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Old 01-24-2009, 09:18 PM
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Put Christmas on school calendar, crowd urges

Board declines to change wording of winter vacation.

Christmas has come and gone but that didn't keep it from being a point of heated contention at Tuesday's night Springfield school board meeting.
Close to a hundred people packed into the district's meeting room, spilling out into the reception area, with the purpose of convincing the board to change the winter vacation back to Christmas vacation. Despite emotional outcries from the riled-up audience, the board voted to approve the 2009-2010 calendar without adding holidays.
"Why change something that has been so a part of American culture?" asked Chuck Booms, a local radio talk show personality, in the public comments part of the meeting. "We're offended that you've taken Christmas off the calendar."
Religious holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Passover and Yom Kippur, are listed under the district's calendar as 'Dates to Remember.' The district changed Christmas vacation to winter vacation in 1975, according to district spokeswoman Teresa Bledsoe.
Before Christmas this year, Booms began discussing it on his morning show with callers who objected to the district's calendar. He found an ally in attorney Dee Wampler, who also spoke at the meeting.
Wampler said he objected for educational reasons -- not religious reasons.
"Our students are being cheated," he said. "Please restore the greatest American holiday to the calendar."
After Wampler's and Booms' comments, the crowd clapped loudly despite board president Kris Callen's request to not clap after each speaker. At the conclusion of the comments, Booms accused the board members of smiling and not taking them seriously.
"They made a big mistake by not taking us seriously," he said, after storming from the meeting room. "They can take their doctor's degrees and stick it."
Booms had received over 1,000 e-mails in support of his stance, he said.
Though she had never heard of Booms or his radio show, Charity Ingle heard about the meeting and came to show support.
Ingle, a mother of three Pittman Elementary students, said she was fed up with the schools overlooking the significance of Christmas.
"There's no reason why it can't be on the calendar," Ingle said. "They have Santa Claus come into the school but they still don't call it Christmas."
Before unanimously voting to approve the calendar, the board did make some changes -- but they had nothing to do with Christmas.
They voted to move the beginning of the winter vacation to Dec. 23 -- instead of Dec. 24 -- and to start next school year on Aug. 25.
At the last board meeting, the district provided research that showed the adjustment would likely improve attendance.
"We have a system in place gathers input from the community," Callen said. "And they do a good job of balancing the needs and desires of the community."
The district has a calendar committee that comprises principals, teachers, students and parents.
"We approved a calendar that would best meet the educational needs of our students," said board member Andy Hosmer. "We're not making a statement."
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