Brownsville ISD to keep graduations in the evening following student outcry

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Veterans Memorial Early College High School Senior Pierce Grove speaks to the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees during public comment to adhere to Groves’ advice not to change their graduation from the evening to early morning hours during a BISD regular board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

After a group of students from Veterans Memorial Early College High School expressed displeasure at Tuesday’s school board meeting about holding graduation ceremonies at 7:30 a.m., the board decided not to do it after all.

Students at Veterans Memorial got wind of the plan, which also would have saddled Porter Early College High School, with 7:30 a.m. graduation ceremonies.

The VMECHS students launched a Change.org petition that hundreds of students and their parents signed, Pierce De La Cruz Grove, a student at Veterans Memorial, told the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees during the public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting.

“As we all know, graduation is a special milestone shared by students, parents, grandparents, family and friends,” Grove said during his presentation. “The consequence of scheduling a 7:30 a.m. start time on a workday during working hours affects first and foremost working parents and families. This means making the difficult decision of going to work or going to school or attending graduation,” he said.

Veterans Memorial Early College High School students applaud and stand with their fellow classmate Pierce Grove after his public comments to not change their graduation from the evening to early morning hours during a BISD regular board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

For years, graduation ceremonies for BISD’s six full-service high schools have been scheduled at 7:30 p.m., one after another, at Sams Memorial Stadium, with Brownsville Early College High School holding its ceremonies at the Texas Southmost College Performing Arts Center in the early 2000s and recently at Sams in the morning on a day when another high school had its ceremony in the evening.

Last year, thunderstorms forced BISD to reschedule graduation ceremonies for two schools in the morning. This year’s ceremonies for Veterans Memorial are scheduled for May 31, a Friday.

Grove made reference to bad weather during last year’s graduation season.

“All these comments come with one important caveat. We fully understand bad weather affects graduation times, as we experienced last year. However, we cannot predict or control the weather seven months in advance, and considering that there are three other graduations scheduled for the evening, we believe that this is not a strong enough reason to schedule it for 7:30 a.m.,” he said.

“If in fact it does rain on May 31, the district will end up rescheduling three entire graduations instead of just one,” he said.

“Which brings me to our proposed solution — schedule all high school graduations on stand-alone evenings,”

Grove also said that the class of 2024 at Veterans spent four years working hard for this moment and even had raised funds around an evening graduation so they could have a fireworks display afterwards. He said his class did not want to interfere with graduation plans by the city’s other BISD high schools.

“All BISD graduating seniors deserve to have the best graduation possible. We are all here because our parents and community believed that BISD was the best choice. We ask that you make the best choice for all of us on this matter and please change the time,” he said.

The Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) Board of Trustees held a regular board meeting Tuesday evening, Oct. 3, 2023. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Later in the meeting, the board did just that.

On a motion by Minerva Pena and Frank Ortiz, the board voted to hold graduations for all six schools at 7:30 p.m. Board members said they had received requests from parents to hold to the 7:30 p.m. tradition. Board member Denise Garza said the idea had been brought to the board for the last three years.

“We’ll leave it alone. We’ll leave it at 7:30 p.m. We won’t bring it back and we’ll just deal with the weather as it happens,” Superintendent Rene Gutierrez said, noting that ceremonies had come within a few minutes of being struck by a hail storm this past year.

In a related matter the board voted to name the football field at Sams after Joe A. Rodriguez, the late coach, athletic director and BISD board member who passed away in 2021.

Beyond his professional accolades and contributions to the BISD community, Rodriguez believed in the principle of leading by example and the potential of every student, board member Daniella Lopez Valdez said in making the motion to name the field after Rodriguez.

Members directed Gutierrez to have a plaque prepared celebrating Rodriguez’s legacy to be placed in a prominent place at the stadium.


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