New Middle Park graduation gown policy draws public comments at board meeting |

New Middle Park graduation gown policy draws public comments at board meeting

In October, students from Middle Park High School’s Pride Club spoke to the East Grand school board about a study they did that influenced the school’s decision to change the colors of its graduation robes. On Dec. 6, parents of seniors voiced concerns about the new policy.

In past years, Middle Park had robe colors divided by gender — purple for boys and white for girls. The Pride Club had concerns about students having to wear colors that do not represent them, and members told the board their survey showed a majority of students and teachers were in favor of changing the colors.

With support from principal Cindy Rimmer, the Pride Club got the school’s robe policy changed so that all students will wear purple robes to represent unity among the graduating class starting this year.

Two parents spoke about the change during the public comments of the Dec. 6 board meeting, saying they support the Pride Club’s intentions but would prefer that students be able to choose between purple and white instead of only having one option. The Pride Club members said that avoiding the trouble of students possibly changing their minds was one reason they supported having only one color instead of a choice.

One parent of a Middle Park senior, who introduced herself to the board only as Holly, called the survey about graduation robes into question because she said Rimmer could not find its results when parents asked for them, and when she contacted students from last year’s graduating class, few of them said they had received the survey.

Holly also said several students wanted to speak at the board meeting but decided not to because they felt defeated. Another parent, Vanessa Burns, told the board she had a petition signed by around 275 students and parents who want seniors to be able to choose between purple and white robes.

“Here’s what we’re requesting,” Burns said. “Based on the information we provided and the number of signatures on the petition that I would like to give to you guys tonight, that you as board members of the school district vote to bring back the wearing of the white gowns as being a personal decision made by the graduating students.” 

The board did not respond to the parents during the meeting, which board president Ed Raegner pointed out is normal procedure for public comments.

Other business:

  • The board approved the minutes for their Nov. 11 meeting, the resignation of Jessica Reed, a Middle Park special education teacher, and a mill levy certification.
  • Paul Backese from McMahon and Associates spoke to the board about the audit of the district’s 2021-22 financials that his firm completed, and the board accepted the audit.
  • Sarahbeth Smith, a district instruction and assessment coordinator, gave an update to the board about the Open Court reading curriculum the district started using at the end of last school year. She said students and parents have given positive feedback and teachers are started to feel more comfortable teaching the curriculum.
  • Colleen Koneda from Dynamic Program Management, the owner agent working on bond program improvements in the district, gave an update on the bond improvements, including the completion of the foundation high school’s career technical education building and hiring of a company to handle furnishings.
  • Superintendent Brad Ray spoke about the dates for upcoming community board meetings, putting out a request for proposal for strategic planning, looking into making a new facilities master plan, potentially changing which student information system the district uses and a water pipe break that happened in Granby Elementary over Thanksgiving. 
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