Offering gratitude for an out-going administrator... and more thoughts on graduation

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 11:49

Pomp and Circumstance has stopped playing as the graduation season has ended. Occasionally, I still hear a few measures rattling around in my brain so that only leads to the notion that I also have a few musings about graduation to mutter.

Since the usual tradition of me writing about graduation was forgone this year due to a choice to focus solely on my own son’s graduation (way to go Ian R. Armstrong, you are rocking awesome!), I guess instead of featuring the accomplishments of this year’s crop of seniors, I get to make a few comments.

First out of the box: Someone ought to confer a well-earned degree in diplomacy to Ed Graff, the Anchorage School District’s outgoing superintendent. After the collective Anchorage School Board decided not to renew his contract that ends in June of this year, Graff has been the public model of how to graciously finish a commitment. Oh, sure, the guy has a family and a mortgage to pay and so it would have been foolish to not complete his term. But even after the Board’s public announcement stated they wanted a different direction in leadership, Graff, at least in the public eye, has remained ever vigilant about guiding the district through the ramifications of the state’s fiscal crisis. Graff’s professionalism ought to be documented as a “how-to” lesson plan for the district’s career development courses.

He’s never admitted this to me, but he darn well knows that enough folks around the district and the community have surmised the Board announcement was code for Graff not being the political lobbyist the Board wanted him to be. That bothers me.

I’ve told Graff that, so it won’t be a surprise for him to see it in print.

I think this should be shared with you, dear readers, so you can further ponder whether or not the effectiveness of a school superintendent should be based on how influential he or she is in Juneau.

At a time when the school district fights to increase its graduation rates, to teach English as a second language to a growing number of ethnically diverse students and to curb bullying, the last thing the superintendent needs to be is a lobbyist.

The district hires specialists for a variety of other tasks including a security specialist; it just shouldn’t be a stretch to hire a lobbyist.

Free the “Super” up to focus on education.

Oh, I can hear your keyboard clicking now with comments.


Let’s open up a dialogue about this topic: Just how much of the ASD Superintendent’s time ought to be spent “networking” with the politicos?

Can’t wait to hear your responses. Please keep it nice. No name-calling – including referencing the blondish hair on my head. Lol.

In all seriousness, this is a reasonable question for folks to ponder. Just how much time should the new ASD superintendent spend being political versus being educational?

I want to publicly thank Ed Graff for caring about our students. I want to thank him for continuing to do his job to the best of his ability under less than nice circumstances. I want to remind him that what goes around comes around. Looks like that might mean heading up an even larger school district: Minneapolis. Looks like Graff may just come out better off than when he went in.

I also am very grateful that he was the “Super” that shook my son’s hand at the Eagle River High School graduation on May 9.

So, speaking of that graduation service: It was terrific.

But there is one little issue that school administration needs to figure out: How to open more than one gate on each side of the arena to allow families and friends access to their graduates to put the numerous leis around their necks and gifts in their arms.

That part of the graduation – I guess technically after the graduation – was a disaster.

People were pushing to get to the floor. People attempted to negotiate over the gates and some fell in the process.

My mother, age 74, and my mother-in-law, age 80, were very uncomfortable with the after shuffle of people anxious to get to their graduate. They felt a bit unsafe.

They weren’t alone.

I kid you not: For three days afterward, I couldn’t go anywhere around town without someone asking me what I knew about why only one gate was opened on each side of the Sullivan.

People were frustrated.

The one-gate debacle isn’t the fault of the school district. I recognize this. Or at least, I will allow myself the temporary delusion that school officials had no idea this would occur.

However, having only one gate open on either side of the arena was not an academically-award winning idea either – particularly considering the decision by ERHS administration to toe the line on the very little honored ASD policy that leis and gifts are not given to graduates until after the ceremony ends.

When my older kids graduated in 2003 (CHS) and 2007 (ERHS) , the graduates with diplomas in hand found their parents who came down to the bottom of the Sullivan and remained on the seating side of the gates to take a moment to put leis on their graduate, give them a hug and a kiss and breathe a sigh of relief.

ERHS didn’t allow that this year. It has followed a little recognized ASD policy regarding the refraining from lei giving until after the tassels are collectively moved and the master of ceremonies closes the official part of the event.

I guess I can understand this. I was told the prohibition is to keep the ceremony moving along.

Okay. Well, whatever.

Be that the case, perhaps giving folks easier post ceremony access is a good idea. Like, um, open up a few more gates, folks. Or tell the powers-that-be at the Sullivan to do so.

If not, if there is some access rule I am not privy to, then at least make an announcement to the crowd that only one gate on each side is going to be open and thus, getting to your graduate could take more time than your heart wants.

Oh, and um, that ban on air horns that was on the robo call? Yeah, right. I told my mother she couldn’t bring cow bells formerly owned by my grandmother and shook at numerous Seahawks and Mariners games over the years because noise makers were supposed to be off limits. There were plenty of air horns going off – so much for that ardent security that was supposed to prevent those items from entering. Frankly, again, I don’t have a problem with air horns – as long as it isn’t right in my ear.

I sound so cynical.

Sorry about that. I do have so much to be grateful for. The folks at ERHS know how much I appreciate everything they have done for my son’s education. They are a class group of educators. I like the fact that they are also active participants in this great community.

But I ask, why not make some noise? So what if we have to stop for a moment for yelling and screaming and platform pounding? We are only graduating the class of 2016 one time. So what if it takes a bit longer? Good grief, the bulk of the parents watching Johnny and Susie cross that platform have been through a lot of restless nights pondering their child’s future. Let them revel in this moment for many moments. The fact that he or she earned a high school diploma – something that ten years ago less than 60 percent of ASD students did – isn’t something to mark silently

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