Middleburgh High School seniors and their parents voiced their displeasure last week about an attendance policy which will not allow five students to participate in graduation.
The speakers also spoke out on punishments handed out because of “Senior Skip Day” on May 22.
About 35 students and five parents attended last Wednesday’s to complain about the district’s policy not allowing seniors to participate in graduation if they have 25 or more absences and tardies and the fallout from skip day.
Parent Terry Pricolo said her daughter was late for school several times but she wrote a note.
She asked if a doctor’s note was needed to make the lateness “legal.”
Eventually, she was told yes.
“That’s ludicrous,” she said.
Student Michael Bruno complained that latenesses and absences should not be of the same weight.
Board members said they would review this.
Former teacher Araxi Dutton Palmer said students cannot be late that many times in the “real world,” but parents should not be deprived of seeing their children graduate.
Student Nathan Franke said that the administration has not enforced the attendance policy with the younger grades.
Another student said that graduation is not a privilege “but a right of the students.”
Student Zachary Wilkens said attending graduation is a right when the students pass and they want to share it with their family.
Student Jim McBain said he was not informed when he had 10 absences.
Several teachers and staff spoke in favor of the attendance policy.
Dean of students Frank Herodes noted that the attendance policy has been in place since the beginning of September.
Attendance and being on time are important, he said.
“We’re trying to teach more than reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said.
The board received letters signed by 17 high school teachers and 14 middle school teachers to uphold the current policy, which board members did in a split vote. (See separate story)
As for the skip day, some students said that athletes were unduly punished by being told they could not play that evening or the next day if they did not attend a full day of school.
Parent Bruce Bartels said he wanted to know “who had come up with the punishment for skip day.”
He said it was unfair against the athletes.
Board President Don Wood said it was not one person who came up with the skip day policy.
The administrators were “thrown into a situation. They reacted to the situation. Maybe it wasn’t handled the best but it was for the safety of our children.”
Mr. Bartels said that the punishment for skip day should be an in-school suspension or suspension for a day.
“You punish all, not half.”
School officials said that some skippers without letters from parents got in-school suspension.
Board member Bob Herodes, a former high school principal, said senior trips were started in the 1980s to stop the organized skip days.
He said that during the first skip day after that, a student was killed in 1983.
“Kids do things that are foolish on skip out day,” he said.
To think it should be allowed and parents agree, “They’re paying with Russian roulette. It happened here.”
Student Bruce Bartels, a senior, said there were two acting administrators in the district on May 22, the middle school principal and the dean.
He asked why the other administrators were not in the district that day.
He said he had a note from his father and needed to be at home.
He wondered if the same policy should not apply to the administrators.
Bob Herodes said whether an athlete could play in a game should be up to the coach.
“You cut school, you shouldn’t play,” he said.
Board members Kim Smith added, “We need a clear and consistent policy that applies to all students.”
Some students said that some of the girls who skipped school were allowed to play and the softball coach was disciplined. Administrators declined to comment on any discipline of the coach.
Student Tyler Campbell said there was no policy in existence for skip day.
“What gives you the authority to question the parents’ note?” he asked board members.
Jim McBain said he participated in skip day and was not punished.
“To me it’s not just punishing the kids, it’s punishing everybody,” he said.
Student Daniel Arnwine also defended the notes from parents allowing students to leave early.
“It’s their kid,” he said. “It’s plain and simple.”
Frank Herodes, a former coach and as a former athletic director, he put athletes on a little higher level.
Teacher Deb Herodes spoke to the students and said they need to show more respect.
“There was a time when the adults ran the asylum,” she said. “There was respect…
“It is a privilege to go to school,” and added, “There are consequences” for their actions.