Trustees deny student’s request to reverse regulation on graduation cap personalization 

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District met for a regular meeting on Tuesday, May 10. 

Highlighted topics included a student’s appeal to personalize graduation caps, Measure M project updates, and an update on transitioning from at-large to by-trustee area elections.

Paso Robles High School (PRHS) student Zelbert Armer appealed a decision made by PRHS Principal Anthony Overton to prohibit the personalization of graduation caps.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Armer came to the last school board meeting on April 26, requesting the board to reconsider the principal’s decision. Trustee Tim Gearhart requested staff to add the item to the next agenda for consideration.

Approximately 500 signatures were collected in support of allowing graduation cap personalization. Additionally, Armer presented Atascadero High School’s 2021-2022 Senior Activities and Graduation Agreement, which allows cap personalization. Templeton High School also allows students to customize their caps.

Overton explained his reasoning for denying the student’s request to decorate their caps.

“Belonging to the community of Bearcats that is so important to our town warrants the recognition of an unaltered cap and gown as a symbolic representation during the ceremony,” he said.

Overton added some commemoration for Armer and his classmates’ efforts to work through the system to change the policy.

“I want to end by saying how impressed I am with Zelbert and his classmates and the process they’ve gone through to work to change this policy and how professional and properly they have done it,” he said.

The students argued allowing decoration of the caps allows students to express their individuality and represent loved ones.

Some concerns from staff and trustees revolved around how the caps would be regulated or ensured they were appropriate before the students walked into the ceremony.

Superintendent Curt Dubost echoed Overton’s reasons for opposing the students’ request.

“I think the ceremony should be for the whole school, not for individuals, and it should be for the community to support the graduation of the entire class, not individual students,” he said.

Many of the trustees also supported the principal’s decision. 

Trustee Lance Gannon motioned to allow the students to personalize their caps on a one-year probationary period to test the waters. Students already go through several inspections for cellphones and other requirements prior to the ceremony. 

Overton did clarify that he did not want trustees to make their decision based on how staff will enforce the caps to meet criteria. He also said that if the trustees approved cap personalization staff would make it happen for the students, and would find volunteers to inspect the caps and other requirements.

Gannon’s motion died for lack of a second. 

A progress update was provided for Measure M projects. Some of those updates included the long-awaited Aquatics Complex and the Georgia Brown campus on 17th Street.

Originally, the complex was to include a 25-yard and 50-meter pool instead of one 38-meter pool. During the Feb. 22 meeting, trustees approved staff to identify the small pool as surplus property and list it for sale. The original small pool was purchased for $277,839. It has now been listed on govdeals.com.

Staff is currently working through the civil engineer update before moving forward. According to the staff’s project program schedule, the Aquatics Complex is expected to be completed by summer of 2023.

The Georgia Brown campus is going through final inspections before they move on to the next phases of assembling stakeholders to begin collecting specific design data and concept design documents.

PRJUSD completed the transition from at-large to by-trustee area elections on Jan. 25. This required the district to approve a redistricting map which can be viewed at pasoschools.org/Page/2039.

During the Nov. 8 election, trustee areas 1, 2, and 4 are up for election. This includes trustees Chris Arend, Lance Gannon, and another district currently unfulfilled due to the redistricting. Trustees 3, 5, 6, and 7 will be up for election in 2024.

The nomination period opens Monday, July 18, and will close at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12. If the incumbent officer has not filed by Aug. 12, the nomination period will be extended until Wednesday, Aug. 17, for any person other than the incumbent to file for the office. A candidate forum will be held on June 28 with potential trustee candidates.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is May 24 at 6 p.m.