School Board Hears Opposition To Moving FHS Graduation To High School

1-28-16 Meeting - 1

Interim Franklin High School principal Thomas DiGanci Jan. 28 asked the school board to move graduation to the high school.

Opponents of a proposal to move the Franklin High School graduation to the school rather than stay at a Trenton arena let their voices be heard at the Jan. 28 Board of Education meeting.

All but one of more than a dozen people who spoke on the topic urged the board to keep the graduation ceremony at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, where it has been held for the last several years.

The main objection to moving the ceremony to the high school was the lack of space in case of bad weather, in which case the ceremony would be moved indoors, to the gym.

The objectors, mostly all high school seniors, said they would not be able to graduate in front of their entire families if they had to graduate inside.

“I will be the first in my family to graduate,” said senior Alexis Gibson. “I don’t have four or nine people in my family, I have like 20.”

The proposal, brought to the board by interim high school principal Thomas DiGanci, was to have the graduation outside in the football stadium. In that scenario, there would be no limitations on the number of guests a graduate could bring.

In case of bad weather, the ceremony would be moved into the gym, where each graduate would be allowed to have four guests.

DiGanci said the overflow audience would be seated in the theater and in the cafeteria, where the ceremony would be streamed in. He said the ceremony would also be streamed in to homes.

DiGanci said that although he was first asked to look into the feasibility of moving graduation to the high school by former interim schools Superintendent Lee Seitz, the matter became more urgent when the district lost its traditional early afternoon time slot at Sun National Bank Center.

This year, Franklin is scheduled to graduate at 7 p.m. That means the ceremony probably would not be over until after 10 p.m., after which the students would return to the high school for the Project Graduation celebration, which runs from about 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The later graduation time, DiGanci said, means that students would not have time to celebrate with their families before going to Project Graduation.

He said the cost for graduating at Sun National Bank Center, about $12,000, is about the same as it would be for graduating at the high school.

“That’s $12,000 we could use for Franklin High School to create what I think would be a beautiful ceremony,” DiGanci said.

DiGanci said the committee studying the proposal checked into having the ceremony at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway and an arena in Morristown, but neither were available on graduation day, which is June 23.

“I come to you with the support of the administrative team, the PTSOs and Project Graduation,” DiGanci said.

Chris Weniger of Somerset, a fore official in Hillsborough, told the board that graduation at the high school could be a “disaster” if it is not handled properly.

Weniger urged the board to speak with the township fire marshall before it makes its final decision.

One by one, and sometimes in twos, members of the senior class told the board that they did not want to graduate in the high school.

Serena Brown of Somerset told the board that Sun National Bank Center had enough room for entire families when she attended her older brother’s gradation in 2013, and was concerned that that would not be the case in the gym.

The lone dissenter was an FHS alumna, Freda Russo, who said she would prefer to see her daughter graduate in the high school.

She said her daughter is also a student at Somerset County Vocational and Technical School, which is having its graduation in the evening of June 23.

Having the township graduation earlier in the day would give her daughter the opportunity to walk with both classes, Russo said.

“It’s more meaningful to be in Franklin High School,” she said. “It’s tradition.”

Board member Richard Seamon asked that other possible venues – such as the Prudential Center and NJ PAC in Newark, the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel and the NJ Exposition Center in Edison – be checked for availability before a decision is made.

The board is expected to vote on the issue at its February meeting.

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