Hernando schools chief: "We screwed up."
Parents had a chance to voice their anger and hear school district officials explain what happened at last week's Hernando High graduation, when many parents were kept out of the ceremony due to overcrowding. Superintendent Wayne Alexander and school officials met with them Monday evening in the school's performing arts center. [Ron Thompson, Times]
BROOKSVILLE -- Sometimes an apology just doesn't cut it.
That's what some parents said Monday, nearly a week after graduation ceremonies at Hernando High School descended into a chaotic mess of shouting mothers, crying graduates and tight-lipped police.
Speaking to around a dozen parents, superintendent Wayne Alexander said the school had failed to assign sufficient staff last Tuesday to make sure 1,519 ticket holders could find seats in a gymnasium with at least 1,550 seats and a rated capacity of 1,928 people. And administrators failed to respond quickly when the situation at the door began to fall apart.
"There was no one to coordinate the efforts to pack people in," Alexander said. "I'm sorry. We simply screwed up, we didn't do our jobs."
He said the district would hold graduation outdoors in the football stadium next year, with a rain date the next day, and a free DVD of this year's fiasco for all who missed it.
Parents said they appreciated those words, and his willingness to hold the evening meeting with school officials and school board chairwoman Sandra Nicholson.
But others told Alexander that his staff had compounded their error by initially defending their actions, telling reporters the doors had been open until 7:15 for the 7:30 ceremony, when dozens of families had been sent to an overflow room 45 minutes earlier to watch the event on television.
"You put a kid through 12, 13, 14 years of school, you want to watch that kid graduate," said parent Richard Stone. "That's something you took away from me. I can't get that back."
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-- Tom Marshall, Times staff writer