The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

‘Rite Idea: Disconnect With District’s Decision

Commencement speaker choice demonstrates lack of community input
Kevin Reeves
The class of 2019 receives diplomas during its commencement cermony at the CSU Wolstein Center. Journalist David Pogue (’81) was the speaker.

We commend Marcia Fudge for withdrawing as commencement speaker for the class of 2024 and the district for accepting her withdrawal.

Fudge withdrew following backlash about the choice to invite her to speak. She was criticized for her past support of Lance Mason. In 2015, Fudge wrote a letter advocating for a lighter sentence for Mason, a former Cuyahoga County judge, when he pleaded guilty to assaulting Aisha Fraser, his wife. At the time, Fudge was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Mason later murdered Fraser, a sixth-grade teacher at Woodbury, in 2018. Fudge withdrew her support for Mason in a statement after the murder.

We also appreciate the students, staff and community members who created and signed a petition to remove Fudge as speaker and sent emails to administration. Awareness is important, but change isn’t possible unless people voice their opinions. Seniors can now enjoy commencement, an event that’s meant to celebrate their hard work, without the possibility of protests and backlash.

However, we must acknowledge that this situation was avoidable. There is no shortage of students, teachers and other community members who opposed her invitation. The district should have gauged public opinion of Fudge’s appropriateness as commencement speaker before making the announcement. That way, they could have replaced her before controversy escalated as it inevitably did.

This is only one example of the district’s communication problems, some of which concern much more significant decisions such as detracking and joining the IB program.

Teachers say they didn’t receive adequate support when the district detracked in 2020. The change was implemented hastily, without warning for teachers, who were informed about the decision two days before school started, and without gathering community feedback. It was impossible to immediately know how to change instruction, let alone how to deliver lessons, especially because school began that year with remotely that meant students logged into class from home. 

In a March 10, 2023 Shakerite story, Language and Literature Department Chairwoman Emily Shrestha said that the issue was not detracking, but the lack of communication that surrounded it. “Deleveling in itself is not a bad thing, but we did it the wrong way. We did it all at once, without any sort of training for staff and without any context for students,” Shrestha said.

Most recently, the district announced a new ID policy at 5 p.m. on a Friday, May 3, through email and social media, to be implemented the following Monday, May 6. Not all students check their email, especially on weekends, nor does everyone use social media. Staff were informed at the beginning of the week, but not all of them communicated the upcoming changes to their classes.

We want the district to use the controversy surrounding Fudge’s invitation as an opportunity for growth. Taking the community’s concerns into account when choosing a speaker — or making bigger decisions — could help restore trust in its leadership.

A version of this article appears in print on page 10 of Volume 94, Issue 2, published May 24, 2024. 

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