Too Many Unanswered Questions in Marblehead

The Jewish and Catholic communities of Marblehead dodged a bullet at the March 19 School Committee meeting. The Marblehead School Committee did not fare as well.

The state mandates 180 days of school, and teacher contracts dictate that school end by June 30. Traditionally, a calendar that plans for five snow days satisfies these terms.

This February, after a sixth snow day, the School Committee decided to revisit the 2015-2016 calendar it had just approved at its January meeting. Its goal was to trim days off to create a bigger cushion in case next winter turns out to be as harsh as this year’s.

The Superintendent emailed a survey to parents to find out if certain days off really “mattered” to them. The only days the School Committee put on the potential chopping block were the two days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Good Friday.

When the committee posted the March 19 meeting agenda, it included discussion about the 2015-2016 calendar, presumably based on the results of the survey. After 150 people showed up to express their dismay and displeasure, the School Committee apologized and took no action, leaving both the High Holidays and Good Friday intact as days off by default.

Not only does this end not justify the means the committee used to gather its data, but there also remain too many unanswered questions.

Who drafted the survey and who approved it?

Why were Jewish and Catholic holidays the only days off considered?

Why wasn’t consolidation of February and April vacations an option?

Why wasn’t the Friday before Labor Day an option?

Why were all restrictions on the calendar that are based on teacher collective bargaining contracts not listed and addressed?

Why was a longer school day or shorter summer vacation not an option?

Most importantly, what might have happened had the Jewish community not rallied and showed up in force to protest?

The School Committee members apologized for the survey’s poor drafting and stated that their intent was not malicious and their action not based on religion. We want to believe them.

We hope they will prove that by reopening the calendar discussion and putting everything on the table, including February and April vacations (despite the inconvenience some student athletes might suffer) and that last Friday before Labor Day (when Marblehead Harbor is a sea of sailboats). Until that happens, the only real result of the March 19 meeting is the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth.

This originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on March 26, 2015.