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Bexley looks at ways to include non-graduates
Had he completed one more credit of math, the young man would have received a diploma at the graduation ceremony instead of a "certificate of attendance."
He was among six seniors who just missed qualifying for graduation, but whom the Bexley Board of Education permitted to participate in the 2009 commencement ceremony anyway.
"The opportunity (to walk with your class) only comes once in a lifetime," Superintendent Dr. Michael Johnson said about the decision to include the non-graduates. Johnson said the unnamed teen later completed a GED.
"I think we failed that student," Johnson said. "I tried to talk him out of the GED. I would have much rather paid for a math course at a community college than sign-off on the GED. He is a very bright kid. It is not a very shining mark for Bexley given the resources available. He will be declared a drop-out."
The teen's story is not much different than the other six.
"They either needed one more shot at the Ohio Graduation Test or they were short one credit," Johnson said.
Johnson proposed at the board's July 27 meeting that in the future, students who do not meet the requirements for graduation would not participate with their classmates unless they signed an "intervention plan" to complete their degree.
Through the intervention plan, the district would help the students complete the credits and pass the test.
"Last year we were ranked Excellent with Distinction because we paid attention to every child every step of the way," Johnson said. This is the final step."
Board Member Steve Grossman said he fears the 1 percent of the students who could scam the district.
A student could think, "I got to graduate with my class and no one out there knows I don't have the real thing," Grossman said.
Johnson said the district could avoid being scammed by altering the mind set of the students.
"If the school district really cares about children, it makes them part of a family," Johnson said. "We can change beliefs by always being behind the child. It is very, very important to us to generally project those values."
Board President Andy Sutter warned Johnson that his plan would be controversial.
"It is a variation of a theme - What is reward? What is penalty?" Sutter said. "To some, the opportunity to walk with their class is a reward for meeting the minimum requirements for graduation."
Despite the possibility of opposition, Sutter encouraged the superintendent and his staff to continue developing the plan.
"Recognizing that it is a sensitive issue for some people doesn't mean we shouldn't do it," Sutter said.
Johnson said he hoped to present the proposal at the next meeting for a vote. The next school board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24 in the Cassingham Complex Community Room.
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