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It's Final - District 69 Bans Halloween Parties

The school board supports superintendent's decision to eschew Oct. 31 celebrations, including costumes, parties, parades and candy. However, the superintendent and board acknowledged there were issues with the way he communicated this.

 

It might not be the most popular decision with students and some parents, but the three Skokie-Morton Grove District 69 schools will not have Halloween parties this year.

The seven-member District 69 board backed Superintendent Quintin Shepherd's decision to ban the parties at its regular meeting Nov. 16. 

The board did not take a vote, but it also made no effort to reverse the edict handed down earlier this month by Shepherd that it was not a good use of student time to spend two hours celebrating Halloween on Oct. 31.

“We support his decision,” Board President Terri Lefler said.

Shepherd acknowledged there were some issues in terms of how his decision was communicated with the public. 

Shepherd's considered making the move to ban Halloween in the three years he has been in place as superintendent and decided to move forward this year.

At Tuesday’s meeting, he cited concerns District 69 has not made progress in certain areas in terms of ISAT testing and ultimately fearing that in the 2014-2015 year, the Illinois State Board of Education could eventually take over District 69 if scores do not improve.

What has angered some parents is there was no parental input on the matter. Shepherd apologized for the way the communications and decisions were handled. He had originally said he did not want to waste the community’s time and that is why parents were not informed beforehand.

“It was not my intention to offend anyone,” he said.

A letter was sent to parents a couple of weeks ago informing them of the decision that touched on religious and cultural concerns as reasons to move away from school celebrations. Shepherd also has noted an attendance drop on Halloween.

Shepherd, who has two children of his own, is not against having fun on the day, but just doesn’t believe school is the appropriate forum for it.

“I think Halloween is something that should be celebrated and there should be parties and you should spend time with your friends and family after school if you so choose,” he said.

However, Shepherd’s reasoning did not assuage a group who believe October 31st should still have a couple of hours of fun.

 “My granddaughter is still going to trick-or-treat but she is missing out on those two hours and I believe those two hours are important for a childhood,” said Linda Kowalczyk, who spoke to the board directly. “You all have memories of celebrating some sort of party in school. You are taking that away and you are missing the opportunity to educate and learn about each other and to express to children that this is part of America.”

Shaun Saville created an online petition that eventually closed with 472 signatures to keep the celebration in place.

“I can’t see how taking two hours in the afternoon will make that much of a difference,” she said.

But Shepherd did have his supporters in the audience.

 “I think it is a waste of time during the school day,” said Skokie resident Alex Baluk. “It goes back to money and money for kids going to school.”

Lefler said the decision for 2012 was final, but left the door open to revisit the issue in the future.

Overall, board members appear to be pleased with the work Shepherd is doing. “I think your leadership has been phenomenal,” noted board member Maggie Nessim.

While realizing the Halloween festivities were not going to occur this year, Saville is hopeful that the board will make some internal alterations in the future.

“I don’t think anything is going to change,” she said. “I hope the board in the future will not let Quintin continue to circumvent the process.”

The school board did vote 6-1 to ban a skate park on Lincoln School property during the same meeting. 

Lorel Park October 19, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Really? This is the place to plug this? Not very appropriate at this time.
Lorel Park October 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I think your rans would be more effective if you spelled his name right... Missed it on the first and last.
Linda K October 20, 2012 at 06:31 AM
I am sure that the school board and the superintendent have many difficult decisions to make. I am not going to "dis" them, or call them names. It will not accomplish anything. However, in my opinion, this decision was not made in an appropiate way. It seems that Mr. Sheperd just made this decision himself, and of course, the school board in most cases will back the superintendent. I also believe he back peddled a bit. He realized he upset many in the community and school and needed to defend his position. Citing religious reasons just didn't work. Not only is religion something that should not be used as a reason in a public school, but halloween is no longer thought of as a religious holiday. Using cultural difference angered many people, we should not be separating the cultures we should be encouraging the cultures to come together and learn from them. Halloween is part of American culture, as insignificant as it may be. And, of course, financial is also out because a child doesn't have to bring anything, and costume can be handmade, or handed down. These reasons offended some, but I think what offended the most was not having our right to voice our opinion. Parents don't like not having a say in their child's lives, even at school. Then Mr. Sheperd used a, in my opinion, scare tactic by throwing in the poor ISAT scores. (sorry I'm long winded and running out of characters...will continue). Thanks.
Linda K October 20, 2012 at 06:54 AM
But, imo, everyone is missing something that I think is very important. That is well rounded children. Well rounded children need opportunities like school parties, we had them, why shouldn't they. Many schools, including district 69 are low on funds. This means cuts, and cuts mean there are things that are pushed to the wayside, such as art, music, and sports. Within that Halloween party, the teachers could have implemented art in the form of a Halloween craft. Music, in the form of a Halloween song. Exercise, in the form of a costume parade. Socialization, obviously during the party the children would be able to socialize with each other. In this world of facebook, any chance a child gets to speak face to face and get to know another person is a good thing. And public speaking, each child could stand before their class and tell why they chose to dress-up as they did. This, imo, all falls under the realm of education. The types of education that is being cut more and more from the curriculum of our schools. And most importantly, I feel a well rounded person needs to have a well rounded childhood. Please, let our children be just that, children. Let them have time to play, imagine, and learn, with children of many cultures, this must be done at school as well as home. I hope the board and Mr. Sheperd reinstate Halloween next year, and not remove anymore of these types of festivities. Keep your children home, and let them know your are taking a stand for them. Thanks.
Buddy Holly October 24, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I can sum up this whole page in three words, folks: First World problems.

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