School parties become topic of debate

Lisa Depies

Holiday parties have become a topic of discussion for Geneseo parents and educators.

Some Millikin Elementary School parents were upset when a message from school principal Nancy Wiese appeared in the October newsletter?announcing changes to school parties.

In the newsletter, Wiese said, the school’s Halloween party would become known as “The Fall Party” with the Christmas celebration changed to “The Winter Party.”

“More and more students each year, because of religious reasons, personal and/or family beliefs do not recognize Halloween or Christmas, thus the children are not part of the festivities or able to sing the holiday songs. We understand and wish to support those families,” wrote Wiese.

Instead of dressing in costume, she urged Millikin students to wear their Millikin T-shirts to show school spirit during a party on Oct. 29.

“The parties are on! The names have changed, but the fun will remain,” she wrote.

Some parents, however, opposed the change.

Complaints to the district and a meeting of school officials resulted in a letter posted on the school Web site by superintendent Scott Kuffel.

Though the fall party will remain, Kuffel said all elementary schools in the district will celebrate Christmas parties on Dec. 22.

“There will be no gifts exchanged, as has been the practice the last several years,” he wrote.

Kuffel said district officials will meet with parents, faculty and administrators to “discuss what is expected from classroom parties.”

The goal, he said, was for more consistency among the district’s elementary schools. “We currently have three different plans for Halloween at the three elementary schools. Our hope is that for 2011-12 we will have parties in the same or very similar format between the three schools.”

Kuffel said the core purpose of the Geneseo district “is not to conduct parties, but rather to do our best to provide quality education to the children of this district.”

He added, “We want the school day and school year to be as engaging as possible and we recognize that there are very different and divergent positions related to parties and holidays.

“We welcome such diversity in thinking, but ultimately we want our students to experience rich and relevant curriculum and to experience the highest quality of instruction to best prepare them to be strong citizens in a global environment.”