by Mickey Smith
HYDE PARK – Using what was described as a little Eden common sense, the Lamoille North Supervisory Union (LNSU) came up with wording that was acceptable to both sides in what has become a contentious debate at school board meetings in the Lamoille North district. At their next meeting, the Lamoille Union High School Board followed suit and approved a similar article in a third round of voting on the issue.
After the Lamoille Union Board had twice voted not to add saying the Pledge of Allegiance to their agenda, the LNSU Board (a board which is made up of members of all the elementary school boards, as well as the high school board) approved an amended motion made by Eden representative Warren Earle. Since much of the debate has been about some people feeling they were being forced to say it, and some people feeling they were being denied to be able to recite it, Earle suggested they use they term “those who want to can do so.” The amended motion passed unanimously.
Superintendent Joe Ciccolo originally brought up the idea in the spring, noting schools are built on tradition and this was something he had become used to doing during his 36 years working in schools. The issue got back-burnered for awhile, when they realized they didn’t even have a U.S. flag in the Community Education Center at the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center (where the meetings are held). That was rectified and the issue came back to the forefront a few weeks ago when the Lamoille Union High School board twice voted against adding it to their agenda, which resulted in a contingent of about 25 people from the local patriotic organizations showing up at meetings in favor of reciting the Pledge.
A Vermont State flag will also soon be placed in the room as well, as Earle said he would get one for the room. After the vote was taken, Cambridge representative Jan Sander requested the flags be “made in the U.S.A.” and that proper flag etiquette be observed. Connie Nadeau, of VFW Post 9653 Ladies’ Auxiliary, said they would be sure the school had the correct materials to show the proper respect to the flag.
According to the not yet approved minutes from the October 2 LUHS Board meeting, Hyde Park representative Kalee Roberts brought up the issue of adopting a motion with similar wording regarding reciting the Pledge. Johnson representative Judith Schultz expressed concern about voting on the issue without it being warned on the agenda, to which Hyde Park representative Beth Bailey pointed out the original vote was not on the agenda either. Eden representative David Whitcomb said issues about spending money have to be included on the agenda, but this would not have to be warned.
Roberts’ motion to add a discussion about the Pledge to the agenda was approved, after a procedural objection from Cambridge representative Bill Sander, who was concerned with someone not liking an issue and bringing it up at every meeting while “bullying” people into changing their vote. Whitcomb objected to the use of the word “bullying” used to describe an elected official doing their duty.
During the discussion of saying the Pledge, LUHS Principal Brian Schaffer and Middle School Principal Chris Hindes said the Pledge is said over the public address system during morning announcements, although he said lately they have been having problems with the PA system. Green Mountain Technology and Career Center Director Joe Teegarden said they do not do morning announcements, except in the case of an emergency. When asked by Whitcomb, Teegarden said they can put recitation of the Pledge into place.
After some question about whether or not the same motion could be brought up again, Hyde Park board member John Eisenhardt moved to accept the motion made at the LNSU meeting, “that those who want to say the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the start of meetings may do so.”
Board Members Sander and Schultz expressed their concerns with the compulsion and coerciveness that goes along with saying the Pledge.
Audience member Jinny Bogni-LeMay asked if the student representatives to the board could offer input regarding how the students feel about saying the Pledge in the morning.
Senior Nathan Senghas said the students don’t react to it in a casual way, but most stand and place their hand on the heart but don’t say it out loud. He said there are those who do not stand, and he, for one, does not look differently upon them. He added acknowledging the flag makes a lot of sense, and thought there could be a happy medium between reciting or not, by simply standing and facing the flag.
Freshman Blake Nemeth said since hearing about the debate about the Pledge he would like to create a poll of the students’ thoughts, with Principal Schaffer’s permission. The results of which would be presented to the Board.
After approving the motion, there was a discussion about if and how it should be placed on the agenda. The consensus was to word it at the top of the agenda, similar to how they list committee assignments.