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.