May 8, 2019 — Siuslaw High School seniors have banded together, with nearly every student from the senior class signing a petition to have teachers hand them their diplomas at graduation, instead of school board members like in previous years. Over two-thirds of graduating seniors have already signed the petition, with the number of signatures rising as each day passes.
Seniors Elizabeth Luevano and Hannah Freudenthal started the petition.
Luevano said she felt she was speaking for most seniors when she said that teachers should hand the graduates their diplomas.
“We do appreciate everything the school board does for us. It’s just, we feel that the people who impact us the most on a day to day basis are teachers, and that giving them this honor would be a great way of acknowledging how much we appreciate what they do for us,” she said.
The seniors made it clear that they were very grateful for all the work the board members do.
The students do, however, want it to be recognized that most seniors have had little to no interaction with the board members during their time as Siuslaw High School students, and that it would make more sense for the teachers who guided them to have a larger part in the ceremony.
“I completely agree with their reasoning for having the board members hand out diplomas,” Luevano said. “They do so much for our schools and should be thanked for it in some way. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be a part of the ceremony. Hannah and I do not want the board members to be totally erased — we just wish our teachers, the people we know personally, were more so involved.”
Along with the signatures, the seniors also plan to hand in a letter suggesting a compromise, in which the students would be handed their diplomas by a teacher. After receiving the diploma, they would shake hands with the school board members. That way, both parties could be involved in the event.
Siuslaw High School Principal Kerri Tatum, while admiring the student body’s tenacity in their group effort, wants to make it clear that she and the superintendent have no intention in taking away this privilege from the school board members.
“Handing out diplomas at graduation is one of the only truly positive rewards for a board member,” Tatum said. “They have a very difficult, often thankless responsibility.”
She added that the graduation commencement ceremony is much more than just about high school or the seniors.
“(Graduation) is a community event that represents 13 years of work and dedication by students, parents, K-12 teachers, aides, custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, board members, maintenance staff, businesses and the community,” she said.
According to Tatum, the Siuslaw School Board of Directors has chosen this as the only public acknowledgement for their service to their community. Tatum would like to continue to reserve them the right to hand students diplomas as a way of recognizing the hard work they do behind the scenes to ensure that the schools continue to run effectively.
There is an apparent divide between the view of the school administration and the actual students.
Another senior, Kaylynn Cannon, who openly supports the petition, hopes that its signatures can be a catalyst for change.
“I’m not sure if anything will actually come out of the petition, but it would be really meaningful if something did,” she noted. “I think there’s a major significance to having a teacher hand me my diploma. In my experience, the teachers here are the ones who have helped shape me into who I am, not only as a student but as a person. It would feel more rewarding to have them hand me my diploma, rather than someone I’ve never even met.”
Even if the petition doesn’t change who will award diplomas this year, Cannon hopes that it will show Siuslaw teachers how much the students respect and care about them, and how much they wish they were more involved in the actual ceremony.
Luevano and Freudenthal plan to turn the signatures and letter in to the district office sometime this week.
The Siuslaw High School Class of 2019 Graduation is Friday, June 7, at 7 p.m.