At their regular meeting on Wednesday, May 22, the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education (BOE) heard an impassioned plea from New Paltz High School class of 2019 senior class president, Evan Holland-Shepler. Reading from a letter signed by 100 members of the graduating class, he urged the BOE to reconsider the plan to hold graduation in the SUNY New Paltz gym again this year, rather than on the football field as is traditional.
The class members are “immensely excited” about graduation, Holland-Shepler said, “but we want to celebrate this on our turf. Last year graduation was held at the SUNY New Paltz gymnasium, to compensate for loud construction on Putt Corners. We were promised this would be temporary, so we were shocked to recently discover that graduation would be held at the gym again instead of the high school football field. Earlier in the year myself and other class officers were told we would choose where our graduation was to be held, and we requested the football field, but were denied by Ms. Rice [Superintendent of Schools Maria Rice] on the premise that the SUNY gym is already printed on the school calendar.”
Rice has refused to listen to their requests, he said, “and the class will not sit idly by” when it’s only “a simple location change.”
Holland-Shepler reminded the board, “We can still fix this. With 35 days until graduation, there’s ample time to change location, and send out any notices. Larger things have been done in less time.”
Graduation is “a very, very large thing,” he added. “And much like you, I was elected to represent my peers. We’re the children of the parents who voted you all into office. I hope you listen to the constituents directly affected by your decisions every day. We ask that the School Board compel Ms. Rice to hear our request, and have our graduation at the high school football field, heeding the wishes of the vast majority of our senior class. Please let us graduate on the football field; it would mean the world to us. It feels like a gut punch to not be able to graduate on the field that we’ve been imagining for 12 years.”
Superintendent Rice was not in attendance at the meeting. Deputy Superintendent Michelle Martoni sat at the table in Rice’s absence.