School board blasted for canceling Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day from holiday calendar

A Connecticut school board’s decision regarding Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day stirred community members: “It was a gut punch.”

(Video: WABC)

In Stamford, Connecticut, the Board of Education gathered on Jan. 23 to finalize the school district’s calendar for 2024 and 2025 and included a move purportedly geared toward shortening the span of the school year for students. After failing to make the change the year before, the Stamford Advocate reported that, by a vote of 5-3, schools would remain open on both Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day.

Alfred Fusco, a veteran and founding member of the area’s chapter of UNICO, the nation’s largest Italian-American service organization, was reportedly doubly upset by the school board’s decision.

“It was just a gut punch. It was terrible. It had no inclination,” he told WABC. “A lot of bad things happened in this country after the discovery, let’s not whitewash it…I said what happened on October 12, 1492, the discovery of America, was the most significant event in the history of the human race.”

Joshua Esses, the board member behind the move to cancel the days off, had argued that the 181-day school year spanned too much time as it reached into mid-June.”We should make it shorter because it’s better educationally for our students,” he told the Advocate.

He also contended that school’s being open those days would ultimately benefit the students as he issued a statement that read, “I want to return even more holidays to the classroom. This year, a majority of the board was not prepared to go further. Under state law, when open on federal holidays, the district must provide a suitable education program in observance of the day.”

Esses was also said to have proposed removing the Muslim and Jewish holidays Eid al-Fitr and Rosh Hashanah from the school closure schedule, but did not garner support from other members.

Despite his defense that students would be taught a curriculum geared toward each holiday, social media users slammed what was perceived as the continued erasure of American history as seen with efforts to remove statues of Christopher Columbus and other important figures.

Board member Versha Munshi-South, one of the supporters of the move, appeared to bolster concerns over indoctrination in the classroom as she downplayed the issue to the Advocate. “I can’t imagine that we have many students on Columbus Day who are observing Columbus Day with their families.”

“The students were using primary sources to investigate the true history of Columbus and I can tell you that, based on primary source research, no, they did not conclude that Columbus was a hero,” Munshi-South said of a class at Dolan Middle School’s lesson “Columbus: Hero or Villain?”

“I don’t think it makes sense to teach students one thing in class and then have Columbus Day off,” she argued. “It’s a mixed message for students.”

Meanwhile, parents in the district had mixed reactions for WABC as Steve Wilson said, “As long as they get the history, they get the understanding, they get the context of what these dates mean and how it fits into the country’s history, and most importantly they get to learn.”

Parent Pat Keane told the outlet, “A lot of companies and other organizations have done it and given more floating holidays and things, so I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another, I would like the kids to have the day off, but it’s not up to me I guess.”

Kevin Haggerty


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