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The Little Promotion That Could

In late March the William S. Hart District canceled all eighth-grade promotion ceremonies, but despite the end of a time honored tradition, a number of students recently walked across a stage and received a diploma.

The ceremony, held in the Hyatt’s Grand Ballroom on June 4, was filled with students from five of the Hart District Junior High schools.

During the evening more than 90 students received diplomas, heard speeches from their peers as well as one UCLA Assistant Professor Tyrone Howard, and honored for achievements made throughout the year.

The promotion was a private event and not sanctioned by the Hart District, but according to organizer Colleen Banks-Shanahan, all students were welcomed to attend.

After the announcement from the Hart District canceling the ceremonies, students and parents took to social media sites to help give the junior high students a promotion ceremony.

Two students from Arroyo Seco Junior High, Macy Gibson and Tanner Diaz, spearheaded the movement from their school, while parents like Banks-Shanahan, Maisah Howard and Yolanda Carroll helped out from the other schools.

“I’m 41 years old and I have never known a single person who didn’t have an eighth-grade promotion ceremony, that’s why I did it,” said Banks-Shanahan, who had a child walk in Friday’s promotion.

Money to host the ceremony was provided by donations from companies and individuals from across Santa Clarita.

All Up In The Air Balloons donated all the balloons for the event, while another person donated the music and P.A system.  The Hyatt cut a deal with organizers charging only $10 per student, and not charging for audience members. 25Score donated $50 to the event while, the organizers worked with Screamin Coupons who donated more than $500.

“We felt strongly that we should do something for them,” said Sherri Carlton, Community Director for Screamin Coupons.  “Four of the junior high schools are already in our school rewards program.”

Screamin Coupons gave flyers to organizers which encouraged them to sign up for their website and in return donated $1 for every sign-up to the event and $1 to the students school.

“They didn’t have the $500 in sign-ups, but we gave it to them anyways,” said Carlton.

The district decided to opt out of the ceremonies in the face of a growing budget deficit.  The cancelation, according to the district, saved them more that $40,000.

"When we looked at the $40,000 that is a teaching job, another teacher we can keep working," said Jaime Castellanos, Hart District Superintendent in an interview in March.  "Not that graduations aren't important, but when we look at people’s livelihoods and putting someone in the unemployment line, as far as I'm concerned you have to keep people at work."