After a nearly four-hour meeting on Monday, the Randolph School Board in New Jersey reversed course and added official holidays back to the district’s calendar after replacing them with a simple “day off” label.
The decision to remove all the holidays — including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day — came on the heels of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day in a state with a large Italian-American population.
“In your attempt to be woke, you’ve wakened up the entire community of Randolph,” Ralph Contini of the Unico National, the nation’s largest Italian-American service, said at the meeting.
“We draw the line in the sand,” Contini said. “You have overreached. Enough is enough of this anti-Columbus movement.”
The USA Today affiliate the Daily Record said Unico members handed out American and Italian flags at the meeting, which including cheering for some of the 400 residents who showed up to challenge board members and booing board members and the few who spoke out on their behalf.
The outlet noted that people carried signs saying, “All Holidays Matter” and “Resign”:
Randolph resident John Sharples said the day after the board voted to remove all holiday names, “I woke up and found out that my town had turned into a nationwide embarrassment.”
The vote on Monday to return the district to its original calendar language passed, 8-1, after four hours of back and forth with the audience. Security guards and Randolph police kept a heavy presence of uniformed officers inside and outside the building.
The lone vote against came from board member Susan DeVito, who criticized the media for poor reporting of the issue and for critics of the decision who were “taking on broader issues then just Christopher Columbus.”
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” DeVito said. “If this was truly about Italian heritage with no other issues tied in, we would have not have been called Marxists, communists, racists.”
The Daily Record said the first speaker set a “confrontational tone.”
“Your actions were a toxic cocktail of arrogance, indifference, and sheer stupidity,” Eliza Schleifstein said. “If you don’t like the media coverage and what is said about you on Facebook, be more transparent and accountable.”
Board President Tammy MacKay said members are solely responsible for the controversy.
“Let me be clear: Those votes and those decisions are exclusively the product of this board,” MacKay said. “The buck stops here with those of us seated in front of you and we own it. Neither the superintendent nor any other administrator, principal, teacher, or other district employee had anything to do with those votes or decisions.”
“To cast blame on any of them for what this board did is quite simply wrong,” she said.