School board lowers graduation requirements

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District is considering the creation of a tiered system of high school diplomas that would offer high achieving students that complete a certain number of community service hours a new comprehensive district diploma, while graduation requirements for a basic diploma would be reduced half a credit to state minimums.

Gloversville High School Principal Richard DeMallie approached the Board of Education during Monday’s meeting to propose reducing graduation requirements to receive a high school diploma from 22.5 credits to 22 credits, the state mandated minimum.

DeMallie said the high school’s graduation requirement has been set at 22.5 credits since before he took the position of principal 11 years ago, while five out of 10 area schools in the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES region and six out 10 schools in the Foothills Council require the state minimum 22 credits for graduation.

“We don’t want to make it any harder than possible for our students to graduate in four years, so we would like to be at the state requirement of 22,” DeMallie said, suggesting the half credit could be dropped from the elective requirement that is currently set at a minimum of four credits for Regents diplomas.

GESD Superintendent David Halloran noted to the board that while previously serving as principal of Fonda-Fultonville High School, the school’s graduation requirement was reduced from 24 credits to 22.

“I support this, because obviously it’s not about lowering the bar for kids, it’s New York state’s requirement,” Halloran said. “The opportunity still exists for students to take 30-plus credits and college credits, those who want to take courses all four years, fill up their schedule and flourish, those students will certainly have that opportunity.”

Halloran noted that reducing the graduation requirement may afford struggling students greater flexibility in their schedule to make up needed courses, to include a study hall or for special education students to receive assistance.

“I don’t know how many students…that maybe we’ve lost in the past few years as a result of that half credit, it’s probably not many at all, but if it means a schedule difference with a kid graduating on time, saying ‘OK, well we can schedule you for X number of courses and you can get 22, but there is no room for that half elective,’ that probably does come up time to time,” Halloran said.

Additionally, Halloran said the district could create a tiered system of diplomas introducing a new comprehensive district diploma to the currently offered local, Regents and advanced Regents diplomas.

“It’s something that districts put in place to incentivize students to try to achieve,” Halloran said. “And it recognizes them at graduation.”

DeMallie explained that a comprehensive district diploma would require high school students to complete a minimum of 28 credits, including four years of math and science, while performing 300 hours of community service over the course of four years. The comprehensive district diploma would become the highest credential conferred on graduating students.

“I think it’s a great suggestion,” DeMallie added.

Halloran signaled his support to the simultaneous approach of reducing the graduation requirement half a credit while introducing another diploma to offer to high achieving students.

“Not all kids are the same, they’re not cookie cutters, some you could set that goal at 30 and they would fly through it, others despite all of our attempts it’s pretty difficult to get a 100-percent graduation rate,” Halloran said.

The board did not raise any objections to the proposals that would require an amendment to the district policy through passage of two readings of the updated policy before implementation in the coming school year.

Following the meeting, Board of Education President Robert Curtis said the board will likely move ahead with the proposed updates that could benefit students at all levels.

“I like the idea of doing the tiered diplomas that has 22 as the basic, we have the advanced [Regents] diploma that we already do now and then going up to a comprehensive. That will be good for the kids that are taking all of these credits and we do have a lot of kids that do a lot of volunteer work, it would be good to recognize those students at graduation,” Curtis said.