Chancellor Carmen Farina
By Ray O’Hanlon
Whether the mayor marches in the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and with whom he marches, is still up in the air.
What’s not up in the air is the reality of parent-teacher meetings for Irish and American families on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day.
Not for the first time, New York City’s education authorities have run a coach and four through the big Irish day – and this in a year when the Chinese New Year was declared a full day off for public school kids.
The March 17th meetings (it’s a Thursday this year) have prompted a call by the Emerald Isle Immigration Center for people “to submit letters of petition regarding the Department of Education’s decision to allow middle schools to hold parent-teacher conferences on St. Patrick’s Day.”
The EIIC, which has offices in Queens and the Bronx, is asking that the letters of petition be sent to Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.
EIIC Executive Director, Siobhan Dennehy, has separately written to Chancellor Farina urging a change of date for the meetings.
In her letter, Dennehy states that the EIIC was being contacted by members of the Irish Immigrant community and was being asked to intercede in the matter of the meetings.
Wrote Dennehy in part: “As you are aware, St. Patrick’s Day is our oldest cultural celebration in the Irish immigrant community. St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day of obligation for Irish Catholics which is also observed by many Irish Americans.
“We are requesting that the department instruct schools to reschedule any parent teacher conferences currently scheduled for March 17th 2016 to allow the Irish American community and those of Irish heritage the opportunity to celebrate this significant cultural and religious holiday.”
St. Patrick’s Day does not enjoy official holiday status in New York City, or anywhere else in the nation, but the treatment of March 17 by NYC officials as an entirely regular day has caused rancor in the past.
Five years ago, as the Fifth Avenue Parade prepared to mark its 250th anniversary even as it was having its route shortened, the loudest Irish boos were being directed at the New York City Department of Education, which that year mandated citywide high school level parent teacher meetings beginning at 6 p.m. on the evening of the 17th.
This angered not only families but many teachers of Irish heritage who were being required to work a regular school day, and to continue working well into St. Patrick’s evening.
“We will be working then working,” one teacher told the Irish Echo at the time.
“This was unnecessary. It would not have happened to any other ethnic or racial group,” said the unhappy educator.