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JAFFREY-RinDge School District

School pledge at center of parent petition

New Rindge Memorial principal being questioned for decision to eliminate morning recital over intercom

  • Parents and residents packed the Rindge Memorial School's cafeteria Monday night regarding concerns over a recent policy change to how students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Parents and residents packed the Rindge Memorial School's cafeteria Monday night regarding concerns over a recent policy change to how students recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Rindge Memorial School Principal Jurg Jenzer, first seated at the table on the left, listens in as the School Board responds to parents concerns about how the Pledge of Allegiance is recited in individual classrooms and not in unison at the school.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Rindge Memorial School Principal Jurg Jenzer, first seated at the table on the left, listens in as the School Board responds to parents concerns about how the Pledge of Allegiance is recited in individual classrooms and not in unison at the school.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Parent Sheila Nagle of Rindge, right, presents to the School Board a petition she started just a few hours before Monday's School Board meeting in favor of returning to the Jaffrey-Rindge School District's former policy about how students recite the Pledge of Allegiance.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Parent Sheila Nagle of Rindge, right, presents to the School Board a petition she started just a few hours before Monday's School Board meeting in favor of returning to the Jaffrey-Rindge School District's former policy about how students recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Parents and residents packed the Rindge Memorial School's cafeteria Monday night regarding concerns over a recent policy change to how students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Rindge Memorial School Principal Jurg Jenzer, first seated at the table on the left, listens in as the School Board responds to parents concerns about how the Pledge of Allegiance is recited in individual classrooms and not in unison at the school.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Parent Sheila Nagle of Rindge, right, presents to the School Board a petition she started just a few hours before Monday's School Board meeting in favor of returning to the Jaffrey-Rindge School District's former policy about how students recite the Pledge of Allegiance.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

RINDGE — A change in policy concerning how students recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the Rindge Memorial School drew strong opposition from parents Monday night.

Students reciting the pledge in unison as it was broadcast over the school’s intercom system every morning was common practice under former principal of 15 years John Stone. But this September, the school’s new principal, Jurg Jenzer, modified that practice, asking each teacher to recite the pledge with students in their classrooms.

Parents told the School Board on Monday that the change has prompted concern in the community, particularly about whether or not all teachers are in compliance with the new policy.

The large show of concern from the community Monday night ultimately prompted Supt. Jim O’Neill to call for a return to the former practice, with the pledge once again becoming a part of the school’s daily intercom broadcast.

“If the community feels that it is a practice that should be done over the intercom, we will go back to that practice immediately,” O’Neill said.

At the start of Monday’s School Board meeting, Sheila Nagle of Rindge delivered to the board a petition with 119 signatures, which she and other parents had collected in just a few hours. The signatures, she said, support a return to tradition and the school’s former method of having students recite the pledge in unison with the daily broadcast.

“A lot of parents in the community feel that the pledge needs to be said over the intercom so the school is saying it as a whole,” Nagle said. “A lot of us have siblings or relatives somewhere that serve in the military and we feel students should be saying this.”

Earlier this year, Nagle said she met with Jenzer out of concern that in her child’s classroom the pledge was not being recited on a daily basis. While Nagle said Jenzer spoke to teachers about the issue, it still wasn’t resolved. He then directed her to the School Board, she said.

In an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday, Jenzer wrote that he made a change to how and when students recite the pledge based on requests from faculty to cut back on intercom announcements in order to reduce interruptions to the instructional process.

“Last year, some staff members did a study. They found that approximately three weeks of instructional time were lost to [public address] announcements, a high number assemblies, etc.,” Jenzer said. “This classroom-based [pledge] practice meets the policy requirements and is less disruptive.”

Rindge Memorial School follows its own policy in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance on a daily basis. However, there is no state law that requires students to pledge.

O’Neill said at Monday’s meeting that after hearing about parents’ concerns that afternoon, he spoke with Jenzer. He said the district had no intentions of being disrespectful with this change in policy, but rather Jenzer thought the change would allow for more personalized learning opportunities for students.

Margaret Barney of Rindge told the School Board that she disagreed with Nagle and those who signed the petition. Barney, whose stepson enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps earlier this year, said she was distressed that how the pledge is said at the elementary school is such an issue.

“I have a great appreciation for our flag and our country, but I do not think it is absolutely necessary to interrupt the entire school to do the Pledge of Allegiance when each student in a classroom could have the opportunity to lead the pledge once every 30 days or 20 days, depending on the number of students,” Barney said.

In addition to disagreements about how the pledge is recited at Rindge Memorial School, Nagle told the School Board that two other issues need to be addressed in the near future. Nagle, who volunteers at the school, said that since Stone retired earlier this year and Jenzer took over, she has sensed tension and general unhappiness among faculty.

Nagle said she and other parents in the district were also upset to hear that longtime Rindge Memorial School physical education teacher Jerry Holmes had received negative reviews from Jenzer during a recent employee evaluation. She said she obtained a copy of the review from Holmes and questioned why after 26 years his work performance was being questioned.

But the School Board would not address the matter Monday, as members said discussing an individual employee’s work review in a public forum would be a breach of the district’s collective bargaining agreement as well as state law.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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