Macomb TownshipJune 26, 2012
Chippewa Valley mulls location of next year’s graduation
By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer
Though Chippewa Valley’s graduation took place just a couple of weeks ago, the Board of Education already needs to choose the location of next year’s ceremony.
“We are in this little dilemma where in the not-too-distant future we need to commit,” said Superintendent Ronald Roberts said.
The administration favors holding the commencement ceremony at Freedom Hill Park in Sterling Heights, which has been rumored to be reopening after several years of litigation between Macomb County and Hillside Productions, based on the scenery the location provided.
But it also admitted the challenges to pulling off an event there because of the weather, and because they still don’t know if Freedom Hill will be available next year.
Hank Riberas, spokesman for Hillside Productions, said that the operational rights of the park are up for sale, and they are narrowing a group of finalists.
The school district graduated 1,159 students in 2012 at Pontiac’s Ultimate Soccer Arena, said Roberts. He asked for board input into the decision about next year’s venue.
Board member Euel Kinsey said when his oldest daughter graduated at Freedom Hill, it was wonderful.
“I know the consensus that I’ve heard from parents is that they’d rather have it at Freedom Hill,” Kinsey said. “However, this year, I didn’t hear one complaint. In fact, there were a lot of people that were grateful (it was indoors) because it was so hot this year.”
Roberts said the deposit for Ultimate Soccer Arena is $6,000 — the same as Freedom Hill — and is nonrefundable.
Ed Skiba, the executive director of educational services, said the soccer arena is going to want a commitment within a month. He said the arena has already been approached by other high schools about holding graduation ceremonies there.
“I have mixed emotions,” Skiba said. “I am big fan of Freedom Hill, but I am also practical.”
He said planning an outdoor event of that size at Freedom Hill can be hard because the weather can create so many factors.
“One year, during Dakota graduation, a big wind came down and blew the diploma covers right off the stage,” Skiba said. “Personally, I’d be happy with Ultimate Soccer. Weather’s not a factor, parking is good, and they’re good to us.”
Roberts agreed with Skiba’s skepticism.
“On a perfect day, you can’t beat Freedom Hill,” Roberts said. “It’s a beautiful setting. But perfect days at the beginning of June is hard to come by.”
Board member Andrew Patzart said the decision should be up to the schools, and the board should stay out of the decision-making process.
“We’ll just keep our mouths shut,” Patzart joked.
Staff writer Cortney Casey contributed to this story.
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