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Graduation Talks Aimed at Making Ceremony Memorable

Watching Hills ceremony moved to June 21, board says.

To the Editor:

At the WHRHS Board of Education’s monthly meeting last evening, Feb. 18, an important topic of discussion was the plan for graduation and its possible impact on the current school calendar. 

As you are all aware, the effects of superstorm Sandy and the resulting widespread power outages caused our school to be closed for 9 days. As a result, additional school days in session were approved in a revised calendar passed by the Board on November 19, 2012. The date of graduation was moved from June 20 to June 21, but as with all previous calendars, the date of graduation remains tentative and is dependent on the fulfillment of the state requirement that school is in session for 180 days.

Unfortunately, the calendar change also affected Project Graduation, because that event was also scheduled for June 20.  

On January 22 and again on February 4, the graduation planning team of Principal Alexis and Vice Principals Mac Connell and Toubin presented to the board in open public meetings alternate plans to hold graduation on Friday June 21. Different times of day were offered and discussed along with other planning information. The board then charged the team to meet with students, parents, Project Graduation co-chairs, and other interested parties to obtain feedback regarding the proposed changes.  In addition, the board and superintendent received emails from parents offering their input on this topic. Subsequently, an email and voice blast was sent to all parents of students at the high school advising them that this topic would be discussed again at the February 18 board meeting and encouraging them to attend to provide their feedback and input. 

Approximately 100 people—including students, parents, teachers, and other interested community members—attended this meeting. Mr. Horowitz, board president, requested that students be permitted to speak first, then parents, then others interested in doing so. Miss Jessica Hoffman, senior class president, addressed the board and those present. She proposed that the ceremony be held on June 21 at 5 pm on the Watchung Hills campus, either in Tozier Stadium or indoors in the event of inclement weather. This plan was enthusiastically supported by those in attendance. Next to speak was Mrs. Marie Mluzan, Project Graduation co-chair, who supported Miss Hoffman’s plan.  Other speakers spoke on behalf of keeping graduation at the high school and not relocating to an outside venue, as was suggested by another speaker.  Mr. Horowitz then polled board members to obtain their feedback. The majority agreed (9-1) with the students’ proposed plan, as did the superintendent, Dr. Stromsland. Those in attendance received this information with enthusiasm.

Graduation, therefore, will be held on June 21, rain or shine, at WHRHS, and Project Graduation will follow shortly afterward, as it has in the past. We are grateful for the positive outcome to the situation, and we hope that there will be no further emergency days required that will impact spring break or the current school calendar. We are hopeful that this year’s ceremony will be most memorable for our students and their families and that our newest graduates have a safe, enjoyable Project Graduation. 

Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education

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