PTSA narrows graduation venue list to two facilities

Nov. 24, 2009, midnight | By Lauren Kestner | 14 years ago

Cole Field House and DAR Constitution Hall under consideration

In a meeting held Nov. 17, the Blair Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) narrowed the list of potential graduation venues down to the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) Cole Field House and the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Principal Darryl Williams is currently soliciting input from PTSA officers, parents, staff and Blair seniors before he makes a final decision, according to PTSA Senior Class Parent Liaison Kathleen Bryan.

The Cole Field House at the University of Maryland, College Park is one graduation venue under consideration. Picture courtesy of the University of Maryland website.

Senior Class Faculty Liaison Danyel Hartfield, Senior Class President Tamara Taylor and Williams led an assembly in the auditorium during fourth period on Monday to collect feedback on students' graduation venue preferences. Taylor delivered a PowerPoint presentation that outlined the pros and cons of each facility before administering a senior class vote on Blair's graduation options. Seniors voted in favor of DAR Constitution Hall by a margin of 261 to 183 ballots, according to Taylor. Williams is not committed to selecting the venue preferred by the senior class and will continue to confer with parents and faculty before announcing his decision.

Williams also sought feedback from the PTSA after communicating updates on the graduation selection process at the Nov. 17 meeting. The PTSA Board of Directors and general membership voted to hold the 2010 commencement ceremonies at the Cole Field House, according to Bryan, although she mentioned that the vote was divided. "My remembrance is that an overwhelming majority of the executive board voted to pursue Cole Field House, but the PTSA [membership] vote did not have a clear majority," she said. The sharp divide in graduation venue preferences that exists within the Blair community likely stems from differences in cost, seating capacity, building amenities and parking availability between the two potential graduation sites.

Cole Field House, a large gym that has 12,000 stadium-style seats, would allow each senior 10 admission tickets to distribute among friends and family members. In contrast, DAR Constitution Hall is a small concert hall with 3,702 theater-style seats that would afford each senior four admission tickets. Bryan mentioned that the increased seating capacity at Cole Field House makes the facility appealing to many Blair families. "The primary advantage is that it allows the family of each graduating senior a larger number of tickets," she said.

The disparity in rental costs for each facility is another factor that Williams will consider before selecting the final graduation venue, according to Bryan. "The PTSA and Mr. Williams are sensitive to the fact that a lot of families are struggling in a difficult economic climate," she said. Bryan explained that Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) allocates $5,000 to all high schools for their graduation ceremonies regardless of class size. "The way funds are allocated to schools with graduating seniors doesn't seem very equitable," she said. "Not each school has the same number of graduating seniors and a set of population and economic challenges."

DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. is another facility that Blair might rent for graduation. Picture courtesy of

The funds provided by MCPS would cover the cost to graduate at DAR Constitution Hall but not additional expenses for items such as flowers and programs, according to PTSA President Peter Lafen. "My understanding is that after the $5,000 from MCPS is spent, it would still cost the senior class $6,000," he said.

Bryan confirmed that the school has already scheduled graduation at DAR Constitution Hall in the event that Williams decides Cole Field House poses too much of a financial burden on families. We've been assigned a day and time at DAR," she said. "It's more affordable than Cole Field House."

The space at Cole Field House is expected to cost Blair an additional $15,000, according to Lafen. In the Monday assembly, Williams mentioned that seniors would have to pay a significant amount of money to help cover graduation expenses at Cole Field House. "The difference as far as senior dues go is that you're looking at 25 or 30 [dollars] more for Cole Field House," he said.

Building amenities are another criteria that Williams will use to evaluate each facility. One of the most significant differences between the two facilities is that DAR Constitution hall offers air conditioning, but the Cole Field House only provides fans. In the Monday PowerPoint presentation, Taylor also mentioned that Cole Field House is more accessible to parents because there is a parking lot nearby. DAR Constitution Hall has limited parking, but chartered busing is available to transport students to the facility.

The PTSA also looked into holding graduation on the turf at Blair, according to Bryan. The outdoor graduation option was discarded when the PTSA discovered that renting a tent as a back-up plan for inclement weather was too expensive. "It would be perfect," she said. "We have a new turf field, the bleachers are there, it would be easy to cart in equipment, but the county mandates that we have a contingency plan."

Lauren Kestner. Lauren Kestner loves Trader Joe's chocolates, cheesy television soap operas, summer trips to Lake Anna, coffee ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, hikes at Northwest Branch and shopping at Heritage. Playing soccer for Blair or her MSC club team and running at the gym consumes much … More »

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