As the class of 2011 crossed the stages at and high schools Friday evening, there were a few more graduates that originally planned. On Thursday, Acting Superintendent Adolfo Melara decided to allow more than two dozen seniors who hadn’t completed graduation requirements to participate in the graduation ceremony.
Up until now in the , a student who didn’t complete the required credits for high school graduation couldn’t walk across the stage with his or her class. He or she could go to summer school and get a diploma when they finished their credits.
But under a board policy adopted in the fall, the superintendent has the discretion to allow students on track to complete their credits over the summer to participate in the graduation ceremony. The policy was developed by the California School Boards Association and is in line with state law and the education code, according to school district Trustee Philip Weise.
“Say it’s your son, and he’s been planning on graduating the whole time but somehow or another he didn’t count five credits, so your kid doesn’t get to graduate. That causes a great deal of distress for families,” Weise said. “I think this is better for the families and the kids.”
Assistant Superintendent Bob Thompson called El Camino Principal Adele Berg at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday to let her know that 18 additional students would be allowed to participate in graduation, Berg said.
“We’ve never done this before,” Berg said, adding that traditionally, students within ten credits of graduating could attend summer school and get an El Camino diploma when they finished. “I like tradition.”
Berg said the affected students and their families found out about the change on Friday. They didn't receive diplomas in the diploma covers they were handed as they crossed the stage; even though they participated in the graduation celebration, they won't officially graduate until they complete their credits in summer school.
“It flies in the face of everything we’re trying to do here,” said El Camino English teacher Adam McLearan. “We spend all four years trying to draw that line in the sand between what’s graduating and what’s not graduating.”
“I think it is totally inconsistent that they let them walk across the stage,” said El Camino Assistant Principal Sara Wetteland. “I think it takes away from those students who stood up there and did everything.”
But School Board President Maurice Goodman thinks the district should allow more flexibility about who can participate in graduation.
“If a kid has done 98 percent of the work to walk across that stage, I wouldn’t take it from them,” Goodman said.
Goodman said in the future, the policy should be formalized so that only students “in good standing”—meaning those who are passing their classes and are on track to finish over the summer—should be allowed to participate in graduation.
“We don’t want to enable kids to think they can wait until the eleventh hour and still pass,” Goodman said. “This is a right of passage, but it’s also a right of passage that must be earned. There has to be an openness on all parts to make sure we’re doing everything in unison and make sure we have a clear understanding.”