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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Hammonton High School graduation faces storm

Kristin Guglietti/THG

HAMMONTON—A quickly moving stormfront wreaked havoc on the closing moments of the graduation ceremony for Hammonton High School Class of 2024. Rapidly moving storm clouds and torrential downpours sent graduates, school officials and the audience scrambling as the event entered into the closing speeches.

With students already having paraded across the field, the ceremony had moved into speeches as heavy rain moved in. As the Salutatorian was giving her speech, rain picked up, forcing the ceremony and her speech to end abruptly.

As students and parents scrambled for cover, the platform was cleared with no school official addressing the crowd. Some attendees left while others made their way to the gym to receive their physical diploma. The papers handed out on stage to students were ceremonial items with students pre-informed to pick up their actual diploma in the gym after the ceremony.

The abrupt end to the graduation left some in attendance to go to social media to express their thoughts on the day and the event. While many comments were focused on the weather and its direct effect on the ceremony, others expressed frustration with the lack of communication from school officials and disappointment for the Salutatorian rushing her speech to end and especially for the Valedictorian who was unable to address her fellow students and those in attendance.

The following statement was given to The Hammonton Gazette from Hammonton School Board President John Lyons.

“First and foremost, the Board of Education wants to again congratulate all 295 members of the class of 2024 on their academic successes and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors. We also want to thank the administration, staff, and students themselves for participating in this year’s graduation ceremony. Months of planning and hard work go into making sure all of our students and their families have an enjoyable and memorable event.

Unfortunately, as we saw this year, sudden changes in the weather pattern and forecast can quickly derail all the hard work and planning and require the unfortunate and premature ending of the graduation ceremony. Because of this earlier than planned ending, our Valedictorian was not able to deliver her speech, and our Salutatorian, Senior Class President, and Student Council President had to quickly deliver their speeches in the rain.

We regret that this occurred and have reached out to the students involved, along with their families, and offered them the opportunity for the district to film, and professionally produce each speech for distribution via various communications channels in the community. While this can’t replace the moment during this year’s graduation, we can ensure that our students’ words are shared and memorialized. As always, we review our planning process and continue to work in the best interests of all of our students and families.”

The chaotic ending to the ceremony created additional challenges for school officials, raising a few questions. Was there a contingency if rain occurred during the event? Why wasn’t it implemented/announced as the crowd began to disburse? Why wasn’t the ceremony moved inside as the weather showed increasing threat of rain?

With an active effort to review and address pending issues, Lyons told The Hammonton Gazette that representatives of the school have reached out to the Valedictorian and others to discuss ways to share their speech through digital platforms. Those concepts and an evaluation of the week ends events remain under discussion.

Lyons said the current review and efforts of the school system is very fluid at this time. He was unable to fully comment on questions about the event until further information was gathered and discussions were conducted.

“Our number one goal is to focus on the needs of our students and be sensitive to that,” Lyons said.


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