Poor planning — and a poor response in a crisis — do not come close to describing the unnecessary havoc that unfolded at Hernando High School Tuesday night. Because the gymnasium was filled to fire-code capacity, an undetermined number of parents were unable to be in the same room as their graduating children when diplomas were handed out.
Uniformed law enforcement officers and school administrators blocked the doors to an increasingly angry — and in some cases, belligerent — crowd that was understandably frustrated the admission tickets they held did not guarantee a seat to watch a long-awaited and joyous milestone in their children's lives.
The reason they were denied entry? Because the school passed out more tickets than it had room to accommodate in the gym. Each graduate got at least six, and some as many as seven, tickets for families and friends. The seating was first-come, first served to any ticket holders.
Parents who could not gain entry were directed to the performing arts center, where they watched the ceremony on a monitor. But that experience just isn't the same, and any school official who rationalizes that it is an acceptable substitute just doesn't get it.
School administrators knew the number of graduates, the number of staff members who would be attending, and the seating capacity of the gym. An elementary school student could have done the math to determine how many tickets should have been distributed.
But that didn't happen and Superintendent Wayne Alexander not only should hold someone accountable for this clearly avoidable glitch, he should offer an apology to the parents and students who were deprived of a live view of their momentous moment. If he will not, then School Board Chairwoman Sandy Nicholson should.
And then Nicholson should ask Alexander for a public explanation about how this occurred, and how he plans to ensure it will not be repeated in years to come. That solution may be as simple as moving the commencement ceremonies outdoors, or it may require that his principals negotiate some 3rd grade FCAT-level math skills before they print the graduation tickets.
Or, if there ever is a similar problem at any high school, either he or the principal should assume control of the situation and put themselves on the front line of the offended parents, instead of relegating that responsibility to underlings and law enforcement officers.
This embarrassing incident cannot be dismissed as an oversight. It could have been avoided entirely with better planning, and toned down with a better response.