DEPUE — DePue students spoke, and their voices were heard at a special school board meeting on Tuesday evening.
The meeting was held at the request of the seniors and eighth-graders who were disappointed at the board’s decision to keep graduation on a Sunday, as opposed to moving it back to the traditional Friday.
In March, the option to move graduation was voted down by board members Nickole Barto, Paul Bosnich, Karen Miranda and Juan Ruiz. Their reasoning was that students had not presented enough evidence that proved holding graduation on a Sunday would interfere with celebrations and families traveling to DePue for the ceremony.
The decision didn’t set well with students, and they refused to accept the board’s decision. Instead, they gathered after school, did their research and collected evidence that would prove to school board members that moving graduation back to Friday would be the best option.
At the special meeting, students approached the board with research findings, surveys they had performed with teachers, staff and community members, and letters they had collected from alumni students who also sided with a Friday ceremony.
Senior James Yundt shared the top circumstances that he said were overlooked when the board decided to set graduation on a Sunday.
“Not many places deliver flowers on a Sunday, so that would be an issue. Finding a photographer to work on a Sunday might be an issue; and no janitor works on Sunday night, so you’re going to leave (the mess) sitting around for Monday morning,” he said.
Senior Christian Mendez brought up tradition.
“We want to try to keep as many things as we can a tradition,” he said, adding that students had looked back on the last 20 years of graduation ceremonies. With the exception of one year, when a ceremony was held on a Thursday, they discovered graduation ceremonies have always been on a Friday.
The surveys they had created for teachers, staff and community members were passed out to board members. The surveys asked whether the person would attend graduation on a Friday, Sunday or didn’t care either way.
“We made it optional for all teachers and staff to choose which day they preferred. We got an overwhelming amount who chose Friday; no one chose Sunday; and some said they didn’t care which day it was,” Yundt reported.
Again, students shared stories on how having the ceremony on a Sunday would affect celebrations and families coming into town — some from as far as California — for the graduation. Students also talked about how many family members worked on Sundays and wouldn’t be able to make the ceremony.
Board member Nickole Barto, who has been against keeping graduation on a Friday, expressed her concerns with holding graduation on the same day as state or section track meets and how it might convince students in the future to not go out for the sport.
“We don’t want to make that conflict for them. They shouldn’t have to choose between qualifying for state or going to state or going to their graduation,” she said. “We’re trying to make it so they don’t have to make it an option, so that they can do both.”
Board President Laurie Delgado, who voted in March to change graduation back to Friday, pointed out the low number of students who have qualified for state each year.
“You’re going to change everything for two or three kids,” she said. “We wouldn’t do that for any other sport.”
Dawn Croisant, a teacher’s aide at the school, spoke out in the audience and shared what teachers and staff thought about the change.
“A lot of staff would rather it be on Friday because we’ve already been here for the whole day, and we’re ready to go, whereas on a Sunday you get busy with other things and your own family. I’m sure the students would rather have the staff there they’ve connected with over the past 12 years,” she said.
High school math teacher Gabriel Larios explained his biggest challenge with the students throughout the years has been improving their school spirit and making them proud of their school.
“I’ve tried really hard to change that, and little by little we have changed that … More students are participating, and these guys are bleeding orange and blue (the school colors),” he said. “I’m afraid that if graduation is on a Sunday they will be upset and will stop bleeding orange and blue, and everything I’ve worked so hard for here will be thrown out the window.”
With the response from students, teachers and parents, the board leaned toward a Friday ceremony but pointed out that this would be a conflict they will have to look at each year. Board member Jason Hayes pointed out they may even have to push the ceremony into June in the future in order to avoid conflicts.
“It might even be two weeks into June,” he said. “You need to start spreading the word that it might be the next month.”
After board members unanimously approved to change the graduation date to Friday, May 23, which avoids a conflict with junior high and high school track meets, Mendez and fellow senior classmate Isaac Reyes expressed their satisfaction with the board’s final decision.
“We’re keeping something big here when we leave, and that’s tradition,” Mendez said. “In DePue, tradition and family are the biggest thing we have … We’re leaving behind a legacy for the other students about how important tradition is and they can bleed orange and blue.”
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