In a school board agenda filled with fairly routine reports last Thursday evening, one stood out. The eighth-grade graduation report inspired a spirited discussion on the subject of whether or not to continue the tradition of graduation ceremonies for the Canadian Middle School’s eighth-grade class.
Superintendent Lynn Pulliam opened the discussion by noting that COVID will again affect the school’s eighth-grade graduation plans. Given the continuing spread of the virus in this country, he said, “Doing something different may be a moot point. We may have to do that anyway.”
Dr. Pulliam asked CMS Principal Drew Daniel to talk to the board about a different plan.
Daniel explained that this year’s eighthgrade class is almost 90 kids, and that it would be impossible to conduct their graduation in the Middle School Auditorium, as has been the practice. Last year’s virtual graduation earned praise from some parents, who said it was great that they didn’t have to sit through the whole ceremony.
Daniel outlined other objections he had heard to continuing the traditional graduation, including:
•It detracts from the importance of high school graduation.
•Dressing appropriately for ceremony causes financial hardship for some families.
•School time required to rehearse during finals week.
•Lack of appropriate space in which to conduct graduation ceremony.
“I personally would like to do something different to honor our graduates,” said Daniel, suggesting that possible alternatives might be a breakfast or lunch, like those held for seniors, or a get-together party. The Abraham Cup and valedictory and salutatory awards, he added, could be presented during the school’s final awards ceremony, like the Top 10 awards already are.
“Everything we do this year is probably going to be virtual, through Facebook Live,” Daniel said. “We got our UIL medals yesterday, and will hand them out in the next couple of weeks, but in the future, we could post a picture on Facebook.”
“I am a hard no,” said Trustee Courtney Trolinger. “I understand this year being different, but we are in Canadian, and this has been a longstanding tradition, and is extremely special to our community.”
“We can figure out alternatives,” she said, “but to just completely do away with eighthgrade graduation is irresponsible, I think.”
Trolinger admitted that space in the auditorium might be an issue, but added, “All those other issues are surmountable. If you erode and erode and erode those traditions that we’ve had, where are we going to end up?”
Dr. Pulliam said the middle school graduation was established in the ‘40s or ‘50s, when kids had the option of entering the military or the workforce, and might never have a graduation ceremony. “Now, it’s against the law to not go to high school,” he said. “I just wonder if it has outgrown its tradition.”
Board Member Andy Orrell said he felt that the ceremony was important, but wondered if it could be streamlined to make it shorter.
“It is very busy at that time of year,” said Board President Larry Smith. “How critical is it to what we do?”
“I don’t want to discount [the importance of] our traditions,” Smith added. “If it’s still important to even 20 percent of our community, then we should do it.”
The board discussed the costs associated with the graduation ceremony, which are negligible other than the price of a cover for the diploma; the length of the ceremony, which typically lasts 60 to 90 minutes; and the issues of alternative locations for the graduation venue, such as the high school gymnasium.
“I think you’ve got to throw it to the community,” said Trustee Landon Landry.
Given the likelihood that this year’s graduation will have to be a virtual one due to the continued threat of COVID, Dr. Pulliam said he would prefer to wait until next year to conduct a public survey. “If we wait until next year,” he said, “we’re not giving a survey over something we’re not going to do anyway.”
On a lighter note, last week was School Board Appreciation Week, and when the school board met, they were well-appreciated. Gifts included: pies from the CES staff and teachers; cookies from BES; signs and banners from CMS employees, who tipped the scales by providing a dinner of sirloin tips and baked potatoes from the Cattle Exchange; and Wildcat facemasks from the CISD administration.
But the gift that topped them all was the one prepared by the Kindergarten through second-grade students, who were the stars of a video presentation compiled by Instructional Technology Coordinator Lawana Pulliam. “We asked them what they think a school board member does,” Lawana explained.
Trying to explain that to K-2 students was a challenge, as it turned out, Lawana said, adding that it was a good exercise for her, as well. School trustees saw the debut viewing of the video—which is priceless—at the start of their meeting Thursday evening, and then proceeded with the important business before them, which according to students includes “helping the janitors clean up.”
It was pretty hard to top.
To view the video, go online to https://youtu.be/OEVKIlcXx24