In-Town Report Special 11 22 09


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This IN TOWN REPORT SPECIAL EDITION is being published because of the issue that has taken the town of Chelmsford by storm and given it a huge shake up....and that issue is the Gift Room policy at Byam School. As most of you know, the upcoming School Committee meeting location has been moved to the Chelmsford High School Performing Arts Center this coming Tuesday night (NOV 24th) at 7:30 PM in order to accommodate the much larger audience that is expected to attend this particular meeting.

Therefore, the IN TOWN REPORT Editor has put together this Special Edition to consolidate as much of the relevant information that he could find on this particular issue, so that you will be able to easily review it all and have as much information as possible before this very important School Committee meeting Tuesday night.

Please note that neither Roy Earley (who has spent many hours putting this all together....making the internet video copies and getting the video links all together....and finding & posting other relevant materials) nor I have any intention of hurting anyone's feelings with this Special Edition of the IN TOWN REPORT....if fact, we hope that you understand that we appreciate everyone who works so hard for the residents of this wonderful town, either as an employee or as a volunteer. The last thing we would want to do is to hurt your sense of well being and peace of mind. If we have included a few cartoons and jokes in this Special Edition, please laugh with us and realize that that they are not meant to be taken personally.

* EXTRA EXTRAS... (Please check out the Flyers for the many upcoming events in Chelmsford)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you,
Tom Christiano
Town Meeting Representative
Precinct 9

Published in: Art & Photos
  • Totally Stupid, Hateful, Irresponsible,Un-American And Just plain MEAN! Princi-Pal Gilmore is Not a Pal to the Children or to Christmas! She's letting Her Ignorance/Mis-guided Political Correctness, Make her an Eberneeza{Female} Scrooge! This Country has gotten Waaay Too 'pissy' when it comes to P.C.. By being so Politically Correct, the Powers That Be, have played into the hands of Others, and have Spat in the Faces of Americans/American Traditions! Some People whom get a 'Little Bit Of Power', let it Go To Their Heads, and go all 'Hitler' with it. Get Over Yourself Ms.Gilmore! Merry Christmas! {I know, Ms. Gilmore...Baah Humbug,right?}
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In-Town Report Special 11 22 09

  1. 1. It’s Beginning to look a lot like... ??? ITR 11/22/09 The following is the Letter to the editor that was sent to the Lowell Sun and the Chelmsford Independent a few weeks ago. The Sun did not run the letter but instead decided to follow it up with a news story on the subject. The Chelmsford Independent printed the letter in their 11/19 edition. Though the Editorial in that Edition is not posted online to avoid criticism of not printing it ************************* I copied it by hand and I am a two finger typist ; ) Roy To the editor, Currently, the Byam elementary school in Chelmsford is asking for donated items to sell in the school “gift room” during the first week of December. The flier which was sent home read Items NOT permitted (bold and capitalized): no Christmas, Chanukah, or religious items, no Santa, candy canes, or stockings. This level of intolerance is shocking. We are told that “CHOICE” is a fundamental right except when it comes to freely celebrating our traditions which have religious roots. We asked the administration that all items be allowed which is the American way, or that the gift room is moved to another time of year. These compromises were dismissed in favor of a hypothetical parent who would be enraged by a traditional gift.- that is intolerance. Christmas is still a federal holiday. It is the long standing tradition of the United States of America. It is not the job of government employees to redefine traditions because of political correctness. The intolerance is spreading. The Harrington School has adopted the same ban in the name of “diversity.” Diversity means accepting all views NOT suppressing some views. This ban is the opposite of diversity. It is the way of Cuba. Use this as a “teachable moment.” Show your children a policy that suppresses freedom in UNAMERICAN. Demand real diversity from our local government employees. Wake up Chelmsford! Kathryn and Steve McMillan 10 Windsor St. Chelmsford, MA 01824 Kathleen and Peter Cullen 18 Jonathan Lane Chelmsford, MA 01824
  2. 2. Happy holidays, Chelmsford kids! (Just leave the Santas and candy canes at home) By Rita Savard, 11/12/2009 POLITICALLY CORRECT GRINCH AT WORK? Two Chelmsford mothers complain that the Byam Elementary School has banned Christmas from its annual holiday gift shop. CHELMSFORD -- 'Twas the month before Christmas and all through the class, controversy was stirring about Christmas present and past. The rhyme may sound trite, but the complaint is real from two Chelmsford mothers who say the Byam Elementary School has banned Christmas from its annual holiday gift shop. A flier sent home with students for the gift shop, which will run from Dec. 1 to Dec. 4 and benefits the school's PTO, states no Santa, candy canes, stockings, Christmas, Hanukkah or other "religious items" are welcome. Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen Cullen, who both have children at Byam, are asking school officials to allow all holiday items or move the gift shop to another time of year. "It's sending the wrong message to our kids," said McMillan. "The school is doing this in the name of diversity. But diversity means accepting all views, not suppressing some views." But school officials argue that the tradition to keep the gifts "neutral" is one that's been in place for several years. Superintendent Donald Yeoman said shopping guidelines are under the purview of Byam Principal Jane Gilmore, and he stands by her position. "The PTO offered a meeting to parents for input on the gift room," Yeoman said. "After some feedback from parents, it was decided that they would design the event the same way they have in the past." At South Row Elementary School, a flier advertising its holiday shop listed no restrictions whatsoever on items that could be sold, according to one parent, who also noted the sheet was adorned with plenty of Christmas spirit. School Committee member Angelo Taranto said the Byam event has been run for nearly a decade without complaint, until now. While Taranto said he hasn't had a chance to discuss the issue with Gilmore yet, he believes the policy was likely enacted to prevent any child from feeling left out. McMillan and Cullen said the school's no-Christmas-items policy does become an issue when a child asks why a gift with a picture of Santa Claus on it is not allowed at the holiday gift shop. "It's as if the schools are saying choice is a fundamental right except when it comes to celebrating our traditions which have religious roots," Cullen said, "We're not Jewish, but I think it's great if my child brings home a dreidel. School is a great place to open doors for kids to other cultures, religions and traditions." In an e-mail to members of the School Committee asking for "real diversity," McMillan and Cullen said "Christmas is still a federal holiday... it is not the job of government employees to redefine traditions because of political correctness." School Committee member Nick DeSilvio, whose five kids have all been students at Byam, said he thinks Gilmore does a great job running her school, but he also understands the parents' concerns. "A lot of parents have talked about this over the years. The difference is this year, these two moms decided to take it on," DeSilvio said. "My definition is that it's not really a religious thing as much as it's a tolerance thing. Whether it's a cross or a Star of David, our children need to understand their religion isn't the only religion in the world and become tolerant of the others that exist." Banning candy canes from the gift shop's offerings also seemed a little over the top this year, DeSilvio added. Byam PTO President Joanne Hayes declined to comment yesterday. McMillan and Cullen praised the school's PTO for all the work it does throughout the year, but hope to see some tweaks to the gift-shop policy. Both Byam moms also said they find it ironic that other holiday decor, including snowmen and snowflakes, are acceptable. "It all seems ludicrous and silly -- we could put a giant snowman in the room and no one would blink an eye," Cullen said. "All we ask is that the school bring true diversity into the gift shop. It's a teachable moment. We live in a crazy upside-down world and, well, this is one little part that we can try to turn right-side up." McMillan and Cullen are trying to bring their case to the next School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
  3. 3. LOWELL SUN : LETTER TO THE EDITOR Byam PTO welcomes suggestions, volunteers The Lowell Sun 11/17/2009 This letter is in response to the Nov. 12 Sun article titled "Happy holidays, kids! (Just leave the Santas and candy canes at home)." As members of the PTO board at the Byam School, we are shocked and dismayed at how this event has been portrayed in this paper, as well as on talk radio. To set the facts straight about how this issue unfolded, we would like to share our side of the story. There is a lot of plan- ning and preparation time needed for Gift Room to happen. Beginning with the Sept. 14-18 weekly bulletin published by the PTO, the board put out a request for a volunteer or group of volunteers to chair various open committees, including Gift Room. No one came forward to chair this event. The board kept moving forward because the Gift Room is one of the most popular events that the children look forward to every year. In an effort to generate new ideas and suggestions and spread the responsibilities associated with the event, the board de- cided to hold an open brainstorming session Oct. 8. This was communicated at meetings as well as in the weekly bulletin to Byam families. The only people who showed up or sent e-mail suggestions were volunteers who had been involved with Gift Room in past years. Since no one was willing to chair the event, the brainstorming committee decided to continue with how the event has been run for the past 19 years. We had no indication at this point in time that anyone at the school had such a strong passion for change. The brainstorming committee divided the tasks, fliers were created and sent home, and people began shopping and mak- ing crafts for the event. After this work had been done, the families who strongly opposed came forward demanding we change the event. We al- ways welcome new ideas and suggestions. The small group of dedicated volunteers had already invested so much of their personal time; the board did not feel we could ask for more this late in the planning process. Our plan would be to incorpo- rate these new ideas next year. The PTO at Byam is a very inclusive, welcoming group that serves selflessly on behalf of all the children at Byam. We find it unfair to be portrayed as we have been -- particularly considering that we had told the concerned parents that if they had come forward earlier in the process, their suggestions would have been considered this year. JOANNE HAYES, KAREN PEKKALA, MONICA BOUDREAU, JEANNE MIESZCZANSKI, LAURA GOLDBERG, KRISTI HENNESSEY and PATTY HILL Byam PTO Board Chelmsford WBZ 4 NEWS REPORT CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO
  4. 4. Parents: Chelmsford school holding firm on holiday gift-shop restrictions By Rita Savard, 11/14/2009 CHELMSFORD - After meeting with members of the Byam Elementary School PTO, two mothers asking to put the holidays back into the school's annual holiday gift shop say Byam isn't budging. Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen Cullen, who both have children at Byam, asked school officials to allow all holiday items at the gift shop follow- ing a ban on Santa, candy canes, stockings, and all Christmas, Hanukkah and other "religious items." But a meeting with some PTO parents on Thursday night grew heated as emotions got in the way. Red and green tissue paper to wrap presents was also crossed off the list because it looked too "Christmasy," McMillan said. "One of the parents said, 'If we allow Santa, what do we say if a child brings in a swastika? Do we allow that too?' " McMillan said. "All I could think of was, are you kidding? You're comparing a Christmas ornament to a swastika? It seems as if reason is lost somewhere and I just hope we can find it again." Superintendent Donald Yeoman told The Sun on Tuesday that the rules for the gift shop are under the authority of Byam Principal Jane Gilmore. Ultimately, said Yeoman, the policy for the gift shop was set so no child would feel left out. "It's operated under those same rules for a number of years with success and without complaint," Yeoman said. Until now. Gilmore did not return a reporter's phone call yesterday. McMillan and Cullen have asked that if the children can't celebrate their traditions - whatever they may be - at the holiday gift shop, then maybe the school should move the gift shop to another time of year. Not all Chelmsford schools have adopted the same policy as Byam. The South Row Elementary School, and the former Westlands Elementary that closed last year, had no restrictions on gift-giving. "It makes sense that the school probably makes the most money by holding the gift shop over the holidays," McMillan added. "So all we're asking is that if you're letting kids buy gifts for the holidays, let them donate stuff that celebrates those traditions and use it as a teachable mo- ment so these kids can learn." McMillan and Cullen will appear before the School Committee on Tuesday, Nov. 24. LINK TO MICHAEL GRAHAM BLOG You Better Watch Out, Better Not Pout… : The Natural Truth LINK to LINK to Channel 7 Channel WHDH NEWS 25 STORY FOX news story
  5. 5. Harsh words at BOS input session for anti-Christmas sentiment Dick Codling, left, and Verton Lenfest criticize the Byam Gift Room at Monday's public input session. (Staff photo illustration by Bob Joyce) Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 16.NOV.09 He may put a giant Santa Claus up at his Worthen Street home each year, but Richard Codling had no good will toward Byam principal Jane Gilmore and Superintendent Donald Yeoman Monday night. Codling used Monday’s public input session with the Board of Selectmen to urge residents to fight the Byam School’s long-standing tradition of not allowing Christmas- or Hanukkah-specific items at the school’s Gift Room. “We have a bah humbug lady at the Byam,” said Codling. “Her decision is absolutely atrocious. This is about as un-American as can be, to take everyone’s religious belief and lock it away.” Stonehill Road resident Verton Lenfest said he agrees with Codling. "I read in tonight's paper that you can't wrap your gifts in red or green paper, but they will accept green paper if you want to buy something," said Lenfest. Although he knows the decision will reside with the School Committee, Codling isn’t sure the department will do, what he believes is, the right thing. “Her boss, the superintendent of schools has no backbone,” said Codling. “He did not stick up for what was right. Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus does exist. Save Santa Claus.” BOSTON GLOBE Parents seek holiday gift policy change By Brian Benson, Globe Correspondent | November 17, 2009 A Chelmsford elementary school’s holiday gift fund-raiser is at the center of a town controversy after two residents complained about a longstanding policy banning religious items at the annual event. Each year, parents purchase small trinkets and donate them to the parent teacher organization at Byam Elementary School. During the day, students buy the items to give as gifts for family members, and the PTO receives the profits, said Donald Yeoman, Chelms- ford’s superintendent. In 1982, recognizing a diverse student body of different religions, the PTO and school banned anything “to do with a religion or a re- ligious celebration,’’ Yeoman said. “They decided if they have these types of guidelines, then all different religions could get along with the sale,’’ he said. The policy was challenged last week, when parents Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen Cullen, who have children in Byam, raised the issue at a PTO meeting. “Any symbols associated with the traditions of this season must be allowed,’’ McMillan and Cullen wrote to Byam principal Jane Gilmore. “It is very unfortunate that there is such intolerance regarding any religious connotation, symbols, or gifts for the holiday celebrations.’’ The two would like to see the ban removed and educators using the event to teach students about different religions, they wrote. “It’s a culture of fear that Jane Gilmore has created in that school,’’ Cullen said by phone. “We’re about being a tolerant community.’’ Gilmore did not return a call yesterday seeking comment. Joanne Hayes, the Byam PTO president, said her organization would have considered changes if Cullen and McMillan had voiced their concerns earlier. “We had no indication that anyone had such a strong passion to change the event,’’ she said. “You can’t sit on sidelines and expect things to change.’’ School Committee member Nicholas DeSilvio, whose five children attended Byam, said he would prefer a moderate policy. “It’s a community, and I think to be tolerant of all religions is a great thing,’’ DeSilvio said. DeSilvio asked that the issue be put on the School Committee agenda for its Nov. 24 meeting
  6. 6. Where's the outrage in Chelmsford? The Lowell Sun 11/17/2009 What's a holiday gift shop without holiday gifts? That's the question two women with children at the Byam Elementary School in Chelmsford are asking. Byam officials, in a classic example of political correctness going way, way too far, have planned the school's annual gift shop for Dec. 1-4. Yup, stop in and buy some gifts. Just don't say the gifts are for any particular holiday. We'll keep that part hush-hush. The flier sent home with children states that the "gift shop" will not include the following things: images of Santa, stockings (the kind you hang by the chimney with care, silly, not the kind you wear), candy canes, red and green tissue paper and other "religious items." Um, I haven't picked up the Bible in a while, but I'm pretty sure candy canes and tissue paper are not mentioned in the Good Book. Are they kidding? Schools like to tell you everything they do is in the best interests of the kids. Is having a holiday gift shop with no holiday gifts in it really in the best interests of the kids? Do you think children would be offended if there's a Santa Claus, or a dreidel, or a stocking, or, for God's sake, a candy cane in the gift shop? One of the more unbelievable aspects of this is that only two women -- two women -- have come forward to say how ludicrous this policy is. Where is the outrage? People are too afraid to stand up for tradition for fear they'll be labeled intolerant or a racist. Well, you can thank Kathleen Cullen and Kathryn McMillan for doing your dirty work for you. These two women are absolutely correct when they say kids need to learn about the diversity of the holidays, not be sheltered from it. Last time I checked, no one complained about getting a week off for the Christmas holiday (oops, sorry, winter break). The holiday hysteria was, of course, started by the American Civil Liberties Union. (Quick anagram: Rearrange the letters in "Santa Claus" and get "ACLU's Satan.") But why do they get to redefine Christmas for everyone just because a couple of people are offended by it? And who gets offended at another faith's holidays anyway? Yes, Christmas has religious connotations. But can't it also be just a time of charity and enjoyment of each other? Is that so offensive? And can't Santa Claus simply be a symbol of giving and joy? Why do we assume some people are going to be offended by Santa? And why do we care? People are offended by something every day. Big deal. Having a holiday gift shop without gifts that pertain to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and whatever other holidays fall in December is like let- ting kids celebrate Valentine's Day without being able to give out anything containing a heart. It's like having a classroom Halloween party and not allowing pumpkins. Folks, it's time we took back Christmas. Byam School Principal Jane "Unhappy" Gilmore should rethink the gift-shop policy. And if she doesn't, Superintendent of Schools Donald Yeo- man should step in and be the voice of reason. And if he doesn't, well, McMillan and Cullen get their chance before the School Committee next Tuesday night. Chelmsford voters elected those folks. If they were to hear from their constituents about how ridiculous the Byam's policy is, maybe -- just maybe -- Christmas will return to Chelmsford. Dan Phelps' e-mail address is Holiday jeer in Chelmsford By Michael Graham | Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | | Op-Ed : It’s that most wonderful time of the year. The malls are filled with snowflakes, the oldies radio stations are Christmas music 24/7 and in Chelmsford they’re preparing for the annual arrival of everyone’s favorite holiday Aryan: Swasti-Claus! Byam Elementary School in Chelmsford is one of several area schools that raises money by setting up holiday gift shops. Parents donate trinkets and CLICK tchotchkes, which are then put on sale for a few days in December so the lit- tle kiddies can buy gifts for mom, dad and the sibs. According to organizers in the Byam PTO, it’s one of their biggest fundraisers. HERE Speaking on behalf of parents buried under piles of kid-made Christmas junk, it sounds great. There are only so many glazed, multi-colored ceramic Christ- but mas lumps one dad can take. At other schools, the parents are free to send anything they think would be BEWARE appropriate. But at the Byam School, there is one thing that is absolutely ver- boten in the “holiday gift shop.” Anything related to a “holiday.”
  7. 7. No candy canes. No toy reindeer. And definitely no images of any kind of you-know-who. The jolly fat man in the black boots has been given the jack boot. From the Lowell Sun: “Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen Cullen, who both have children at Byam, asked school officials to allow all items at the gift shop following a ban on Santa, candy canes, stockings, and all Christmas, Hanukkah and other ‘religious items.’ “. . . Red and green tissue paper to wrap presents was also crossed off the list because it looked too ‘Christmasy,’ McMillan said. “One of the parents said, ‘If we allow Santa, what do we say if a child brings in a swastika? Do we allow that too?’ McMillan said.” Ah, yes. One minute you’re letting little Johnny buy his mom a Christmas ornament, the next kids are singing “Adolf, The Nazi Reindeer.” The policy is in place and firmly defended by Byam’s principal, Jane Gilmore. She could change it tomorrow, but according to Chelmsford offi- cials, “the policy for the gift shop was set so no child would feel left out.” Out of what? As the annoyed parents pointed out in their letter to the school, the only reason to have a “holiday gift shop” is because the kids are celebrating a holiday. If you’re not celebrating, you’re left out anyway. How does banning “Hermie, the Elf Who Wants To Be A Dentist” dolls solve that prob- lem? People in Chelmsford are mad, not because they think Christmas is being destroyed, but by the hypocrisy of school bureaucrats. If the school is really worried about the impact of holiday celebrations on the kids, it wouldn’t have a holiday gift shop in the first place. But the school won’t stop it because they’re exploiting the very holiday they’re trying to ban in a cash grab from the kids. There’s a reason the schools have these shops in December instead of March. No Christmas - no gift shop. No Christmas shopping, no money. The school’s position is idiotic on its face, which is why its defenders make idiotic arguments like “If you allow Santa, how do you keep out the swastika?” At least I assume it’s idiotic. Maybe there’s a Christmas swastika tradition in the Chelmsford area with which I am not familiar. And who can forget that Bing Crosby holiday classic: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” Who knew that had a hidden message? To all the children at Byam Elementary: “Happy Random Gift-Purchasing Non-Holiday!” LOWELL SUN EDITORIAL Going overboard on political correctness The Lowell Sun 11/17/2009 We recognize that the members of Chelmsford's Byam School PTO and its executive board dedicate many volunteer hours to the academic community, including planning and operating its holiday gift room, and those efforts should be appreciated. We believe more school parents should be willing to step forward to assist with, and offer suggestions for, the various activities taking place in our schools. The burden shouldn't always fall on the same handful of parents. However, we would also like to see more common sense called into play during the planning stages of these activities. The Byam School gift room is a perfect example. There's no doubt having a gift room before Christmas and Hanukkah is a terrific idea that is fun for students and raises much-needed funds. But why the ban on such holiday items as Santa Claus, candy canes, stockings, and, of all things, red and green tissue paper? If the concern is separation of church and state, well, these are not religious symbols. Even if they were, so what? Don't we want children to learn about and have respect for different religions and cultures? If a child wants to buy a Christmas stocking or dreidel as a gift for a loved one, what harm is done? If they prefer to purchase a book, stuffed ani- mal or hat and mittens set, that should be OK, too. Honestly, who could be offended by a striped candy cane? Other than a dentist, we can't think of anyone. We understand complaints regarding the gift-room regulations came late in the year and it can be difficult to change the rules at the last minute. However, in this case, altering the rules simply would have allowed the gift room to be more inclusive rather than exclusive. No one would have had to alter the items they had bought or made for the gift room. Any modification in the rules merely would have allowed for a greater variety of items available to students. Sometimes efforts made to avoid offending others can be taken to the extreme. Such is the case with the Byam School gift room. We hope Byam School's gift-room policy can be changed to reflect less political correctness and more common sense.
  8. 8. CHELMSFORD SCHOOL (RELIGIOUS) POLICY committee.htm SCHOOL CEREMONIES AND OBSERVANCES: Religious Holidays 6314 The historical and contemporary significance of religious holidays may be included in the educational program, provided that such instruction is presented in an unbiased and objective manner. The goal of such activities is to promote an understanding, affirma- tion, and acceptance of all religious beliefs (including those who hold no religious beliefs) among the students. Accordingly, the selection of holidays to be recognized or studied Fox News Americas Newsroom November 18, 2009 will take into account major celebrations of several world religions, FOX NEWS interviews Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen not just those of a single religion. Holiday-related activities will be Cullen and Dr.Donald Yeoman selected carefully to avoid the excessive or unproductive use of school time. School personnel will be especially discriminating in CLICK HERE for VIDEO planning activities that are to take place immediately preceding or on a religious holiday. School activities such as music, art, and drama presentations hav- ing religious themes may be permitted if presented in an objective and neutral manner. In cases where such activities are related to a religious holiday in theme or timing, the activity must be evaluated as to its purpose, intent, and effect. The activity must be presented such that neither its purpose nor its effect will be construed as religious or as advancing one religion over another. Activities that seem to promote or give approval to any specific religion are to be avoided. School sponsored groups will not perform in religious services. The emphasis here is on the neutrality that gov - ernment must observe in matters of religion. Neutral means neither opposing nor promoting religion. It would be a mistake also to interpret CLICK HERE for Video segment complete neutrality about religion to mean com - plete silence. Tom Christiano's Politically Incorrect The importance of religion in history, culture, and the arts cannot be 11-17-09 ignored and should have a place in education. Guests: The use of religious symbols will be permitted as teaching aids Town Manager Paul Cohen when such symbols are used temporarily and objectively to give information about a heritage as- Selectman Sean Scanlon sociated with a particular School Comm Member Kathy Duffett religion. In cases where such symbols are related to a religious holi- day in theme or timing, these symbols must be evaluated as to their & TM REP Jodi O'Neill. purpose and effect. The symbols must be presented such that nei- Topic: BYAM SCHOOL Holiday Gift Shop ther their purpose nor their effect will be construed as religious or advancing one religion over another. Use of these symbols in a way that seems to promote or give approval to any specific religion is to be avoided. Secular symbols may be displayed in a seasonal context. Class- room activities such as parties and recognition of a season of goodwill may be con- ducted. The planners of school year calendars should recognize the possi- ble effects of religious holiday on attendance. The right of parents to determine when their children shall be absent from schoolbecause of religious observance should not be limited by school authorities nor should students be penalized or deprived of make-up opportunities for such absences or pressured to choose between school attendance and religious observance. Bill O'Reilly talks Holidays in Chelmsford or Parents will send a note with the parent’s signature advising the stu- dent’s teachers of an upcoming religious holiday and noting the spe- was that Stoughton? What is happening at cific dates the student will not be attending school. Teachers will not the BAM or is that Byam School schedule tests or require homework during or the day after sched- uled religious holidays for that individual student which were verified ahead of time by the parent note to the teachers. CLICK HERE for VIDEO segment It is the responsibility of the public schools to teach mutual under- standing, and respect for all individuals and all beliefs. In pursuing these goals, teaching in the public schools can and should take cognizance of the fact that holidays are observed differ- ently by different religious groups. Teachers should likewise
  9. 9. Byam School Association defends Gift Room By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Nov 19, 2009 Chelmsford — Despite sharp criticism from two parents, Byam School Association board members are standing by the school’s 27-year old policy banning religious-themed items from its annual holiday Gift Room. Board President Joanne Hayes said the board has been publicizing the event since the first newsletter of the 2009 academic year, sent Sept. 14, and parents had ample opportunity to voice their opinion about the policy. Hayes said the board sought public input on this year’s fundraiser numerous times but it was not until the 11th hour when it heard passionate opposition to the banning of religious-themed items. “Like any of the projects that we have, we put out notices saying that we wanted volunteers to come forward,” said Hayes in a phone interview. “No one came forward. We figured this would be a chance to get new volun- teers. [When] no one came forward we held a brain-storming session about the event. Then fliers started going out and donations came in and all of a sudden these two women came forward and said ‘we want change.’” Hayes said rather than cancel the popular event when no volunteers came forward, members decided to keep the same policy that it has had for years. The Gift Room is slated for Tuesday, Dec. 1 through Friday, Dec. 4. But Byam School parents Kathy Cullen and Kathy McMillan, who both had children at the school last year, said they sent a letter to Byam Principal Jane Gilmore as soon as they received the newsletter about this year’s Gift Room guidelines. “We think it is a pretty egregious thing to be banning Christmas while making money off of it,” said Cullen. “When it came on to the radar screen for us was Oct. 15. We didn’t intend in any way to arrive at this late. It was plenty of time to deal with it before the Dec. 1 date.” The two women’s vocal opposition of the gift room policy has set off a firestorm of local and statewide media attention, that some say is shining a negative light on the school district and the town. “I feel bad that this is the way that outsiders are seeing Chelmsford,” said Monica Boudreau, the Byam School Board’s vice president of fundraising. “This is one activity that the Byam School PTO does. We enjoy living here and we are doing the best we can to keep it a nice place to live.” The Gift Room is an annual holiday event for Byam School students to shop for those on their holiday list. Children peruse a room filled with donated, bought or hand-made gifts priced from 25 cents to $2. The Gift Room welcomes seasonal items such as snowmen, snow globes, mittens and scarves, but bans any religious affiliated items or anything pertaining to Christmas such as candy canes or stockings. Hayes said that with only weeks left to prepare, there is not enough time to change the policies and change what items and crafts can be donated. But Hayes said the Byam School Association will listen to the two women’s concerns for next year’s Gift Room. However, Cullen and McMillan said they can’t have their children participate in a Gift Room where holiday items involving Santa Claus are banned. “We feel this is a really big deal to ban Santa,” said Cullen. “We feel that it shouldn’t go on for another year.” School Superintendent Dr. Donald Yeoman is standing by the policy and said it was put in place to respect the many cultures and religions in Chelmsford. Yeoman said the policy has run smoothly for the past 27 years. “What is it this year that’s different?” he said. “The only thing that’s different is that two people decided that they were going to take this on as an issue. I don’t know what their motives are.” Yeoman said the controversy surrounding the policy of the Gift Room is shining negative attention on both the school and the town. “We have the safest buildings, we have the highest trained staff we’ve ever had and now the only thing they can find fault with is a PTO fundraiser, that’s pretty amazing,” he said. “This is a good thing. It’s unfortunate that it’s gone this way.” But Cullen and McMillan are not walking away from the issue quietly. The women said they want the pol- icy changed for this year’s Gift Room and intend on voicing their displeasure with the school district’s re- sponse at next week’s School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24. “It’s the banning of items in America and that’s wrong,” said Cullen and McMillan on a joint phone inter- view. “We are hoping that the ban will be removed and there will be a policy to accept all faiths and traditions.”
  10. 10. CHELMSFROD INDEPENDENT EDITORIAL 11/19/09 E V E RY B O DY C A L M D OW N The decision to ban religious iconography from the Byam’s holiday fair is not un-American and it is not some locally grown equivalent to the repression of an entire nation. Here’s a hint:when planning to toss such accusations,avoid hyperbole. When your comparing a schools’s policy to the suppression of free thought and free ideals,stop,take a breath and collect yourself. Lunging forward,shouting about the Scrooge who stole Christmas, serves no one. All it does is offer people from outside Chelmsford the idea the town is populated by intolerant no-nothings,twisting rhetorical knots to make some tortured point. Stop,please.The real issue is not what’s fair at the Byam fair but who gets to make the decisions. The Byam PTO stood up in September and asked for help. None was forthcoming.Now,less than three weeks before the holiday fair,people are standing up and hollering.It’s too late. The time to make noise was four months ago. These fairs take months of planning,not hours,not days,not weeks but months. At this late hour,there are really two options for the PTO: Walk through the hailstorm trying to avoid bruises so kids can shop or cancel the whole thing. Neither is viable. Neither is welcome and neither makes sense. Instead,approach this as a moment to affect change long term. Insist the district cast a reasonable,measured,uniform policy toward holiday fairs. No one minds following the rules as long as everyone is given the right to express their opinion when making the rules and the rules appy to everyone,right? So shelve the hyperbole.Allow Allow the fair to move forward as it has been planned for months. Present town to the world as a place where reasonable adults make reasonable decisions for the right reasons. Plan ahead and volunteer,make your voice heard in a forum and at a time that makes sense. A politically correct version of 'Twa's the night before Christmas' as told by Larry the Cable Guy CLICK HERE FOR YOUR BEDTIME STORY VIDEO
  11. 11. School Committee meeting moved to Performing Arts Center Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 20.NOV.09 Expecting a large turnout because of the ongoing Byam School Gift Room con- troversy, school officials reportedly are looking to move the Nov. 24 meeting to a larger venue. Superintendent Donald Yeoman’s assistant said the school board was waiting to hear back from Chelmsford TeleMedia before deciding on moving the meeting. Friday afternoon, Villu Tari, from Chelmsford TeleMedia, said the meeting will be held at the Chelmsford High School's Performing Arts Center and will be tele- vised. No word on whether the Byam issue will even be on the agenda. School officials said the agenda won’t be finalized until Monday. It will then be posted. Byam Gift Room issue on Tuesday night's agenda Staff reports 22.NOV.09 Byam Elementary School's Gift Room policy will be on Tuesday's School Committee agenda, Chairman Angie Taranto said Saturday. The meeting will take place at the Chelmsford High School Performing Arts Center, on Nov. 24, at 7:30 p.m. The session will be televised by Chelmsford Tele- Media. School officials are anticipating a large - and probably angry - turnout. Taranto said school officials have hired two detail officers to be at the meeting.
  12. 12. Gift-shop controversy roils Chelmsford board to air issue on Tuesday By Rita Savard CHELMSFORD- Grinch. Scrooge. Mr. Potter. These were labels given to school officials after controversy erupted over and alleged 27-year ban on Christmas and religious-themed items at the Byam Elementary School’s annual holiday gift fair. The debate began when two mothers, who said Byam’s policy sends the wrong message to kids, challenged school officials to change the rules and allow all holiday Items or move the gift shop to another time of year. But parents volunteering on the Byam PTO say some statements reported to the media by Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen Cullen were false and have blown the issue out of proportion. A lot of preparation and planning goes into the gift shop, which will be held from Dec. 1 to 4, said Joanne Hayes, president of the Byam PTO. Because all items sold at the gift shop are donated by parents, the first bulletins requesting volunteers and feedback went out in September, Hayes said. “Everybody opinion makes this event work. We don’t want to dictate every year what is done, that’s why it is important to work collaboratively”, Hayes explained. After several notices and a couple of meetings for parents’ input. Hayes said she saw the same faces that showed up every year. “No one came forward to chair this event”, she said. “So the board kept moving forward, the PTO decide to keep the same policy. Fliers went home reminding parents to donate. Seasonal items, including snowmen, mittens and snowflakes were welcome. Items not permitted were Santa’s, candy canes, stockings, food, Christmas, Hanukkah or other religious items. McMillan and Cullen said the flier was the first time they had heard about the event and immediately re- sponded by writing Byam Principal Jane Gilmore. Gilmore has not returned phone calls from The Sun for comment. “All we’re asking for is real diversity,” McMillan said. “If you are letting kids buy gifts for the holidays, then let parents donate the things that celebrate those traditions and use it as a teachable moment.” Hayes said the PTO welcomes all parents’ opinions. But the event was already planned, advertised and marketed, and donations were trickling in, so the PTO was hard-pressed t make major changes this year, she said. “We love new people coming forward. You want new people coming forward with passion on topics,” Hayes said. “But this was not something that could be discussed in a one-hour time frame. You want to include all the school’s parents on decisions like these and because we were already well into even planning, we figured we’d keep moving forward with the plan we had in place this year and take that energy “from McMillan and Cullen” and figure out how to make it work next year.” School Superintendent Donald Yeoman said Byam’s long-standing gift-store policy was created to respect the many cultures and religions. The Holidays, said Hayes, are still present at the gift shop in a student’s personal touches. All items cost 25 cents to $2. Some are homemade. Others might be Matchbox cars, or golf tees for dad. Whatever a student purchases, he or she can move on to a table where parent volunteers hand- write notes from child to parent that include messages like “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah, “ or whatever the child wants, Hayes said.
  13. 13. And kids that can’t afford a gift still get to take something home. “You should see the kids’ faces when they are there. They’re really excited, “ Hayes said. “It doesn’t matter to them what they buy, it just matters that they’re buying something for someone they love. “ Candy canes, said Yeoman, where off limits because some students “have severe life-threatening food allergies. “ Red and green tissue paper, Hayes adds, were never banned from the gift shop. McMillan and Cullen say all statements they made to the press have been true. One month after sending their first letter to the principal, the Byam moms say school officials are still not talking about the ban on traditional holiday items, but, rather, dismissing their concerns and calling them liars and troublemakers. The moms added that they have no problem with the volunteer parent on the PTO. “The PTO has been put in the middle by school administrators not living up to their responsibility, “ Cullen said. “It’s the School Committee that sets policy.” Yeoman said it’s a shame that the school district, which collaboratively works at providing the education possible for all children, and Gilmore, who have headed Byam for 19 years and “love working with chil- dren,” have been portrayed negatively. If the public met and talked with each parent, educator and school employee “who puts their whole heart” into Chelmsford’s kids, they would see that there is no Grinch in Chelmsford, Yeoman said. McMillan and Cullen, who said they received another e-mail Friday calling on donations for the gift shop, said it’s not too late to change and out-of-date policy that takes the holidays out of the holiday gift shop. “All we did was send a letter to the editor to try and have our voice heard, “ McMillan said. “Everything that has happened since then is a response to (school officials) not addressing the issue. “ McMillan and Cullen will discuss the issue with the School Committee at 7:30 pm. Tuesday at the Chelmsford High Performing Arts Center, at 120-200 Richardson Road. The meeting, which is usually held at the School Administration Building was moved to accommodate a larger audience.
  14. 14. Extra Extras H1N1 clinic, limited to children, at Chelmsford Senior Center GateHouse News Service Nov 19, 2009 Chelmsford — Chelmsford residents age 6 months to 18 years can get an H1N1 flu vaccination on Thursday, Dec. 3 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Chelmsford Senior Center. Because supply is limited, registration is required. The registration line will be open Friday, Nov. 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 978-244-3328. The Chelmsford Board of Health needs the full name, address, phone number and age of the child to be vaccinated. Parents or guardians will not be eligible for the vaccine. This is an injection-only clinic ---------------------- RABIES AND MICROCHIP CLINIC CLINIC HELD AT THE CHELMSFORD DOG POUND (NEXT TO THE POLICE STATION) **ALL ANIMALS MUST BE ON A LEASH OR IN A CARRIER** Rabies Shot $15.00 Microchip $25.00 Time: 10:00 am to 12:00 am Phone: 978-256-0754 • LIMITED SUPPLY OF MICROCHIPS ARE AVAILABLE, AND ARE ON A FIRST COME FIRST SERVED BASIS OWNER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FILLING OUT AND SUBMITTING REGISTRATIONS AND FEES. • PLEASE BRING PRIOR RABIES CERTIFICATE FOR MULTI YEAR VACCINE. • 2010 DOG LICENSES WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE CLINIC FEE IS $15.00 Brought to you by, CHELMSFORD ANIMAL CONTROL CHELMSFORD TOWN CLERK CHELMSFORD ANIMAL HOSPITAL ---------------------- 3rd Annual Walk (and Talk) Turkey the Day Before Thanksgiving The Chelmsford Open Space Stewardship Program and local television host Tom Christiano will once again revive an old Chelmsford tradition of gathering at the rocks at Thanksgiving Forest at Thanksgiving time. The original tradition had the men of Chelmsford gathering at the rocks Thanksgiving Day for a fox hunt. Since many families are busy Thanksgiving Day and fox hunting is no longer a part of Chelmsford life, this special one mile holiday walk through the forest will take place on Wednesday afternoon, November 25, at 2:00 p.m. from the Janet Road entrance to the forest, and at 2:30 p.m. from the Gary Road entrance to the forest (shorter hike).
  15. 15. Refreshments will be provided courtesy of Guaetta & Benson Law Firm alongside a campfire at the rock outcropping. Guest speaker Becky Warren will "talk turkey" about Thanksgiving Forest, Chelmsford's past and some of the town's little known traditions. Get into the Thanksgiving spirit Wednesday afternoon and enjoy a brisk walk and some town lore in preparation for the next day. More than 300 people enjoyed this event last year! There is no cost for this event. For more information, contact Phil Stanway of the Chelmsford Open Space Stewardship program at or call direct at 978-273-1474. For directions to Thanksgiving Forest or information on other Open Spaces in town, go to ---------------------- THE HOLIDAYS START AT THE CCA, MARK YOUR CALENDAR NOW! Mark your calendars on December 6 for a wonderful start to the holidays in Chelmsford. From noon to 6 pm the CCA will be hosting a Christkindlmarkt Artisans' Holiday Market. Vendors will be selling small gift items and tasty treats. Children and Adults can help make origami cranes for the Peace Tree. Entrance is free. Next take a walk over to the International Gingerbread Village to sup- port Habitat for Humanity at All Saints' Episcopal Church with a suggested donation of $5/family. End the day at the Holiday Prelude on the Common from 4 - 6 pm. ---------------------- Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the week; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade and brother in every man he meets upon life's common road; who lives his life throughout the entire year in the Christmas spirit. Edwin Osgood Grover - 1912
  16. 16. In-Town Report NEWS LINKS Lowell Sun Chelmsford Independent Kevin Zimmerman’s Chelmsford Mass News ROY EARLEY TOM CHRISTIANO Town Meeting Representative Precinct 6 Town Meeting Representative Precinct 9