Sherwood's Notebook: Dazed by the Holidays? - NBC4 Washington
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Sherwood's Notebook: Dazed by the Holidays?



    Lighting of the Animals: Inside National Zoo’s Holiday Display

    Our neighbor Montgomery County has found itself in a heck of a holiday mess.

    The county school board is reaping a whirlwind over its decision to avoid adding a Muslim holiday to the school calendar by eliminating any religious designation of official holidays around Christian and Jewish religious events.

    Muslims had asked that equal treatment be given for the holy day of Eid al-Adha.

    The school board voted 7-1 for the change. It said the holidays themselves would remain on the calendar but the references to religion would be deleted next year. The board said the holidays would remain for a practical reason: high absenteeism.

    Muslims involved thought the maneuver was transparently anti-Muslim. "...[W]e are no closer to equality," said Saqib Ali, a former state legislator who was quoted in The Washington Post.

    D.C. public schools have only a "winter break" that falls during the Christmas and New Year season, Dec. 22 through Jan. 2. The D.C. schools' "spring break" is April 13-17. However, in one reference to religion, schools are closed for "Easter Monday" on April 6, the day after Easter itself.

    At some point, activists could expect to start challenging Columbus Day, when schools were closed this year Oct. 13. If you think the Washington professional football team has troubles with its name, try Googling Christopher Columbus' treatment of Native Americans. There's quite an uproar over that.

    No one has yet complained about schools being closed for Veterans Day Nov. 11, Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 19, Presidents Day on Feb. 16 and Memorial Day on May 25.

    ■ A view of Lew. D.C. City Administrator Allen Lew is due to leave office when Mayor Vincent Gray’s term ends at noon on Jan. 2. There’s been no indication Lew would be asked by Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser to stay on.

    But Lew’s lengthy work for the city — well before he became city administrator — was recognized last week by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Washington Architectural Foundation. He received the 2014 Glenn Brown Award that singles out "an individual who has raised public awareness of architecture and its benefits to society and who has improved the quality of life" in Washington.

    "Look at any major project in Washington, D.C. ...and you will find Allen Lew," said institute executive director Mary Fitch.

    The organization cited Lew’s oversight of construction for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and Nationals Park, as well as the massive reconstruction of the city's many public school buildings and athletic fields.

    "For nearly 20 years, he has demonstrated an on-time, on-budget and no-excuses performance on a wide range of municipal and public private initiatives," the organizations said to explain the honor.

    The professional groups noted Lew has served four of the city's six mayors.

    ■ A teachable moment. Thousands of public and charter school teachers take to their classrooms every weekday. And like any profession, many are excellent, many are damn good, some are average, and some are, well, just not all that great.

    But it was a nice time Monday when seven teachers in the city’s public schools were surprised with $10,000 gifts and each received the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award.

    You can follow the hashtag #StandingOvationDC on social media to see photos and videos from the surprise visits.

    The teachers will be honored again by Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Jan. 12 during the fifth annual Standing Ovation for DC Teachers at the Kennedy Center.

    The award money is put up by the nonprofit D.C. Public Education Fund.

    Congratulations, all around.

    Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.