OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
11:30 AM – Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Following a problematic vote by the school board last week to remove Veterans Day and Columbus Day from the district’s official holiday calendar, the Connecticut school district is now facing extreme backlash.
According to a local media outlet, the Stamford Advocate, the school board decided in a 5-3 vote on Tuesday night to eliminate the day off for students attending Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut for at least the next two upcoming years.
During the meeting on Tuesday, board member Joshua Esses decided to remove the holidays from the academic calendar, claiming that the school year ended in mid-June, which “cuts too much into summer.”
“We should make it shorter because it’s better educationally for our students,” Esses stated, regarding the academic year, which is mandated by state legislation to hold at least 180 teaching days for students.
In addition, Esses recommended eliminating the religious holidays Eid al-Fitr and the second day of Rosh Hashanah from the number of official holidays for similar reasons. However, that decision was not supported, according to the outlet.
Furthermore, Esses highlighted that Veterans Day and Columbus Day would instead be acknowledged with teachings about the significance of each on the day of, which is a state mandate.
Nevertheless, the school board’s move accumulated backlash from veterans and Italian Americans.
The move was a “gut punch” to Alfred Fusco, who is a veteran and founding member of the Italian American service organization UNICO in Stamford. Fusco made a statement to reporters, declaring that the school district’s decision was a poor move.
“It was a gut punch. It was terrible. It had no inclination,” Fusco said.
However, the school district justified their decision, highlighting that there are other districts in Connecticut that keep schools operating on the holidays.
“Stamford Public Schools already hosts many events in recognition of our local veterans, and we look forward to continuing that tradition on Veterans’ Day in 2024 and 2025,” a spokesperson for Stamford Public Schools explained in a statement. “In addition, our Teaching and Learning Department will be working to develop programming about Columbus Day that will be presented to students in recognition of that federal holiday.”
The controversy centered largely on the unique purpose of Columbus Day, which some progressive Americans have rejected in favor of Indigenous People’s Day in recent years due to “the tainted history regarding the treatment of native individuals” by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.
Versha Munshi-South, who is on the Connecticut school board, explained that she watched a class lecture that was called “Columbus: Hero or Villain?” at Dolan Middle School. She mentioned that it made her reexamine the holiday.
“The students were using primary sources to investigate the true history of Columbus and I can tell you that based on primary source research, no, they did not conclude that Columbus was a hero,” Munshi-South said. “I don’t think it makes sense to teach students one thing in class and then have Columbus Day off. It’s a mixed message for students.”
A spokesperson for Stamford Public Schools made a concluding statement regarding the elimination of the two days off for the holidays in an academic calendar.
“On Tuesday, January 23rd, the Stamford BOE approved the 2024-25 and 2025-26 Stamford Public Schools calendars following passage of a motion to have schools remain open on Columbus Day and Veterans Day,” the spokesperson stated. “Several neighboring districts already keep schools open on Columbus Day and/or Veterans Day, and both Columbus Day and Veterans Day will be acknowledged on the Stamford Public Schools calendar with other holidays and religious observances that occur when school is in session.”
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