Flags Will Fly in School District, Weather or Not

A group of local veterans and the Derry Cooperative School District are now on the same page regarding the American flag.
Bill Cooper, a veteran of the Army in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, spoke for other veterans when he questioned the absence of flags flying at half-mast at the School District’s eight buildings on Friday, Nov. 22, the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

School Administrative Unit (SAU) 10 Superintendent Laura Nelson said at the School Board meeting of Tuesday, Nov. 26, that she had spoken with Cooper, who expressed his and other veterans’ dismay at not seeing the flag. Nelson told Cooper that “It has been the procedure in the district to not fly the United States or New Hampshire state flags in inclement weather.”
Cooper then asked if the district had all-weather flags.
Nelson and Business Administrator Jane Simard looked into the issue and, Nelson said, found the seven schools and the SAU office do have weather-resistant flags.
In the past, Nelson said, the district followed the procedures lined out in the United States Flag Code, which mandate that flags not be displayed in inclement weather – except when all-weather flags were used. “It was my belief,” she said, “that we did not have all-weather flags.”
With that question answered, Nelson said the board was faced with a philosophical question: do they display the flag every day, despite the weather? She observed that it’s the perception of some people that flying the flag in bad weather is disrespectful.
Board chairman Brenda Willis said the bigger concern was not flying the flag on the anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. “I received more calls about flags than I’ve ever received, because of the date,” Willis said. “Do we need a policy on this?”
The district appreciates veterans and spends time letting them know that, Willis said. They have even invited veterans to schools to teach flag etiquette to the children. And both she and Nelson said they did not want veterans to form the idea that the district doesn’t appreciate their sacrifice or their concerns. That was never the district’s intent, she said.
Another issue, Nelson said, is consistency. “Whatever we decide to do, we should have one protocol for all our eight facilities,” she said. “There’s only one Post Office – we have eight buildings.”
Nelson is up on directives to fly the flag at half-staff, she said: she receives e-mails from the Department of Education when half-staff is required, and she forwards the e-mails to her seven principals.
Willis said, “I don’t want anyone to go out there if it’s a dangerous situation. But if we have the right flags, we should be flying them.”
Board member Neal Ochs called for a policy, and for talking with the Town of Derry about its policy.
The board agreed by consensus to fly the flag over the eight buildings in all weather, dawn to dusk, unless there are hazardous weather conditions.
Neither board members nor administration were certain how many schools have illuminated flagpoles. Nelson agreed to research the cost of illuminating the poles, so the flags can also fly at night.
“Let’s fly the flag in daylight,” she said, “and we’ll come back to talk about illumination.”
Reached by phone the day after the meeting, Cooper said he was pleased with the outcome. While he hadn’t seen the board meeting on television, he had spoken with Willis and Nelson.
He had been concerned about the school flags not flying on other occasions, he said, and the Kennedy anniversary increased his feelings. “I went to the VFW, talked to the commander and vice-commander – it’s a disgrace,” he said.
Cooper joined the Army in the late 1940s and served through 1954, serving in Europe with the infantry. He was lucky enough to come back, he said, along with friends around town, even though some of them have only one leg or one arm.
Others weren’t so lucky
Why did he bother with the flag issue? “There are a lot of people in the cemetery, 6 feet down, that died for that flag,” Cooper said.
He’s happy with the board’s decision, he said. He’d like to see the flags fly 24-7, Cooper added, but he understands the illumination issue.

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