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Parents accuse Fair Lawn HS principal of lying, challenge him to lift ban on holiday pep rally

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : Several parents have sent a letter to Fair Lawn High School Principal James Marcella accusing him of pulling the plug on the pre-Thanksgiving pep rally after promising it would be held.


They vowed to deliver a petition to his office with a large number of signatures that challenge Marcella to “take this opportunity and make it a teachable moment in a positive, not negative way.”

“It seems unconscionable that you would cancel a traditional event rather than critically think and seek alternative solutions to solving a problem at hand,” the parents wrote, in the letter, obtained by CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“In these economic times, it would have been common courtesy to inform the parent community so they could make an informed decision regarding the purchase of class shirts that were specifically designed for the pep rally tradition,” they added.

Marcella couldn’t immediately be reached Sunday night. However, CLIFFVIEW PILOT sent him and other school officials emails requesting comment.

“The school administration met with the executive board of the student government and allegedly told them that if they said anything about the cancellation, or tried to take action to keep the rally, that there would be repercussions,” an involved parent told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“While the potential actions were not spelled out, seniors in particular have felt threatened,” the parent said. “This is when they are preparing their college applications and need support for references, transcripts, etc.”

In their letter, the parents noted that one of them asked point-blank during the school year’s first PTA meeting about a ‘rumor’ of a cancellation.

“She was informed by you in front of the PTA that this was untrue and that a pep rally would take place,” the letter to Marcella said.

“We believe our children must take initiative, show leadership, and address the issue at hand by promoting the democratic process to petition your decision,” the parents wrote to the principal.

For one thing, they said, pep rallies “promote school spirit, camaraderie, collaboration and unite the student body.”

For another, they reject Marcella’s rationale that a previous class’s behavior warranted the cancellation — noting that “432 students from last year’s student population have moved on and graduated.”

“Additionally, 386 new freshman students have roots from middle schools that aggressively promote character education programs.”

Marcella’s decision “victimizes” freshman students “for actions that have taken place in previous years,” the parents wrote. “It discounts the character education program that the district Middle Schools have worked so hard at achieving.”

If the size of the turnout concerned him, the parents wrote, Marcella could simply have gathered freshman and sophomore students in one gym and junior and senior students in another, “downsizing the population to a more controllable number.”

“Don’t penalize 1491 students a year later for previous acts that were not addressed at the appropriate time,” the parents conclude. “Support the interaction of students, provide an alternative plan and acknowledge the constructive way your ‘new’ student population embodies the character qualities they have learned from previous character education programs so diligently imbedded from the middle school years.”


THE LETTER IN FULL

( NOTE : Those referred to by name include Fair Lawn Schools Superintendent Bruce Watson and Board of Education trustees ):

Dear Mr. Marcella,

A tremendous amount of students are disappointed by your action to cancel the traditional FLHS Cutter Pep Rally. Additionally, the parent community of these students supports their initiative to engage in a collaborative effort and constructively petition your decision in a democratic way.

Therefore, please be advised that a carefully thought out petition addressing your letter to the student body and your mission statement as published on the FLHS website will be forwarded to your office shortly, with a copy to Bruce Watson, Jeanine Hayek, Eugene Banta, and Laurie Osback.

Reference is made to your letter dated November 1, 2010 with regard to the cancellation of the traditional FLHS Pep Rally. As “the leaders of tomorrow attend Fair Lawn schools today”, we believe our children must take initiative, show leadership, and address the issue at hand by promoting the democratic process to petition your decision for the following valid reasons:

§ Pep [rallies] promote school spirit, camaraderie, collaboration and unite the student body. Your letter makes reference to past years where spirit has deteriorated but neglects to identify that this was primarily caused by the senior class that has already graduated. This matter was not documented nor addressed to the parent community or at any PTA meeting. It seems unconscionable that you would cancel a traditional event rather than critically think and seek alternative solutions to solving a problem at hand. Take this opportunity to make it a teachable moment.

§ 432 students from last year’s student population have moved on and graduated. Additionally, 386 new freshman students have roots from middle schools that aggressively promote character education programs. Furthermore, the freshman students stemming from Memorial Middle School have had exemplary character education awareness to the extent that the school was one of ten schools recognized as a National School of Character.

The morale of this new student population has achieved success in the charter areas of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, and caring.

Your actions victimize this new freshman population for actions that have taken place in previous years. It discounts the character education program that the district Middle Schools have worked so hard at achieving.

§ If discussion was initiated at the end of last year’s pep rally not to support this year’s pep rally, then the parent community and student body should have been informed prior to two weeks before the anticipated event. In these economic times, it would have been common courtesy to inform the parent community so they could make an informed decision regarding the purchase of class shirts that were specifically designed for the pep rally tradition.

Additionally, during the first PTA meeting of the 2010 school year, a parent raised the question about the “rumor” of such cancellation. She was informed by you in front of the PTA that this was untrue and that a pep rally would be take place. This contradicts your current action.

§ While safety must be the optimal concern of your administration, alternative solutions can be made. Using the A gym for freshman and sophomore students and the B gym for junior and senior students could be an alternative to downsizing the population to a more controllable number.

§ Referencing your mission statement as posted on the FLHS district website, as principal you “support the interaction of students”, thus your action to cancel this pep rally totally defies your own mission.

Finally, your mission statement acknowledges “the optimal environment is one in which students feel free to challenge themselves and have opportunities to take initiative, to articulate clearly and imaginatively, to be creative, and to learn from their inquiry and experience.”

[T]herefore, we recommend that each grade level be judged by the respect they give to their peers. Don’t penalize 1491 students a year later for previous acts that were not addressed at the appropriate time.

Support the interaction of students, provide an alternative plan and acknowledge the constructive way your “new” student population embodies the character qualities they have learned from previous character education programs so diligently imbedded from the middle school years.

As parents, we challenge you to take this opportunity and make it a teachable moment in a positive, not negative way.

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