7571 North Elyria Road, West Salem, OH 44287
Phone: (419) 846-3151
Fax: (419) 846-3361
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Graduation Update: 5/22/20

May 22, 2020

Northwestern Class of 2020, Parents, and Community Members:

Know that as superintendent of our great school district I have pursued and have attempted to influence the decisions/restrictions handed-down regarding graduation commencement in an attempt to hold a traditional, stadium graduation ceremony throughout this spring - and I continue to do so.

I sent a formal request to hold a traditional graduation commencement in the Husky Football Stadium – with a laid-out plan last night to do it safely to our Wayne County Health Dep. Commissioner Nick Cascarelli. This is the same plan we had put together back in late March, before it was rejected at that time and the current May 31st proposal was later approved in early May. He and I talked this morning and he denied this new request for a traditional graduation ceremony in our football stadium because it is a governor’s order to not allow it. I concur with our community concerns that weddings, receptions, and other venues are allowed, but school graduation is not. Excluding school graduations specifically while allowing other events is not consistent or fair. I voiced this and included it in my request as well. However, fines, jail time, and career licenses are at jeopardy for failing to follow their directives - so we are required to do so. I requested Nick to solicit a possible avenue of prosecutor approval and he shared he would pursue the legalities of my proposal with the Wayne County Prosecutor. Later today I did receive the decision that the prosecutor advised him not to allow this.

Know that I serve on a statewide Governor’s Education Task Force and have since early March. We meet weekly. This group of 8 Ohio superintendents, key Dept. of Education personnel, a Governor’s liaison, as well as sometimes the state superintendent and Governor DeWine, himself, have discussed and advised the Department of Education as well as the Governor on school issues relative to the school closures to students and have been discussing possibilities regarding school restart next year as well. We do not make the final decisions, but having a seat at the table helps influence some decisions and we do have a voice on many topics. Throughout our meetings I have been advocating the desire for a controlled, traditional, outdoor graduation commencement along the way, to no avail. I contacted the governor this morning again (I had discussed with him personally and individually previously regarding this topic with my initial discussion with him occurring in mid-April on this particular topic) appealing to him to allow outdoor stadium graduations of under 300 people with appropriate social distancing, masks for families, and other safety measures.

If the Governor does not make a decision to permit stadium graduations with under 300 people prior to May 31 he is unlikely to do so at all, so we are planning to stick with our May 31 date and the current graduation plan that I submitted and Nick had approved in early May until/unless we hear something more.

I will not speak to what other schools may be doing in other counties., with other County Health Commissioners and other Prosecutors making their decisions. I do know that our Wayne County people say “no”, which is where it will remain unless the Governor himself rescinds his orders. Know also that I have spoken with other school superintendents about their plans on many occasions and when I hear rumors of traditional stadium graduations planned by other schools I have and continue to follow-up with them to get the facts. Also, rumors are shared on social media regarding and presented as fact, which does not help as far as what other schools do and have done. Know that Northwestern has the approved graduation proposal at the High School that was approved and we are moving forward with on May 31st. However, if the governor would announce allowing graduation lifting the state restrictions on or prior to next Friday, May 29th Northwestern would shift to a traditional graduation.

I want everyone to know that every effort has been made for a traditional stadium graduation. However, nothing has changed to allow this to occur at this point in time.

Jeffrey N. Layton, Ed.D.
Northwestern Local Schools

Office: 419-846-3151
Mobile: 330-317-5175
e-mail: [email protected]

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7571 North Elyria Road, West Salem, OH 44287 | Phone: (419) 846-3151 | Fax: (419) 846-3361
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