Friday, June 11, 2004
The graduation to remember
The heavens shone favorably on the Concord-Carlisle High School class of 2004 as graduating students marched onto the football field beneath a patch of blue sky. Elated family, friends, and faculty echoed the radiant weather with sunglasses and smiles, celebrating the accomplishments of the past and those in years to come.
After all were seated, for the first time in three years, the award-winning CCHS Concert Band delivered the National Anthem. While the conduct of ceremony was analogous to those in the past given the various traditions, there was undoubtedly a unique aspect to this year's graduation; pervading the jubilant atmosphere, evident first in Principal Arthur Dulong's opening address and in subsequent remarks by the various speakers, were overtones of the teacher contract conflict.
Concerns over the teachers' contract had cast some shadows of doubt as to whether or not the teachers' union would even be participating at graduation. The overwhelming presence and support of the CCHS faculty not only eliminated such doubt, but served to emphasize the dedication and commitment of the CCHS teachers to their students.
The CCHS teachers are without question the unsung heroes of the class of 2004. Prior to the Advanced Placement tests — more commonly referred to as the APs — this year, I cannot forget how my AP chemistry teacher spent Mother's Day afternoon and evening an hour away from her home, husband and one-year old son in New Hampshire to help me and one other student prepare for the AP test. Without contract, she had performed the same routine two weeks earlier and even brought pizza without charge. Such above-and-beyond commitment is not unique to a few teachers at CC; rather it has become the standard.
The elected faculty speaker for this year's graduation was Mr. Wilson Flight who has been a science teacher in the Concord school systems for the past 31 years. Due to unfortunate circumstances involving personal injury, Mr. Flight was unable to attend graduation. Thus Mr. Denis Cleary of the Social Studies department delivered Mr. Flight's speech with his own perspective. In his lengthy tenure as a teacher at CCHS, Mr. Flight has taken students on expeditions across the world, adding a dimension to education that is unparalleled elsewhere. While this was touched on briefly, the heart of the speech focused on the change that the high school has undergone. Indeed, CCHS is almost completely different from how it was 30 years ago; however, the one thing that has not changed (at least not as of yet), is the quality of education. This was to be Mr. Flight's last year; however, he has already agreed to return to CCHS as a part-time teacher in 2005.
Mr. Andrew Sapp, an English teacher for four years who has been called to active duty in Iraq for the National Guard, spoke following Mr. Flight's address. Staff Sergeant Sapp gave his salute to the class of '04 and the ceremony proceeded to the awards. The Flag awards, given to a boy and girl selected by the faculty, were given to Matthew Boucher and Daniella Granato. The gold medals for highest grade point averages were given to Sarah Lambert and Meghan Flaherty. When the award recipients took their seats, Ms. Gina Bergskaug and Mr. Ray Pavlik, the class advisors, began the reading of names as Mr. Patrick Sinnott of the School Committee handed out diplomas.
For those members of the audience left wondering as to the meaning of the gold stripes worn on the gowns of the majority of seniors, the stripes had written on them the number 341, signifying the 341 days that the CCHS faculty has been working without contract.
As I sat and watched old friends that I have known since kindergarten, new friends that I have only recently met, and strangers that I have not once seen in the hallways, step onto and off of the platform, I felt the sense of bewilderment that one only feels a few times in one's life. I am sure that I was not alone in sharing this sentiment.
The impact that thirteen years of school has on a person doesn't hit home until graduation day, when one sees all the faces and people that have shaped this life and one realizes that in a few short months they will be gone. I've heard it said that high school constitutes the best four years in a person's life. To this, I've also heard it said, "I hope not, each year should be your best year".
The graduation ceremony ended with a marvelous outdoor reception sponsored by the class of 2005. After pictures were taken and food was devoured, I felt my bewilderment slip away. Graduation was but a brief chapter in an ongoing novel; there are plenty more surprises in store.
To the class of 2004, treasure these years not because they were or will be the best of your lives, but because, through dedicated teachers and faithful friends, they have shaped who you are and who you will become.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito