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Orange Superintendent Explains 'Difficult Decision' on Halloween Plans

Halloween activities canceled to allow instructional time in wake of Sandy; "Unfortunate circumstances did intervene," says Orange Schools Superintendent Lynn McMullin.

 

A press release from Orange Superintendent of Schools Lynn McMullin:

I have heard from several parents regarding the cancelation of Halloween parades and parties for this year; and last night when I had a little more time, I wrote a detailed explanation for this very difficult situation.  I sincerely hope it helps everyone to understand how the decision was made.

I did not mean to top-down mandate the culture of the district.  Nor was this a malicious or punitive decision.  This was simply a decision that needed to be made quickly, among many decisions made this week, and I took responsibility for it.   There were many factors to consider, such as teachers needing to finish-up units for the end of the term, which is right upon us… such as our pending Veterans Day celebrations scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Monday for which the teachers and children need to carefully prepare… and the reality that so many parents have already had to juggle their work schedules for the past five days due to our closures.

Additionally, I grew up believing that the cure for chaos and misfortunate was a return to routine as soon as possible.  I did not personally cancel Halloween to advance an agenda; and had the storm not wiped out five days of classes, all the Halloween celebrations would have gone on as scheduled.  But, unfortunate circumstances did intervene; and for that I am sorry, but not to blame.   I know that parents may not understand this, but four days lost in November are not really equal to four days made-up in June.  It’s not a one-for-one trade, and any teacher you might speak to would quickly confirm that. 

Finally, when I came to Orange, I did not come as a dictator.  I listened when teachers said they did not have enough time to complete the curriculum.  Some teachers told me they could not fit in daily math instruction, which distressed me.  Yes, I did set three district-wide goals this year, and protecting instructional time is one of them.  But, what I meant by protecting instructional time is centered on a former practice in which the teachers were too often pulled from their classrooms for curriculum writing and professional development activities at the district level. 

In addition to this key change at the district level, I asked teachers to plan activities with a clear curricular objective or target and write it on the board, so that students can refer to it.  Learning does not have to be contrary to either self-expression or having fun

Finally, I asked our teachers to protect instructional time by being selective and choosing the most rewarding activities among the many possible enhancements.  We can’t do everything that comes along; therefore, we must choose the best. 

These objectives are clearly documented in my opening day talk to the teachers, which you can find on the webpage or linked below.   I will try to continue to live by these principles because I deeply believe in them and I think, at heart, the school community does as well.  I canceled the Halloween parades and parties because it will be November 7th, not October 31st; because Veteran’s Day is immediately upon us the next day and worthy of our careful attention; because also upon us is the end of the term; and finally, because the school Halloween events had gone off without a hitch the weekend before Sandy hit, “Truck or Treat” was being offered by a volunteer parents and our First Selectman Jim Zeoli at High Plains this Saturday, and the real ‘Trick or Treating’ in neighborhoods was still taking place.  I was also thinking about our parents who have had to request time off this week and are likely to be feeling a squeeze when requesting additional time.  Many are planning to come with their family members to the Veteran’s Day celebration as well.

When you get a chance, please take a look at these ‘celebrations’ of the Orange District.  They represent a side of me that seems as yet to be unknown to you.  I do support enrichment activities.  I do understand that learning takes place outside of the textbook.  I have never claimed it’s all about the test scores.  (I also included my Opening Day message to the teachers, in which I talked about protecting instructional time, so you can see it was not related to Halloween or any agenda.) 

 My hopes in writing this are to assure parents there are no punitive intentions here.  Likewise, this was not a thoughtless decision.  I understand there is disappointment, but disappointment is not punishment, and returning to a classroom routine after a week without school, is not a punishment, either.

 Lynn K. McMullin

Superintendent of Schools

Orange


MaryAlice Dacounto November 02, 2012 at 06:26 PM
This really seems unfair to the children and is a huge dissapointment. Turkey Hill school students start the parade at 1:50 so the amount of school time missed is one hour and 10 minutes. This couldn't have been fit in??
john November 02, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Twin Electric has Service Repair Parts in stock and ready to repair your damaged equipment. They can be reached at 203-645-8226, they are local guys and Orange Residents.
mygreensocks November 02, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I agree. It's not a large part of their day and it's not like this will spare them making up any days. It would be a nice morale booster for those kids that have spent a less than stellar week. We're not talking middle and high school. Life is about balance people. At least I try to teach my kids that.
Patty Thorndike November 02, 2012 at 11:14 PM
My daughter will certainly be disappointed that there will not be a Halloween parade at school. I made sure that she was part of other Halloween activities. I support Lynn in her decision. I think it is the correct one!
PPSMom November 02, 2012 at 11:34 PM
She just seems to be so out of touch with elementary school and the Orange community.
Marie November 03, 2012 at 12:15 AM
"I did not mean to top-down mandate the culture of the district." Lynn McMullin. So why did you do it? Time is not an excuse in this day and age of electronic media. Why not take a vote? Create a poll for teachers, parents, staff. So what will be cancelled next? School plays? Field days? Thanksiving feasts? Holiday sing a longs? Stick around....same bat time, same bat channel. I'm sure we are going to see more top down decisions soon. 'Out of touch' to say the least.
Concerned Resident November 03, 2012 at 12:42 AM
I agree with Mrs. McMullin! There are more important things than a parade. It is more than 10 minutes of wasted instructional time, it winds up being most if nit a whole wasted day. The kids go to school to get an education, not have parties. Some might be disappointed, but they will get over it. Let the kids focus on Veterans Day now. I teach in a different district and went back the day after Halloween. The kids didn't even mention missing anything. I think the parents are the ones disappointed. Let the school do their job and teach! Thank you Mrs. McMullin for protecting our children's educational time!
Marie November 03, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Clearly people without young children (or no children at all) forget so easily.....funny, even Scrooge changed his mind after being reminded of the past, present and future.
Barbara T. November 03, 2012 at 01:04 AM
That is so true.
Barbara T. November 03, 2012 at 01:09 AM
So true.
Barbara T. November 03, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I would like to see a smile once in a while.
Barbara T. November 03, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I grew up that their was still time in being a young child and having some fun with a smile on my face. Little things like a parade for the very young has always been a tradition in the town. Sorry for the little one’s that were looking forward walking through the halls with a big grin on their little faces for maybe 5 minutes. I am glad that I have no child in the school system anymore.This is my own opinion Ms McMullin.
Mary Devine November 03, 2012 at 12:50 PM
This has been a period of extreme crisis, especially for the elderly in our community. Instead of condemning the actions of the School Superintendent, why not put your energy towards reaching out to to the elderly? Share some of your food, your warm home and your concern for those in need.. Make sure that they have their medications, charge their cell phones for them,make sure that they have the supplies that they need to get through this power outage. Many of them will have spoiled foods in their refrigerator and need help to clean thei home up after the storm.. Many of them are without rides to their medical appointments and rely on community services, such as meals on wheels, which may have not been able to reach them due to downed power lines and trees. This is a time to come together and focus on helping others. Teaching our children the compassion and caring of those in need, should be the important lesson that they learn from these trying days.
DF November 03, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Kindergarten is suppose to be fun an learning. This super intendant needs to wake up and realize that life is not all about meeting state marks. I understand this a bit more at the elementary and definitely middle school levels, but really kindergarten? To comment to the last lady, wrong forum or article to comment that on. I have been out for 6 days straight. Go load up your minivan and help some folks if you feel that way.
Kim R November 03, 2012 at 03:28 PM
News alert people: There are always people across the world (including in the United States) suffering everyday. It shouldn't take a local disaster to realize that. I'm sure that fact didn't stop you from having your latest celebration? We personally feel very blessed to be only affected by a tree down and no power for a few days. I remind my children everyday how lucky they really are. This is ONLY about Halloween and the enjoyment of young children. Let's put it in perspective and stop being so hypocritical of others because of your own guilt. And for those of you who say their kids will not miss it, it has to be a lie because I know my children at 7 and 8 voiced their disappointment.
Susan Clark November 03, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I continue to be amazed at this vitriolic discussion. Our children are our treasures and it is the responsibility of ALL in the community to help nurture, educate and provide for their safety. I will go to bat for school budgets, adequate facilities and excellent staff. The decisions re issues the supt. has to deal with on a daily basis are what she is paid for, she made a decision and has provided the rationale for that decision. You do not have to agree. But please move on, you will confront major issues as your children grow that deserve the time and attention and in the large scheme this really is a minor disappointment, a disappointment not an educational wall!
Patty Thorndike November 03, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Susan Clark- well said!!
Judy Johnson November 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM
"Nico Castro, 6-Year-Old With Brain Cancer, Delivers Halloween Costumes To Other Sick Kids In Hospital" Maybe Orange Schools Superintendent Lynn McMullin. should stop and think first on taking away the joy for kids at the Halloween party at the schools. It will only take 11/2 to do it for them. Lynn McMullin you need to take a lessen from this 6 year old. It's on the welcome page.. I grew up in Orange as well went to M.L.T and Amity. Thank God I have no children in School anymore. You need to put a smile on your FACE some times. "Oh I forgot if it's NOT your way it's no way" Don't even know how you got this job!!! It's NOT for someone like you for sure.... Sooo Sad!!
Judy Johnson November 03, 2012 at 08:33 PM
You are so right Barbara T As I as well grew up in Orange. So,So Sad!!
Judy Johnson November 03, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Your right. Kids grow up so fast as it is. Let these little ones have the joy of each and EVERY Holiday. She is not the right person for this job for sure.....
Judy Johnson November 03, 2012 at 08:40 PM
How in Gods name did this woman get this job? She is not the one for it. These are elementary kids.......................
Barbara T. November 03, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Mary D. In response to your input I did that did you? I checked on all my neighbors to see if they were ok or needed anything. Can you say you also did it?
Barbara T. November 03, 2012 at 10:41 PM
That sure is so sad. What a wonderful child.
Barbara T. November 03, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Judy Johnson what a heart rendering story. It was so nice of you to put this on Patch it just might make a few people think how important different things are to children. Thank you for the wonderful article.
Judy Johnson November 03, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Mary D We all started out very young and then became elderly. We had fun as kids first, you see that's how I was raised and that's why the young ones came over to my house to make sure I was okay. Family as well. so get off your high chair and do it. Oh don't forget it's all ages that need help as well. I'm old and I still help people out not just because of a storm. I don't wait for a storm to be a good person. Tell your stories to Obama with our S/S checks!!!!!
Judy Johnson November 03, 2012 at 11:17 PM
DF Thank You!! You are so right. These are kids let them have the joy of every Holiday. No one stays young for long. Sad I think a lot of them forgot how to be young again...
Judy Johnson November 04, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Thank You Barbara T. As I know you are for the Kids as well Thank You again. Your a wonderful person to put kids first and NOT like the Superintendent Lynn McMullin. Thanks again!!!
J Moran November 04, 2012 at 08:23 PM
I feel that the superintendent , in the wake of the current weather forcast, would reconsider and let the children celebrate Halloween at school on Wednesday. I would like to know if the cancellation was just a one sided decision? Or did the board of ed vote? I believe one-hour out of the school day will not effect the entire year. The children have been through alot this week as well, they are entitled to a little fun!! It's elementary school!
Marie November 04, 2012 at 10:20 PM
In the height of the storm I read John's comment about Twin Electric. Could this be true I asked? We needed a electrician NOW!!! We had a generator but needed it connected to provide us with heat and hot water which we had not had for 4 days like everyone else. With some reservation I phone John. Not knowing Twin Electric, plus being available in the height of the storm? Do I trust him? In a few minutes John returned my call. In a few hours we had heat and hot water. John was prompt, courteous and a pleasure to work with. We look forward to him doing some other work for us in the future. I highly recommend Twin Electric. Like his comment says, "they are local guys and Orange residents". Thanks John.
Barbara T. November 05, 2012 at 12:17 AM
As it stands I see that no change of mind for the little one's to have their Holloween parade. How heartless can one person be? It took only a little bit of her extra time to make that decision. And she made it on her own without any input from anyone else. Sure glad she is not running our Town.

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