Graduation Date Change
March 6, 2017
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Graduation for RHS students was moved from May 26, 2017, to June 7, 2017, at DAR Constitution Hall. The reason why is still unknown, which only fueled frustration for students, families and staff who had to change plans.
“I think the most frustrating part is that there really isn’t anything for MCPS to do… Everyone’s felt kind of helpless around the situation,” senior Manuela Lopez said, who had a plane ticket to Europe scheduled the day of the new graduation, but had to push her plans back.
Senior SGA members and Principal Billie-Jean Bensen had a meeting Feb. 2, during which Bensen said that MCPS informed her that DAR was no longer able to host Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) schools that day. As of Feb. 24, DAR still does not have any event listed for May 26 on their official calendar. The county also never received an official DAR explanation.
“My friends and I didn’t make any drastic changes to our [beach week] plans but I know some people are planning on not coming back for graduation at all and staying at the beach,” senior Mary Margaret Bilodeau said, whose only changes in her plans will be that she and some of her friends will be coming back in the middle of the week for graduation.
According to DAR and Bensen, every year, MCPS gets a 14-day block from DAR to choose graduation dates in May-June from. At a meeting usually in the spring of the year before graduation, high school principals participate in a lottery, where principals pick dates in the order of the number they drew. This year, Bensen got first pick and chose the earliest date of May 26 at 10 a.m., with Paint Branch HS in the afternoon.
“At this point, there was nothing we could have done … We wanted to keep our graduation on the 26 because that’s what made sense to all of our families and friends,” graduation coordinator Farron Riggs said. “So, this definitely had nothing to do with us. We, Rockville High School, did not change the date.”
According to DAR Constitution Hall Managing Director Paul Guilderson, May 26 was never one of the 14 given dates. He said that MCPS never requested the date but when they sent in their graduation calendar, DAR identified that it was not available. A Christian women’s group, The Rising, has a conference listed for May 26 at DAR since May 18, 2016, although this is not reflected on the DAR’s official calendar.
“DAR Constitution and MCPS have a good working relationship. They worked with us to find other available dates,” Derek Turner, MCPS Director of the Department of Public Information and Web Services, said. “There are limited venues available so we focused on exploring other available dates at DAR Constitution.”
Although the May 26 RHS graduation date was originally confirmed in a letter sent out to principals by Associate Superintendent of Secondary Schools Darryl Williams July 18, 2016, MCPS claims that they had no involvement and that it was the responsibility of high school principals to arrange graduation.
“You really need to work [this] out with your school,” MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said. “What we have been informed [by schools] was that DAR had to reschedule all of the MCPS graduations that were scheduled to take place at their facility. That’s all of the information that we have.”
The only notice Bensen received was an email from Williams and MCPS Director of High Schools from the Office of School Support and Improvement Brian Scriven. The Rampage contacted Williams but had not yet received a response as of Feb. 24.
“I don’t know if it’s an MCPS/DAR miscommunication somewhere but we had to move graduation,” Riggs said. “DAR never contacted us personally. They probably contacted the higher-ups in MCPS and it filtered down.”
Bensen only had one day, after being informed that May 26 was unavailable, to select the next available day, which was June 7. June 7 was one of the few last dates that no other schools chose from. Bensen and Paint Branch HS’ principal drew straws to see who got the morning slot, which RHS received.
“I thought they were intentionally trying to sabotage our beach week plans. I was originally going to walk at graduation but now I don’t feel like driving back,” senior John Clark said, who will now not be attending graduation. “My parents are fine with that for now.”
The seniors’ last day, graduation rehearsal and picnic at RHS will all still be as scheduled for May 26 as final senior class projects and activities will still be scheduled for that week. The prom, scheduled for May 19, 2017, will not change.
“Personally, I’m coming back because graduation is what I’ve been working toward these last four years and I don’t want to miss it,” Bilodeau said. “But I totally understand why people are going to skip graduation since a lot of them paid their own money for a full week at the beach.”