Senior Grad. Committee Members: “These Were OUR Ideas, We’re Excited, Please Give Us A Chance”

This past weekend, differing expectations for what the Wilton High School Class of 2020 graduation will look like came to a boiling point. When some members of the school community, including parents and students, grew frustrated with not having confirmed plans for a graduation scheduled for just over two weeks from now, they took to social media to express their disapproval about ideas that had been proposed.

It inspired a debate and prompted finger-pointing and blame–at school and town officials, at Gov. Lamont, and at the graduation committee. GOOD Morning Wilton reached out to the student members of the committee, all seniors in the graduating class, to hear what they had to say. Three of those members–Patrick Burke, Madeline Pennino, and Rishabh Raniwala–spoke with us via Zoom late on Monday, May 25, to share what the committee discussed in the weeks of planning, who they consulted, and what ideas they came up with, as well as the many considerations they had to make involving public safety, logistics, and student preferences.

One thing they all agreed upon:  students led the discussion, students led the planning, and student voices were very well represented in the planning process. They understood that forces beyond their control, including restrictions from the state due to COVID-19 safety concerns, were important to consider and respect. And along the way they felt supported by school and town officials, all of whom worked to try to help them put together a plan that, while it would never be perfect or satisfy everyone, would be the best possible option that they designed.

They ask the community to hear what they have to say and to really listen to what they hope will help them create a graduation ceremony that will reflect them as best as possible, and will allow them to best enjoy a moment far different from the one anyone could have possibly imagined.

In addition, Superintendent Kevin Smith emailed a statement to GMW Monday evening, answering questions we posed to him.

“With respect to plans for a graduation ceremony, there are many voices, many perspectives, and many considerations. As a community, we are working together to develop a plan that we believe ensures the health and safety of participants, is meaningful to our graduating seniors, and is logistically feasible. We hope to be able to answer some final questions early Tuesday and publish a plan to the WHS Class of 2020, their families, and our community at large. That plan will be reviewed and voted on by our Board of Education on Thursday.

“I understand that there has been a great deal of handwringing, even more criticism, perhaps finger-pointing, and a host of proposals. I would say to all of your readers that the graduation committee, comprised of students, parents, teachers, and administrators, has been working diligently to develop a really good plan that aims to achieve the criteria named above. I know they have been researching a range of options.

“I don’t know about you, but I was really struck by The New York Times’ cover page earlier this weekend. I know a few of the 1,000 names that were printed and I know a lot of people who know some of the other names. We have no intention of putting forth a plan that would inadvertently add to that list. That is the ‘rock and the hard place’ for us. We must tend to health and safety concerns, we must adhere to the Governor’s executive orders, and we must develop a plan that truly honors our graduating seniors. The Wilton High School graduation ceremony is one of the finest and most memorable events this town hosts. Our committee has approached this year with the same standard (though dramatically different circumstances) and with the same commitment to honor our students.

“With respect to one of your particular questions, my impression is that the committee felt strongly that June 13 was the best day to host graduation in order to ensure that all could participate. There was worry about delaying the date and then impacting other plans that some may have already made. If you can hold on for a bit longer, we think we’ll have some final decisions Tuesday that will enable us to move forward.”