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Sports conflicts move Silver graduation date – Silvercity Daily Press


Sports conflicts move Silver graduation date
(Press Staff Photo by Juno Ogle)
Silver High School senior Jayelyn Sanchez, center, joined by classmates, from left, Alexys Salas, Hannah Abeyta and Larissa Rueda, tells the Silver Consolidated Schools Board of Education during the board’s meeting Monday night that senior student-athletes should be allowed to attend both graduation and state athletic contests. The district inadvertently scheduled the 2024 graduation at the same time as playoffs. After hearing from students and parents, the board voted to move graduation to 2 p.m. May 19.

Knowing full well that no matter their decision, some students and parents would be upset, the Silver Consolidated Schools Board of Education voted Monday night for what they said was primarily in the interest of this year’s graduates and the safety of student-athletes, moving graduation to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, from the original date of Thursday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m.
When May 16 was selected last fall, no one noticed that was within the dates set for playoffs and state championships for baseball, softball, and track and field by the New Mexico Activities Association, the organization that administers all interscholastic sports and activities in schools. All of those events are held in Albuquerque.
The Silver High softball team is the defending champion in Class 4A this year, and has won eight championships in a row from 2011 to 2018, winning 13 state championships overall.
Silver High’s track and field athletes will likely qualify for state as well, according to projections by Daily Press Sports Editor Dean Thompson, and both the boys’ and girls’ teams have won past championships.
The 2024 softball and baseball quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for May 16 and 17, with finals on May 18. State track is scheduled for May 17 and 18.
While some parents and students advocated for the graduation date to be changed for safety and optimal performance by student-athletes, others pleaded for the date to stay the same because family members had already booked travel plans — some of which, they said, are nonrefundable.
Silver High School Principal Claudia Smith told the board she and her administrative team had been upset and trying to create a viable plan since the schedule conflict was brought to their attention recently by a student.
“It’s an error that I don’t know how many people looked at and missed. There’s nothing I can do to correct that. That was an error. Can’t take that one back,” Smith said. “We do not want students to have to choose between graduation and a sporting event. They are all important.”
Smith’s recommendation to the board was to keep graduation on May 16 but start an hour later, giving more time for athletes and their families to return from Albuquerque in time for the ceremony.
“I had some amazing letters written by students expressing their points of view, and the changing the date, for a large number of students, would be a problem,” she said. “A lot of that has to do with the fact there’s [members of the] military coming in, we have people flying in from outside the continental United States, we have families coming in from the East Coast as well as Mexico.”
Smith said the district had looked at options for providing transportation for students from Albuquerque.
“We have a short list of students that we know are directly impacted, and we want to be able to get those kids back here. I have staff that have already volunteered to assist in this process,” she said. “We had to figure out a way that we could be fair and equitable to as many people as we could. I don’t want students hurt. Unfortunately, no matter what we do, people are going to be unhappy.”
Smith noted that the senior class had voted to have fireworks at their graduation, and the school had already spent a considerable amount of money on that. With the ceremony’s move to a Sunday afternoon, she suggested either holding onto the fireworks for another year or using them at a “senior sunset” for this year’s class.
More than a dozen students and parents spoke during the public comments session of Monday’s agenda before the board took its vote later in the meeting. The majority spoke in favor of changing the graduation date.
Softball team members Jayelyn Sanchez, Hannah Abeyta and Larissa Rueda and track athlete Alexys Salas, all seniors, told the board that seniors had been told they would have a chance to vote on whether or not to change the date, but that email never arrived, and they were told graduation would be moved back one hour. But expecting athletes and families to drive almost 12 hours in less than two days would be unfair, Sanchez said, and her class has already seen much adversity.
“Starting back to our eighth-grade year, COVID set a ton of things back, including our academics and athletics. Spring sports our eighth-grade year lost out on the entire season. Only a couple of games were played,” Sanchez said. “We have worked on our academics by teaching ourselves lessons at times that teachers tried helping us with, but it was hard doing online school for almost two years.
“Not only did we work on our academics, we also worked on the field for our sports to achieve goals to play the next level,” she continued. “We believe we have the right to walk the stage at graduation without having to worry about playing in the state tournament the following morning. We shouldn’t have to miss our graduation because some families already paid for plane tickets. It is a student graduation, not the guests’.”
Niel McDonald said safety should be the board’s top priority in making its decision. He said if the date were not changed, he might be put in the position of not letting his daughter go to the state track meet out of concern for her safety.
“If you look at the schedule, it’s grueling, and the No. 1 killer in the U.S. is drowsy driving,” he said. “I promise you, you do not want that liability on your heads. I’m asking you as a board to rectify the situation to not put our children at any additional risk, especially driving at 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Student Quinn Thompson said he supported Principal Smith’s proposal to move the time of graduation rather than moving it to another day, however.
“While I can understand the struggles and possible safety issues that traveling that much in one day can present, I, as a member of the SHS band, have experienced similar situations where I’m expected to perform at my top level while having traveled 12-plus hours in a day,” he said. “It would seem unfair to change a plan that has been basically set in stone for the majority of the year because of a small minority of the students out of a graduating class of almost 125 students.”
Student Nalani Walsmith said she was speaking on behalf of seniors who did not want the date changed.
“Many seniors have already purchased their senior thank-you cards and graduation invitations with the current graduation date. If you change that day, are you going to reimburse those students? During these hard times, money is tight. Now having to pay hundreds of dollars for new cards is a huge setback for many families,” she said. “There are only four months until graduation, and many seniors, including myself, have families flying from different states, even from out of the country. Many are serving in the military, making it difficult to find time off to attend a rescheduled date.”
The board voted to postpone its vote on graduation until after a scheduled executive session for an evaluation of Superintendent Will Hawkins. Doing so would give the board members some time to consider all the comments, board President Ashley Montenegro said.
When the board reconvened and took the vote, it was a unanimous decision to move graduation to May 19.
Board Vice President Michelle Diaz explained the factors the board took into consideration. The most critical aspect, she said, was consideration for the graduates.
“This is the last time they’ll all be together, and they need to be able to be there,” she said. “As important as our families are to us, it’s about the graduates participating as a class.”
Safety regarding travel was the other primary issue for the board, Diaz said.
“While we had lots of efforts in trying to rectify that situation, it just feels like it’s a tight window,” she said.
Montenegro said she realized the issue caused a split in the Silver High community, and that no decision would be a win-win situation.
“It got overlooked, and myself, as a board member, I take responsibility for some of that as well,” she said. “I hate that we’ve put our school community in this situation, and there’s no true winner, but we need to collectively come together and move forward as one.”
— Juno Ogle



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