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Veterans object to school on Memorial Day 2015

Veterans object to school on Memorial Day 2015

Veterans object to school on Memorial Day 2015

Bulloch County Schools officials are revisiting the 2014-15 school calendar again after hearing that veterans' organizations object to the elimination of Memorial Day as a school holiday.

This is not an issue for the current school year, which ends the Friday before Memorial Day. The date in question is May 25, 2015. School system officials said time was running short to select a calendar for next school year when the Board of Education voted Jan. 23 on what they hoped was a final version.

But that calendar, which had support from a majority of school system employees in a survey, extends school through the final full week of May 2015, including Memorial Day as a class day. It was one alternative to a calendar that reduced the number of days off during Thanksgiving week.

Jerry McCarthy, the commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10825 and a member of American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90, signed up for the public participation portion of Thursday's Board of Education meeting.

McCarthy, who had already been in contact with school officials, noted that he had attended ROTC event at Georgia Southern University earlier in the day. VFW leaders present awards to ROTC cadets.

"The ROTC wanted to send at least a hundred cadets tonight. The VFW had ... what I'm saying is, there would not have been enough room in the parking lot," McCarthy told the school board. "Why were we coming tonight? About Memorial Day — to a veteran, there's one holiday you don't mess with. It's been this way for generations. We want it left that way."

The meeting included the board's recognition of Teacher of the Year award winners from the 15 campuses. Other teachers were on-hand to receive mini-grants awarded by the Foundation for Public School Education in Bulloch County.

McCarthy said VFW, American Legion, ROTC and Army National Guard members he had spoken with had been ready to turn out en masse over the Memorial Day concern, but he talked them out of it.

"I told these groups not to come tonight out of respect for these teachers, but they would have done that," he said. "They had the bus ready to go."

Memorial Day, McCarthy noted, is meant to honor Americans who have died in all wars, including "people in our community who went off and never came back."

Regardless of who made the calendar decision, whether the board or teachers, he said, observing Memorial Day should not be matter of convenience.

"We're here to voice our opinion. I need to give them an answer. If you need a show of force, that can happen," McCarthy said.

After thanking McCarthy for his approach and respect shown to teachers, Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson announced he was taking full responsibility for the Memorial Day decision.

"I have to take responsibility," Wilson said. "I'm the one who presented the vote to the teachers, and I'm the one who made the recommendation based on that vote to this board, so in terms of taking responsibility for it, I need to personally do that as the superintendent."

He added that he and the board would take McCarthy's comments into consideration and that he would be back in touch.

Asked about this later in the evening, Wilson said Memorial Day's becoming a school day had been an unintended consequence of the survey options used to select the calendar.

"It is an unintended consequence and we're going to review it to see what we can do to make the best of the situation," Wilson said.

The calendar with classes on Memorial Day 2015 was one of four options in a January survey of school system employees via the website Survey Monkey. System administrators created the survey after a previously proposed calendar, which would have reduced the weeklong Thanksgiving break to three days, drew objections.

Of 770 school system employees who responded, 407, or almost 53 percent, chose the option that included Memorial Day, May 25, as a class day.

This calendar was the top choice of teachers and certificate-holding support staff, with more than 53 percent of the 502 who responded supporting it. It was also the preferred option of more than 55 percent of the 229 non-certificate school personnel who responded.

The previously proposed calendar, which would have shortened the weeklong Thanksgiving break to three days, also extended school to May 29, but with Memorial Day as a holiday. It was the favorite among administrators, but only by a plurality, 16 of the 38 administrators who answered the survey.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.


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