Lunar New Year Holiday Clears First Vote

By SCOTT JACKSON

The Quincy City Council’s ordinance committee on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance that would designate Lunar New Year as a school holiday in the city and the full council could approve the item as soon as May 20.

Councillors Nina Liang, Scott Campbell, Noel DiBona, Richard Ash and Ian Cain had introduced an ordinance on April 22 that would have designated Lunar New Year as a legal holiday in the city. Based on guidance from City Solicitor Jim Timmins, Liang on Monday said councillors could not designate a new legal holiday under state law, and so she amended the ordinance so that it would require Quincy Public Schools be closed in observance of Lunar New Year while no longer declaring it a legal holiday.

“I just want to be really clear that this isn’t us legislating the entirety of the school calendar. That’s something that’s not within our purview,” Liang said. “We’re simply focusing on the recognition of one holiday, having schools closed for that day, and that is something we can do and are able to accomplish with this.”

A number of students, parents and other community members had lobbied the School Committee to close schools in recognition of Lunar New Year as the school board reviewed the calendars for both the current school year and the next school year that starts in September. The school board on April 10 voted 4-2 to approve a calendar for the 2024-25 school year that keeps schools open on Lunar New Year. Mayor Thomas Koch, the chairperson of the School Committee, and Courtney Perdios had voted against the calendar because it did not include a day off for Lunar New Year.

Liang on Monday said city councillors need to ensure the voices of the residents they represent are heard.

“Our responsibility here is to legislate, that’s our formal responsibility, but I’d argue that our informal responsibility which is the most important is to our constituents, to our residents who elected us to be here and in service to them representing them and making sure their voices are being heard,” she said.

“This ordinance does just that. It responds to an overwhelming number of requests from our constituents and making sure that their voices are in fact being heard.”

Campbell said it was long overdue for the school system to close in observance of Lunar New Year. Students who celebrate the holiday will no longer have to choose between being in school that day or being with their families, he said.

“We can take that out of the equation, and I think it’s important we move forward with this, and that’s why I supported it,” Campbell said.

Cain thanked Liang for leading the effort to create the new school holiday.

“As the East Asian community has become such a strong component of the fabric of the city of Quincy, this is a historic measure,” Cain said. “Thank you very much for bringing this to us.”

DiBona said 39.5 percent of the more than 10,000 students enrolled in the Quincy Public Schools are of Asian descent and more than half of the students at some schools – including North Quincy High School, Atlantic Middle School, and the Montclair, Wollaston, Parker and Beechwood Knoll elementary schools – are of Asian descent. DiBona added that he received more than 200 emails in support of the Lunar New Year holiday prior to Monday’s meeting.

“In my tenure of being an elected official, as a councillor and on the School Committee, I don’t know another issue that had more emails, more phone calls, or more correspondence from constituents,” he said.

Ward 6 Councillor William Harris said the measure was long overdue.

“I think that this, as was said, is long overdue. Thank you, Councillor Liang, you have 100 percent of my support,” Harris said.

After all nine city councillors voted to pass the ordinance out of committee, Liang extended her thanks to the residents who lead the letter-writing campaign in support of the holiday. She also extended thanks to her colleagues as well as Koch, Perdios and former School Committee member Frank Santoro for their support of making Lunar New Year a holiday.

“As someone born and raised in the city, I always knew I belonged here but now to have that validated by my colleagues, by this government in this city, by the mayor’s office and again by my colleagues, for you to all come together as a city to say, ‘you are actually accepted here, you belong here,’ just thank you,” said Liang, who was visibly choked up.

Following Monday’s meeting, Koch said he was in support of the council’s move to make Lunar New Year a school holiday.

“I think the City Council has every right to weigh in on this issue,” Koch said. “The City Council over the years has been very good to the schools, the school budgets and projects. They are speaking their wishes known and I think we as a School Committee should respond to that.”

Santoro, who was in attendance Monday, thanked the councillors for their vote.

“I would like to thank the City Council for being in touch with the Quincy community. I thank Courtney and the mayor for trying to prove this to the School Committee side,” Santoro said. “It’s been a fight for four years that I’ve been trying to get, because the majority of our kids deserve to celebrate with their families on this most important day and finally, the city is recognizing that this is a very important day to that community.”

Perdios said she was proud of the city councillors’ vote.

“I’m really proud of the City Council and Councillor Liang for bringing this forward and being supportive of such an important subset of our community that asked to be recognized, deserved to be recognized. I’m proud that they stood up and took a stand for it as the mayor, myself, Frank Santoro all did,” Perdios said.

“I have some questions now about how it all gets put into process. I’m not sure if we have to vote it in on School Committee too, but hopefully with the unanimous vote they just took, hopefully it will pass, and we can do this for our Asian American students and families.”

School Committee member Kathryn Hubley was also present for Monday’s City Council meeting, which also included the presentation of the budget for the new fiscal year. Hubley declined to comment following the vote on the ordinance, saying she did not see the full committee meeting.

Share this!