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Graduation standards tightened by board

The Holland School Board on Monday closed a loophole in the district's graduation policy, toughening standards for students attending commencement ceremonies.

The new regulation, which will first affect graduates in 2007, states that high school seniors must meet or exceed state requirements and obtain required district credits before being eligible to attend a graduation ceremony.

Previously, a student could attend the June ceremony without fulfilling requirements.

"Summer school can't save them anymore," high school Principal James Biryla said. "The number of student in this situation has fluctuated from year to year, but there has been consistent growth in the number that have used this crutch to graduate."

In 2005, 21 students who did not complete graduation requirements were allowed to attend the graduation ceremonies. Seventeen of those students completed course work during the summer, while the other four returned to complete their work during the 2005-06 school year.

Biryla said Holland was the only school among 15 surveyed that allowed the practice. Most recently, the Williamsville School District tightened up its policy, which also allowed under-credited students to attend graduation ceremonies, Biryla said.

In other matters:

* The board approved an appeals process that allows some students who score within three points of the 65 passing grade to meet Regents diploma requirements, providing they meet other criteria. Biryla said the state Education Department has asked all school districts to consider adopting the policy.

* For the third consecutive month, members of the Holland Teachers Association, still without a contract, filled the School Board meeting room. Union President Linda DiPietro-Herraez urged cooperation in ending the standoff, which entered the mediation phase last month. Holland teachers, who have been without a contract for more than a year, contend that they are the lowest-paid in the county.

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