On Thursday April 17, 2014, USD 501 announced that the First Lady Michelle Obama was going to be speaking at commencement. We were also informed that seats would be limited to around 4 per student for families to come and that all commencements would be combined.
We are honored to have the First Lady speak at commencement and the student body was literally crying and jumping for joy when the news was announced and we are in no way shape or form ungrateful for what the Board has done for us.
There are problems that come with the combining of the commencements. First of all, for most families in 501, money is short and we have spent hundreds of dollars buying graduation announcements that are now incorrect. The district has stated they will not refund this. Topeka High School’s graduation on its own takes approximately two and a half hours. The combining of five high schools will increase that to about six hours. With increased security the total time will be brought up to eight hours. Secondly, families have many people coming from states away taking sick leave to see the graduation. They will come to Topeka, only to find that they cannot be involved. Those with divorced families have to choose which side of the family they want to invite, this doesn’t even include siblings.
This petition will go to the Board to keep graduation times the same and find a way for the speech to be given at all commencements, whether the First Lady is there in person or she has her speech recorded and replayed.