A “culturally sensitive” calendar for the 2017-18 school year was approved by the Southampton School Board last week—one that continues to purposely omit identifying religious holidays by their proper names.
The more anticipated topic of Columbus Day, and whether board members should consider renaming the holiday as “Indigenous Day” at the request of certain students and members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, was not broached during the brief discussion at the board’s last meeting, held on Tuesday, February 7.
But when the discussion turned to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which originally was still identified by its name in next year’s 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 are noted in the current year’s school calendar simply as “no school.”
Mr. McKenna, who was elected to the board in 2016, pointed out that the new calendar failed to mention that both Good Friday and the start of Passover occur on the same day, March 30, 2018. He also asked his fellow board members if it was okay to approve a calendar that omits other religious holidays but still mentions Rosh Hashanah by name. It was unclear why Rosh Hashanah was added to the original version of next year’s calendar.
Board member Andy Brindle also questioned the original calendar, pointing out that he thought the idea moving forward was to be as “culturally sensitive” as possible.
The four other board members in attendance agreed with Mr. McKenna and Mr. Brindle, ultimately deciding to identify Rosh Hashanah as “no school,” just like the other religious holidays, before voting to approve the academic calendar. Board member Heather McCallion did not attend the meeting.
The current year’s school calendar does not identify any holidays, religious or otherwise, by their proper name. But next year’s adopted calendar identifies some non-religious holidays, like Labor Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Thanksgiving recess, by their official names.