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What we think: Graduating seniors deserve to be heard

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The debate about seating at commencement continues to be a hot topic, and we encourage the issue to be raised at the school board meeting on May 27.

Shelby County Public Schools officials say the decision is final about how graduating seniors will be seated for  graduation. They are moving on with their plans to eliminate seating the top students in ranking order and talking to them individually about that  plan.

Seniors from Shelby County High School have submitted through a letter their feeling that the change is good and welcome. They, too, it seems, have moved on.

But we don’t think most people are ready to move on.

We continue to get significant feedback from those who have questions about the how and why of all of this.

Because of that, we want not only to keep alive a flickering dream for a senior but also a flickering focus on an issue we question for its conception and communication.

Because of that, we think there has been too much “moving on” with this decision.

We continue to question how this entire process has been handled, that controversial final decision notwithstanding. We continue to wonder how the lessons of two years at Shelby County High School have failed to inform this process once again.

We continue to be amazed at how something so important becomes a second-semester senior year adjustment for students in their 26th semesters of education.

There were during January two spirited school board meetings when this issue was raised, tabled, raised discussed and, finally, passed, but not without some acrimony among those involved.

We then heard from parents and students asking that the situation be altered, that graduates who had worked diligently for four years be allowed to follow the longstanding process of seating the top-ranking academic students, just as they did with the class of 2009 at SCHS.

School Board Chair Sam Hinkle, who was vocal during board meetings in his opposition of the change in this plan, in a letter to the editor in March, called for comments from the community on this issue.

Collins seniors wrote a letter to administrators, voicing their opposition to the change, and Superintendent James Neihof, in response to that letter, delegated discussing the issue to Collins Principal Anthony Hatchell, saying the matter was closed.

But why do we believe there needs to be one more public discussion of this?

Why do we believe that Mr. Hinkle needs to have his public response?
Why won’t the school board, obviously somewhat divided on this issue, address the concerns that are being aired by the people it was elected to represent?

Why does this have to start with this year’s senior class and not be phased in, with the Class of 2014, for instance?

We don’t know the answers to any of those, and the quiet to us only increases our befuddlement.

There remain 17 days until commencement on June 4.

There remains one more school board meeting scheduled before that: May 26.

We would suggest – even implore – that this matter get one final public airing before a festering sore bursts and causes more infection of bad feelings.

How about it, interested parents and students? If this truly is important to you, why not show up on May 26 and demand to be heard?

How about it, Mr. Hinkle? How about offering during a meeting to hear what the public has to say?

We never will understand why this acrimonious situation has gotten this deep into the seniors’ final year without closure, but we don’t think it’s too late to do the right thing.