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Eighth-grade ceremonies cut

Education: Hart district junior high schoolers ready for ninth grade will not walk across the stage

Posted: March 22, 2010 10:15 p.m.
Updated: March 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
The Hart district canceled its junior high school promotion ceremonies for eighth-graders to save about $40,000 a year districtwide, officials said Monday, leaving some parents and students upset they won’t have official celebrations.

“I think it’s horrible. I’ve kind of been waiting for this moment,” said Rancho Pico student Alexis Hace, one of the district’s 3,562 eighth-graders. “You spend two years working hard. It’s kind of like another step in doing well and it makes our parents proud.”

School principals and parent advisory groups recommended the move as a way to save money, said Gloria Mercado-Fortine, a William S. Hart Union High School District board member.

The Hart district, which serves 7,077 students in its six junior high schools and tens of thousands more in its high schools, has been struggling to cope with a $28 million state budget cut this year. Already, it has issued preliminary layoff notices to all of its assistant principals and is considering cutting the school year by five days.

Mercado-Fortine said the board unanimously approved the move last week to save a bit more money, and also because the ceremonies have become too elaborate and costly and have taken the focus off high school graduation.

“It’s just gotten larger and larger in terms of how it’s celebrated and how formal it’s become,” Mercado-Fortine said. “In these times and this economy, parents kind of want to cut back on those types of things.”

Hart district spokeswoman Pat Willett said the district planned to notify parents Monday night by telephone.

“In this tight budget year, such a move will save dollars which could better be used in our classrooms,” the notice stated. “And we look forward to celebrating with you when your student is ready to graduate from high school in four years.”

The message noted other eighth-grade festivities, such as an annual Disneyland trip, will not be affected.

But for students, the news was a disappointment.

Rancho Pico Junior High student Lexi Franson had already bought a hot-pink dress for the ceremony.

“Now I don’t get to wear my pretty dress,” said Lexi, 13, as she stood with two other friends after school on Monday. “It’s kind of a disappointment.”

The group of girls did, however, understand the reason for the cut.

“We need to save money, instead of cutting teachers,” Alexis, 13, said. “I just wish they would have (canceled) it next year.”

Rancho Pico eighth-grader Alex Hillinger planned to don a Superman costume behind his promotion day suit.

“I’m kind of bummed I can’t do that,” Alex said. But his disappointment stopped there.

“It’s not like a graduation – it’s just middle school,” he said. “Now if it’s high school graduation that got canceled, I’d be upset.”

He didn’t think the majority of his peers would care about losing the ceremony. But his mom did and she was pretty sure other parents will care enough to find a solution.

“How expensive can it be to have the kids walk across stage?” said Lisa Hillinger of Stevenson Ranch.

The kids have worked too hard not to get the recognition they deserve, she said.

“I think parents would rally,” she said. “If they need us to set up chairs because they can’t afford a maintenance guy, we can do that.”

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