Jul 26, 2014

Veterans Day Motion Sparks Debate at Fairfield School Board

While it was defeated, a motion to hold school on Veterans Day prompted a passionate discussion at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.

Veterans Day Motion Sparks Debate at Fairfield School Board


While the and instead make President’s Day weekend a four-day weekend was the only change made on the 2012-2013 calendar, another debate sparked when board member John Convertito suggested holding school on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 -- or, the date designated for the Veterans Day federal holiday.

Veterans Day -- Nov. 11 -- falls on a Sunday in 2012. Though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that Nov. 11, whether it falls on a weekend or not, is always the date the holiday will be observed, the federal holiday will be the Monday following (if the holiday falls on a Sunday) or the Friday preceding (should the holiday fall on a Saturday).

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is no legal requirement to close schools in honor of Veterans Day. After a heated discussion at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, the board decided to keep schools closed that day.

The vote, which failed 7-2, came after a lengthy war of ideals on how students should spend their Veterans Day. Here’s what board members, a few veterans, and members of the public had to say on the issue:

Those in favor of holding school on Monday Nov. 12, 2012:

  • John Convertito, board member: “I brought the motion not because I wish to dishonor our veterans. People don’t honor the Veterans on Veterans Day; our children would be better served in the classroom.”
  • Jennifer Maxon Kennelly, board member: Kennelly said she had spoken to a number of veterans about holding school on Veterans Day, and they agreed with her that “allowing kids to sleep in, have a couple extra hours for texting, and maybe a trip to the mall in no way honors veterans.” She argued that holding school on Veterans Day creates the opportunity for students to connect with veterans who come to speak on the day they are supposed to be honored. “When a student is sleeping in and enjoying a day off, we are not teaching them about this day of reflection.”
  • Jessica Gerber, board member: Gerber said she’d be willing to vote to hold school “just for this year” because Veterans Day falls over the weekend, and “most of the commemoration ceremonies take place on the day itself.” She said she’d be opposed to the idea next year, when the holiday falls on a Monday.
  • Sue Brand, board member: “I think we do a greater service when we teach them [about Veterans Day] in school and it has a greater impact.”

Those opposed to holding school on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012:

  • Pamela Iacono, board chair: “I think it’s very important that we have Veterans Day off. If we offend one veteran, that’s one veteran too many.”
  • Tim Kery, board member: “This is too important a day not to have a holiday. I think our schools do a good job teaching the importance of the day during the wind up to it.”
  • James Walsh, selectman: “If anything, our veterans in this town should be more honored than they are.” Walsh said he spoke to some veterans about holding school on Veterans Day, and they said they wished more young people were present at the town’s Veterans Day ceremony. “The have dedicated their lives to this country. The federal government and the state of Connecticut are recognizing this holiday.”
  • Tom Quinn, veteran and Commander of the American Legion Lt. Owen Fish Memorial Post 143: “The veterans in the American Legion are totally in favor of keeping the holiday. In terms of kids -- kids do what kids do.” But for those who do observe the holiday, he said, it’s “for their grandfathers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their mothers…We believe you owe it to us. Don’t make us come back here and fight for it, because we will come back, year after year.”
  • Tina Dejarnette, resident and teacher: Dejarnette said she took her children to see the Washington Monument on Veterans Day. “To do it on Veterans Day with the WWII veterans was phenomenal. We teachers are not solely responsible for [teaching about Veterans Day]. Parents can set that model.”

What do you think of the arguments for and against holding school on Veterans Day, and the board’s ultimate vote?

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