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Sad grad turned away on her big day

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 14. 2011 9:29PM
Ashley Grady holds her Memorial High School diploma as she sits with her mother, Sharon. Bruce Taylor/Union Leader 

MANCHESTER - When Ashley Grady started her senior year at Memorial High School, she was considering dropping out. A guidance counselor convinced her to stay in school and by the spring, Grady had earned enough credits through the PASS alternative school program to walk with her classmates at graduation.

Her mother, Sharon Grady was especially proud. Sharon dropped out of high school as a teen and was looking forward to seeing her first child get her diploma. But as Sharon Grady waited in the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday for her daughter to walk in with her class, Ashley - in her cap and gown - was being turned away.

'She went to the practice rehearsal, her name was called and she walked in practice but the day of, she was sent home just to find out she has the credits, but could not graduate,' said Sharon Grady. 'I don't know if it was a computer error or a human error, but it was a humongous error to me.'

Memorial Principal Arthur Adamakos told Ashley that school records showed she did not have the credits needed to graduate and could not to walk that day. A closer look into Grady's records after the ceremony revealed she in fact did earn enough credits, but for some reason her records didn't show it.

'She was supposed to graduate. The day is done. You can't replace that day in a child's life,' said Sharon Grady. 'Mr Adamakos did his job by going by the policy, but the policy should be looked at.'

And the Board of School Committee is doing just that. On Monday the board agreed to look into the error and develop a policy that would prevent such a mistake from happening again.

Mayor Ted Gatsas and Manchester School District officials have told the Gradys they are deeply sorry for the mix-up and have pledged to get to the bottom of it.

'The breakdown really occurred between the PASS program and the inclusion of the grades and credits into the Aspen (computerized student records) system,' said Superintendent of School Thomas Brennan. 'It is my goal this will never happen again.'

The end of the school year is a hectic time, when guidance counselors are busy rounding up seniors at risk of not graduating. While that is happening, students are given caps and gowns and begin preparing for the graduation ceremony. Brennan said he is looking into developing a better notification time line so that students don't learn the morning of graduation they have to go home.

He is also looking to open the lines of communication between alternative programs and high school records systems.

'I have concerns that we're not making data accessible to all the various institutions,' said Brennan. 'If a student comes from one high school and attends one of our programs, we better make sure we have the electronic connection and the people who need access have access as a way to verify it.'

Despite the graduation day mix-up, Ashley is happy to finally have her diploma in hand. Sharon Grady said she just wants people to know that a mistake like this can happen.

'I want to make parents aware they need to pay attention to their children's credits,' said Grady.

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