Virtual Graduation Plan Sparks Controversy

Stamford High Class of 2020 President Aron Ravin says other class officers throughout the city share his desire to postpone graduation rather than hold a virtual ceremony.

Andrew Patashnik

Stamford High Class of 2020 President Aron Ravin says other class officers throughout the city share his desire to postpone graduation rather than hold a virtual ceremony.

Sofia Sarak, Staff Writer

On May 12, 2020, the Teaching, Learning, and Community Committee of the Stamford Board of Education held a meeting where members brainstormed celebration options for the Class of 2020, with holding a virtual graduation being the most popular contender among members. The following day, students, parents, and staff across the district responded with anger, voicing their opinions through social media and petitions.

 

During the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Tamu Lucero explained that the committee had discussed graduation options with the principals of Stamford High School, Westhill High School, and the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, who in turn talked to parents and students. Ideas included a “drive-thru” graduation, organized photo opportunities for students later in the year, and postponing graduation altogether. 

 

“[A virtual graduation] is one of our better options,” Committee Chair Jennienne Burke stated during the meeting, “but [the decision] would definitely differ to having some student input, making sure that [the students are] on board with this.” The proposed virtual graduation would consist of pre-recorded speeches by Lucero, Stamford Mayor Martin, and “special guests,” with each high school having their own separate production.

 

In response to the proposal, Stamford High Senior Jenna Calorossi created a change.org petition titled “Get Stamford Public Schools Seniors The Graduation They Deserve!!”, which has gained nearly 2,000 signatures since then.  “My goal [is] to get people to speak up to show the superintendent and the BOE that we can’t just settle for a virtual graduation and that there are safe options other than that,” Calorossi explained. “The superintendent didn’t mention any other option other than a virtual graduation which was quite upsetting.”

 

Other students, however, support the Board of Education’s approach. Senior Zachary Beldotti explained his viewpoint: “Stamford has the most number of cases in the State of Connecticut and also one of the biggest public school systems. It would be legally, ethically, and morally impossible to hold the [in-person] graduation with this virus.” Beldotti stated that he is not the only one who feels this way, as some of his classmates have reached out to him in support of his stance. “[The BOE and the superintendent] are not trying to take away anyone’s graduation, they are trying to save the lives of the people in our community.”

 

Since the Teaching, Learning, and Community Committee meeting on May 12, Stamford Public Schools Public Affairs Officer Sharon Beadle sent an email directed to all of the Board of Education clarifying that “no final decision has been made about the SPS 2020 Graduation.” “We appreciate the feedback we are receiving from students and families,” she stated. Beadle explained that a definite decision will be announced in the coming week. 

 

Stamford High’s Class of 2020 President Aron Ravin, who says he has been in contact with class council members of the other SPS high schools, stated that the feeling of disappointment is shared across the city. “So many other districts, both in Connecticut and across the country, are postponing graduations,” he stated. “All we ask is that SPS does the same.” Ravin acknowledged the BOE’s clarification of the decision not being official, stating “Now we keep pushing, and explain what we want from the board.”

(Jenna Calorossi is a Staff Writer on The Round Table who recently wrote an editorial on the subject of a virtual graduation. Read it here: https://shsroundtable.com/uncategorized/2020/05/15/the-class-of-2020-deserves-something-more/ )