Principals oppose moving graduations


Staff Writer

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education heard this week from high school principals about the question of whether graduation ceremonies should be moved to the Rocky Mount Event Center to allow more people to attend — and the answer was a resounding “no.”

Dr. Mark Cockrell, chief academic officer for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, presented the information to school board members to consider during a work session before the regular school board meeting on Monday.

“At various times, discussion has been held about the issue of graduation venues and the board has asked for additional information and high school principal feedback so I am bringing that to you for your ongoing consideration of whether to continue to have graduations held in the traditional settings or to move them to one site,” Cockrell said.

Each of the school board members were presented with a letter from the high school principals in the district.

The letter said:

“Mr. Graham Moore, an American screenwriter, once said, ‘I believe in traditions; I believe in the idea of things being passed between generations and the slow transmission of cultural values through tradition.’ As high school principals for the Nash-Rocky Mount school system, we believe these words to be true at each of our respective high schools.

“As a team of high school principals, we understand that there has been some discussion, although limited, about high school graduations possibly be held at the Rocky Mount Event Center. We are all in agreement that the Event Center is a nice venue; however, we also agree that it could never replicate the cultural values and pride that is truly passed through tradition at each of our high schools.

“Our students, their parents and other community stakeholders connected to our individual high schools look forward to graduation each year, and the memories they create at each site are simply ‘priceless.’ We do feel much would be lost in terms of traditions at each high school if our graduations were moved.

“Again, as principals, we understand the discussions have been limited at best, but we did want to take this opportunity to let the school board know our sentiments on the matter of moving graduations. It is our sincere hope that the Nash-Rocky Mount school board humbly accept this letter as our formal letter of input that graduations remain at each respective high school,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by all the high school principals in the district. These principals also were present at the workshop session to show their support of the letter as it was presented by their representative, Principal Hugh Scott of Southern Nash High School.

Scott said retaining schools at their own location was important to retaining school culture, identity and tradition.

“One of the greatest and simplest things we have been talking about is that each of our schools has their own identities and being able to foster that within our own school environment speaks volumes,” Scott said. “Each of us has a rich tradition at our schools.”

Scott also said there was a macro-economic perspective to be considered.

“When you have a small supply, the value of that goes up. When students realize there is a smaller, more intimate graduation at our schools, they choose very wisely as to who they are actually bringing to that ceremony. If you continue to make that ceremony larger and larger, the value starts to dwindle and we don’t want the ceremony to become less valuable just so we can accommodate more people in that venue,” Scott said.

Scott also pointed out that having graduation ceremonies at another site would involve a venue fee that would drive up the cost for the school district. He also noted that technical advances also now mean that people who can’t attend the ceremony can watch from home online and hold graduation watch parties where they can celebrate and cheer on the graduate, an idea that he said schools may want to consider holding at their own schools.

Another aspect to consider is student reaction.

“We have had students come to us and ask ‘Is this something that is happening? Is this something that is changing?’” Scott said.

While principals have not polled the entire student body for fear of bringing too much attention to an issue that is just under consideration, Scott said that the student council members at all the high schools were largely in favor of keeping graduation ceremonies in house.

The school board heard the information for information only and no action was taken at Monday’s meeting.