Although Howard High School parent Lisa DeWees is actively involved in her sons school, she was surprised to learn recently that the date and time of his May graduation ceremony had changed.
Instead of Saturday, May 25, at 1 p.m., the ceremony has moved to Friday, May 24, at 3 p.m.
The school district released official 2013 graduation dates in January, but that schedule is causing confusion among some parents because it doesnt match the information some schools released at the beginning of the school year.
Other parents say the district hasnt done enough to make sure parents are aware of the changes.
People are making arrangements and assumptions based on the Saturday date, said Marsha Lewis, another Howard High parent. Lewis said the districts communication on the matter has been poor, but she also noted Monday that Howard parents received an e-mail over the weekend highlighting the new graduation date.
Bibb Countys official graduation times are different from a 2013 schedule presented to board members almost three years ago. District officials say the 2013 graduation dates shared with schools last year were still preliminary and were subject to change.
DeWees said she found out about the change at Howard Highs open house in late January.
DeWees, president of Howards Parent Teacher Student Organization, remembers hearing parents whispers among the crowd when a counselor announced the revised graduation calendar to the room.
My son is not the best at letting me know things, but Im the PTO president. I should know these things, said DeWees, whose family members already made travel plans based on the Saturday date.
A Bibb school system spokeswoman said the confusion may go back to last school year, when graduation coordinators at each high school received preliminary 2013 graduation dates and times together with the official 2012 graduation schedule. Individual schools may have, in turn, posted those preliminary dates on their websites, spokeswoman Stephanie Hartley said.
School district administrators approved the official schedule based on input from a graduation committee made up of representatives from each high school, as well as student affairs, student support services, communications, risk management and campus police departments.
Since the schedule was released, school officials have been publicizing the dates through the districts website and public access TV station, Hartley said.
Board member Lynn Farmer, whose own son is graduating from Howard High this year, said shes fielded calls from six or seven parents who work in the district and saw the graduation schedule on the systems website.
Farmer worried that parents are making plans around dates that have already been shared -- and that many more havent seen the official graduation schedule.
My concern is that the community understands that the dates and times may have changed, she said.
During an October 2010 committee meeting, the school board received graduation schedules from 2011 to 2013 -- but did not vote on those days and times. Board members were told that the 2012 and 2013 schedules could change based on adjustments to the calendar during those years.
With no other indication from the school system, however, parents were left to assume that those were the actual graduation dates, Farmer said.
The school calendar can change from year to year. Its important to get information out as soon as possible, she said. To me, this kind of thing should be taken care of in the fall.
Also, some parents like DeWees and Lewis arent happy with the final graduation calendar.
While a change of plans wont be hard for Lewis and her husband to accommodate, it will prevent some out-of-state family and friends from attending, she said.
Lewis, as well as DeWees, worries about parents who may not be able to attend a Friday afternoon ceremony because they wont be able to take time off work -- especially right before Memorial Day.
Lewis said she wouldnt have heard about the official graduation schedule if she hadnt attended Howards recent open house herself. In a district with low graduation rates, she said, the district should accommodate the families that want to attend the ceremonies.
I think we need to celebrate it, particularly the kids who may the first to graduate in their families, Lewis said. Their grandparents, their aunts and uncles need to be there.
Part of the reason school officials decided to shift one ceremony to Friday was to cut down on personnel and other costs, Hartley said.
The Bibb County school district strives to provide a ceremony that is both enjoyable and memorable for all graduates and their guests, Hartley said by e-mail. The adjustments to this years schedule are an attempt to accomplish these goals as well as being good stewards of public monies.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.