RANDOLPH, NJ – Faced with hundreds of pissed off locals, angry Italian-Americans and others enraged by a school calendar it erased from named holidays, a New Jersey school board voted on Monday to return to his original school calendar, including a day off marked for Columbus Day.
But first, the Randolph Township Board of Education came under an onslaught of nearly four hours of boos, taunts, calls for their resignations and about 50 speakers during the public session. The overwhelming majority of speakers accused the board of directors of introducing what they called “wake-up” and “culture cancellation” actions into their school system.
The few people who stood up for the council and looked at the schedule were shouted at by the more than 400 people who packed Randolph Middle School for the special reunion.
The meeting had one item on the agenda: consider a resolution to reverse what the board had already done.
Monday’s meeting was called following a quick reaction from parents and national media coverage after the board’s decision last month to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.
Previously:Parents say Columbus Day changes come at “Italians’ expense”
Columbus Day:Celebrate the cultural heritage or the colonization of the Amerindians?
The board’s attempt to appease angry Italian-Americans sparked yet another nationwide outburst of criticism on June 8 when it approved revisions to the 2021-2022 school calendar that removed references to all holidays named in favor of the “day off”, including Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Randolph resident John Sharples said the day after the board vote to remove all holiday names: “I woke up and found my town had turned into a national embarrassment.”
Monday’s vote to revert the district to its original calendar language was passed by 8-1. Randolph security guards and police maintained a strong presence of uniformed officers inside and outside the building.
The only vote against came from board member Susan DeVito, who criticized the media for poor coverage of the issue and for criticism of the decision which “addressed issues larger than Columbus”.
This criticism, which has become fodder for the conservative media, led to “vicious” and “vulgar” emails and comments from across the country, board members said.
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” she said. “If this was truly the Italian heritage without any other problem, we would not have been called Marxists, Communists, Racists.”
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A break was requested at one point to help police calm the crowd, but even then individual arguments erupted, including one in which a board supporter was insulted by another woman.
Critics from the board were acclaimed in the town hall and often received standing ovations from the audience, many of whom carried signs with phrases such as “All Holidays Matter” and “Resignation!” “
Ralph Contini of Unico National, the country’s largest Italian-American service organization, called the meeting a “flash point.”
“In your attempt to be awakened, you have awakened the entire Randolph community,” he said. “We’re drawing the line in the sand. You’ve crossed the line. Enough, that’s enough of this anti-Columbus movement.”
Other Unico members handed out American and Italian flags to the public. Some brought their own flags. A man wore an Italian flag as a cape.
State Senator Anthony Bucco, who represents Randolph in New Jersey’s 25th district, adopted a calmer tone but also called on the board to reverse its decision.
“Taking (Columbus Day) off the schedule was bad enough,” said Bucco. “But when you took the next step to eliminating all the holidays, you let your quest for diversity turn into division.”
The resolution to restore the school calendar was amended to call for a study with public participation on adding a day off to the school year to honor veterans.
During their discussion of the resolution, some board members apologized for the fury, including board chair Tammy MacKay.
“Be clear: these votes and decisions are exclusively the product of this board,” she said. “The money stops here with those of us sitting in front of you and we own it.”
Following the decision to remove the names of the holidays at the previous board meeting, thousands of people signed a petition on Change.org demanding the resignation of the CEO and all board members. ‘administration.
Follow William Westhoven on Twitter at @wwesthoven.