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New Commencement Ceremony Time Sparks Flap and Frowns

Some parents fume as Santa Barbara High moves up graduation to accommodate Sheryl Crow concert at the Bowl.

While Santa Barbara High Principal Mike Capritto defends the earlier starting time for this year’s commencement ceremony, he says he probably won’t do it again. (Rob Kuznia photo / Noozhawk)

For decades, Santa Barbara High School has held its annual graduation ceremony at 6 p.m. This year, thanks to rock star Sheryl Crow, next Thursday’s commencement will be at 3 p.m. — to the chagrin of some parents.

The time change is necessary because the nearby Santa Barbara Bowl, which uses the high school parking lot, booked Crow’s show for 6:30 that evening, after getting permission from new Principal Mark Capritto.

The scheduling conflict angered some parents, some of whom may have difficulty getting off work so early to attend the graduation ceremony in Peabody Stadium, 700 E. Anapamu St.

One of the irked parents is Della Rosales, whose son, Zac Estrada Rosales, will be among the chosen speakers. Rosales herself will be able to make the ceremony, only because she regularly has Thursdays off. But she said she knows at least two people who won’t be able to attend because of the start time.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that shouldn’t be taken so lightly,” she wrote in an e-mail to Noozhawk. “Having to leave work earlier in the day affects people’s profit margin at a time when the cost of living is high.”

But there is a silver lining: The Bowl gave the school a $5,000 check for the trouble. The money can be used on any performing-arts program of the school’s choice. That’s in addition to the $1,100 parking fee the Bowl pays the greater Santa Barbara school district for most events, said David Hetyonk, the school district’s facilities director. (The amount is occasionally reduced if parking is limited.)

Over the course of a year, parking fees generate about $30,000 for the district, school and Bowl officials said. And in a school year that has witnessed the biggest round of budget cuts in memory, the additional money is certainly welcome.

But Capritto said his decision — which he made in April after consulting with some higher-ups at the district office — wasn’t about the money.

“We made the decision in support of each other,” said Capritto, who added that he has fielded a lot of calls from angry parents about the matter. “That’s what communities do.”

The scheduling conflict wasn’t a mix-up. Rather, Thursday, June 12, was the only night Crow could do. When told this, Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation executive director Sam Stanton said it was probably a no-go.

“I told her agent that there were certain days at the high school when we cannot do a show, such as graduation and home football games,” he said.

Nonetheless, he agreed to ask the school if it could reschedule the graduation.

“(The school) came back with a ‘yes,’ and I was surprised, I have to say,” he added.

Capritto said that although he empathizes with how the earlier time slot could pose a logistical problem for some families, it also might provide an unintended benefit: allowing graduates to spend a few hours with their relatives before loading the bus at 8 p.m. for their overnight senior trip to Disneyland.

What’s more, he said, the Bowl has agreed to provide free overnight security for the students who decide to leave their cars in the parking lot for the 12-hour trip.

“Sam has gone out of his way to make this a great opportunity for both parties,” he said.

Nonetheless, Capritto said next year he will probably go back to the 6 p.m. time slot.

“This isn’t a personal adventure on my part,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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