Ediorial: Temple vs. schools was a loser from the start

Posted 7/17/21

The Bristol Warren Regional School Committee’s handling of the 2021-22 school calendar is of the more embarrassing episodes you’ll see from a local government body. It’s difficult …

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Ediorial: Temple vs. schools was a loser from the start

Posted

The Bristol Warren Regional School Committee’s handling of the 2021-22 school calendar is of the more embarrassing episodes you’ll see from a local government body. It’s difficult to decide which is worse — their decision to start school on Rosh Hashanah in the face of widespread objections, or their handling of the process and the public.

The blame falls squarely on the committee itself, not on the district’s administration. The original school calendar submitted by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jonathan Brice and his team opened the school year on Wednesday, Sept. 8. However, the school committee voted to amend that calendar for dubious reasons, moving the first day to Sept. 7 and creating the conflict between the Jewish high holiday and the start of school.

When word spread and some began to politely ask for reconsideration, things took a turn to the bizarre. Acting on the advice of its attorney, the school committee refused to even entertain a discussion. They did not allow the public, including their own employees, to explain why they would like to move opening day or what Rosh Hashanah means to them and their faith.

Considering this same legal team recently shut down a public discussion without any legal grounds, perhaps the school committee should listen less to its attorney and more to common sense.

Because anyone with a smidge of common sense would have known this fight was a loser from the start. By setting the first day of school on Rosh Hashanah, the committee alienated some members of its community, both students and staff. By refusing to listen to others, rejecting public discussion, denying grievances from their teachers’ union, never issuing a public statement, ignoring calls from the media and generally acting like a bunch of children, they riled up not only the larger Jewish community, but the statewide teachers’ union, the regional media and the daytime talk radio crowd.

It appears there could be some movement on this issue, as the school calendar is expected to appear on the agenda of the next committee meeting. Perhaps one or more members is ready to reconsider her position. That could provide a quiet end to an issue that never needed to get as loud as it did. It can also quell the suggestions that this committee, and by extension this community, is biased against Jews.

They likely are not biased against Jews, but their actions have sure made it look that way. And claims of a “slippery slope” are groundless, as there is unlikely to be another convergence between one of the world’s major religions and an important date in public education that cannot be resolved with a minor investment of strategic planning.

So how to explain the committee’s stance thus far? The only explanation is old-fashioned stubbornness. They simply don’t like someone else telling them what to do.

Voters elect their representatives to be selfless, hard-working, creative, innovative, open-minded, principled. Stubbornness is rarely on the list. Hopefully that stubbornness changes soon and this embarrassing episode can slip out of the spotlight.

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.