Editor's note: The following is a response to a letter sent to parents from Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson telling parents that, due to the potential of Kehler Field being re-turfed, this year’s graduation will be held on the back field behind Westfield High School, with the inclement weather location the varsity gymnasium. The letter tells parents that the Armory was reserved to conduct the ceremony in case of inclement weather, but The National Guard notified the school that their facility is no longer available on June 22 due to their annual training being scheduled at the same time.
Dr. Nelson, Mr. DeSarno, Dr. Dolan,
Respectfully, I have to call foul on the final statement of your letter to parents: "Our students will be sent off with all of the proper ceremony and respect they deserve and have earned." The planning for this year's graduation ceremony do not reflect that.
The original decision to allow Kehler to be renovated on June 22 (which has been on the town calendar for at least two years as the 2018 graduation date) put the needs of fall sports ahead of ALL 12th graders. A window of opportunity has opened up now that the renovations are delayed, and yet, you are still going to allow work to begin prior to June 22, if the legal issues are resolved before then. How is that giving our sons and daughters the proper ceremony they deserve? Since this is estimated to be a four-month project, the ONLY reason to rush into starting before June 22 is to allow for part of the fall season to be played on the field — again, putting athletics ahead of academics. A decision should be made right now to delay renovations until June 23, regardless of what happens with the current legal challenges.
Furthermore, the Plan B to relocate 1,500 people to the gymnasium (in case of rain) is both unsafe and unfeasible. There is no way you will be able to fit each graduate and two guests in the gym safely — it's simply not large enough, nor will the fire code allow it. Therefore, you must be planning on people having to watch their child graduate remotely, which just adds insult to injury because the Armory was not properly secured.
This is the largest class in WHS in decades. I respectfully request that you take the following steps immediately to deliver a "proper ceremony" with the "respect they deserve and have earned":
- Prevent any renovations to Kehler until June 23, regardless of legal resolutions prior to that date
- Continue to look for an alternate rain location that allows for everyone to be together for the ceremony. If cost is an issue, you can charge a nominal fee for tickets — my guess is that most people would be agreeable to this fee.
Laura Cogan Cerria