Sorry, no Charlie for high school grads
June 13, 2008 · Updated 11:39 AM
By MIKE HALLIDAY
Charles Hoff will not attend high school graduation ceremonies later this month.
The Federal Way School Board member is opting out for a second year from attending commencement exercises because he believes many seniors don't behave appropriately during the ceremonies.
There is "a general lack of respect for the decorum of graduation," Hoff said.
Additionally, he believes some seniors are not ready to wear the mortar board and gown of a high school graduate.
"I am concerned that there are some people who are deserving (of receiving a diploma) and some who are not," Hoff said Tuesday.
Board members traditionally participate in graduation ceremonies by handing diplomas to seniors.
Hoff said he will attend other ceremonies, such as the Federal Way High School academic achievement celebration and the Occupational Skills Center ceremony.
This isn't Hoff's first time choosing not to attend the graduation ceremonies, nor the first time he has expressed it publicly. In the Mirror on Nov. 22, 2003, he wrote a column about the problems plaguing the school district. The last item was student behavior, and Hoff wrote that was a reason he was no longer attending graduation ceremonies.
"'We have to search our students at graduation prior to the ceremony to insure that there will be a reasonable level of decorum,'" Hoff wrote.
Hoff was criticized by fellow board member Earl Van Dorien Jr. at the last School Board meeting. Publicly, Van Dorien spoke against Hoff's decision during a comment time reserved for board members to make statements about matters they feel are important.
Van Dorien said he wanted the public to know Hoff's decision was not a collective choice of the board.
"That is a slap in the face of every teacher, student, administrator and parent," Van Dorien said Tuesday of Hoff's decision. "It's an affront."
Van Dorien said he asked Hoff before the meeting started if he was choosing not to attend this year's ceremonies. When Hoff confirmed that he was not going, Van Dorien decided to make his objections public.
Hoff said he didn't respond to Van Dorien's comments, and both board members said their colleagues also did not say anything. However, board members typically don't respond to each other's remarks.
Bob Millen was the only board member available for comment this week. He declined to speak specifically on the issue, stating he didn't think it was appropriate for board members to remark on other's opinions.
Hoff is ready for negative reaction about his decision. "I will hold my ground," he said.
Mike Comstock, president of the Federal Way Education Association, the local teachers union, said he is disappointed by Hoff's decision. Boardmembers attending the graduations send a message to the students that the event is important, but when they do not participate, the message they leave is unclear, Comstock said.
"It hurts those who do deserve (graduating)," he said in response to Hoff's belief some students are not ready to graduate.
"He's on the board and will have to take responsibility for some of that," Comstock added.
But Comstock also spoke favorably of Hoff, pointing out the board member spends a lot of time in schools and has helped students get accepted to colleges and military institutions. He is also a strong supporter of vocational education.
"That's where Charles and I are on the same page," Comstock said.
Federal Way, Thomas Jefferson and Decatur high schools will have their graduation ceremonies on June 19 at the Tacoma Dome. The Truman Center, Federal Way Public Schools' alternative high school, has scheduled its graduation for July 8.
Todd Beamer High School, which opened last fall, will have its first graduating class next year.
Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, email@example.com