Monday, November 1, 2010

School Board meeting tonight:

Rough notes on tonight's School Board meeting:

(This post describes a long discussion about recent events in the school, concerning the decision not to have Halloween celebrations, and a student petition about that holiday. Several corrections have been added.)

Asked to describe "the full story", principal Marta Beede described a petition for having holiday celebrations, concerning multiple holidays wrapped together. A meeting was held, discussing Christmas and Hanukah holidays, not around Halloween.
An all-school meeting was held, discussing laws around holidays. Celebrations had to include an educational purpose, and had to include more than one holiday. Overall, this issue can become a teachable moment, exploring multiple traditions.
Marta expressed excitement that students were adding their ideas, through all-school meetings and other venues. It's a continuing process. She doesn't want to get rid of holidays, but to broaden students' horizons. Students can even create their own traditions.
Re: opinions of Halloween, Marta heard several sides: some students were (too) scared, while others valued it.

Discussion: parents reported that two students started a petition, but were told to tear it up. The principal denied having ordered this, and expressed surprise.

A former student read from the Bill of Rights, arguing that "saying the petition is wrong goes against the Constitution".

The ACSU superintendant (administrator) supported the principal.

One parent wanted the students to be involved.

In answer to a question, the principal explained the Halloween celebrations were banned for several reasons, including:

  • an unspeficied law
  • problems in integrating the holiday with educational missions
  • following the drift of other schools, which apparently have toned down or canceled their own celebrations
  • the logistical issues of integrating celebrations into the flow of the school day
  • equity problems of children without costumes.

A former student challenges the religious challenge to the holiday. Principal responded that there were different issues involved.

A parent challenges the timing issue, saying that festivities are scheduled in activity time.

Another parent mentions the importance of respect, and letting people not participate if they choose not to.

One parent saw the petition as central to the story, and needed to be researched.
Another thought her children were worried that the petition would get them in trouble.

Communication w/parents was asked about: the mechanism was teachers talking to students.
Another parent mentioned that this broke down, leading to misinformation.

One parent mentioned that her child had a great experience. Principal reminded us of the diversity of opinions involved.

A general discussion explored the different ways Ripton celebrated Halloween over time.

Solutions aired and discussed:

  1. A petition night, involving students.
  2. A Board member proposed a collaborating writing exercise, involving the principle, the 5/6 teacher and students.
  3. Bring back Halloween in 2011.
  4. Request for an apology.

Conclusion: a process is beginning, involving students and parents.

These notes are a best attempt at summarizing a rich, fast, and intense discussion. Please add corrections and amendments in comments!

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