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Project Graduation in Jeopardy as Board Changes Commencement Plans

Watchung Hills Regional drops plans for split ceremony if weather turns bad.

After hearing from students upset about the possibility of splitting Watchung Hills Regional graduation into two sessions if weather doesn't allow the school to hold the ceremony outside, school officials modified the plan to enable all of the students to graduate together.

But the new plan limits each student to having one parent present in the Performing Arts Center, while other family members will have to watch from the south auditorium or a cafeteria.

The plan, which still calls for a ceremony on the morning of June 21 in Tozier Stadium unless forced inside, was reviewed by Principal George Alexis, who noted the plan to have split ceremonies was "not warmly embraced by everyone." 

"Taking the feedback, and in the spirit of cooperation, we came up with an alternative plan," Alexis said at Monday's Board of Education meeting.

While the plan to have all students together either outdoors or in the PAC solved one problem, it still creates a conflict with the scheduling of Project Graduation, which is set for June 20, based on the original planned graduation date.

But Vice Principal Terry MacConnell noted at the meeting the school is currently not scheduled to make the state-mandated 180 days of instruction until June 21 now, thanks to the days lost following Superstorm Sandy.

Project Graduation Co-Chairwoman Mary Lou DiRosa said the group has paid out more than $20,000 to vendors planning on attending the event on June 20 at the Morris-Union Jointure.

"This is really affecting Project Graduation," she said. "Yes, the MUJ is available but our vendors are not."

Board President Robert Horowitz recommended school administrators meet with parents and students to determine the best solution, which could include rescheduling Project Graduation, holding graduation after Project Graduation—or adding a day from the spring break back into the calendar to maintain the June 20 graduation date.   

Jill Jacques February 05, 2013 at 01:18 PM
This is ridiculous! Rescheduling Project Graduation is out of the question. As Mary Lou said, vendors will not be available after they have already been booked. Also, if PG is not scheduled immediately after Graduation, the kids will not come. Why would they attend something school related when they already feel "freedom" to be out of school. We must keep PG immediately following. There is too much work and money involved in this every year. Take it from one who has been on the committee many times and still has to go through it again next year! Jill Jacques - WHRHS PTO VP
dennis christy February 05, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Have the vendors been contacted and asked to re schedule due to the hurricane and make up school days? I'm sure they would consider it. Universities have extended deadlines due to the same reason and Jointure is still available. Have PG on Thurs. This was an unusual year with a 100 yr storm. There has to be flexability on all.
Googzeez February 05, 2013 at 03:00 PM
How about cancelling project graduation? As a student, I do not plan on attending, and I value graduation over whatever little romp they're planning on, even if its $20,000, which is a figure I find hard to believe. Having only one of my parents in the PAC is unacceptable, and for the heads of project graduation to think they're more important then graduation itself shows gross negligence to the students. I for one prefer the original plan. It seems as if I'm the only one in this day and age who respects my parents.
Green Brook Resident February 05, 2013 at 03:00 PM
What about keeping graduation on the 20th. If the 21st was needed to have 180 days how was graduation to be done 10am on the 21st anyway? The board was obviously not worrying about that day so have commencement then school on the 21st. As for project graduation, still have it on the night of the 20th. Only giving out one ticket for graduation is not a good idea. They need to find a better solution. BRRHS has always had their indoor graduations inside the gym without air and our biggest yet graduating class is their norm. For those needing air make the PAC available.
Bob February 05, 2013 at 04:51 PM
"But Vice Principal Terry MacConnell noted at the meeting the school is currently not scheduled to make the state-mandated 180 days of instruction until June 21" I do not believe this is true. The patch should validate this statement since other school personnel indicate they do meet the 180 days to allow a morning graduation on 6/20. The real issue is... why is this coming up now? Why wasn't this addressed by the board after the last graduation. The math is simple. They should have been looking for an indoor venue all along instead of throwing everything into a tizzy at the last minute. This reflects very poorly on the leadership of this board.
LB February 05, 2013 at 07:30 PM
The seniors will all graduate together, which is absolutely the appropriate way to go. Having only one parent allowed in the PAC? That doesn't seem quite right and this issue should have been addressed long ago. Shame on the "powers that be" for waiting until now. They knew how big this class was. As for Project Graduation, there is no doubt in my mind that those who volunteer to create this special event work very hard. The vendors may not have to much flexibility given that many other communities in NJ and elsewhere are still feeling the effects of "Sandy." I don't necessarily agree that students won't attend the event if it's not immediately after graduation. Kids must learn some flexibility and display maturity. Those that really want to go will still do so and have a great time even if it's not immediately following graduation. Is this "24 hours of freedom" really going to change the minds of these students who planned to go? Right after they graduate they can be with family, close friends or do anything they choose, knowing that the next day is going to be another special event. As for the state-mandated 180 day rule, I do chuckle a bit. Books have been turned in, tests have been taken and I'm sure many parents will tell you how their kid comes home and tells them how in how many classes they watched a movie or had snacks, etc. perhaps this year, given the Hurricane Sandy scenario, the state powers could relax the rule.
Susan M. February 06, 2013 at 04:40 AM
The 180 day issue seems very suspect. The BOE has to show the public how they arrived at 180 days on June 21st. I believe that that graduation and project graduation should remain on June 20th. The only graduation date, venue, and plans they should be considering changing are those for 2014.
Susan M. February 06, 2013 at 04:41 AM
You should know that this class is smaller than the class of 2011 by about 25 students. I don't believe that 2011 was the school's largest class either.
Anthony Perrucci February 07, 2013 at 02:10 PM
You have to wonder who is running the public school system and why the taxpayers need to take back their schools in a big way! The graduating class of 2013 WAS the freshman class of 2009. Doing the math, that gave the Bard of Ed. FOUR ***** yrs. to plan for this class of 2013s graduation. If these Board of Ed. members think that they are going to limit just one parent attending their childs high school graduation their next part time job will be in Wal Mart. Ladies & Gentleman it is your turn to speak up as there are moments in your children's lifes that cannot be re-lived or replaced.

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