It was standing room only as the governing board of Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) held its first meeting of 2013 Tuesday evening.
For the many high school seniors who filled the chairs, it was May graduation day that weighed heavily on their minds.
Great Oak High School senior Jennifer Skaggs presented over 300 senior signatures to the board, voicing students’ desire to leave the graduation date unchanged from its May 30-31 dates, citing the expense and inconvenience to family members traveling to Temecula for the big day.
The dilemma of the date stems from Temecula Valley Unified School District’s plan to restore furloughed days to teachers, thereby extending the 2012-2013 school year into the first week of June.
As originally agreed upon in May, 2012 by the Temecula Valley Educators Association and CTA/NEA, the district approved the motion to restore six work reduction days (June 3-7, and June 10), as well as the payment of off-schedule bonus checks (accounting for three furlough days from Aug. 13, 18, and Sept. 21, 2012).
“We are most concerned that the graduation date for 2013 doesn’t change (with the return of the furlough days),” said Temecula Valley High School President Christina Dempster of the proposed lengthened school year. “This decision will affect numerous families with added costs and potentially lost work. There are other solutions available.”
Christina went on to state that she understood about the teachers needing their furlough days back, saying: “After all, my father’s a teacher.”
TVUSD Superintendent Tim Ritter countered: “We have adjusted the calendar and plan to restore the days at the end of the year and to honor our agreement with the TVEA. These are instructional days and instructional time for our teachers. Traditionally, graduation is always the last two days of school.”
Board members debated the idea of leaving graduation day on May 30-31 as originally planned, while weighing the consequences of doing so.
Ultimately, Vince O’Neal suggested that the actual agenda did not mention graduation dates at all, rather just the decision to return the furlough days to teachers.
Superintendent Ritter took special note to explain to all present: “In clarification, for all present, it is the desire of this governing board that we “move” graduation days to May 30-31 for our students. Kindergarten through eleventh grade will continue, but twelfth grade will graduate by the 31st.”
Seen as a victory by those present, the vote was answered by cheers and applause from the waiting audience, who thinned out immediately after the vote was cast.
“We can’t make everyone happy,” O’Neal said, “but we must weigh the consequences of our actions. This is the students’ graduation and the students are telling us what they want.”
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.