Open Letter From a Whippany Park Parent to the Board of Education

Whippany Park High School

Good Evening:

I just got off the Zoom version of the Board of Education meeting.  I’m embarrassed to admit that it was the first HPBOE meeting I’ve attended during the four years my son and daughter have been at WPHS.

My name is James Carlson-Zyats, Sr. You were kind enough to allow me to speak briefly during tonight’s meeting.  Thank you.

The lack of a traditional ceremony clearly affects all those associated with the graduating class of 2020… students, family, friends, teachers, and administration. You had to bear the unfortunate burden of delivering the disappointing, but inevitable, news of the cancellation/postponement of end of year activities. There is no way that the news was going to be well received. It was heartbreaking and I’m sure it was upsetting for all of you to have to craft the message to deliver it.

This is the only high school graduation my family is going to experience, as both of my children were set to walk the stage this year. Graduation commencement had a very special meaning for my wife and I as BOTH of our children were slated to be a part of the graduation program. My son, James Jr, is the current WPHS SGA President. My daughter, Sydney, is the WPHS 2020 Salutatorian. For their accomplishments and recognition, I thank the teachers that kept them engaged in their classes, the coaches that challenged and encouraged them on the soccer fields and running tracks, and the administration that kept the hallways safe, secure and enjoyable for the past 4 years (I’m sure their own hard work and dedication had something to do with it as well). I was pleased to see that an alternate plan was immediately available to deliver a safe graduation commencement. It was clear to me that you had a number of scenarios ready depending on the Governor’s comments. It was also obvious to me that all of you have been working on developing alternate plans for some time, depending on the parameters of the Governor’s guidelines. Thank you.

When we (parents, students, friends, and family) look back on the previous four years that our children spent at Whippany Park, we are not going to wallow in the loss of their traditional commencement ceremony. We are going to celebrate now and for years to come the academic honors, social growth, and athletic achievements they earned.

This graduation brings with it an opportunity to have a memorable celebration that may even spur new traditions. It will be interesting to see how students and parents will ultimately respond after the initial grief of a canceled ceremony passes.

I love the idea of a “parade of cars” driving about town to have neighbors, friends, and family cheer the Class of 2020. It’s safe, socially distant and a wonderful way to send them off. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is repeated for future graduating classes. I think that’s something that can be easily done (even with a grassroots effort if the Board is not 100% comfortable with it) in addition to the plans you have set forth.  I have no doubt you will give the idea its due consideration. There are two parents of graduating seniors that sit on the Hanover Township Committee that I’m sure can assist in having the powers that be in town get on board with the idea.

With that said, I know that all of you will continue to work diligently to give our students the send-off that’s worthy of their achievements. Please know you are appreciated.

Thank you for your time tonight. Specifically, thank your patience in the face of frustrated parents that asked questions you already answered, parents and students that insinuated that you weren’t supporting or fighting for them, and those that arrogantly assumed you were not acting in the best interest of our students. Whippany (Hanover Township) is a great place to raise a family. Our schools are a big reason for that. Keep doing what you’re doing and know the silent majority are rooting for you and appreciate your hard work.

James Carlson-Zyats, Sr.
WPHS Class of ’86