Board member expresses concern with tweaks to Shawnee Mission graduation ceremonies

This year’s graduation ceremonies will feature changes at some schools.

With the consensus of a group made up of the district’s high school principals, the Shawnee Mission graduation ceremonies taking place this week will have a slightly different flavor for some schools — though not ever member of the board of education likes the changes.

SM North representative Sara Goodburn said she was concerned about changing a tradition that spans decades.

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Shawnee Mission’s 2018 Graduations

• SM East Graduation Ceremony at 7 p.m. on May 15 at SM North

• SM South Graduation, 8 p.m. on May 15 at SM South

• Horizons Graduation, 6:30 p.m. on May 16 at Horizons High School

• SM North Graduation, 7 p.m. on May 16 at SM North

• SM West Graduation, 7 p.m. on May 17 at SM South

• SM Northwest Graduation, 7 p.m. on May 17 at SM North.[/pullquote]The group was asked to take a look at how graduation ceremonies were conducted at each school and determine whether there were certain processes that should be uniform across the five traditional high schools as well as Horizons.

Their recommendations were that:

  • Building principals be the ones to hand each graduate his or her diploma. This is a change at some of the high schools, where the board of education member representing the area has handed out diplomas in the past.
  • The board member elected to represent each traditional high school’s feeder area will be the one to read the statement certifying that all of the requirements for graduation have been met.
  • The elementary and middle school principals for the high school feeder area will be invited to attend the graduation ceremony.

At last week’s meeting, board of education president Brad Stratton said the move to convene the group of high school principals to discuss uniformity of graduation procedure came in response to inquiries from district families. He noted that multiple inquiries had come from SM East families who wondered whether outgoing principal John McKinney would be able to hand out their graduates’ diplomas.

SM North area representative Sara Goodburn expressed concerns with the changes, noting that the tradition of having a member of the board hand out diplomas to SM North graduates stretched back nearly a century.

“From time [immemorial] the board of education have been the ones to hand out the graduation certificates,” Goodburn said. “I mean, North is about ready to celebrate 100 years. In 2022 it will be 100 year. And I think it’s been just about all that time that board of education members have been the ones giving those diplomas out.”

But SM Northwest representative Patty Mach countered that she thought it was important to give principals a moment to connect with students on stage.

“I think it’s time, I know, standing up there for 10 years now, the students, for the most part, have no idea who I am,” Mach said. “I think it’s about the students. It’s not about the board of education. I think it would be a lot easier for the students to have a familiar face handing them their diplomas.”