1. Archive

Other perspectives on graduation action

Editor: I feel that someone should present the "other side" of the "terrible" East Lake High School students who defaced the school buildings and put toilet paper on the trees of the property.

(Times staff writer) Amelia Davis would do well to get her "facts" from both sides, but I suppose she would never be caught doing such awful things in the exuberance of graduating and letting off a little steam.

Nor would (staff writer) Bill Coats, who had the bad taste of accosting the graduates as they were leaving the stage. I presume he also was "lily white" in his senior high school year and would not be caught doing such a thing.

Caught is the right word. These students did not need to go through the hell the press has put them through if they had not had the honesty and the integrity to go to the principal and tell what they had done and offer to make restitution, which they did.

Ms. Davis, the damage was not $2,000, as you so blithely reported, and the $116 each student paid would have been much less if all involved had told on themselves, too.

Nowhere in your paper did I see anything printed on the senior pranks committed at the other high schools in Pinellas County. Why single out East Lake High School?

Granted, some of the students went too far, but to name only the two student leaders _ calculated, I presume, to ruin their graduation _ was a pretty low blow on the day they graduated.

I also know that these two students did not deface the building or write graffiti on the walls. The extent of their "crimes" was to put toilet paper on the tree that seniors have decorated since the school was built.

I also did not see any reference to the hundreds of hours these students put in both at school and in the community working for the benefit of others. They have given of their time to help those in need, including collecting countless cans of food and supplies for Hurricane Andrew victims. They have helped needy families at every holiday season.

They have been criticized by a few who did little work and did not care how hard the two named students worked for them.

These two students had every right to stand up at graduation and speak. They earned it for four years, and one mistake in four years is a pretty good record.

To all the critical students and faculty, I say just look back at your own high school years and see if you did all you could for the welfare of others as these two leaders did. It makes one feel ashamed for the criticism heaped on these few students, doesn't it?

These students thoroughly regretted this incident and wished they had never participated in it. I hope whoever turned in their names to the press is now satisfied that these students have paid a high enough price. This one misguided act cannot diminish their four years of unequalled service.

Mrs. Harry Walter, Safety Harbor

Editor: Three cheers for the principal of East Lake High School. She surely deserves much praise for her handling of the disreputable actions of certain students.

They should most certainly have to pay for all of the repair and cleanup costs due to their poor judgment.

Philip W. Belote, Dunedin

Dunedin High School:

This needed reporting

Editor: How I wish I could have been the reporter covering the Dunedin High School graduation June 10. Here are a few of the things I would have wanted to say:

In an elegant and colorful setting of red and white flowers, ribbons, banners and caps and gowns, the 303 graduating seniors of Dunedin High School sat on the stage of Ruth Eckerd Hall for what longtime faculty members are calling the "classiest and most perfectly orchestrated" ceremony in the history of Dunedin High School.

The Class of '93, known for its exceptional talent and intellect, maintained its reputation by choosing to graduate in an atmosphere of dignity and maturity. They were reminded of their claim to greatness when social studies teacher Danny Cole proudly and sincerely proclaimed, " '93, you were the best!"

The seniors chose to use their own talent for their graduation rites. The Dunedin High School barbershop quartet, made up of John Koch, Mike Loomis, Dan Petrie and Jeremy Silverman, sang a beautiful a cappella version of the national anthem that had been arranged by Jeremy Silverman.

Students who were not misty-eyed by the end of that performance were choking with emotion when the Dunedin High School bagpipe band concluded its traditional version of Amazing Grace and when the Dunedin High School choral members with Jeremy Silverman as soloist completed a touching rendition of Climb Every Mountain.

Eliminating the tradition of a guest speaker, the seniors also chose to speak for themselves. Class members were congratulated and urged on to greatness by Student Council president Sebastian Corriere, senior class present Chelsea John, two of the three class salutatorians, Amanda Tantum and Faisal Merchant, and the class valedictorian Curtis Frewin.

Dunedin High School principal Mildred Reed, celebrating with her first graduating class since becoming a principal; class sponsor Rita Sedore; and senior administrator Robert Heintz shook hands with the seniors as they had their individual moments of glory, hearing their names announced as official high school graduates.

After being recognized and thanked, about 80 Dunedin High School faculty members lined the two aisles to form a receiving line for the exiting graduates. Smiles, hugs, handshakes and congratulations were abundant as the bagpipers played Scotland the Brave and the teachers for one last time nudged their grown-up falcons from the nest.

For 213 seniors (over two-thirds of the class), the celebrating continued at the third annual all-night, drug-free graduation party at Schiller University. This party sponsored by the school's chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving and the school resource officer Ken Stevens, featured such things as professional comedians and magicians, caricaturists, a live band, a karaoke stage, donated food and thousands of dollars worth of door prizes.

Senior Fran Biegaj was the lucky winner of a 1984 Buick Skylark. The entire class was the lucky winner of a happy, healthy and totally injury-free graduation evening.

Cecilia B. Colbert

guidance counselor,

Dunedin High School

Editor: We, the faculty, parents and staff of Dunedin High School, feel that the coverage by the St. Petersburg Times of our graduation ceremony at Ruth Eckerd Hall was inadequate and highly negative for what was an exciting, dignified event.

(Times staff writer) Sabrina Miller neglected to highlight the beauty of the tremendous music as well as the incredible talent of the devoted students who performed collectively and individually, such as:

1. The chorus' performance of our Alma Mater.

2. The barbershop quartet, led by Jeremy Silverman, and its rendition of the National Anthem and Climb Every Mountain.

3. The bagpipe band and its moving arrangement of Amazing Grace.

4. The faculty receiving line greeting the graduates to the lilting strains of highland music.

These events certainly were more representative of the elegant ceremony that Mrs. Reed and the administrative staff provided for the outstanding class of '93.

Cindy Gamblin,

Dunedin High School teacher

Editor's note: Individual copies of the above letter also were received from 26 other Dunedin High School teachers and staff members.