Reactions to Parkway graduation date decision
As a former teacher at Parkway Central High School and as the parent of two past graduates, I am truly appalled by the insensitive and hypocritical decision to hold graduation ceremonies on a Saturday next May. Although the Saturday date may not affect the vast majority of Parkway students, it impacts many who observe Shabbat as well as Shavuot, which begins at sundown that night. As stated in the Aug. 30 article in the Light (“Graduation date change prompts petition effort”), this change was made because of parking convenience and the capacity of the venue. While convenience and seating are certainly worthwhile considerations, in no way are those considerations worth excluding graduates from a major milestone in their lives.
Ironically, in addition to the incorporation of diversity lessons in the curriculum, Parkway required all second-year teachers to participate in a summer program called Honoring All Voices. As a developer and facilitator of that program for several years, I am stunned by the direct contradiction of all that was taught, discussed and encouraged to be implemented in every K-12 teacher’s curriculum and classroom. It was a workshop about understanding and celebrating the diversity in Parkway…race, religion, sexual orientation, students with disabilities…the list continues. The mission of the workshop was to raise awareness, promote understanding and develop respect for the individual differences of our students from staff and students alike. I know for certain that a significant part of this training was to familiarize ourselves and our students with religious practices and customs of the many different religious groups in Parkway.
Apparently, that required training was nothing more than politically correct window-dressing. It looked great on paper, but quite clearly, Parkway doesn’t practice what it preaches. I doubt that graduation would ever coincide with a Christian or Muslim holiday that would result in some students being excluded from the ceremony.
I am wondering why there isn’t more of an outcry from the Jewish community in Parkway that regularly denounces injustice and inequality.
Board of Education president Beth Feldman has stated that she misjudged the situation, believing that “people don’t want to be separated because of their faith. They want to be included like everyone else.” I’m wondering why she thinks that Parkway’s Jewish students and their families are OK with not having their voices honored.
There is much wrong here. I’m hoping that Parkway will reconsider.
Kathy Rubin, Chesterfield
After reading the Aug. 30 editorial, “Wrong Way, Parkway” and the associated article, “Graduation date change prompts petition effort,” I am a little disappointed in some of the response from our community. I certainly understand the concern that graduation was scheduled not only on Shabbat, but on a Shabbat immediately prior to a Chag. However, in responding to Parkway’s decision, the school district’s reasons behind the move were belittled as mere “convenience.” The description of the conditions at Queeny given by the board makes it clear to me that convenience wasn’t the issue, but rather safety and accessibility for disabled students and family members. During my junior year in high school, many years ago, I was temporarily confined to a wheelchair. It opened my eyes to accessibility issues. My mother-in-law has mobility issues that aren’t going to go away. Even though these issues are personal for me, I hope I wouldn’t close my eyes to them if they weren’t.
Issues such as these do not need to be a zero-sum game. The community could have praised Parkway for their concern on disabled access, while asking for equal concern for accessibility for students and families of all religious faiths. That said, I am glad Parkway has decided to look for a different date. I hope they are able to find a day and place accessible to all students and families.
John Newmark, Parkway parent
The decision by the Parkway Central Board of Education to hold graduation exercises on a Saturday is wrong. All students have a right to be treated equally and not singled out because of their faith or having to choose between school and shul. The school board has a responsibility to not discriminate against any of their students and to be sensitive to all religious beliefs. The issue here is discrimination. This decision is a serious error by the school board.
Graduation is a big deal for seniors. It is a public activity, not a private one for some students but not all students. Graduating seniors want to be with their peers, their fellow students, and their friends. Their parents want to attend; Jewish teachers want to attend. All students, including Jewish students, are entitled to participate with their friends in their graduation exercises. Arranging a private graduation ceremony is not the same thing. You miss the excitement, the camaraderie, the belonging, the fun. The private ceremony was wrong in 2013, and it would be wrong in 2017. I wouldn’t want it for my kids nor anyone else’s.
Perhaps the solution for the Parkway School Board is to hold graduation on a Sunday morning at 11 a.m. With that suggestion before them, maybe the Board will realize its mistake and do the right thing.
Rosalyn Borg, Former Area Director, American Jewish Committee
Imbalance of outrage
Where is the outrage from Jewish Federation of St. Louis President and CEO Andrew Rehfeld (commentary: “Doing something about hate-filled violence”) and others who comment in the Aug. 23 paper?
I am referring specifically to the previous administration. How about the anti-Israel United Nations resolution allowed to pass for the first time that a U.S. President abstained rather than defeat? How about President Barack Obama trying to influence the election in Israel to defeat Netanyahu — sounds familiar with Trump and the Russians, doesn’t it? How about the IRS inappropriately targeting Tea Party groups under Obama? Where was the outrage when Berkeley protesters blocked Netanyahu and other conservative speakers from speaking? And then there was the Obama administration spying on Fox News Jewish reporter James Rosen?
Finally, the media’s Niagara of lies about Charlottesville and the loosening of sanctions and weapons embargoes on the terrible Iran deal that threatens Israel goes without outrage from the Light and many of its readers. Seems like Trump is engulfed in super glue but Obama has Teflon surrounding him.
James Pollock, Town and Country