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Friday Evening Graduation for Watchung Hills Seniors

Senior Class President Jessica Hoffman wins agreement for 5 p.m. ceremony.

Watchung Hills Regional Class of 2013 will celebrate graduation at 5 p.m. June 21 — a compromise on the day and time arrived at after members of the school's board of education received numerous requests from students and parents to jettison proposals for earlier graduation.

"I appreciate, on behalf of the board and the administration, the input of so many of our students and their parents," board President Robert Horowitz said at the beginning of Monday's meeting, with an audience of school staff, students and parents that filled all available seating. "At the end of the day, graduation is about our children, their parents and family to make it a memorable, joyous and happy occasion."

Horowitz offered the attending visitors to speak to the board, beginning with comments from the students—but of the students, only senior class President Jessica Hoffman spoke, or for that matter, needed to.

Jessica offered a succinct and straight-forward argument in favor of graduation at 5 p.m. June 21, outlining eight points in support of her view, including family availability to attend, eliminating the need for adding a day from spring break into the calendar, and a better transition to Project Graduation.

"It has been a long, arduous process to get to this point, but I think our collective goal is to make the ceremony as special as possible for the graduating class and their families." she concluded. "For the reasons I've stated, I think a Friday evening ceremony is the most ideal solution." 

Jessica's recommendation earned a hearty endorsement from Marie Mluzan, of the Project Graduation organizing committee. 

The board also heard a proposal from member Peter Falzarano to rent the IZOD Center, which he said would cost $42,000, but offer room for as many as 8,000, and Robin Urso, who favored having graduation at the school.

"They don't need to go to IZOD, or go to Rutgers," she said. "They need to be in that field sweating their butts off like we have for a zillion years."

Before approving a resolution setting the graduation date and time, board Vice resident Harold Grossnickle recounted the 21 emails and letters about the graduation plans the board had received since a proposal to hold graduation in the morning of June 21. He noted one person preferred the original time, nine preferred an evening graduation with no date specified and 11 urged the board to consider a 5 p.m. June 21 plan.

The board also had a resolution on the meeting's agenda to hold a half-day of classes on March 25—currently the first day of spring break—which would have been necessary if graduation was going to be held on June 20. Some parents had questioned the need for the extra day, but school administrators said changes made after Superstorm Sandy left the school a day short of the state-mandated 180 minimum (see video). 

Only Falzarano voted against the resolution for graduation at 5 p.m. June 21.

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