Board member asks for more creativity, flexibility in 2021 commencement plans

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal
Salil Hijazi, 18, smiles from the back seat during the 2020 Stow-Munroe Falls High School commencement ceremony. The senior activities committee is planning another drive-in style event, but a school board member is asking for more flexibility and creativity.

A Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education member is asking the high school senior activities committee for more creativity and flexibility when planning this year's commencement ceremony.

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Earlier this month, high school principal Jeff Hartmann reported that the committee — consisting of Class of 2021 student leaders, parents, a board member, teachers and administrators — had decided to use a modified version of last year's event, which essentially turned the high school parking lot into a drive-in. Families sat together in their cars while students still walked across a stage.

At the time, Hartmann said that the date, May 22, had been confirmed and that the date, location and details would not change regardless of any updated guidelines coming from the governor's office. 

"Our focus is letting parents and students know what our plan is so that we can give them a sense of certainty which is something they've not had the benefit of throughout the entirety of the school year," Hartmann said. 

During a work session on March 8, however, board member Lisa Johnson Bowers, who served on last year's committee, said the drive-in was a "starting point" but asked the committee to wait and see how changing guidelines may offer more opportunities.

"It was amazing last year, but I don't think it's the best situation this year. I feel like it's important, even though I know it's uncomfortable, the flexibility and the not knowing," she said.

A Look Back: Stow-Munroe Falls Commencement 2020

Johnson-Bowers noted that last year's committee was planning a drive-by graduation, but decided "our graduates deserve more," which led to them to the drive-in idea. 

"Our graduates deserve for us to think of different options, to think of more options and go back, because if we had just gone with [...] the original consensus, we would have been done early and had the drive-by, but we didn't because we kept saying there's got to be a better option," she said. 

Board member Nancy Brown, who was a part of this year's committee, said that the committee considered several different options, but ultimately the students decided they wanted to do a drive-in event. Additionally, she said, last year's ceremony was expensive because of the last-minute planning. 

"We can say that if it comes up, we can change, but this is what was brought to us by the senior leadership and we felt that was important," Superintendent Tom Bratten said. 

"And I think if they come to us and say 'we want to consider this,' we absolutely should do that," Brown added.

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.