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Students seek alternative graduation space

By Kevin Kearney
February 13, 2013

A group of Sullivan West Secondary School seniors received a lesson in bureaucracy at the district board meeting on February 7.

Over a dozen students attended the meeting to submit a petition, signed by the Class of 2013, to persuade school officials to hold graduation ceremonies at a location other than the limited-spaced auditorium. While the efforts of the students were appreciated and applauded, the group was told it had to follow a chain of command.

“The decision is made at a lower level,” said board president Mary Scheutzow.

Superintendent Nancy M. Hackett told the students that they should submit the petition to their advisers, and that would get the ball rolling. While unable to accept the petition, Hackett was nonetheless impressed, telling the students, “You brought your concerns to a public forum, which is great.”

Previous commencements were held in the gymnasium, but the district has added a fitness center to the facility, taking up half the space. With graduation exercises slated to be held in the auditorium, fewer tickets are available for the students’ families and friends. The students raised the concerns because, they said, high school graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If graduation cannot be held in the gymnasium, they would prefer it take place at the football field. The outdoor location could pose some obstacles, but the seniors said they would be willing to help with any issues that may arise.

Hackett told the group, “Your voices are heard, and they are so important.”

While no formal action was taken, Hackett said she believes the matter will be satisfactorily resolved, though the district will have to look into space and configuration issues.

Board member Kathleen Meckle said she believed it was a good exercise for the students to come to the meeting and get an insight into how government works. And several board members expressed hope that everything would work out.

In other news, Hackett said the district recently conducted a safety audit, and that all entrances and exits at the schools are properly secured and staffed. For safety reasons, the superintendent couldn’t divulge specifics of the audit, but said, “School safety is something we work on all the time.”

The board also approved a policy in which all staff must wear identification badges while in school and at related events. Hackett said district workers already wear the badges, but now it is a formal policy.