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.


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?

Jim Eastwood December 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM
Good Morning Fairfield Closing school to Honor the Vets--That is an issue?? Boy do those people Elizabet got it wrong !!! Does the School system even teach History of what these people did for us?? Do they even consider that without the Veterans that there would be no life the way we live it NOR would they Have any say in education?? The LEAST we can do as a Nation is to Honor those who have given it all for this Country !!! Think about that You School Board !!!!! And say Thank you --A Day off to Honor is not asking too much and By the way How about teaching History again !!!!! Have a Great and Free Day !!!
Brian December 15, 2011 at 12:34 PM
Wonder how many will plan a day like Tina. I'll bet the house, not many. Schools were once in session. Vets like Jim came, talked, and shared. Students walked to town green to share observances. Now they can stay home and watch the History Channel.
Ron Drew December 15, 2011 at 01:39 PM
As a veteran that served 3.5 tours of duty in Vietnam and have lived in Fairfield for 30 years I think this BOE needs to take a hard look at this subject. It seems the schools are not teaching history. 58,000 men and women died in Vietnam. I wonder what would happen if FFLD passed this or tried to not celebrate MLK day (remember Wallingford?). Veterans allow you to make decisions. Without them this country would not be free to even take holidays. I wonder if some of these board members like the person that recommended this ever was a veteran that fought in action during a conflict. Stop bringing up stupid recommendations. We WILL be back year after year. If it does pass next year FFLD will be all over the Internet and I will make sure of that. It is called BAD Press. Remember of Vets and teach the students our history.
R. Ludlowe December 15, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Our Fairfield elementary school does a great job around Veteran's Day. Each student is invited to remember any friends/relatives who were/are active in the military. They fill an entire bulletin board with pictures and remembrances. Everyone from Civil War vets to Iraqi and Afghanistan service members are represented. Its a very nice program. I am not a vet, but I have tremendous respect for all men and women who have served their country -- as I am sure everyone does. I also have to work on Veteran's Day, but this IN NO WAY changes the way I feel about vets. If I WERE a vet, I think that I would much rather know that children were doing something in remembrance or that further signifies the day instead of sitting on Xbox or watching TV on another day off. I have no problem with them being in school that day, particularly if there are programs built around historical-based education that can be presented to them. This issue should not be confused with the overall teaching of History. History is a terribly under-taught subject at all levels (including collegiate). That is a different issue altogether and should be treated as such.
Melioro December 15, 2011 at 10:33 PM
People. It's a Federal Holiday for goodness sakes. Leave it alone. And while I'll acknowledge this isn't something that is always possible, but there are a number of Fairfield veterans coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan, a family member of mine included. Wouldn't it be nice for them to have that day with their kids. Last I checked we don't have holidays based on the mandate that EVERYONE has to participate. If that were the case, we shouldn't have Jewish Holidays off, because I don't go to Temple, and Jewish students should get Christmas off because they don't go to church.
john mitola December 16, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Ron: As a former BOE member I can tell you that the schools teach history and do teach about the great sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. When Board members considered this issue in the past, it was done with that in mind-many members believe the school chidlren learn alot more about veterans and their sacrifices while in school becasue the system holds assemblies and have special lessons with veterans. I have attended those. So do not give me this BS that the school system does not care about veterans. You should focus your attention on parents, many of them who do not do anything with their children on Veterans Day but instead let them sleep in, take them shopping or let them play video games. Ultimately it is the parents who have to teach their chidlren about the importance of our veterans-I know I do it with my kids. Maybe the BOE is guilty of caring too much about Veterans and that is why many past and present members want to hold school on that day becasue it may be a better way to honor our veterans and teach our chidren about their sacrifices.
Ron Drew December 16, 2011 at 01:53 PM
John; seems like i hit a hot button with my comment. Listen after serving 3.5 years in Vietnam and returning home to a country that treated us to less than crap anything that touches veterans is a hot button to me. America is the land of the free because of veterans like me. Teach the kids if you see a veteran on the street or in the airport to say "Thank You" and know why they are saying it. If the schools want to hold sessions on Veterans Day, bus the kids to Maryland and let them see the men/women that have given their legs/arms in the line of duty. I had to attend funerals for 2 friends that were shot dead home during the Vietnam conflict. Not fun. Sorry for being so hash but the BOE should not even approach this national holiday. Pick MLK or Labor Day or some other holiday if you need the days.
john mitola December 16, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Ron: Thank you for your service. I have the ultimate respect for guys like you. Yes, you may be correct that perhaps this is one day that needs to be left alone. Thanks again. John Mitola
JM December 17, 2011 at 01:14 AM
Ron and others, the issue isn't disrespecting veterans. The issue is they are not respected enough. Mr. Mitola is right that parents need to do more to teach their children about the critical contribution of our veterans, but that isn't necessarily the easiest lesson on Nov. 11th since only 21% or so of employees do NOT work that day. All the rest do. That's why private camps which watch kids for that day do a booming business; the parents are at work. The HOLIDAY isn't being cancelled; the lesson that Veterans deserve our respect and have something to say would simply be moved to the day where it's being recognized nationwide. Over half of Fairfield County I believe has school that day; Fairfield would hardly be a trailblazer in this regard. But teaching a student that Nov. 11th is a day on which we actively recognize the contributions of Veterans....is teaching a student-soon-to-be-adult a habit to continue for years to come. Teaching a student that Nov. 11th is a day to go to camp or to sleep in or to hang out in front of a t.v. is NOT teaching a lifelong habit. It's treating Veterans' Day like a Saturday.
JM December 17, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Ron, I love the idea (even though it couldn't happen) of busing kids to Maryland....the whole concept of which could only happen if school were in session. With school in session, the BoS could work with the BoE or Dr. Title to request kids and bands and orchestras and choirs at townwide events....there are all sorts of ways that active learning could take place and the kids could receive a whole different and incredibly valuable education -- if school were in session. The Ffld History Museum could be approached about arranging some types of lessons, the DAR could get involved, there is so much potential for developing in every school child in Fairfield the lifelong habit of understanding the important OF this day, ON this day -- if school were in session. And this coming year, Veterans Day isn't even on a school day. And with all commemorative exercises taking place on Sunday, there isn't even the pretense that school children will be acknowledging veterans. Their day off, Nov. 12th, will be spent like just any day off. Anyone with military connections will be teaching their child ON Nov. 11th -- as they should.
Melioro December 19, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Once again, when my kids have off for Rosh Hashonah, I don;t teach my kids about Judaism. Following your logic, we should cancel that day of school off as well. And similarly with any holiday which didn't involve every child using it as a learning experience, including Christmas, Easter, and perhaps even Thanksgiving, as there are quite possibly a number of students of other nationalities to do not celebrate this solely US holiday.
JM December 19, 2011 at 09:51 PM
Melioro, your logic is completely flawed here. Public schools were founded to "create good citizens, unite society and prevent crime and poverty." That EXACTLY fits why students should be in school on Veteran's Day, to reinforce especially the first two of those three qualities. And all around the country schools have classes on the high Jewish holidays; it's only in communities with high concentrations of Jewish students who take it off, because they would be instructionally wasted. And where a society and its families have plenty of built in and widely acknowledged means of acknowledging important cultural events, then the educational mission of public schooling is satisfied. But with so few parents even being free on Veteran's Day, the educational focus on teaching the newest generation of young Americans about the critical role fulfilled by our veterans is lost, and it becomes what it is....a day to get extra sleep.
Melioro December 20, 2011 at 04:26 PM
JM. You made my point perfectly. The logic represented in that post was intended to be flawed, but it uses the same logic you used to argue against having Veteran's Day off. Your logic was, since not all parents take their children to appropriately themed locations on Veteran's Day, and not all employers give the day as a holiday, then our kids should be in school so the teachers can tell them about it. With regard to your quoted reference of why public schools were founded (which I have never heard before, but will assume for the sake of argument there is some government document which states this), I think that further erodes your stance. I would hold that part of being a "good citizen" includes understanding those that come from different backgrounds and religions as you. Segregation and lack of understanding those that are "different" than you is a road to hatred. I would venture to guess far fewer employers offer Rosh Hashonah as a paid holiday than do Veterans' Day, and far more parents don't teach their children about the Jewish religion on this day than parents that don't discuss a veterans' sacrifices on Veterans' Day. Furthermore, if a school, as you say is, "fulfilling its mission" by "acknowledging important cultural events" then having Veterans' Day off is the right course of action. While you contend the holiday is for "getting extra sleep", for many it is not and the day should be honored.
JM December 21, 2011 at 02:26 AM
I mean you no disrespect when I say you can't possibly be equating the importance of teaching children the importance of our veterans with the importance of teaching them about the Jewish religion??? That you actually believe it should be an expected role of our public schools? Or that employers should be giving that as a paid day off? Our teachers are already given the role to tell them about this day! Our schools already acknowledge that they fulfill an important role of educating our students about Veterans Day, as evidenced by the many veterans who are speaking at our school in assemblies and other events. It is already a part of our schools! Why isn't it done ON Veterans Day? Teach them, instill in them, a lifelong appreciation that THIS is the day on which to take a special moment to consider the critical contributions that veterans have made and continue to make to our society. What is especially galling about next year's calendar is that Veterans Day is on a weekend. Commemorative events will be on the weekend. Family acknowledgements of family members will be on the weekend. Nov. 12th is just a DAY OFF!
Melioro December 21, 2011 at 02:39 AM
So basically: the teacher's already teach the kids about it, the federal government made a federal holiday to honor them, but your stance is we should only reach them about it one day a year and no longer honor them with a holiday. Look, if you are that torn up you don't get the day off, get your employer to give it to you. The point is, your argument can be applied to just about any holiday, those already mentioned, Martin Luther king day, president's day, etc. it makes absolutely no sense to argue we shouldn't have holidays so teacher's can spend that time teaching the kids about it. If you don't like the previous arguments, consider President's day. I don't know ANYone that talks to their kids about past presidents on presidents day, so shouldn't we be in school so the teachers can teach us about presidents? That is the obsurbity of your argument, in that applied across all holidays, the kids would never have days off.
JM December 21, 2011 at 03:27 AM
The "absurdity" of my argument? You were doing so well with no insults for so long. Okay, how about the ridiculousness of your presenting a clear "separation of church vs. state" Constitutional issue with your Jewish holiday analogy? And what employers just "give" away holidays? And there is no well accepted way to acknowledge MLK day the way we can with our veterans, who speak so ably about their work and sacrifices. You think we can ask some slave/sharecropper/back-of-the-bus-sitting African American descendants to speak about the horrors of their forefathers' experiences??? To a bunch of kindergarteners? And you brought up President's Day, not me. And the height of absurdity: "the kids would never have days off." Be honest! If what you are looking for is a way to give kids a break, then call it what it is! If you are saying that letting kids sleep in is the best way to teach them what NOV. 11TH means, then say that. Or have them in school to learn that lesson on Nov. 11th! By your argument, if the teachers are NOT needed to teach about this, then let's tell them NOT to have Veterans come in to school at all and let's leave it up to the communities and the towns to teach them about this day! Let's see what they learn. NO ONE is taking away Veterans Day. It is now, and always should remain, a federal holiday that is recognized by the states. The schools don't have the power to "no longer honor them with a holiday."
Melioro December 21, 2011 at 02:29 PM
JM. I am not quite sure where to begin here. First, l'll reiterate that I said your idea was absurd, not you personally so not sure how that was an insult. You said there is no "accepted" way to celebrate MLK day; is there an "accepted" way of celebrating Veterans Day? To my knowledge there is not. As per your previous post, you discussed such ideas as "busing kids to Maryland" or going to the Fairfield History Museum as potential ways to make use of a Veterans Day spent in school as opposed to having the day off. There are a number of civil rights exhibits in Washington DC that the kids be taken to. As for Presidents Day, yes I did bring it up; as an example of how your reasoning behind eliminating Veterans Day as a holiday from the school calendar is illogical. As said before, if your argument, or "holiday day off test" is applied to every day the schools have as days off, there wouldn't be any. I will readily admit I want the kids to have days off from school because there is far more to learn outside the classroom then inside. That is not to say what they learn inside the classroom ISN'T valuable, but days off are just as important as days in school, especially for the kindergartners. As for Veterans coming to school, they don;t have to do it on Veterans Day to be effective, as you have eluded. I am beginning to wonder if you might be a politician, as your last post derails the conversation to accusations of belittling veterans and teachers.
Ron Drew December 21, 2011 at 08:01 PM
I have read all comments and made a few myself. As mentioned, I am a combat veteran serving 3.5 tours of duty in Vietnam very proud to be an American to allow freedom to even have threads like this. When I returned home I was treated like a “baby killer”. Much of that was because home folks did not understand what the military was up against. I did not ask to serve I was drafted. Veteran Deaths by conflict prior to mideast. WW1=116,000, WW2=405,399, Korea=43,891, Vietnam=58,167 (approx population of Fairfield). Vietnam 40,000 died were under 22 years old. Of the 40,000 –33,000 were under 18. So out of 58,167 69% were kids. Approx 623,000 died from WW1. All Federal Holidays should be addressed by spending a day in school not teaching the normal studies but teaching the kids why the holiday exists. Regardless if the school takes the day off or not. Bring speakers in not for just an hour maybe half day. Kids MUST understand why we have holidays and why they were created in the first place. Must kids understand Memorial Day because we have a parade and the media explains the meaning on TV. On Veteran’s Day the kids may know the meaning because of Grandpa. But other holidays like Labor Day, the kids may not have a clue. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said “It takes less time to do a thing right than it does to explain why you did it wrong”. It is a good thing to have a debate and have opinions but it has to end. Welcome Home IRAQ Vets! Happy Holidays
Melioro December 21, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Ron. Of course, thank you for your service. I have many friends and family that have served in WWII, Vietnam, and multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact that is typically how I spend my Veterans' Day is at a barbeque at my brother-in-law's house who has had two tours. I am not sure anyone here is suggesting we NOT teach the kids about what Veterans Day is and why we have it; this was a debate about whether kids should have that day off from school, and honestly NOT having it off belittles the significance, in my opinon. How many teachers took time out of their day to discuss Pearl Harbor on December 7 (Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day); probably not many, and I don;t ever hear a question from my kids about December 7 because it's just another day at school for them. At least having a day off might raise the question, "Why don't we have school today?" And to your point, I would venture to guess most kids, especially young kids don't understand most holidays; to them Independence Day is about fireworks and barbecues ,Memorial Day is about a parade, and Labor Day is about the last long weekend before school. It takes time to understand and comprehend all of it and, even as adults we rarely grasp the true reason behind our holidays.
OneFairfield December 21, 2011 at 10:44 PM
School should be in session on Veterans Day! The day should be devoted to teaching our students the sacrifices veterans made to keep our country safe and free. I think it is stupid also to have a vacation day for Martin Luther King as well as Memorial Day or Presidents Day.Those vacation days become 3 day holidays were people ski or go to the beach or shop at stores hawking Sales instead of learning why we have those days in the first place. Kids should be learning
JM December 22, 2011 at 02:54 AM
When did I say anything about "belittling veterans and teachers"? There would be plenty of days off. But what are they learning outside of the classroom on Veterans' Day? I know I have to work; I'm not going to civil rights exhibits in Washington DC.


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