PLAINFIELD, NJ – Tensions were high as two Plainfield High School students described their frustrations with communicating with their building’s leadership to district officials, listing examples of how they said they were denied support in preparing for various activities, and were met with resistance when requesting to meet with administrators about it.
“We’re here to address the miscommunication between the high school administration and the students,” said Bryant Yancha-Pazmino at Tuesday’s board of education Work & Study Meeting.
Yancha-Pazmino, the student council president who is graduating this month said not only are students asking to be challenged in the classroom with a more rigorous curriculum, they also want more consistency with messages from administrators.
“I’ve been here four years and have had four different principals,” he continued, adding how it has been difficult for students to get access to administrators and to get the support they need with extracurricular activities and other areas.
Senior Class President, Tyshana Campbell said it wasn’t easy publishing this year’s yearbook because “no administrator wanted to help support the committee with space” or related instruction on how to put together a yearbook.
She said the committee ended up spending many late hours working to finish the layout and design, often working without adequate oversight.
Campbell, who also chairs the prom committee added that even after allowing enough time for the senior class to select party favors, a crown, sashes and other items, the school’s administration did not place the orders as requested, and instead picked other options without input from the students, using the fees they are paying to attend.
When Campbell went to get answers, she said she was approached in a confrontational way and did not get a satisfactory response as to why this happened.
“Students were told they couldn not go to the prom without paying a $250 Senior Fee,” complained one parent, Troi McCray, adding officials from the high school said the fee was to cover the costs for a graduation cap and gown, yearbook, a breakfast, a senior photo and T-shirt.
“What should have been a glorious event, the administrative staff and advisors have turned into something else,” McCray said, detailing how her son was denied the ability to purchase a prom ticket because he had not yet paid the senior fee.
She said a second option was offered to her, that she could instead purchase the cap and gown for $60 and the yearbook for $150 if she was not able to pay the Senior Fee.
McCray questioned board officials on the accounting for the prom, which this year is Thursday, June 14th, and requested an itemized spreadsheet detailing all expenses.
“Why didn’t anyone on the board question the fees,” she asked, commenting how it feels like the students and parents were being extorted. “Where is the money going to?”
Acting principal, Dr. Heather Jackson, the high school’s fourth principal in as many years was not at the meeting to respond to the issues raised by the students and parents.
But after a private conversation with Campbell, Interim Superintendent Dr. Ronald Bolandi announced he would personally make the call on Wednesday to order the items needed for a successful prom and would investigate the students’ other concerns.
“We can’t charge the students for caps and gowns,” said Bolandi who was named to the position in January and is taking a stand for improvement in the district. “The school district should pay.”