Board finalizes first draft of graduation policy

Tim Jennings was not allowed to walk in commencement exercises when he graduated from Carson High School in 1975.

He saw a similar situation last year when his daughter, Amy, was not allowed to participate in Carson High School's graduation ceremony.

Although Amy met each requirement set forth by the high school, she failed the math portion of the state-mandated proficiency exam -- a failure that prohibited her from walking in CHS's graduation.

"You want leaders, ask for leaders," Jennings told school board members Tuesday. "Don't step on them. Bring them up. That's how you make them better."

Jennings and his mother, Mary Ann Jennings, attended the meeting to protest the first draft of a statement formalizing the school district's graduation policy, which prohibits students who do not pass the exam from participating in commencement exercises.

Board members drafted a policy to support Carson High Principal Glen Adair's decision in the matter. Adair does not allow students who have not passed the proficiency exam to walk in graduation.

"(Amy) had 13 years of a good school experience," Mary Ann Jennings said. "To have it all blown away by not being able to participate in graduation, that's something she'll carry with her for the rest of her life."

Opponents criticized comments printed earlier in the Nevada Appeal by trustee John McKenna, who said that allowing all students to walk in graduation is "an invitation to mediocrity."

McKenna said Tuesday he was "not repentant."

"The real issue is, how do we get every kid to pass the proficiency exam?" he said. "I want to spend my time on that."

Parent Ronald Burke supported the proposed policy.

He said he was also denied the opportunity to graduate with his class in New York when he failed a mandated chemistry exam. However, he said he eventually passed the exam and graduated.

"If the proficiency exam is a requirement, the board must uphold that," he said. "When you set a policy, stand by that policy and uphold it consistently."

Parents and students have protested the policy, encouraging administrators to allow students who have completed all other requirements, but failed one or more portions of the proficiency exam, to walk in graduation.

State school board trustee Barbara Myers called on Adair to change the policy, arguing it is a rite of passage that should not be denied because of one test.

She brought the issue to the Nevada State Board of Education in October in an effort to compel all school district to allow students who have not passed the test to participate in graduation ceremonies.

The state board tabled the item. However, State School Superintendent Jack McLaughlin urged all local school boards to pass formal graduation policies.

Carson City school trustees read through the first draft of their formal policy in support of the high school administration. Theoretically, if a new principal were to change the school's policy, the board would support that decision.

The final draft should come before the board in January.


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