Elwood school officials Monday night stood behind the principal's decision to cancel a traditional Harley Avenue Primary School kindergarten event due to scheduling constraints.
"I believe we made the right decision for the right reason," Superintendent Peter Scordo said at a special meeting called to discuss the matter. He said he is trying to give students "the most instructional time as possible."
He said the children's performance, which involves a slide show and children's songs, is "not the best use of the limited time we have with our youngest learners" because of the instructional time lost to snow days this winter.
"I trust our administrators made the right decision" about the production, said Board Trustee Mike LaMena, who added that the letter that communicated the decision was not written as sensitively as it should have been.
Parent Ninette Solis, who started an online petition calling for the play to go on, said she wants her 6-year-old daughter to have the same experience as her older brothers.
The district had warned parents since early last month that the event would be canceled. An April 10 letter from Harley Avenue interim Principal Ellen Best-Laimit said the show, scheduled for May 14 and 15, would be replaced with a game day.
A Friday letter from Best-Laimit and four kindergarten teachers said "the movement toward more rigorous learning standards" has placed more demands on schools. "The reason for eliminating the kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, co-workers, and problem solvers."
This letter upset Solis, who said it "was rude."
"Our argument is simple," she said. "Our kids are 4 and 5 years old. What competitive advantage could you possibly give them by taking away a treasured part of their school experience?"
The meeting drew about 100 parents and students, including some who attend the district's high school. About a dozen teachers attended the meeting.
Several speakers criticized the decision, as well as the Common Core standards, saying those academic guidelines are partly responsible for administrators choosing to forfeit a popular arts project to preserve time for academics.
Parent Becky Marcus said the administration appears to dismiss the value of what for many is a critical rite of passage.
"There is value on it," she said. "You get to gain valuable skills. You gain life skills."
With Víctor Manuel Ramos and Joan Gralla