Graduation woes: City BOE questions SHS grad fees

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

With graduation less than two weeks away, the Selma City Board of Education scrutinized graduation fees for Selma High School seniors during a special called meeting Thursday.

Board Member Coley Chestnut was alerted to the variance of graduation costs and questioned Interim Superintendent Dr. Verdell Dawson. According to the board, graduation fees range from $120 to $400.

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“I would like to see what this money is for. (The cost) is kind of high,” said Board President Ben Givan.

Each academic year, Selma High seniors are asked to pay for their cap and gown rentals as well as their diploma, said Board Member Dr. Kirit Chapatwala.

Dawson said Selma High’s administration has distributed varying costs to students and parents, which has caused much confusion.

Board Member Debra Howard said some students have been told they could not graduate if they didn’t pay the fee. James McNeill, school board attorney, said Howard’s comments were not welcome news.

“You cannot condition what that child does because they can’t afford the fees,” McNeill said. “We can’t deny them that right (to graduate) and the law’s very clear on that.”

Dawson said she has received a report from Selma High’s administration regarding graduation fees, but found it to be “inadequate.” She’s also questioned the administration about who approved the fees and who oversees the monies received.

“Whenever I ask any of these questions at Selma High School, I get a blank stare,” Dawson said.

Board Member James Terry shook his head with disbelief during the discussion, saying, “Is anybody running Selma High? Is anybody at all?”

Givan said the board plans to meet with Selma High’s administration on Monday and request an itemized list of expenses.

We need to get answers here,” he said.

Selma High’s graduation is set for Tuesday, May 22.

In other business:

The board unanimously approved to dismiss students at noon on Tuesday, May 22 – the last day of school.

The board unanimously approved a recruitment incentive for secondary math and science teachers for the 2007-2008 academic year.

Science and math teachers who are recruited by the Selma City School System will receive a $1,000 signing bonus, another $1,000 at the end of the first semester and another $1,000 at the beginning of their second year.

The board’s rationale is “to be competitive with other school districts and have an aggressive search for knowledgeable math and science teachers.”

Throughout the state there is a critical shortage of math, science and special education teachers, Dawson said.

Chestnut suggested the board explain their decision to provide incentives to current teachers.

“If I were teaching for Selma City Schools and someone came in with a signing bonus and I didn’t, I would want to know why,” he said.

The board unanimously approved to place a policy regarding time clock check-ins and check-outs on first reading.

The board has concluded its interviews for a chief school financial officer. A decision could be made as early as Monday on who will fill the position, Givan said.