Ledyard schools wrestle with how to observe Veterans Day

Ledyard - After several students and parents spoke critically at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting of holding school on Veterans Day, Superintendent Mike Graner gave a presentation on activities planned for the day at all the district's schools.

The Board of Education decided this past spring to hold school Nov. 11, though the town historically hasn't. Graner said the board always invites comments on the upcoming year's calendar, but this year's went through with no controversy until several weeks ago.

Anthony Zinno, a seventh-grader at Ledyard Middle School, said he came before the board a few weeks ago to first complain of having school despite the holiday. He presented board members with a petition signed by more than 100 students asking that school be let out to honor veterans.

Eighth-grader Sarah Masten said she doesn't "really like missing school at all," but would rather spend the day with her father, a 28-year veteran.

Paul Whitman, a 23-year Navy veteran whose 6-year-old daughter attends Gales Ferry School, said he had requested an agenda for the day and was told by board members that it was simply a regular school day.

"I've been pretty upset about this," he said.

One other parent, Meredith Robinson, a retired Naval officer, said she was "initially taken aback" when she saw that there would be school on Veterans Day this year.

But she conceded that because of the many school staff and Board of Education members who have military backgrounds, it's "hard to infer any kind of nefarious intent" - particularly when there will be ceremonies in the schools.

"Veterans Day has real, live people involved," she said. "By allowing those people to come into the schools … I think that's more of a way of honoring them than giving them a day off."

Graner, who served in the Coast Guard, said he was aware of the concerns, and said that when the Board of Education voted to hold school Nov. 11, members began to work with school principals to plan programs for the day. Those will include the reading of essays and poems, performances of patriotic songs, student meetings with veterans, some of whom include school staff members, along with Ledyard High School military alumni, and wearing red, white and blue.

Graner also promised to report back to the school community on how the day's activities went.

"I think the children will get a good look at exactly what Veterans Day is," he said.

Board member Mimi Peck-Llewellyn, a 32-year Navy JAG veteran who said her husband served in Operation Desert Storm and her parents served in World War II, said the planned events are an appropriate way for students to spend Veterans Day.

"I wanted to ensure that those children in our community who do not come from a family of veterans have that same experience but for one day in Ledyard schools," she said. "I don't hesitate to say that I support having school on Veterans Day."

a.isaacs@theday.com

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