More than $50,000 at fault, over half for replacement IDs
Over half of all Blair students had their report cards withheld on Nov 20 due to financial obligations that totaled $53,325. According to school officials, the vast majority of the obligations were for school ID card payments.
On the day report cards were distributed in homerooms, 1,743 students, 54 percent of the student population, received financial obligation notification slips in place of their report cards, according to Business Manager Anne Alban. Ninety-six percent of the students with obligations incurred debts as a result of replacement IDs.
In past years, the financial office withheld report cards only at the end of the school year. Now, the office will withhold them each marking period.
Of the $53,325 in obligations students owed to the school as of Nov 13, $27,315 was owed for IDs, an amount equivalent to the replacement of 5,463 IDs. Financial Assistant Debbie Sollitto estimated that as of Dec 17, approximately $4,000 of the obligations had been repaid.
At the end of last school year, 1,519 students had financial obligations totaling $62,108. Of that amount, nearly $50,000 remained unpaid and carried over to the new school year. "Obligations are cumulative. It only ends when you pay the bill," said Principal Phillip Gainous.
Gainous found the student body's inability to comply with Blair's ID policy absurd, stating that simply wearing one's ID saves everyone a great deal of trouble. "If students wear their IDs, we aren't hassled and [students] aren't hassled," he said.
According to security guard Cedric Boatman, between 50 and 100 IDs are made every day. Like at other schools in the county, each replacement ID costs $5. Alban stated the money is used "strictly for replacement materials."
Alban is stunned that students could need upwards of 20 replacement IDs. "I can understand if a student loses one or two IDs, but not 15 to 20," she said.
Senior Lelia-Michelle Walker, who received an obligation slip of $475 for 27 IDs, eight books and other fees, conceded that keeping an ID is a student's responsibility. However, she maintained that Blair's ID policy is unfair and a waste of school time.
Annice Walker, Lelia-Michelle's mother, echoes her daughter's sentiments and is dissatisfied with the administration's inflexible ID policy. "[My daughter] wasn't allowed to go to her locker to get her ID. Instead she was sent to get a new one. That doesn't seem fair at all. It's juvenile," commented Walker, who is formally appealing much of her daughter's debt.
While Sollitto says that financial obligations create unnecessary stress for parents, Gainous explained that the large number of students who need replacement IDs each day also diverts security personnel from their job of keeping the building secure.
Administrative secretary Cherrie Avery, who strongly suggested the school withhold report cards each quarter, said that every school she has ever worked in did so in order to take care of debt before it grows out of control.
However, Gainous noted that Blair's handling of obligations has wavered from year to year. "When we don't have enough manpower, we don't get [report cards] pulled," Gainous said. Thus, last year the school withheld only the final report cards, since staff had more time at the end of the year to pull report cards before they were mailed during the summer.
Under the current school policy, students with financial obligations will not receive report cards until bills are paid. Also, students transferring to other schools will not have their records sent to their new school, and seniors with financial obligations will not be able to participate in graduation ceremonies or receive a diploma until all debts to the school are paid.
An obligation does not currently interfere with college transcript processing, but the registrar will not send mid-year college reports for seniors with obligations, according to assistant registrar Fran Conway. Gainous said he is also considering holding college transcripts in the future to force students to pay off their debts.
The financial office can work with families to formulate a payment plan that helps them pay off debt over a certain time period. But even in those instances, the school does not cancel or reduce the amount owed.
Gainous stressed that learning to handle debts and payments will be especially important later when the failure to pay bills results in severe consequences. "If you don't pay a car note, they take your car. If you don't pay your house bill, they put you on the street," said Gainous. "Students need to be responsible and not incur debts."
Vivian Wang. Vivian Wang, a senior at Blair, is a first year Managing Sports editor for Silver Chips. She is in the Blair Math, Science, and Computer Science Magnet Program, yet has equal interests in the humanities and arts. In fact, she belonged to the Eastern Humanities … More »