Parkway “Blew It” When Rescheduling Graduation
September 28, 2017
Parkway admitted defeat after scheduling the 2018 graduation on the Jewish Sabbath and start of the holiday Shavuot.
“Both our West and South graduations have been on sabbath for many years and no one had logged a complaint about that so going into this discussion, I had that in the back of my mind,” school board president Beth Feldman said.
After several years of hosting Parkway graduation at Queeny Park, the school board started searching for a new location that would house more people. “We have been looking for several years for a venue where we could host all 4 of our graduations that would be safer and more comfortable for the families who come along with our students,” Feldman said.
Queeny Park did not serve as a good fit because of their few handicap parking spaces, limited seating and few bathrooms. “Some members of the families have to park, up to, a half a mile away,” Feldman said.
When The Family Arena, in St. Charles, offered Parkway a spot on a Saturday they got really excited. “We thought ‘Ah-ha, here is our chance to make a better graduation for our students and their families,’” Feldman said.
Central Principle Tim Mccarthy was the first to point out that this date would conflict with the Jewish Sabbath. Soon after, the school district spoke to different religious leaders from across the city, asking for their perspective on the issue.
The Jewish leaders disagreed with the decision to hold graduation on a Saturday, but said if it was done, to have Central and North during the middle of the day.
With the highest Jewish population, Central and North were Parkways biggest concern.
Shavuot is usually during June, but because the Jewish calendar does not match up with Gregorian calendar, Shavuot shifts dates over time.
“This issue brought to mind 2013’s graduation,” Feldman said.
In 2013, a similar event occurred, with the holiday starting on the same day as graduation. This prevented multiple students from being able to attend their own graduation because they would not be able to drive because of the Sabbath, or because they had to celebrate with their family and community.
“We talked to the families and we offered to recognize the students at one of our board meetings, and throw them their own graduation,” Feldman said.
The only difference between the issues in 2013 and the issues with the 2018 graduation is, now senior Hannah Maurer is here to stand up for her community.
“I was the young lady who started the petition against the change of the date of the graduation,” Maurer said to a the School Board at the meeting on Sept. 7. After finding out the school boards decision to change the date of graduation because of their change of venue, Maurer immediately started an online petition, protesting the change. Maurer does not observe Sabbath on Saturdays, but does on Fridays.
“The students that would not be able to attend because they observe from Friday to Saturday, they are why I started this petition,” Maurer said. Superintendent Keith Marty would be sent an email every time the petition was signed, which ended up be over 2,000 times.
“She didn’t even bother asking permission before she went and started this petition,” Maurer’s Mother said.
The petition was successful in creating a dialogue between the school board and the Central and North Jewish community. On Wednesday Sept. 7, an emergency board meeting was called to order regarding the graduation. This meeting offered the Jewish community an open floor to state their complaints.
Concerned parents from across the school district, including those with young children, alumni, non practicing jews and Jewish community leaders, attended the 5 pm meeting.
“If anyone would’ve checked with the Jewish community calendar you would’ve found out that tonight is the Jewish Federation annual meeting,” Parkway parent and Alumni said. “Many of the leaders that would’ve liked to be here to speak, couldn’t be be.”
This miscommunication was a common topic in the open forum. Each person was given exactly 2 minutes to speak, in this time Committee members would not be allowed to respond.
At the end of the open floor, the meeting officially began. Very formally, the nine elected school board members stated their ideal solutions to the graduation date issue. At the end of the hour long meeting they agreed to table the vote till the following week, after they had spoken to the venue and discussed other possible dates. You could feel the disappointment in the air of the conference room.
One week later, with no other official comments on the issue by the district, a larger meeting was held in the middle school.
“In short, we blew it,” Feldman said.
The meeting once again began with an open floor for the residents of the Parkway district, but the overall attitude of the speakers sounded more disappointed than angry.
“This is not about religion. This is about inclusion,” Parkway Alumni said.
Feldman proposed an option to change Central and North’s graduation dates, but keep South and West on the previously agreed upon date. Central would be changed to May 15 and North to May 17.
The main issue with this proposition was the expense factors. The total cost for the venue with the two changed dates would be $72,000. This was changed from the original $49,000, which included the new venue with all the schools on the same day. The extra expenses would be taken out of the district’s budget for legal fees.
The meeting ended with the verdict being passed without any opposition.