Township mother Stacy Lettie of Spencer Road, who said she has three children in Bernards Township schools, said she was speaking on behalf of many mothers in the community when she said she found it "shocking" that the schools didn't conduct a moment of silence or provide across-the-board teaching about Sept. 11, 2001.
Addressing the Board of Education on Monday night, Lettie said the event "shapes all aspects of their lives" she said of the students. Later during the meeting, board members informally agreed they would like to see a moment of silence instituted in Bernards Schools on Sept. 11 in future years.
Sept. 11, 2001 was also a day that took the lives of about 20 Bernards Township residents, depending on how residency was counted. This year's juniors were beginning kindergarten at that time.
Lettie said that even ShopRite supermarket observed a moment of silence, while in the schools, "We are missing an incredible opportunity to teach our children." She said her son, now a sophomore reported that his Social Studies teacher had spent just a few minutes talking about the World Trade Center's destruction, an event that she said has changed every aspect of students' lives.
Lettie asked the school board to conduct a moment of silence in future years and to add teaching about the event into all classrooms even if children would be taught in a different way at different age levels.
Resident Bill Connors told school board members that he agreed with Lettie. "It was disrespectful of those families that were impacted."
Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said that this year, the 11th following the Sept. 11, 2001, the district's Social Studies Supervisor had provided age-appropriate materials on the subject to all teachers. He said that teaching of the material was not mandated, but many did participate.
William Annin Middle School conducted service project
For example, to honor of September 11 Day of Service, William Annin Middle School students showed a generous and caring spirit in and outside of school from September 6 to 13, according to an earlier announcement by Deirdre Bachler, Spanish teacher at the middle school.
The students were invited to collect animal food, toys and blankets for local animal shelters, with some also choosing to write letters to soldiers abroad, she said.
"Some of the classes are still working on letters to send, but over 100 thoughtful letters and decorated cards have been collected and mailed at this point. Also, the amount of items collected for animals filled up four car trunks to be delivered to Somerset Regional Animal Shelter. St. Hubert’s of Branchburg, Catnip Friends Rescue of Flemington, and Mount Pleasant Animal Shelter of East Hanover," Bachler reported about a week after 9/11.
But board members informally agreed that a moment of silence would be appropriate for future years.
Even as she referred to the middle school initiative, Board Member Elaine Kusel said she agreed with remarks by many that there should be some sort of formal recognition of Sept. 11's events in Bernards Schools.
"It's an omission that we did not have a moment of silence, and it needs to be fixed," said Board Member Michael Byrne.
"It's a major point in our history," noted Board Member William Koch.
Markarian said there were a wide range of activities in regard to 9/11 in different schools this year, but it would be easy to develop a program aimed at different age groups. He agreed a moment of silence could be conducted.
Leaving the meeting, Lettie said she had expected that more parents might have attended. But she said she felt she had accomplished something at Monday's meeting.
In a related discussion, parent Renee Marchetti said she would like to see the schools have a set policy for how children recite the pledge of allegiance during the school day. "It only takes a moment."
Right now, she said she believes saluting the flag is handled different ways in different schools, with some schools leading the pledge over the public announcement system. She said she would like to see students taught to give the flag "the respect it deserves."
Although board members said they believe the pledge of allegiance is being recited in schools, Byrne said that maybe the district should look at a policy, and other board members said they agreed with his remarks.