, and the lack of rules governing its use was leaving some people confused.

The case of the missing hyphen was first brought to his attention by residents earlier this academic year, said Genovese.

“A number of people came to me, and brought the subject up. I said that I’d look into it,” said Genovese.

Doing a little research, the superintendent was able to arrive at a conclusion.

“It was true that the hyphen had not been used in different documents, but I felt that it was part of the district when it was first established,” Genovese said. “So I looked at the original regional agreement that was passed by the towns and approved by the (Department of Education), and it did have the hyphen in it. From there, we simply said, ‘OK.’”

After that, using the power vested in his office, Genovese decided to restore the hyphen to its place of prominence.

“Over time, the hyphen had been used inconsistently,” said Genovese. “Sometimes it would be used and sometimes it would not.”

When asked about the on again, off again hyphen, other school officials were at a loss.

“I have been told matter of factly that a hyphen is the way to go,” said School Committee Chairman Charles McKinney.

“Use of the hyphen was never officially dropped,” said Genovese. “To officially drop it would have required ending the regional agreement. It’s just that, over time, sometimes it was used and sometimes it was not. It was never consistent. That was the observation that someone had brought up. We should be using it.”

Genovese determined that because the hyphen had been present in the district’s original founding document, then its use had been officially endorsed by those who voted to approve the regional agreement.

The original agreement formally establishing the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District became effective on October 10, 1967.

It’s official status settled, Genovese said he has taken action to make the hyphen a permanent part of the district’s name.

“Now we want to make sure that it’s included in our stationary and signs,” said Genovese.

Although the intention is to restore the hyphen to all of the district’s documents, T-shirts, sports gear, and Web site, Genovese acknowledged that the changes would come gradually as current items were used up and reordered.

As for talk that a hyphen would be added to the glossy surface of the granite sign at the entrance of the district’s new high school building, Genovese was a bit more coy.

“We’ll have to look at that,” the superintendent said. “I am aware that it’s not there so maybe over the summer we’ll have it chiseled in.”

“I think it’s one of the bigger non-issues that we’ve had to deal with,” said McKinney of the hyphen’s significance to the universe at large. “And you can hyphenate ‘non-issue’ if you want.”

“What it does is it just puts back what was already in the original regional agreement,” said Genovese.

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