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Jul 26, 2017 8:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Holidays Return To Southampton School District Calendar

Aug 2, 2017 11:28 AM

Many holidays, including Christmas and Easter, were added back to the Southampton School District’s 2017-18 printed calendar on Tuesday, but one in particular—Columbus Day—was omitted.

Southampton School Board members, along with Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Dyno, at a board meeting on July 25 chose not to name the holiday, which lands on October 9, 2017. It shows up on the calendar only as a “Federal/State Holiday.”

Once a routine matter that doesn’t even require School Board action, the district’s annual school calendar has been a source of controversy, and changing policy, in the two most recent school years.

A group of students, supported by members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, asked the Southampton School Board in early 2016 to change the calendar to reflect the day as “Indigenous Day” rather than Columbus Day. They argued against honoring Christopher Columbus because of his mistreatment of indigenous peoples upon his arrival in the New World, and suggested instead that the day be set aside to honor the native people of the Americas. Several communities in the United States have taken similar action.

In response, in March 2016, the School Board adopted a generic calendar for 2016-17 that designated only the days when school was in session. It omitted not just Columbus Day but all other holidays as well.

Then, this past February, the School Board voted to approve a “culturally sensitive” calendar for the 2017-18 school year, one that purposely omitted religious holidays. That earned backlash as well.

On Tuesday, July 25, the board revisited the matter. Rather than approving an official school calendar that did not identify any holidays, religious or otherwise, by their proper names—similar to the 2016-17 school calendar—district officials initially peppered in holidays like Labor Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Thanksgiving recess, by name.

Religious holidays like Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah were included, as well as others like Kwanzaa, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Valentine’s Day.

The one exception was the omission of Columbus Day altogether, labeling it generically as a holiday.

Dr. Dyno presented the calendar, which would be printed and sent out to parents in the school district, to the School Board last week.

School Board member Anastasia Gavalas told Dr. Dyno at the meeting that she would like to see Orthodox Easter included on the calendar as well. The board agreed, and Dr. Dyno said it would be added.

Calls to the Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal office seeking a statement about the action were not immediately returned.

James Boyd, a deacon at the Southampton Full Gospel Church, said the best solution would be for the district to include both Columbus Day and Indigenous Day on the calendar.

Mr. Boyd regularly attends the Southampton School Board meetings, and ever since holidays were removed from the official school calendar in February, he has been asking board members to add them back.

“It’s very satisfying in two regards,” Mr. Boyd said after Tuesday’s vote. “What we have been raising has been addressed, and, two, the board actually listened and did an about-face to taking them all off and putting them back on.”

Mr. Boyd said the calendar approval in February was the last straw.

At a meeting on February 7, the discussion turned to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which originally was still identified by its name in the 2017-18 unofficial school calendar. School Board member James McKenna questioned why other religious holidays were not identified in the same manner—Christmas, for instance, was listed as part of “winter recess.” Other religious holidays were noted in the current year’s school calendar simply as “no school.”

Mr. Boyd said he hopes the change in the board’s stance is a sign of larger change within the district.

“It showed up in the voting in May, as far as the massive win of the two new candidates who got elected,” Mr. Boyd said of SunHe Sherwood-Dudley and Jacqueline Robinson. “A big reason they got elected is because of the calendar. People backed them, and I think that’s why the board paid attention.”

Mr. McKenna and Anastasia Gavalas, who were both elected to the board last year, also expressed support of the move to return holidays to the calendar over the past few months.

The board took no official action on Tuesday regarding the calendar—but a board vote is not required to approve the calendar. However, the board had approved the “official calendar” in February. Dr. Dyno did not return calls this week asking whether the “official calendar” will be changed or if the changes merely will be made by administrators when they release the public calendar for the new school year.

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Why is the school district in the calander business?
By A Great American (103), East Quogue on Jul 26, 17 8:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
The school puts out a calendar in order to let students and parents know about events, days when the school is closed, etc. The school is not in the calendar business.

You should consider a different profession as the internet commenting business does not seem to be for you.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jul 27, 17 10:54 AM
A Great American has a valid point. 30-45 minutes of a Board meeting spent discussing how to print/publish a school calendar, to let students and parents know about events, days when the school is closed, etc...seems a bit of a waste of resources and time.
Just print the holiday. It's Columbus Day. The school Board can't just change the name because some people are offended. If this is the only issue then don't close the school that day and say nothing. Many businesses are open that day. Parents ...more
By deepchanel (89), Southampton on Jul 27, 17 12:20 PM
Or they could just print "Federal/School Holiday" for all holidays and be done with this conversation.
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Jul 27, 17 1:22 PM
2 members liked this comment
Thank you! My point.
By A Great American (103), East Quogue on Jul 27, 17 3:39 PM
Good. Saying Columbus discovered America is like saying the captain of the Titanic made a lovely coral reef. It's ridiculous.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 27, 17 6:38 AM
Just because the Southampton DOE refuses to call it Columbus Day doesn't change the fact it IS Columbus Day.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Jul 27, 17 6:48 AM
Columbus discovered the Americas for the Europeans. His arrival, although not his originally desired location, changed the scope of the globe and opened up the west to European colonization. This is why it is a holiday in the U.S. and parts of South America. No one is debating that natives suffered as a result of his arrival. Columbus voyage led to the eventual mapping of western sea routes and the mapping of the Americas by Vespucci. Other navigators and explorers would follow such as Hudson, ...more
By bluefish (11), springs on Jul 27, 17 7:15 AM
2 members liked this comment
While we hear much about bullying of students, here we seem to have a case of the students bullying the School Board.
By gusef (53), Southampton on Jul 27, 17 8:05 AM
It is a FEDERAL holiday. Teachers don't care, they are off. How about honoring the smartest kids in the class. Oh we're giving out participation ribbons for them. Colleges look for these awards when kids apply to colleges... Give them their do...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jul 27, 17 1:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well at least the BOE Snowflakes have agreed to acknowledge holidays that the community and the school district enjoy. C'mon ladies and gentlemen....only one more to go. Say it with me, then you can all run to your safe spaces....Columbus Day!
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Jul 27, 17 8:22 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 29, 17 3:17 PM
If Kwanzaa is on there, why not Secretaries Day and National Cup Cake Day? All equally as contrived.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 29, 17 3:17 PM
7/11 is National Slurpee Day.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Jul 30, 17 12:47 PM