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School officials unveil Gainesville's new graduation plan
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In Wednesday’s Times, learn more about pay for performance options that may be implemented in Gainesville City Schools.

Families and friends of graduates can expect a more comfortable ceremony at Gainesville High School this May, Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.

Gainesville High Principal Chris Mance on Monday unveiled a detailed plan for graduation 2011, after last year’s ceremony spurred complaints from community members.

Administrators looked at a number of issues including parking, tickets and conduct in the arena.

Last year, the school saw a record number of graduates, about 250, which caused overcrowding in the high school gym.
Mance said the school will now limit the number of tickets allotted to each student from 15 to eight.

To alleviate parking and cut congestion, school buses will be available to shuttle students and families from nearby Lakeshore Mall to the school.

A suggestion was also made to use parking decals and to color code areas of the parking lot.

School officials investigated holding the ceremony at another venue for additional space, Dyer said. They approached a few local churches, but found seating was often more limited.

“Also, seniors really wanted to have the ceremony at their school,” Dyer said.

One source of overcrowding last year was the number of school staff in attendance.

“The students who graduated last year must have been very well loved,” Dyer said. “But we had to ask some staff to leave so that parents could have a seat.”

The school will begin a new tradition of an “elephant walk,” in which faculty will form about a 50-foot reception line outside the gym on graduation day.

Mance said extra security will be added near the school’s seven entrances.

“It was an issue last year when we ran out of space and people were trying to get in,” he said.

In the case of a high turnout, Mance said some attendees will be directed to the school’s Performing Arts Center, where they will show a live video feed of the ceremony.

“We will encourage people with small children to go in there to lower noise,” he added.

Among other issues last year was the sound system, which many complained was not loud enough. To quiet the sound of fans, the air conditioner was cut back, which in turn heated up the gym.

Mance said the school invested in a new $3,800 sound system and will reposition speakers to accommodate the size of the building.

“Our sound technician said we will be able run air during the ceremony,” Mance said.

The school board questioned Mance about conduct in the arena, and how they might address noise from the audience.

“Some students are first-time graduates in families, and we don’t want to stifle them,” Mance said.
School board member David Syfan suggested a longer pause as the speaker announces the names, to give the crowd time to quiet.

“I’ve enjoyed graduation every time, it’s just there were some noise issues,” Syfan said.

The Gainesville High School graduation will be held May 20.

In other business, the board took a closer look at its commitment to study strategic compensation, also known as incentive pay or pay for performance. As part of federal requirements for the Race to the Top grant awarded to the state, some educators will be rewarded with more funds for meeting performance targets.

The board looked at a possible model and Dyer said the district might have to practice implementing incentive pay in the future.
She added that the state probably won’t take any action on the issue until 2013 or 2014.

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