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Parent launches petition opposing one graduation

An online petition launched last week, as well as hard copies being circulated in the community, is calling for Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to oppose the Department of Education’s “tentative plan” to hold a one-day combined graduation ceremony for all public high schools on Tutuila.


 The governor has not yet made a decision on the plan which was proposed to him and high school PTAs by DOE director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu-Hunkin-Finau, who said last week that the combined graduation ceremony is meant to save time and unite the community.


“The Governor has not made a decision on the director of DOE's decision to have one graduation for all high schools [on Tutuila] this year,” was the response from the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira yesterday.


Vaitinasa’s plan prompted swift criticism from readers who posted comments with the online version of the story ( opposing the plan. Our readers reiterated the need — and the desire — to have each school celebrate their own graduation day to mark the student's achievements over the last 12 years.


Some readers voiced concerns about security, especially when there have been rock-throwing incidents and fights among students from different high schools. One commenter, who opposed the plan, said it will take the whole local Army Reserve, police and village aumaga from nearby villages to guard this type of graduation.


While the plan “sounds very promising, when one considers the events involving students such as fights on and off campus, and student's behavior in public nowadays, it's hard to imagine how this idea will turn out to be a success,” the commenter said. “It's like putting lions, sharks, warriors and vikings together in a stadium to recreate the movie — THE GLADIATORS!”


Four officials from three public school PTAs reached by phone for comment declined to be publicly quoted by name in the story, but added there are parents in their respective schools opposing the move. The officials admitted that they will end up having to comply with any decision handed down by the governor and/or DOE.


Last week Thursday, local resident Lima Fiatoa launched an online petition seeking signatures of residents to “oppose” the combined graduation. It asks the governor “to please grant our request" and reject this idea of having a combined graduation”.


It states in part: “Allow our children, who have worked diligently throughout their years of high school, to graduate amongst their family, peers and educators within the confines of their own schools.”


Asked why she launched the petition, Fiatoa said, she has a “personal interest, as I have a daughter who will be graduating this year.”


When she first heard of the proposal, “it evoked such a negative reaction from me and I thought, I had to act now. I can't wait for someone else to develop an opposing plan,” she told Samoa News. “If I feel this way, there must be others who will agree with me. Therefore, I had to find the fastest way to reach the most amount of people. The online petition was a great way to initiate it.”


Since launching the petition, she said, the “public reaction has been in support of the petition to oppose the combined graduation.” She also said she has a few people helping push the online petitions as well as circulating paper petitions to the public.


“I have students from most of the high schools requesting copies as well. We were able to share the petition through social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc.,” she said, adding that over 1,000 signatures were collected within the first three days of circulation.


Additionally, there are paper copies of the petition circulating in schools and she plans to visit this week local restaurants “as they will be effected as well”. She hopes that through the petition drive, Vaitinasa will rescind her proposed plan.


Fiatoa also hopes to see the governor by this Friday. “I will sit at his office all day if I have to. And if that does not prove successful, I will find an alternative,” she declared.


“I'm trying to reach out to our community, graduates, concerned parents and let them know that there is someone advocating for them. I have a daughter who will be a graduating from Tafuna High School this year,” she explained. “I'm doing this for her and all the graduates who want to celebrate their last day with their peers in the comfort of their own school rather than be lumped together with other schools and passed through much like an assembly line.”


She thanked all the supporters and asked that they continue to push the petition. The deadline to turn in all signed petitions will be this Thursday. She can be reached at 731-9990 or click to access the online petition.