Wednesday, August 15 , 2018, 7:08 am | Fair 64º


Santa Maria’s Simultaneous High School Graduation Ceremonies Irk Students, Parents

Online petition asks district to stagger commencements, but leaders cite safety, scheduling concerns

Students and their families are urging the Santa Maria Joint Unified High School District to avoid holding three graduations at the same time on the same day this spring.

However, district officials say they don’t plan to change the times of the ceremonies for the class of 2016 ceremonies at Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley high schools.

Commencement is set for 1 p.m. June 9 for the three high schools. Delta High, the district’s continuation school, hold graduation June 8.

The 2016 plan matches the schedule in 2015, and district officials said simultaneous ceremonies will “create and ensure the safest possible environment.”

“These public events are the largest we host all year, Superintendent Mark Richardson said.

“Given the issues taking place in our community, I believe it is best to host these events during the day when we have a full team of staff available. Safety is our top priority.”

The online petition to change the schedule exceeded 535 signatures by noon Tuesday.

The petition is directed to the three schools’ principals plus the district board of education which will hold a regular meeting Feb. 9.

“As concerned students, we think it pivotal to change this year’s scheduled graduation times back to having it on the same day but at different times,” the petition said, before citing five reasons.

The first says, “It is important for all family and friends to be able to witness this right of passage, seeing as for many, this will be the first generation to graduate from high school.”

Many families have multiple children or grandchildren graduating from different campuses, forcing them to pick which ceremony to attend, the petition noted. 

Additionally, simultaneous ceremonies restricts friends of graduates from showing support while teachers, coaches, and school employees will be required to attend the graduation ceremony of the campus where they work, regardless of whether they would like to support students they have worked with in the past. 

“In general, by having the graduation ceremonies concurrently, this limits the opportunities for family members, students, teachers, and community members to show support in what should be a community celebration of student achievement,” argue petition writers. 

School district officials say the daytime graduations allow staff to attend the event. 

Ceremonies can’t be held after June 9 because a nine-and-a-half-month contract for security staff ends on the last day of school, making graduation after that date “a less than optimal staffing situation,” according to the district.

“The administration is presently exploring the idea of issuing tickets for graduation. Tickets will help us confirm that the right people are there for the right reasons,” schools officials said.

“Larger families can receive more tickets with a valid reason by contacting their sites. No decision has been made yet.”

Last year, the three graduations were held at the same time and the district posted videos of each ceremony on the school’s website and district websites for free.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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