Graduates to have stadium ceremonies

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, March 14, 2013

Suffolk Public Schools’ 2013 high school graduation ceremonies will be held outdoors to provide greater audience capacity after an unexpected vote at Thursday’s School Board meeting.

But what happens beyond the forthcoming graduation remains a question for the future.

Board members voted unanimously to hold ceremonies outside in stadiums, allowing 10 tickets per graduate as opposed to six, including four for the gym and two for the auditorium.

Email newsletter signup

Thursday’s debate was opened by district Superintendent Deran Whitney with: “If we are talking about a change … I think we probably should make some decision (at) this time for this year.”

Board members Linda Bouchard, Diane Foster and Lorraine Skeeter voiced support for the stadium option early in the debate, though Skeeter questioned whether many more tickets would be available.

Each student would be allocated up to 10 tickets, Whitney replied, adding that the district would have to find the money to plan for alternative options in case of rain.

Enoch Copeland was supportive of stadium graduations but stipulated that principals would need to impress upon students that the occasion would be “just as formal as it was inside,” and that they would need to “conduct themselves accordingly.”

School district officials have studied the issue for the past three years, board Chairman Michael Debranski said.

“Each year we have answered those requests,” he said, adding it might not have been the preferred answer for everyone.

The issue arose again last June, when ticket-holders were turned away from Nansemond River High School’s event because the gym was full.

Board member Judith Brooks-Buck, though acknowledging it would be too late to do so for this year, suggested polling the families of all graduating seniors, “so we know exactly what our constituents would like us to do.”

“There are very different views,” Bouchard chimed in. “ There are people who are very strong in favor of moving graduations out of Suffolk,” because the city has no appropriate indoor venue.

“Also, families feel just as strongly it should be a vital part of Suffolk. … I would not like to make a decision based on any activist group, not that there is one. That would not be a fair way to do it.”

Copeland said he was “glad to hear the different opinions from the various board members about this matter.

“I feel that education is very important to all of us.”