One of the mainstays of schools in America is the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance …a longstanding tradition. Celebrating holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are big traditions as well. But these and other significant things met an untimely end at PS 169, a school in St. Flushing, New York, because of their new principal.
Eujin Jaela Kim, the principal at PS 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, was the one responsible for the banning of Christmas and Thanksgiving in the school, replacing them with what she called winter celebrations and harvest festival.
Parents and faculty members were shocked when the principal told them not to celebrate these holidays. Administrators told PTA president, Mimi Ferrer, that there would be no angels this Christmas. Even stars weren’t allowed because they are believed to be religious representation.
To save the day, the city’s Department of Education expressed opposition to the principal’s new rules. Based on a recent decree addressed to all schools, holiday symbols such as Hanukkah menorah, the Islamic star-and-crescent, kinaras (candle holders for Kwanzaa), dreidels, and Christmas trees are very much allowed. The things that are prohibited are religious figures, religious texts, and detailed images of deities.
Now you’re probably thinking, Where does that leave Santa? Johanna Bjorken, P.S. 169’s business manager, answered it by saying, “Santa Claus is considered an ‘other religious figure.'”
But according to The Post, a DoE spokesman declared that Santa is actually permitted as a secular figure. In fact, for years, Santa has always been a regular guest at PS 169 during the holidays. Even the acting principal whom Kim replaced, Joseph Iorio, said that he recalled seeing Felix Ortiz, a state assemblyman, dress up as Santa and visit the school.
With regard to the Pledge of Allegiance, teachers have the discretion to choose whether they want their students to recite it in the classroom or not. However, PS 169 teachers said that Kim never told them anything about the rule.
On the other hand, Iori said that he always had the students say the Pledge every Monday morning and would even encourage student leaders to lead the recitation.
But maybe we’re just looking at this the wrong way. Maybe Kim’s intentions are indeed good since out of the 1,600 kids at PS 169, about 95 percent are Hispanic or Asian. Jose Chaparro, assistant principal, shared that they should have a winter celebration instead of a Christmas party or a harvest festival instead of Thanksgiving, according to a recently released memo.
Mr. Chaparro added that school staff should consider the fact that not everyone honors the same holidays and that they should deal with the diversity of families delicately—which might just also be Principal Kim’s motive for making the said changes.
But teachers and parents are still quite skeptical about the new school head’s true intentions. According to sources, before this issue, there was an incident where Kim moved hundreds of books and a bunch of supplies into the gym. Community members and parents then took whatever they wanted from the pile, and the rest was just thrown away.
This all happened when Kim was first appointed as the principal in May 2014 as part of her effort to get rid of the “classroom clutters.” Staff at PS 169 also said that Kim dumped boxes of brand-new textbooks and left them to get dusty in the basement—all because she favored a different curriculum.
To top it all off, the new principal also bought an expensive array of TVs. She purchased a total of seven 70- to 80-inch flat-screen smart TVs, which are sold at roughly $3,000 each. She then had the TVs installed in the auditorium after removing historic murals and repainting the place.
Here’s an interview with the PTA president of PS 169, Mimi Ferrer:
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