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Residents, including alumni of the district, made their final plea to the board of education Tuesday night regarding the calendar and Jewish holidays.
At the regular monthly business meeting for the Cinnaminson Board of Education, a handful of residents voiced their concerns over the proposed changes to the school year calendar.
The proposed changes would eliminate all Jewish holidays from the school year calendar if approved via vote by the board.
The vote will be held at the next meeting on December 20, 2016. All meetings begin at 7:30pm, unless otherwise noted, and are held at Cinnaminson Middle School.
Two calendars have been proposed and both can be viewed at the bottom of this post. Neither calendar takes into consideration the proposals put forth by concerned parents at the October meeting.
One of the parent calendar proposals had schools closed on two days for Rosh Hashanah. The other proposed calendar had schools closed on one day for Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday in 2017.
The parent proposed calendars were presented to all staff members within the district, who were asked to comment on them, if they so chose.
The second option was rejected by staff, according to a report from Superintendent Dr. Salvatore Illuzzi. The first calendar fared just “slightly better.”
The Jewish holidays were not included on the 2016-2017 school year calendar and the board of education provided absentee statistics from the High Holidays this past October.
Rosh Hashanah fell on October 3 and 4, while Yom Kippur fell on October 12.
According to statistics provided, 47 students remained home on the High Holidays and 35 teachers and support staff stayed home, costing the district $2,093 for substitutes for both of the High Holidays.
After taking care of regular monthly business, including receiving a report on the capital improvements within the district and results of the PARCC test, the board opened up the meeting to comments from the public.
Resident Tami Bobrin was one of the first alums and resident to speak.
“I graduated from Cinnaminson. I brought my family back here. I’m a rebound; graduate from here, moved away, had my children and came back. I’m what you want. I convinced my husband to come here, to raise our children here and told him we will be respected.
My third grader was given a quiz on the day we celebrated Rosh Hashanah. We came from a poor-performing school district in Pennsylvania to a high-performing district here.
She missed school to celebrate her Jewish holidays. What happened? Life moved on. A quiz was given. She was given her test piecemeal over the following week. In doing so, she missed the review every other student in her class received.”
Resident David Horowitz spoke regarding his wife and daughter, who are graduates of the district.
“My wife was raised in this school district and graduated many years ago. At that time, and since that time up until 2016, the Jewish holidays were on the calendar. They’ve been on the calendar since there’s been a high school.
“I’m kind of wondering where the priorities are. Some traditions need to be reevaluated and some are worth keeping. The ones that benefit the students as human beings are more important than the ones that jump-start someone’s vacation. It’s flexibility, but its tolerance. That’s what we’re starting to lose sight of as a community.”
Horowitz’s wife, Donna, is not only an alum of the district, but also a staff member at New Albany.
Donna works as a one-on-one aide. She put in for a day off for one of the holidays. When she returned to school the next day she was informed that her substitute had to be moved to another location.
That left her student without a teacher the day she was absent to observe the High Holiday.
“That upset me greatly because my student needed me,” Donna said.
Kimberly Horowitz is also a graduate of the district. Kimberly was an IEP student while in the Cinnaminson schools. She pleaded with the board for the current IEP students who need those days off to stay current with their workload.
“Our holidays are three days out of the calendar. It’s a lot to cover in school. That could be tests, quizzes, homework assignments; it’s very unsettling. I was an IEP student. I have a learning disability. I can’t imagine having all of that coursework built on top of me while trying to learn this week’s lesson. I was grateful enough to have those three holidays off. I just ask that today’s IEP students have the same opportunity.”
Tre Rubinsky is a newer resident of Cinnaminson, but is equally involved in the discussion about the Jewish High Holidays on the school calendar.
“I’d like the board to think long and hard. You’re our neighbors. You’re the people we are living with. You need to think about the fact that people are nervous about suits against the district for things like this. You may have to face this topic again. You might want to be well-versed in it and what we are trying to get across.”
Board president Jean Cohen concluded the discussion by saying that she’s heard everyone’s thoughts and opinions and she hopes a decision can be made on the issue.
In other news, the dedication/ribbon cutting for the upgrades to the high school will be held on Wednesday, November 23 at 4:30pm in the front entrance to the new gymnasium. Tours of the building will follow.
The construction project change orders have a net credit of $223,000, to which the board was very pleased to hear.
The board thanked the representative from the construction company for his time, effort and ability to keep the project within budget.
The December meeting will be held in Room 120 at Cinnaminson Middle School at 7:30pm on the 20th.
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