I want to follow up on the School Messenger email I sent out Wednesday that described an emergency response at school. First and foremost, the staff member stricken ill is doing well and will be back at school next week. Secondly, I want to share a few comments from parents who happened to be picking up children while emergency vehicles pulled into school on Wednesday afternoon.
- “I was impressed with how well-coordinated the situation was as it was happening. All the adults knew what was going on and communicated it well.”
- “I knew my child was safe since I saw so many adults helping with whatever was happening. I felt reassured.”
I echo these sentiments, as much of our response happened quickly with just a few moments notice. When the emergency occurred I was directing traffic around a parked landscape truck that reduced Hastings Street to a single, dangerous lane. Carline was modified, students were moved to a safer area and I was debriefed while emergency personnel arrived. I am extremely proud of the compassionate and thorough care given by our staff during this situation.
This year we’ve been talking about how to cultivate a greater sense of shared leadership at Fiske, so all staff understand the direction we are going and what we’re trying to accomplish, together. Wednesday’s response to a staff member in need was a shining example of shared leadership at its finest.
Speaking of shared leadership, I have set up meeting times open to all staff to discuss important matters pertaining to curriculum, culture, teaching, learning, etc. The agenda for this bi-weekly, one hour meeting will be set by staff and then we will work toward solutions to these items.
Our first meeting centered on the inclusiveness or lack of inclusiveness for some students around our school’s Halloween celebration, which includes a Halloween parade through the neighborhood and celebrations within classrooms. While such a celebration provides a fun break from a typical school day, it does come at the cost of excluding a handful of students, whose families do not celebrate this holiday.
Any exclusion of students, at any time it’s presented to me, is a concern. I address these matters with the seriousness they deserve. As you may imagine, a planned event at school approved by me, endorsed by teachers and supported by the community at large, may have a negative impact for a group of students. And as I have stated, an exclusion of even one student is enough to get my attention.
As the leadership advisory group discussed how we might observe Halloween, several stories from staff surfaced from their youth or from other family members who have experienced the difficulty of a child’s beliefs versus what the school is endorsing.
- A child mouthing words to Christmas songs, so as not to get in trouble with the teacher, while holding onto her religious beliefs taught at home.
- Children being held out from school because Halloween (in essence a religious holiday) was not practiced at home, and there were no meaningful alternatives provided.
These were childhood memories traveling back quite a distance in time. The first person sharing of these stories at our advisory meeting had a palpable effect on the eight staff at the table. One staff member even remarked, “I never thought of it this way. I really need to rethink what I teach about Halloween.”
We do really need to think carefully about the Halloween tradition at school. Through discussions and advisory team feedback, ideas for ways to better shape the day while being respectful to all were formulated. I then shared these ideas with staff for feedback.
We will hold our Halloween parade from about 9:00-9:30 by walking through the neighborhood of Madison, Sheridan and Hastings Streets with students returning to school to have their own classroom celebrations, if a teacher has scheduled one. Here are some changes to our activities and plans:
- The parade will end when we cross from Sheridan Street and enter back into the front entrance of school.
- Classroom teachers are encouraged to have fall-themed celebrations with arts, crafts and activities. Halloween activities may be a part of the overall theme, but not the entire one.
- Food should not be part of any celebrations.
- Staff will dress for the day at their own discretion.
All of these measures will be in place to ensure both a fun experience and a respectful one. These minor changes are meant to shape the day in a meaningful and appropriate manner for all. The entire staff has been given time to provide feedback on the plans, is supportive of the changes and I have not heard any disapproval voiced.
Finally, I want you to understand this is a matter of concern that was initiated within the school, meaning from staff and me. There has been no outside pressure or persuasion. I hope you can tell I have given this matter a great deal of thought and have moved in concert with the Fiske staff in creating this plan. We will continue this discussion throughout the school year, as inclusion is a core value at Fiske worth examining both in theory and practice.
If for any reason, you do not want your child to participate in the parade, please contact your child’s teacher or the main office to let us know. We have an alternate activity for children, who do not wish to participate, planned for the parade portion of the day.
For those students participating in the parade, please remember:
- Students should come to school with their costumes over their school clothing, so we can start our parade promptly at 9:00.
- Costumes should fit in backpacks or a small bag with your child’s name on it so they can store their costumes and easily bring them home that afternoon.
- No costumes depicting violence, violent characters or weapons as accessories should be brought to school.
- Comfortable shoes should be worn.
I thank you for your time and attention in this matter.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Anthony J. Colannino
Fiske Community News 10/24/14