Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

March 26, 2014

Students, Public Speak Out on Early Graduation

CAIRO —  At Monday evening’s special Board of Education workshop, the room was filled with students, parents, teachers, school administrators and concerned citizens.

The meeting was called to let the public express their opinions and views on the current issue of early graduation as a result of the Pre-AP Team at Washington Middle School— primarily on determining next year’s valedictorian and salutatorian.

Chairman Jeff Worsham, took the place of Allen Jenkins who recently resigned from the Grady County School Board, said, “This meeting is being held just to discuss this. There will not be any decision making tonight. If there is a policy that needs to be made or changed, it was be presented at the next board meeting and voted on at the following board meeting.”

The board requested that any student who had something to say speak first.

Tiyana Herring represented the current junior class at Cairo High School.

She said, “This issue of sophomores skipping a grade is highly stressful for all. These sophomores have worked hard— but so have the juniors.”

Herring told the board that they did not have the same advantage as the current sophomores when they attended Washington Middle School. The Pre-AP Team was not offered then.

She continued, “The juniors have been looking forward to senior honors such as valedictorian and salutatorian since we were freshman. Now if the sophomores are considered seniors next fall, it could be more challenging for the current high school juniors. They could take away what we’ve worked so hard to accomplish, however, no student should feel they are to blame. It’s up to the adults to fix this.”

According Cairo High School Early Graduation FAQ, the Pre-AP Team at Washington Middle School was created to provide an opportunity for academically-accelerated students to achieve higher grade level competencies at a faster pace than their peers.

Cairo High School Principal David McCurry expanded on the definition.

He said, “The Pre-AP Team at Washington Middle School was created for students to get some high school credits out of the way while in middle school, so they could enroll in dual enrollment or AP courses while in high school. It was designed to create room for more classes and opportunities later in high school.”

Aubrey Gainous and Hannah Harrison also represented the junior class and expressed their views.

Gainous said, “I’m going to tell you what my heart honestly feels. I feel it is unfair for the question to be proposed to change the rule in the middle of the year. For my class, we’d rather see someone we’ve grown up with and competed with up on that stage in front of us talking about our class.”

Harrison came into Cairo High School behind the other students because she attended another school. She entered high school with two less credits than normal high school students.

She said, “I had to work extra hard and since I’m a rule follower— I didn’t challenge anything. The rule followers usually get overlooked. It’s not fair for those who have played by the rules to be overlooked.”

Keaton Dumas, a sophomore at Cairo High School, is a student who went through the Pre-AP Program while in middle school.

“We did have more credits when we entered high school and it is a disadvantage to the other students because they didn’t have the same opportunities, however, this is not happening in the middle of the year. Students still have another year to compete,” said the sophomore.

Ryan Lee, a Cairo High School parent, spoke on behalf of the sophomores who are eligible for senior status next fall. He presented the board with the CHS Handbook which states the requirements for graduation—24 credits.

He said, “When the requirements are met, they are met. Done is done. What is early graduation? According to the handbook and the graduation requirements, they are should be seniors next year.”

Lee said that any student who comes out of the Pre-AP program at Washington Middle School can graduate in three years. He blamed the situation the students have found themselves in on the policy.

“The students have done what they needed to do. Where do they fit in at graduation if one of the is the top student,” he asked the board.

The last speaker to take the podium was former principal at Washington Middle School, Kermit Gilliard, Jr. He believed everyone has lost sight of what the Pre-AP program set out to do in the beginning.

He said, “We’ve opened this can of worms by saying 24 credit equals graduation. We need to go back and say you go to Cairo High School for four years and receive as many credits as you can. Twenty-four credits is just the minimum required.”

During the workshop, the board reviewed the early graduation application. Board member Teresa Gee Harris said she liked the early graduation contract because it protects them.

“If we would have had this before, we would not be sitting here tonight,” she said.

Superintendent Lee Bailey believed the state has created too many options.

“When I contact the state, I don’t get a straight answer. We are trying to figure it out now. The state is calling this being flexible. They are aware of the situation— but don’t want to touch it. They are putting it on us and didn’t plan this all out,” said Bailey.

Worsham called the Grady County Board of Education the guinea pig for this particular situation.

McCurry thanked the students for speaking their minds and standing up for their beliefs before he spoke on behalf of Cairo High School.

He said, “Our stance at Cairo High School is that the reward is early graduation. The valedictorian and salutatorian should be a student who has competed with the other students for the four years of high school. Here at the end like this— it’s not fair for a student to be tossed in the game. These two positions are reserved for a graduate who has went to high school for four years.”

The principal also said Cairo High School is more than happy to let these early graduates have senior honors and participate in honor’s night, top ten status and be honor graduates.

Worsham closed the workshop by telling the board, students, parents and public he did not want to take anything away from anyone.

He said, “As a parent, I understand. There’s a way to acknowledge the early graduates’ achievements because they are the first to complete early in CHS history.”

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