As a result of last year's senior pranks that went well beyond adolescent high jinx, Schreiber Principal Jay Lewis attempted to pre-empt a repeat of last year's last day of school by canceling the last day of classes, Monday, June 13 and initiating a "Senior Day" on Friday, June 10. However, the seniors were not notified about Monday's cancellation until midday on Friday, June 10. Some students believe they were deliberately kept in the dark.
Explaining his decision, Mr. Lewis said, "Last spring the actions of a broad group of students at Schreiber from all grade levels resulted in unsafe and disruptive conditions particularly on the last day of classes. It was the view of the Schreiber staff, district officials, the Schreiber administration, many parents and many students that the school was not in control - particularly on the last day of the school year. Several students became ill and required medical treatment, animals were mistreated and abused, multiple disruptions to the school day occurred, and the Port Washington police were called to provide assistance." He concluded, "It was not a good situation nor could we afford to allow it to continue in any form in 2005."
Continuing, he stated "The decision to hold a "Senior Day" on Friday, June 10, was part of the a plan to provide another venue for seniors to celebrate the end of their education in Port Washington and to continue the process of closure. Not having seniors at Schreiber on June 13, was a critical element of our security plan to ensure that we could set a positive and serious tone for underclass students who will be here next year and who have a wide variety of final and Regents examinations over the testing period (which is June 14 through June 23). Historically, class attendance of seniors on the last day of classes has been sporadic. Last year, the presence of large numbers of seniors who were not attending class on the last day was part of the reason why good order deteriorated."
He noted, "While we were not happy to significantly increase security measures and make some changes in the schedule and routings at the end of the school year, it was necessary to do so."
However, some seniors were not happy with the school's decision, especially those who were part of a Principal's Student Advisory Committee created to prevent a reoccurrence of last year's major disruption. This "End of the Year Task Force" consisted of members of the administration, staff and the Class of 2005. Student members of the task force, like Halsey Diakow, felt their input was for naught and were outraged at the action. "I must have missed 12 hours of class to debate issues that apparently the administrators had already decided," she said. The committee met with parent and faculty committees, and drafted letters to parents and the school board proposing punishments if anything should happen. It even helped plan a senior fun day to celebrate the end of the year on June 10, without the slightest notion that the last day of classes would be Thursday, June 9. They were in disbelief when they received the news at school on June 10 and realized that that was to be their last of classes. Consequently, they felt deceived and betrayed, as their letters to the editor indicate in this week's issue.
They also mistrust the ostensible motive given for canceling June 13, which was that "seniors deserve to properly celebrate their many successes over the past year and throughout their time at Schreiber." Graduating senior Jamie Bushell said, "I couldn't believe that the principals actually thought that they could camouflage an effort to thwart senior pranks as a 'reward' for seniors."
More important for Bushell and others is the issue of closure. "On Thursday I left school, I had absolutely no idea that it would be the last time I exited the front doors of Schreiber legally," he said. He felt robbed of the opportunity to just sit in the cafeteria for the last time and say goodbye to teachers and friends
The students also don't like being punished for other students' poor behavior. Bushell drew an interesting analogy. "How would you feel if a police officer pulled you over and gave you a ticket because you were driving the speed limit, but the person in front of you was speeding," he offered.
When asked to comment, Schreiber Principal Jay Lewis replied, "Knowing that requesting seniors not be on campus on Monday, June 14 would be upsetting to some, Mr. Carmine Matina (Class of 2005 assistant principal) and I approved all requests by students and parents to be present to return books, see teachers, attend review classes and take exams. Seniors who arrived that Monday morning to protest this decision were permitted to be on school grounds and to enter the school. They were cooperative and respectful of the need for the school day to be calm and orderly. Many seniors recognized the need for the administration to take strong action this year based on the problems that the school experienced last year."
But Class of '05 student Adwait Parker says, "I believe he earned that success (in preventing a senior prank) ... but this deceitful, dishonest move will taint the relationship between the students and the administration for years to come."
Those feelings aside, Mr. Lewis says that he is pleased and proud that no members of the Class of 2005 were sanctioned for unacceptable behavior during the last days of classes. In fact, he said that they conducted themselves in an exemplary manner.