Sunday, January 17, 2016

An Evening of Unexpected Drama

Thursday's Board of Education meeting discussion of the calendar didn't unfold exactly as expected.

Most people thought this was going to be a decision between Option 1 or Option 2. Option 1, as you may recall, was keeping the calendar as it has been with school closing on the Jewish High Holy days, and Option 2 was to have school in session on those days, with school closed only on state-sanctioned holidays. This proposal at a December board meeting caused a good deal of community concern, followed by a large turn-out at a subsequent board meeting. People had plenty to say about how the school calendar treats the holy days of various religions in Howard County.

Now, before we get into Thursday's drama, let's talk about the Calendar Committee. Yes, there is one. And it is tasked with putting all the many variables that exist together into a workable school calendar. But they do not create the calendar plan and then give it directly to the Board. Au contraire, mes amis.

The calendar committee originally sent in Option 1 as a part of the 2016-2017 calendar. It is my understanding that it then went through what is called the Executive Cabinet (read Superintendent Foose) and then the committee was told to come back with a calendar proposal that left out the Jewish holidays. The Calendar committee does not operate in a vacuum. They make recommendations to Dr. Foose, and then she makes recommendations to the Board.

And that is why I was loathe to pin this on the Calendar Committee. Because it is just not that simple.

Back to the drama. The fact that the Superintendent was out of town (and that's another story) may have set the stage for the conversation around school holidays to, shall we say, "go rogue". There were numerous heated exchanges. Ann DeLacy held forth at great length about how the children had changed her mind on this issue and that she thought that all the religious groups asking for consideration should be honored. Even Rachel Lin, the Student Member of the Board, jumped in and made her opinions known.

It was a spirited debate. The vote on whether to go with Option 1 or Option 2 now looked quite divided, with declarations about additional closings floating around in the mix. Other than the general drama, the other reason I know that the vote didn't look secure was the fact the Board Member Cindy Vallaincourt, who had been home sick in bed, watching the meeting, showed up at the last minute to participate in the vote.

And then, somehow, despite major disagreements, the vote was unanimous. From the HoCo Times article by Lisa Phlip:

The motion, which was proposed by board member Janet Siddiqui and voted for by all eight board members, will give students days off on Lunar New Year Eve, as is the case in the current year, but also the Hindu holiday of Diwali, and the Muslim religious observance, Eid al-Adha -- either through school closings or professional development days for teachers. Schools will continue to be closed on the two holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana.

So, here we are. My gut tells me that the Superintendent isn't going to be happy about this. On the other hand, this evening gave so many board members opportunities to look involved and responsive that I almost wonder...Was it a) a deliberate show, b) a bungled mess, c) something I haven't thought of, or d) all of the above?

I don't think we know yet.





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