School Committee members criticised how Superintendent Julie Kukenberger managed to effectively cut Halloween from the district's celebrations. They also lamented the lack of communication, transparency, and timing of this decision.
Kukenberger, after receiving a flood of media inquiries and parent correspondence following her decision, sat in her regular spot at Tuesday's School Committee meeting to the right, behind Chair Jen McAndrew. Although the topic wasn't on the agenda, it was not ignored.
John Obremski, a member of the School Committee, stated that while some people were concerned about the subject, others felt it was the communication or the inability to involve schools. "I believe that transparency and inclusion of families in these decisions is what the administration should really be focusing on."
Obremski stated that families shouldn't have to be involved in every decision. However, Obremski added that "When traditions, rituals, and routines are suddenly removed, that's what causes upset for families."
McAndrew agreed with Obremski's sentiments, and said that Kukenberger's review of other events and celebrations in the school calendar should be done differently.
McAndrew stated, "It's important that this review is transparent, that all the community gets input and think around it." McAndrew also stated that the move was made just over a week prior to the holiday, which did not help.
McAndrew, who was a strong supporter of Kukenberger right up to the end of the meeting, agreed with Kukenberger’s decision to “broaden fall celebrations,” a point she stressed Wednesday morning with Patch.
McAndrew stated that the superintendent isn't cancelling Halloween in Melrose as she claimed last night. McAndrew said that she is not preventing fun celebrations and classroom activities from taking place. Instead, Dr. Kukenberger, her leadership team, are expanding fall celebrations beyond Halloween and deemphasizing Halloween as the main focus. This is something I support. As school leaders, she's allowing principals to modify the celebrations, such as moving away from a costume-show parade.
Two school parents spoke out against Kukenberger's decision. They referred to other activities that kids do, which would not be diminished based on a few complaints like eating meat at lunch and soccer at recess.
Kukenberger wanted to know what the district was doing.
She said, "We are not cancelling Halloween." "We are not saying Halloween is not valid for families. As an educator, I also celebrate Halloween with my family. We don't want to center everything we do in the fall around Halloween.
Kukenberger caused a storm Friday after she sent a letter to parents confirming that the district no longer celebrates Halloween. Kukenberger explained to Patch Saturday that her main motivation was to keep children who are not eligible for Halloween activities in school and foster inclusion for other kids.
Parents immediately raised their concerns. More than 2,200 people have signed a petition to keep Halloween safe for their children. Thursday afternoon, a costumed celebrity will be seen at the high school's parking lot. As community outrage grew, several news outlets traveled from far away to cover the story.
Parents became increasingly angry and took to social media to voice their dismay, with some believing that Halloween was banned from classes. Although students are still permitted to dress up in Halloween costumes and celebrate the holiday in school, the school will not be celebrating the holiday in fall.