NEOSHO, Mo. — The Neosho Board of Education is expected to further discuss a student proposal to move graduation ceremonies to Joplin at its upcoming work session.
Superintendent Dan Decker said the plan is for representatives of the senior class to give a presentation to the board at its meeting Tuesday to allow chance for more discussion about the idea.
Representatives of the 2015 senior class attended the board’s last regular meeting and discussed moving graduation to the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center at Missouri Southern State University. Because the board didn’t have much time to review the issue that evening, Decker said, it wants to bring those students back to a work session to give them more time to present their idea.
Neosho’s graduation is usually scheduled to be outside at the football stadium. However, if it rains, the graduation is moved inside to the Neosho High School gym, and the students receive a certain number of tickets for guests they can bring into the gym. That depends on the number of students, Decker said, but usually students get six or seven tickets. This year’s graduating class has 328 students now, Decker said, and he expected that number to be close to the class size graduating in the spring.
There seems to be a tendency to move graduation inside most of the time because of weather concerns, school board Vice President Jonathan Russell said. Decker said it’s not unusual for rain to interfere with graduation.
The advantage of the idea, Decker said, is that students know they can have anyone they want be a part of the graduation ceremony. On the other hand, holding graduation ceremonies in the community is a tradition, and a local graduation adds money to the economy. Plus, there’s the drive from Neosho to Joplin.
Still, Decker said, he’s not sure the cons outweigh the pros.
“I think the one thing we’ve got to remember and would encourage the board, from my seat, the graduation is for the students,” he said. “As we make that decision, that’s something we need to keep in mind as well.”
The board normally doesn’t make any decisions at its work sessions, Decker said, but this will give the board time to learn more to make a decision in the future.
While Russell said he didn’t think the decision needs to be made right away, it will definitely be something the board looks at in the next couple of months.
Russell said that while he was open to the proposal, it will ultimately be a tough issue to decide. He said he’s talked with several people in the community who don’t want to see graduation moved because they think a Neosho graduation belongs in the community. However, he also understands the students’ point of view and said a number of students seem to want to see the move.
While Russell said he feels responsible to the people who elected him, he also has to consider what the students want.
“It’s a decision that’s going to be very hard for me to make,” he said.
Steve Douglas, secretary for the school board, said he’s waiting to hear input from both sides of the issue but said that if students feel strongly about it, the board should consider the proposal.
Though he said he is a strong supporter of the community and wants to see events held in Neosho, there aren’t indoor facilities in town that would be big enough.
Though he has heard from a good segment of the community that opposes the proposal, graduation day should be thought of as belonging to the students. He said he also wanted to hear from parents and families of students.
“I think at the end of the day, we’ve got to consider what’s best from the students and their families,” he said.
School board member Kim Wood said that she hasn’t formed an opinion yet on whether graduation should or shouldn’t be moved, saying she wants to hear more feedback from the students and other board members before making any decisions.
“We’ll just see where our discussion takes us,” she said.
The Neosho R-5 School Board will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Administrative Center, 418 Fairground Road.