Kelly's graduation policy

Friday, January 7, 2005

On the gut level, the Kelly School District's policy that keeps some seniors from participating in graduation ceremony seems unduly unfair. After all, students who fulfill both the state's and the district's requirements for graduation should be allowed to walk across a stage and receive a diploma even if they chose not to attend classes the final semester of their senior year, right?

Most school districts agree. Policies in the Jackson and Cape Girardeau districts allow "early-out" students to take part in graduation. The Kelly district and Scott County Central School District are the only two districts in Scott County that have policies barring early-out students from graduation.

Don Moore, superintendent of the Kelly district, argues in favor of policies that might compel a student to stay in school even after meeting the minimum requirements. For one thing, Moore says the district's curriculum is set up so students get maximum benefit by staying in school during all eight semesters of high school. "It's a question of getting the full benefit or just meeting the minimum requirements," Moore said.

Some Speak Out callers have suggested the Kelly students are encouraged to stay in school because of the per-pupil state aid the district receives. But the reduction in aid for six students out of a district enrollment of 1,040 is negligible, Moore says.

The Kelly district, like many other districts, has higher standards for graduation than the state minimum requirement. The district expects students to complete a minimum of 24 credits. The state requires only 22. Kelly students earn seven credits each year. Every senior usually completes the minimum requirements by the end of the first semester of his or her senior year. But only six seniors this year took the early-out option. And they knew that the district's policies would keep them out of May's commencement exercises.

Rules relating to sports activities allow baseball players who graduate in May to participate in playoffs that may occur as late as June -- when they are no longer students. So why not let early-out seniors take part in commencement? Superintendent Moore points out that participation in sports is regulated by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

Concerned students circulated a petition and met in November with the school board, which turned down the early-out students' request to be a part of graduation ceremonies.

The board believes staying in school is better for students than the early-out option. In spite of the board's curriculum concerns, the generous policy would allow early-out seniors to participate in graduation.

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