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Terri Simon

Processing pride

I’ve been reading with interest BCR Staff Writer Goldie Currie’s coverage of the DePue School Board. In a nutshell, the board has been wrestling with the topic of graduation.

To summarize the issue briefly, the school board set graduation for a Sunday this year — primarily to keep from competing with the state track meet. On the other side of the proverbial coin though, the students didn’t want to stray from the tradition of a Friday evening graduation ceremony.

In the past few weeks, it’s been very interesting to read about some of the DePue students and their efforts to ask the board of education to, in essence, change their minds and put graduation back on Friday. From what I gather, the students initially asked the board members to change their minds and move graduation back to a Friday, but the board didn’t think the students had given enough compelling information to cause the change.

On Tuesday, however, the board held a special meeting and heard students give a plethora of evidence pertaining to a Friday graduation date, including research findings, surveys the students had performed with teachers, staff and community members, and letters they had collected from alumni students who also sided with a Friday ceremony. On top of that, students spoke directly to the board, hoping to make their case heard this time.

So the students spoke ... and the board listened. In a unanimous vote, the board changed its Sunday decision and moved the graduation date back to Friday.

I should tell you right up front that DePue’s graduation date doesn’t matter to me. We will send a photographer to the event, regardless of the day it’s on. Also, I have no family or friends who graduate from DePue this year. While I do know of students from other schools who have missed their graduation day because of the state track meet, I have no opinion on what day to hold the ceremony.

So the reason for this column isn’t to take a stand on when DePue should hold its graduation. Instead, I have to tell you how impressed I am, not with just the DePue students but also with the school’s board of education.

What a tremendous lesson was taught Tuesday night as those students calmly and thoroughly presented their research to the board. I can’t help but think those young people gained a wealth of knowledge and experience through this exercise. No doubt they will take what they’ve learned and experienced with them into their future endeavors. Applause, applause, applause!

But while I think it’s natural to initially congratulate the students for their efforts, a good share of applause also has to be reserved for the DePue School Board of Education. These folks obviously listened to these students with an open mind. Not only did they give them time during their regular school board meeting, they also set a special meeting to continue the discussion with the students.

I’ve been on boards, and I know it’s difficult to change an entire board’s mind, especially once a decision has been made. But the DePue School Board did it. They changed their mind, and in essence, I believe they changed the lives of those students — not so much for the change in the graduation date, but the idea that one can make a difference in their world.

No doubt those students went home that night feeling proud of what they had accomplished. But I also want that school board to know that pride rests on their shoulders. We don’t often tell adults we are proud of them, but for what it’s worth, I’m very proud of that school board, for they showed they have the best interest of their students at heart ... and ironically, I don’t think it has anything to do with what day graduation falls on.

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com.