Graduation conflict upsets seniors, parents & schools staff


Ash Catalan

The Akins graduation ceremony is scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. on May 27, which happens to be during the middle of the 3rd Period final exam at Akins.

Editorial Board

One of the proudest moments in a student’s high school career is their graduation. It’s a feat that signifies the end of a chapter in not only their lives but the lives of their families and mentors.

Unfortunately, this year the Akins graduation ceremony is scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. on May 27, which happens to be during the middle of the 3rd Period final exam at Akins.

Every year, Akins teachers and parents alike count down the days until they can witness the children they’ve mentored and raised cross the stage. This year, however, the Austin ISD officials have made it very clear how much they care about this moment for the families and staff of Akins by effectively taking away the opportunity for teachers to participate and attend graduation unless teachers are willing to use one of their limited personal days off.

This is the first time that the district has scheduled Akins’ graduation ceremony during the same time that exams are still being conducted, which is putting students, teachers, and parents in a real bind.

This is absolutely unacceptable not only for Akins, but also Eastside Memorial, Northeast Early College, Austin High, and LBJ high schools. All of these schools have morning or early afternoon ceremonies that will prevent teachers from attending without taking off with a personal day and having a sub run the most important exams that students will have all year.

It’s outrageous that the faculty at Akins and these other schools will not be able to attend their graduation ceremonies because they will still be in class administering final exams. Many of the schools affected by this terrible schedule appear to be those that serve large numbers of students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.

And at Akins, some students have created strong bonds with their teachers over the years. Our academy structure and career programs provide support and motivation to at-risk students to persevere despite difficult personal circumstances.

Akins puts a lot emphasis on aiding students to find success beyond high school with countless resources and a foundational focus on not just going to college but on the stepping stones to embarking on a career path that fits their vision for their lives.

Yet despite all of the hard work to help students graduate and become adults, it is easy to read this scheduling snafu as a slap in the face.

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This is particularly frustrating for the Akins community, which often feels ignored by district officials. We seem to be the first campus that is thought of when we are asked to pilot half-baked plans for Standards-Based Grading and experimental learning management systems like BLEND. Meanwhile, there are more than 20 portable classrooms on campus that are approaching their 20-year life expectancy with no bond proposal to replace them on the horizon.

The Eagle’s Eye editorial board believes that district officials need to fix this graduation fiasco now. Otherwise, the district will confirm our worst fears that it is OK with leaving the Akins community to suffer the frustration of a poorly coordinated ceremony, which should be one of the happiest days of the year.

When you look at the graduation times, Eastside Memorial, LBJ, and Akins are all left with morning spots. These schools are all socioeconomically disadvantaged while schools with more means like Bowie and Anderson are given evening times.

The timing of the graduation ceremony will also make it difficult for relatives and siblings to attend graduation ceremonies. Imagine raising a child for nearly two decades and there’s a time to celebrate their accomplishments as well as the effort that you’d put in, but suddenly you are left having to choose between losing a day of pay or attending an aforementioned celebration.

Teachers are essential to having the ceremony run smoothly. They help organize the lines in which students stand and help students move to cross the stage. The faculty sponsors of JROTC, choir, band, photography and floral are essential parts of the ceremony as they assist students who have important roles. Administrative staff and life skills teachers also need to be on hand to assist students with special needs to cross the stage.

There are solutions to solve this problem. We realize that changing the day and time of our ceremony is unlikely so we propose that Akins be granted a special waiver to allow a student holiday on May 27 and final exams scheduled for an earlier day. These kinds of school-specific holidays have been done before at campus like Austin High, which annually receives a day off on the Fridays of the Austin City Limits Festival. Another option would be for the district to assign central office staff to run final exams on May 27 so the teachers who have worked for years to support Akins students can attend graduation with their beloved students.