Citizens protested the current commencement arrangements at the Board of Education’s meeting May 29.
Katherine Kendal said the honor students should lead the procession into the stadium. She also claimed the valedictorians have earned the right to speak at commencement, saying instead students were required to write an essay on why they should speak. She and the other speakers who spoke out about the current arrangement each received applause from the crowd.
Jennifer Ricketts said her son was a senior at Anson New Tech. She believes the honor students are not being appropriately recognized. “They have worked hard,” she said.
She also complained that in the past, other people in the crowd at commencement were disruptive and verbally abusive. She asked for more security or for school officials throughout the stands to keep that sort of behavior in check.
“I want to hear his name called,” she said.
Kailee Cole spoke on behalf of a group of honor students. “This is simply not right and needs to be reconsidered,” she said.
Cathy Jackson said allowing the honor graduates to walk in first would not take anything away from other students, referring to earlier comments by a graduation organizer, Kandie Sparger.
Sparger defended the current arrangement, saying that honor students received recognition at district and individual school award ceremonies. She said the students wore cords denoting their status.
“They are very deserving,” she said.
She said it was important to remember the other students who may not have done as well as the honor students but often faced significant obstacles.
After the portion of the meeting reserved for public comments was over, Chairwoman Lisa Davis asked the administration to reconsider the current graduation ceremony in light of these comments. She asked for a decision by June 1.
Former school board member Jackie Huntley complained about the current admission procedures for the Anson County Early College. She said admission was limited to students whose parents had not attended college. Superintendent Greg Firn later said that those students received preference but admission was not limited to them.
She pointed out that in an issue of National School Board Magazine from 2010, Rockingham County Schools had no such restriction.
“Why would they have different criteria for two rural counties?” she asked.
She believes the only criteria should be the desire to attend and the ability to read on grade level.
The board adopted a resolution joining a lawsuit, North Carolina Learns Inc. v. State Board of Education, with the costs to be borne by the North Carolina School Boards Association Legal Assistance Fund.
The lawsuit is over a virtual charter school authorized by the Cabarrus County Board of Education. The school could accept students from Anson and other counties and Anson would be obligated to contribute funds per student at the same rate as a “brick and mortar” school. The Anson School Board has many disputes with the arrangement, chief among them that the school would not be under their supervision and they did not make provisions for it in the budget. The school is supposed to begin operation in the fall.
The school system would be obligated to contribute roughly $5,000 per student to any Anson pupils who decide to attend the school.
Firn briefed the administration on a plan to distribute National Parent Teacher Association packets to teachers with report cards next school year. The packets would include information about the curriculum and other matters.