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Heads should roll
(Published June 12, 2006)

High school Graduation Day is one of life’s milestones – a happy time that creates memories for a lifetime. Unfortunately for many members of Eastern Senior High School’s Class of 2006, those memories will be tinged forever with anger and sadness over their families being locked out of sharing their rite of passage to adulthood – the moment when they received their diplomas.

It shouldn’t have been that way.

What’s even more unfortunate is the response of school officials, who should have fixed the problem as soon as it was discovered – and they should have discovered that too many tickets had been distributed long before the commencement ceremony began on June 7. Instead, they allowed the situation outside Gallaudet University’s auditorium, where the ceremony was held, to escalate to a disturbance that required Metropolitan Police to be summoned.

Three days later, as this editorial is written, they continue to make excuses rather than amends.

It appears that someone may have forgotten to allow seating for Eastern’s graduating seniors before calculating how many tickets would be available for families. According to one published report, D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Clifford Janey suggested the problem might have been caused by counterfeit tickets – an allegation that appears to be baseless.

Whoever was responsible for this travesty deserves to be fired.

Tragically, what happened at Eastern’s commencement ceremony cannot be fixed with any number of apologies or substitute ceremonies. Refunding graduation fees also cannot fully make amends, though it can help ease the sting.

School officials who continue to make excuses need some serious reeducating about the goals of their chosen career field. There is no excuse. Nada. None.

D.C. children study for 13 years to get a diploma, signifying that they stayed in school to get an education while many of their contemporaries did not. Graduation Day is one of the most important days in the lives of schoolchildren and their families. It is the responsibility of school officials to help get them there.

While it is tempting to assert that a similar display of incompetence never would have occurred in planning and executing graduation ceremonies at Wilson or Banneker, two schools widely considered to have privileged status among unequals, it’s probably safer to say that school officials’ response would have been different – and swifter.

It shouldn’t take days for school officials to figure out what happened at Eastern, why it happened and who is to blame. D.C. Public Schools personnel – at all levels – need to get serious about performing their jobs well. The excuses must end. Heads must roll.

Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator