Parent upset about graduation change

GLOVERSVILLE – The Gloversville Enlarged School District will change how it celebrates the graduation of fifth-grade students.

Instead of the typical ceremony at each elementary school, the district will have a “transition day.” The district will bring all of the fifth-grade students in the district to the middle school for lunch, a meeting with sixth-grade teachers and a tour of the facility. The students also will receive a certificate and T-shirt during a ceremony parents can attend in the auditorium that day.

Superintendent Michael Vanyo said this is a way to change the atmosphere so the students become one class before reaching the middle school level.

“To change the graduation rates, that needs to start before they are in the high school,” Vanyo said during the Board of Education meeting on Monday.

However, a mother of two children at McNab Elementary School, spoke to the Board of Education and Vanyo about concerns she has with the changes to the fifth-grade graduation scheduled for later this year.

Amanda Sorento said she feels taking the ceremonies out of the individual schools takes away the uniqueness of each one. With graduation being a little over a month away, she said, it leaves little time for parents who have already made arrangements to attend the original date.

At the meeting, Sorento provided a petition she said was signed by 60 parents who oppose the new graduation plan.

“These children deserve to have this day be about them and their friends, celebrating the memories they have created together and not sharing it with the other schools,” Sorento said. “We urge the district to keep the graduations at their own schools and not the middle school.”

She said parents were not included in the process or given any knowledge of the change in plans until last week.

“I don’t want to go to the auditorium at 1:30 in the afternoon to hear every single kid announced, versus being able to hear my own kid and their school I’ve actually grown [attached] to,” Sorento said. “If you are going to do it this way, you might as well tear down all four schools and just make it one building if you are going to do one graduation.”

Vanyo said he is working on getting the information out to parents, but this has been a process he has been working on since the beginning of his tenure, which officially started Sept. 1.

“I don’t want to diminish the kindergarten graduation or fifth-grade or eighth-grade, but the pinnacle for all of our students should be when they get to be seniors in high school,” Vanyo said. “Instead of having a graduation in the fifth- or eighth-grade, we were looking to have a recognition day at the individual schools.”

Vanyo said he has been in communication with the PTAs of the individual elementary schools about the changes and has been trying to work out the details.

“I am not the Wizard of Oz making all these decisions behind the curtain,” Vanyo said.

Vanyo said instead of a graduation, each building will celebrate its own way. As an example, he said, Boulevard Elementary School will have a picnic and McNab will have “Memory Night” as a celebration.

Vanyo said the district is having a transition problem between fifth- and sixth-grade, which led to the decision to make a change about how and when children are put into the middle-school setting.

He said the transition day – officially known as “Bridges to Transition” – at the middle school will begin June 19 at 11:30 a.m. and will including busing all fifth-graders to the school.

Vanyo said he is not certain what time the ceremony in the auditorium will take place.

However, Sorento said parents around the district – including people in her family – have already made plans to come to the area and attend the original graduation date that was put on the calendar before the school year started.

Vanyo said he encourages parents to meet with their individual school principals and talk to them about what they want their individual celebration day to entail. After the parents have set up a date, Vanyo said he would then meet with the group of parents to discuss what can be worked out.

“I have to respect tradition, but the community also needs to expect transition,” Vanyo said. “If you call it a graduation day, my fear is then parents won’t attend the middle school date and will just decide to attend the individual school event. That wouldn’t provide the participation we would like to have for this.”