Norwood panel rejects deal on school December break’s name

NORWOOD — A “Christmas/Winter Recess” compromise was rejected by the School Committee Wednesday night as officials and residents wrestle over the name of the late December school vacation period.

The issue of changing the name of the winter recess came to the committee again after the town voted overwhelmingly in a nonbinding referendum Monday to change the name back to Christmas recess. Although the compromise name failed Wednesday, members of the school board said the referendum will be discussed again at an upcoming meeting when next year’s calendar is set.

The compromise name, proposed by School Committeeman Paul Samargedlis, failed by a 2-to-2 vote.


“It’s not just a one-sided argument,” Samargedlis said, in trying to lobby support from his colleagues.

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But committee chairwoman Courtney Rau Rogers and member John Badger spoke against the idea.

“The tone of the referendum was not compromise,” said Rau Rogers. “To change it back is exclusionary.”

Member Joseph Montesano voted in favor of the compromise, and committeeman James Gormley had to leave the meeting before the vote was taken.

During the public forum portion of the meeting, a few parents urged the School Committee to keep the school break at the end of the year as winter recess. rather than Christmas recess, despite the voter referendum approved Monday.


“From my perspective, the prejudicial message that resonates from this referendum is that Christianity is more important than other religions or cultures,” said Nora Zaldivar, the mother of two schoolchildren.

“I am Christian and I love Christmas, but I do not feel the need to force my beliefs upon others,” she said, reading from a prepared statement.

Zaldivar was among the minority in Monday’s vote.

Seventy-six percent of voters approved the call to return the name to Christmas recess, but only 18 percent of registered voters turned out for the town election, which had few contested races.

Zaldivar said those who do not work during the day and do not have young children had an advantage in getting to the polls Monday, which she said was also the first day of soccer.


Also speaking before the committee was Louis Kruger, who said he used to have children in the school system. He said he believed those in favor of the referendum were well intentioned, but were sending a hurtful message.

“It’s almost like there being a neon sign on the town line that says people of other religions aren’t wanted,” he said.

He called the attention that the issue has attracted in the media an embarrassment.

No residents spoke Wednesday in favor of a Christmas recess.

While the naming of the school vaction was not on the School Committee’s agenda, it was on the agenda of some students who held their own meeting prior to that of the school board.

A motion there to keep the winter recess name failed among the students, with three voting against it and two opting to retain the name.

Jean Lang can be reached
at jeanmcmillanlang@