Family and friends solicit change
June 7, 2002
In a last-ditch effort to change the high school’s policy before graduation, about 25 people attended a special school board meeting Wednesday evening, soliciting administrators to allow Amy Jennings, 18, to participate in graduation ceremonies.
“This is not about lowering the bar,” said Amy’s cousin Tammy Hewlett. “This is about giving positive reinforcement to our kids in a very negative world.”
Despite completing all the credits necessary for graduation — including the three-part senior project — Amy learned a week ago that she did not pass the state-mandated proficiency exam and would not be allowed to graduate from Carson High School.
Her uncle Todd Jennings said principal Glen Adair was advocating for the state by prohibiting students who do not pass the test from walking through graduation but asked, “Who’s advocating for Amy?”
“She’s being denied a milestone in her life,” he said. “To deny her that opportunity is criminal. Shame on you.”
Protesters spoke in Amy’s defense during the public comment session of a closed meeting planned to discuss employee contracts.
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Board members could not make a decision, but state school board trustee Barbara Myers called on them to put the pressure on Adair and superintendent Mary Pierczynski to change the policy.
“There are two people in this room that can make a change,” she said. “There are six of you who could influence that change.”
Adair did not speak during the meeting but told family members afterward he would not revoke the policy. He said the ceremony is a reflection of students who completed every requirement of both the high school and the state.
But Maria Crounk, who serves as a host mother to foreign exchange students, told board members her students are allowed to participate in the ceremonies although they have not completed the requirements.
Sharon Brewer said she recalled being told the same thing when her daughter, Shayla, failed the math portion of the proficiency exam in 1991. However, after intervention from then Gov. Bob Miller, her daughter was allowed to graduate.
“They made an exception for my daughter, why can’t they make one for someone else?” she asked.
Substitute teacher Tom Hughes was the only one to speak in favor of the policy.
“If you’re going to make exceptions, you’re setting a double standard,” he said. “As adults, we need to set an example for our children by doing the right thing 100 percent of the time.”
During his comments, however, he was heckled by other audience members and, after severe warnings, board president Bob Crowell ended the session.