Behind the excitement, glory and celebration of every pomp and circumstance is an organizer sweating out the details.
So it is at Brookfield Central and East high schools in the days before as seniors march into their commencement ceremony, hear inspiring words and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas while family and friends beam with pride.
This year's ceremonies will be held June 10.
Behind the hoped-for flawless execution of graduating a few more than 300 students in about 90 minutes is months of work. It's all part of the regular duties of two veteran district administrative assistants: Su Edington, who is about to wrap up her sixth graduation for Brookfield Central, and Jean Pritchard, who has orchestrated 11 ceremonies for Brookfield East. Both rely on other departments, associates who have helped in past years and newcomers to the graduation experience.
As in recent years, they will share the Brookfield East field house for this year's graduation, with East's at 11 a.m. and Central's at 3 p.m. The schools switch start times each year.
List of duties
Organization begins with reviewing and confirming a list of seniors in fall and confirming the field house reservation. By January, the work begins on the rest of the details, from developing a phonetic pronunciation of tricky names to ordering caps and gowns for the adult participants, ordering diplomas, creating and printing a program and a lot of communication with parents of seniors.
"It's the biggest job that I have all year," Edington said. "Jean and I work together to coordinate how the two graduations will fit, but we both work with our own guidance counselors and others who keep tabs on what may change during the year."
The schools arrange for an outside company to sell caps and gowns. To head off any last-minute glitches, Edington said, the school has a few extras in case someone did not order one or could not afford the $40 for the cap, gown and tassel.
"We ask for donations of the caps and gowns each year," she said.
Communicating with parents is key, Pritchard said.
"We start with a massive mailing about six weeks before the ceremony," she said. "We remind them that there are no reserved seats and ask that there be no more than eight guests per student."
Seating has not been an issue at either ceremony, but largely depends on the number of graduates. The ceremonies are taped and available on local cable television.
"A lot of what happens involves organizing who from the faculty will sit with the students and who I can recruit as line supervisors," Pritchard said. "The best way to make sure that I have a handle on everything is to have a complete checklist of all the details."
All important rehearsal
The organizers also depend on rehearsal, typically the Friday before the ceremony, the day after classes end.
"We require every graduate to attend the rehearsal," Edington said. "We start with them seated and then they walk out in order and we collect their name cards and make sure they come in, sit, and walk across the stage in the order to receive their individual diplomas. It takes about two hours, and it's probably the last thing these seniors want to do, but it's important."
While neither school reports any glitches over the years, Edington did say that a senior who was not on any records showed up at rehearsal last year. She was quickly slipped into place and arrangements were mad for a cap and gown and a dummy diploma until the real one could be ordered.
The only other detail is that the aftermath of the first ceremony needs to be cleared in time for those arriving for the second.
Pritchard and Edington said they feel comfortable with the support they get from various parts of the school.
"There are a few sleepless nights the last week," Edington said. "But when my head hits the pillow the night after graduation, I sleep very well."
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