Both Shaianne and her mother, Shena Lamusta, pleaded during recent school board meetings for some kind of consideration. The family says Shaianne passed all of her classes at Campbell and earned more than enough credits to graduate. The second time she took the math test, she came within three points of passing, she said.
Across Georgia, students must earn enough credits to graduate, and also must pass a graduation test in each of four core subjects — math, English, science and social studies — to get a diploma. And since at least 2002, Cobb Schools has had a policy that prohibits students who haven’t met all of those graduation requirements from participating in their class ceremony.
Cobb schools spokesman Doug Goodwin said district officials do not know how many other members of the Class of 2012 have fallen short of meeting the requirements and are thus unable to participate in ceremonies this week. They always offer summer graduation ceremonies, though Goodwin couldn’t say how many diplomas were granted last summer because the district doesn’t aggregate that data.
Students like Shaianne can apply to state education officials for a waiver that would let them participate in their regular graduation ceremony, though without receiving an actual diploma. But the deadline to apply for such a waiver was April 26. Shaianne said it was around May 2 when a school counselor told her she wouldn’t get to walk at graduation.
“They told us and handed us a box of tissues because they knew we were going to cry,” she said. “That kind of ruined Senior Week, and it was the day before prom, too.”
Worse was breaking the news to her mother, she said. The school counselor had Shaianne telephone her mother, she said.
“I couldn’t even speak to her because I was so ashamed,” Shaianne recalled.
Soon after, Shaianne and her mother, Lamusta, went to a school board meeting. Shaianne has attended Cobb schools since kindergarten, and the family has lived in Cobb for nearly 60 years, Lamusta said.
“I didn’t think it was right that these kids don’t get a graduation ceremony,” Lamusta said. “She always struggled with math, but she passed her school classes and got more than enough credits, about three or four more than needed.”
Shaianne now intends to take the math graduation test for a third time in July. The district has scheduled a summer graduation ceremony for 7:30 p.m. July 12 at Osborne High School, and plans to hold another ceremony sometime in August.
“I would have loved to have walked with my class, but I know that wasn’t possible,” Shaianne said.
School Board member Lynnda Eagle, who represents northwest Cobb, said that while she believes strongly in accountability and responsibility, she is glad the summer graduation is an option for students like Shaianne.
“I believe in acknowledging an event as important as high school graduation,” Eagle said. “Not every student progresses at the same rate.”
Beginning with the class of 2015, the state will do away with the graduation tests and instead give more weight to the End-of-Course Tests. Students who entered ninth grade on or after July 1, 2011 will still have to earn required credits, but the End-of-Course Tests will count for 20 percent of their grade.