Alternative School Graduation shouldnt be second tier for School Board and Upper Administration

I had the great pleasure of attending the Annual Commencement Exercises of the Baltimore County Public School's Alternative Education Class of 2014 on May 19, 2014.  51 students received their Maryland State Diploma against all odds and with a lot of hard work and dedication.  The pride and sense of accomplishment was evident in each young person as they received their diploma, and in the shouts, claps, tears and hugs from family members and staff who loved, pushed, pulled, and prayed these kids through.
These 51 kids were in alternative education for a variety of reasons; some could not flourish in comprehensive schools, but upon attending schools such as Rosedale or the evening and Saturday schools, found their niche and the right support.  Some were met with health challenges and continued their educational pursuits through the Home and Hospital program.  Each one of these 51 students were in danger of dropping out of school and of not graduating high school, becoming a statistic.  Instead, each one of these students rose to the challenge and worked hard and long to meet their goal of graduation, often working harder than their peers in the comprehensive schools due to their various educational challenges.  
The ceremony was a very touching and joyous occasion, but two things occurred that in my mind did not show these students the value of their accomplishments.  The graduation ceremony started 45 minutes late as the staff and graduates awaited a School Board member's arrival.  Mr. George Moniodis, member of the Board of Education of Baltimore County, was expected to certify the class of 2014 but never arrived to the graduation.   Perhaps there was a valid reason to not show to the graduation, but the perception was that these kids were not a priority.  Secondly, it was noted that Dr. Dance sent a representative to the graduation as opposed to attending himself.  I understand that Dr Dance cannot attend every graduation, but I felt that these kids should have had the support and the recognition from the top on down for their incredible resiliency and hard work.  The fact that 51 students did not drop out, did not fail, and were not left behind speaks volumes to their character and to the hard work and dedication both themselves and of their schools, teachers and mentors.  This kind of determination and grit should be recognized and celebrated and these students should not be second tier in any way.  These alternative programs should be recognized as the wonderful resources that they truly are, as not every child is a perfect fit for a comprehensive school.
Congratulations to the class of 2014!  You will go far and will do great things!


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