Graduation Schedule – DeKalb Schools Class of 2019

Soooo … the last day of school is May 23, 2019. Graduation ceremonies start 4 days later on Tuesday, May 28.

I hope the seniors consider sticking around for the graduation ceremonies. I’m getting a lot of feedback from parents.

Katie Frame is a parent of a senior at Dunwoody High School. She is livid about the graduation schedule and started a petition to Return Dekalb Schools Graduation to Scheduled Week. Her email to me is representative of a flood of emails I’m receiving …

My name is Katie Frame and I am a parent of a senior at Dunwoody High School. I am writing to the entire board to express my unhappiness and disappointment with the November 1 announcement of new dates for 2019 graduation. I would like the board to move the date back to the week of May 20-24 and, if necessary, holding the events at the Dekalb County Stadiums.

It is November and everyone has been planning for a ceremony that occurs the week of May 20-24, 2018 – before the end of the board approved school year. To move graduation into summer at this late date will mean that some students, parents and teachers will not be able to attend and that is not fair to those individuals or their peers and community.

Students have made job plans that start immediately following the end of the school year. Families have been making plans to come together that week to celebrate. Parents and Teachers have made vacation plans and paid deposits for the week of May 27th (the week following Memorial Day is one of the busiest travel times of the summer). Teachers may not be able to participate in graduation because they have job and summer plans that start once the school year ends. Moving this date will cause a financial burden for those that have to change work plans, flights, vacation plans, etc. and not everyone can afford to do that.

The class of 2019 deserves to be able to celebrate their achievement as a group. They deserve to have teachers and other faculty present to celebrate all they have worked for over the last four years. To move graduation at this late date ensures that we will not have complete attendance and it diminishes the full graduation experience for all DHS students, parents, teachers and families.

I am also concerned with the complete lack of communication from the district on this topic. We have been waiting for a date, our DHS sponsors and principal have requested the date on multiple occasions, and we have seen no information from the district. Our school leadership was not updated, and our parent community was not updated. To move graduation to a new week that occurs AFTER the end of the school year is unfair to everyone involved. We can certainly look at previous years that used district stadiums as facilities or move to create Regional Plans that put graduations in the hands of the regional leadership.

Thank you for hearing my concern. I hope that you can help us find a graduation solution that will keep graduation in the week of May 20-24 so that all the students can participate along with teachers, administration and parents.

The district is strangely quiet about graduation ceremonies right now. The only message I have seen from senior administration is, “We thank you for your patience. The booking of two major events by the Georgia World Congress Center during the week prior and the week ending the school year posed a bit of a challenge for all school districts needing a large venue for numerous ceremonies.”

DeKalb County School District Graduation Schedule
2018 -2019
Georgia World Congress Center

Date School Time
Tuesday, May 28, 2019 Towers High School 10AM
Columbia High School 1PM
Cedar Grove High School 4PM
DeKalb School of the Arts 7PM
Wednesday, May 29, 2019 Lithonia High School 10AM
Dunwoody High School 1PM
Redan High School 4PM
Clarkston High School 7PM
Thursday, May 30, 2019 Lakeside High School 10AM
DeKalb Early College Academy 1PM
Stephenson High School 4PM
Cross Keys High School 7PM
Friday, May 31, 2019 McNair High School 10AM
Arabia Mountain High School 1PM
Chamblee High School 4PM
Tucker High School 7PM
Saturday, June 1, 2019 Druid Hills High School 10AM
Martin L. King, Jr. High School 1PM
Miller Grove High School 4PM
Elizabeth Andrews High School 7PM
Sunday, June 2, 2019 Stone Mountain High School 10AM
Southwest DeKalb High School 1PM
Tapestry Charter School 4PM

Friday, May 17, 2019
10 AM
Margaret Harris Comprehensive School
Ceremony will be held at the school


Class of 2018 Graduation Ceremonies Schedule
November 17, 2017 – All high school graduations will be held during the week of May 21-26, 2018 at the Georgia World Congress Center. This is the second year to have graduation ceremonies at the GWCC. Last year the ceremonies were on time, air conditioned, streamed online with great production value … and it better be for $300K.

My Graduation Ceremony – Open Letter To DCSD
May 10, 2017 – Georgia Wescott’s Open Letter to the DeKalb County School District with her thoughts about the venue selected by the senior administration without input from the local CCHS community.

Class of 2017 Graduation Ceremonies Schedule
April 13, 2017 – Dr. Green created a District Graduation Task Force to begin looking at venues, available dates and costs for specific locations to house district ceremonies.

43 responses to “Graduation Schedule – DeKalb Schools Class of 2019

  1. Stan,

    In looking at prior year’s post on the same subject matter it appears that
    1) no lessons were learned,
    2) it’s set up to be worse this year and
    3) DCSD is so big that the interests of the individual schools or district as a whole are to much for them to manage when it comes to something like graduation. Scary!

    Simple question, why is this even a DCSD issue to be settled vs. the individual schools? I went to a large public school and we used our own facilities for our graduation. Why isn’t that an option?

  2. Janice Francis

    Why cant DHS just do it at the school or North Dekalb Stadium. Margaret Harris is doing theirs at their school.

  3. This is a perfect example of one size fits all does not work. It’s also an attempt to provide “equity and access” to all students … and it has gone off the rails.

    Margaret Harris only has 63 kids total in the school.

  4. DSW2Contributor

    Stan, when did the board of education approve changing the school calendar to accommodate the graduation schedule listed above?

    This BOE-approved 2018-2019 school calendar is posted on the district website:
    It still shows that May 28 is a “Flex Day” while May 29-31 are “Summer Vacation”.

  5. The board wasn’t aware of the graduation schedule until a few days ago. The graduation schedule isn’t typically part of the board approved calendar. For example, last year graduation ceremonies were held on school days … during school in some cases. On the school calendar, that day was just listed as a normal school day.

  6. DSW2Contributor

    “The board wasn’t aware of the graduation schedule until a few days ago.”

    Does that mean the BOE was told of the schedule during last weekend’s BOE/leadership retreat?

  7. In mid October, the board was told, “The graduation dates will be May 28- June 2, 2019 … We will now proceed to communicate the dates to the high schools as we always do in October”. The superintendent also relayed this information at his October “On The Scene with Dr Green” meeting with the public.

    On Oct 22 I asked Dr. Vasanne Tinsley, Deputy Superintendent of Student Support and Intervention, if the graduation schedules for each school had been released to the public. Dr. Tinsley replied on Oct 23 that “The graduation calendar has been developed and is in the final stage of revision prior to release to the public. We hope to share this information by Monday. ”

    I responded to Dr. Tinsley saying, “When the calendar goes out, please include a couple sentences about why it’s at GWCC and why it’s not during the timeframe we historically have it.”

    Dr. Tinsley emailed it to the board on Tuesday Oct 30 saying “Please find the revised 2019 Graduation Schedule attached….This information will be shared with schools and the community on 10/31/2018.”

    I don’t believe it has ever been released to the public. I followed up a couple days ago asking about why the GWCC and the timeframe. I haven’t heard anything from the administration.

    The AJC is talking to the administration today. I expect a story this evening or tomorrow.

  8. Marlon Walker – AJC – DeKalb Schools to hold graduations a week after school year ends

    It was booked during 2019’s graduation season by several conventions, including the Citrix Synergy 2019 technology event and MomoCon, a popular comics, video game and anime gathering.

    Vasanne Tinsley, the district’s deputy superintendent for student support and intervention, said officials exhausted every option before finally contracting to hold graduations the week after school ends.

    “We, unfortunately, do not have a large venue that sits in DeKalb proper,” she said. “Many other venues were booked because other districts got to them. We even looked at large warehouse spaces to see if there was something we could transform into a graduation venue. None of that panned out.”

    Holding graduations during the last week of school also presented unique challenges, including some students being in school during a sibling’s graduation ceremony, or teachers unable to attend ceremonies due to class schedule conflicts.

    Continue Reading >>

  9. Message From
    Dr. Vasanne S. Tinsley
    Deputy Superintendent of Student Support and Intervention

    The graduation ceremonies are scheduled to be held a week later than usual this year, due to the booking of a large event at the Georgia World Congress Center during the week prior to the last week and the last week of school. Many other venues were researched when it was discovered that the GWCC was not available during the last week of school. Several of the venues were already booked. Others were unable to hold the number of students and stakeholders that attend our District graduation ceremonies. It was also necessary for the District to secure a non-religious venue to encourage participation of all graduates. As we researched options, it was confirmed that many of the larger venues in DeKalb County were religious based.

    In past years, some staff members have expressed that they were unable to attend the ceremonies and celebrate this occasion with students that they had taught because of classroom responsibilities. We have had parents express that siblings could not participate in the ceremonies because school was still in session as many ceremonies were held during the school day of the last week.

    The Georgia World Congress Center is a familiar venue for our stakeholders. Having all DeKalb graduations in one venue helps to ensure that every Senior receives a special ceremony to celebrate the accomplishment of high school graduation.

  10. Wow…please change the dates back so teachers and family can attend. The students deserve a great turnout. It would be better somewhere else before the school year ends.

  11. This is what happens when there is no accountability.

  12. Citrix had already announced its 2019 event before last year’s graduation.

  13. APS and DCSD (the AJC reported it either this past July or August) were told at the same time that GWCC was not available. APS jumped quickly and booked Georgia Tech. DCSD just sat on their rears and waited until parents pressured them to come up with another venue. If it weren’t the parents of graduating seniors we probably still would not know. Again another DCSD failure! Again another failure of the school board of not holding accountable their ONE employee. I am saying this as a whole board not as one board member.

  14. Why does the district have to schedule all of the graduations? Can’t individual schools handle their own events? It can’t be much more work than a prom. Just curious why everyone is at the mercy of the CO.

  15. @DSW… that’s not out calendar… not sure which DeKalb it is, but it’s not us.

    It would be so much more cost effective to use our stadiums. This is crazy. Last year, my school had most of the staff missing because we graduated during the I instructional day, and now we likely will because it’s a week into summer break. This is ridiculous.

  16. While it might be cost effective to have graduations at a stadium, what happens if it is raining (or storming) when graduation is scheduled? You have to have an alternative location booked in advance. For most schools, that option would be their gymnasium or auditorium. If you happen to be at a school with 400-500 seniors and a gymnasium that has a capacity of approximately 1400, do you want to tell the parents that only 2 people per graduate could be allowed to see their child graduate? Talk about an uproar! Many graduates bring 10 people or more to graduation. Having graduation the week after school ends may not be the best solution, but at least parents know when and where graduation will be held. It is still over 6 months away…plenty of time to make arrangements. Maybe DeKalb County (not the school system) needs to build a venue that can be used by all of the schools, since the schools are no longer allowed to use the large venues in DeKalb because they are churches.

  17. Many problems with the GWCC “solution”:

    – The GWCC is so impersonal. Most parents I talked to said they watched the ceremony on a screen. It’s a high school graduation nowhere near their high school. You can’t hang around after and take pictures because you have to get out before the next ceremony starts.
    – GWCC is inconvenient. Morning graduations have to fight with morning commute. Midday have to take a whole day off work. Evening have to battle more traffic. Not easily accessible for elderly relatives. Parking is expensive.
    – Memorial Day week is one of the most popular travel weeks. People can’t just change arrangements if they are traveling with family members or large groups like choirs or mission trips. Plus longer trips out of the country, like people buy as graduation gifts, aren’t as easy to just rebook. They booked in advance on purpose, especially with frequent flier miles. These ceremonies are CLEARLY in the part of the school calendar marked SUMMER.
    – The ceremony content is largely dictated by the county. If the school wants to deviate from the format, they have to get approval from the county, like changing the number of speakers or having a student performance. DeKalb School of the Arts, in particular, has a tiny class and they would prefer to do performances, but they are forced downtown to GWCC.
    – This year is especially egregious because some seniors will graduate over two weeks after their final day of school.
    – If some schools are willing to host their own ceremonies, why won’t DCSD be better stewards of our money and let them have the much less expensive and more convenient ceremonies at their own school?
    – Let schools poll their seniors to estimate how many guests they need to accommodate and then determine if they even need GWCC? It’s possible some graduates will only bring a couple of people (like mine).
    – DCSD should allow more flexibility this year as they did not plan ahead. If they are married to this GWCC concept, they should be booking more than 10 months in advance. It is totally DCSD’s fault that the GWCC was booked and then procrastinated well beyond other school systems to set dates.
    – Why does a school system with 28+ high schools feel like they need to centrally manage school graduations? This is a school-based ceremony.

  18. So Tired has it right. DCSD equates equality with equity. They do this by forcing a ceiling on things – graduation, academic programs, etc. – rather than by installing a floor.

    Ceilings make sure that no one rises above some arbitrary standard.

    A floor makes sure that everyone has at least an adequate share.

    Instead of recognizing that some schools have the capacity to plan a reasonable graduation ceremony, which leaves DCSD free to support those schools that lack that capacity, DCSD imposes a “one size fits all” mandate that the District will be in charge of ALL graduation ceremonies.

    The difficulties that result from that decision are self-imposed.

    Since there is only 1 facility that meets DCSD graduation requirements (on MARTA and big enough to accommodate a school with 2200 students), they are foolish not to have some sort of back-up plan ready in the very predictable event that the 1 facility gets booked by someone else.

    I believe that Dr. Tinsley wants to do a good job for the students. But it’s just not happening.

  19. This graduation debacle encapsulates everything wrong with our school system.

    The only reason people get to know about this problem is because graduation is public. What about the day-t0-day problems students and teachers know all too well?

    Besides the obvious problem with waiting until the last minute to organize an annual event common to any school district, what else does this say about the district’s communication and management style? How many principals either didn’t think about the importance of a graduation date and location or found that we have no process for such things?

    Wasn’t it just a year ago that the district had to roll back its poorly planned make-up days?

    A billion dollar budget? Scary. Very scary.

  20. Janice Francis

    Dr. Tinsley has once again shown that this district doesnt care about the students and parents. They make decisions out of convenience and what works for them. GWCC was already a bad decision to begin with. You have to pay for parking, rush to leave after graduation is finished and then typically stuck in all the Atlanta traffic travelling so far. The county is out of touch with the individual needs of the schools. Why procrastinate on finding a venue? Their are other options but they did what was best for them. Have individual schools survey the parents whose taxes are paying this administration’s salaries to see what their needs are. This could have been solved this summer.

  21. If the school district were a normal, functioning organization, people would lose their jobs over this.
    But – alas – it’s standard Georgia fare.
    Discipline would be prejudiced, I guess.
    At-ta “doctor” Tinsley.

  22. I’m sure First Baptist, New Life and House of Hope will be glad to make their facilities available for DeKalb graduations, as they’ve done in the past. The question is will those that complained and caused graduations to leave these sanctuaries allow that that happen?

    Unless churches are made available again, we won’t see another graduation ceremony in DeKalb County again, unless a Civic Center is built. Stadiums are alternatives however you can’t blame the district if it rains and there isn’t a suitable backup facility.

  23. Hello John. A few years ago the district was challenged by the AFL-CIO on the holding of school district graduation ceremonies in religious facilities. A Civic Center at the GM plant site would have been nice.

  24. Is there not a reasonable facility at one of the Dekalb Campuses for Georgia State? Between Clarkston and Dunwoody?

  25. Stan, I never heard that suggestion before but it makes sense for a Civic Center at the GM Plant site, especially since it is near a Marta train station. The other sites I’ve heard suggested were the old auto facility across from the Central office or maybe at the intersection of 285 and LaVista, behind the Target. Your suggestion makes the most sense from a access standpoint however there would have to be something else with a Civic Center that could generate revenue. I also question whether citizens would approve the county to build such a facility, regardless of where it would be located. It is interesting that Gwinnett and Cobb citizens approved such facilities in fairly recent years.

    Also, was it the AFL-CIO that challenged DeKalb or the ACLU? I could understand if it was the latter. I question whether either entity really cared unless they got complaints from citizens.

    It is possible that some graduations could be held in some of the newer basketball arenas however that would mean limiting tickets for each graduate. Grandparents might have challenges navigating the bleachers. Someone suggested the State Farm area but at what cost and is it available. There is also a conference facility near the airport however I’m sure most would complain about that also.

    The school district is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Permitting graduations in churches again is the simplest solution.

  26. A Dunwoody parent has discovered that a facility at GSU is available during the traditional week.

    I’ll also note that if DCSD didn’t insist on managing this centrally, we could select times where our teaching community could come, i.e. an evening or a weekend morning. The way they do it now, our times are at the mercy of the county and have nothing to do with the individual communities.

  27. DCSD has had many years to figure this out:

    And when challenged in 2015-2016 through complaints submitted to the ACLU/Americans United for the separation of church and state, the district committed to coming up with alternatives going forward. How is it possible that plans for 2019 weren’t in the works 2 years ago? Who dropped the ball and why do they still have a job?

  28. Thanks for sharing that link, AB. Interesting that on election day, I noticed that several voting precincts are at churches. I wonder if the ACLU will have complaints about that.

  29. When DCSD completely took over graduation, why didn’t have more than a year-by-year plan for it?

    Given the fact that it appears that GWCC is the ONLY option for centrally planned graduation, it is even more sad (and ridiculous) that neither the District nor the BOE required more than a year-by-year plan.

    Maybe the Strategic Plan that is being developed needs to include a task for ensuring that graduation is held at an appropriate time and place.

    Back in the day, good ol’ Crawford Lewis held what I remember as an actual school board meeting at First Baptist Atlanta. But the cross at the front of the auditorium and other religious paraphernalia was covered by white paper or sheeting. I guess that’s not acceptable anymore.

  30. Graduations at local mega churches? – The AJC wrote an article a few years back about the challenges metro Atlanta public school districts are facing with holding graduation ceremonies at churches.

    Several metro Atlanta school boards could find themselves in the same position as Cherokee County’s in a church vs. state dispute over high school graduation ceremonies.

    Cherokee officials say holding high school graduations in a local megachurch can cost tens of thousands of dollars less than staging the ceremonies in a secular hall with similar seating capacity. But a Washington-based organization is threatening to sue, saying that holding the ceremonies at First Baptist Church in Woodstock could violate the religious rights of those who are not Christian.

    A spokeswoman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State said other metro Atlanta school boards can expect to receive letters similar to the one Cherokee got in October demanding it stop holding graduations at First Baptist.

    “We don’t think you can trade away any student’s constitutional rights just to get a cheaper or bigger space, and they simply must find a secular alternative,” said Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

  31. DeKalb Schools’ graduations under contract for week after school ends
    District officials signed a contract on Oct. 12 to hold 2019 high school graduation May 28 to June 2, the week after school ends.

  32. #veryangryparentandteacher

    DCSD needs to get it together. The calendar that is on the school website differs from what I hold in my hand. The ball has been dropped on many occasions. There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY at the county level. Parents have made plans already for travel out of town. This is so not fair!

  33. I don’t normally agree with all you hysterical white folks, but that is a pretty dumb idea. It does seem to suggest a certain degree of incompetence. They have graduation every year, so why don’t they just book it in May of the preceding year. Off with their heads!

  34. DSW2Contributor

    From an article in the Reporter newspapers: “The district has a five-year contract with the conference center that began with the 2017 graduation.”

    DCSD signed a five-year contract with the Georgia World Congress Center and didn’t even get the center for the right week during year one.

  35. DSW2Contributor,
    I would love to see that contract. Apparently the contract doesn’t include specific dates for DCSD to use the GWCC, which is a bit strange. Maybe it’s because the school calendars aren’t approved very far in advance?

    If that’s the case, then the dates for graduation are totally at the mercy of the GWCC schedule. I would imagine that the GWCC schedule for May 2020 is already set.

    It is very unfortunate thing that DCSD delayed its announcement of the unprecedented change in graduation dates. When you have bad news to tell, it’s best to tell it early rather than late. I still haven’t seen a press release officially stating the 2019 graduation dates.

    DCSD is caught between a rock and a hard place,however. It’s sad that my county doesn’t have a large public auditorium. But I sure don’t want my tax dollars extorted to build something that would probably only be used one week each year for high school graduations. I don’t see that there is any general need for a large public performance space in DeKalb.

  36. Anonymous,

    I believe it would be a great investment for the County to build a large multi-purpose Civic Center like facility. When you consider that in the past 20 years that Cobb and Gwinnett have both constructed facilities that are used for a variety of events including graduations, it frustrates me to think that we lack the foresight for such an investment. When you factor in the public transportation infrastructure we have in place with MARTA, DeKalb would be a more attractive location for concerts, plays and sporting events. Stan mentioned the GM site earlier is a perfect location for both public transportation and highway access.

    Perhaps at the end of the day, the citizens of DeKalb are the reason the graduations are being held when and where they are. DCSD is only playing the hand dealt to them. NIMBY seems to rule the day.

  37. Melvin v white

    Who made this smart decision. A week after school you have a graduation ceremony no one should show up.

  38. John Hope,
    How big should that large multi-purpose civic center be? Keep in mind that DCSD is planning for Lakeside High School and Cross Keys High School to have 2500 students each. Since DCSD thinks every high school must graduate in the same space, then any new DeKalb civic center would have to accommodate graduation for these mega-high schools.

    That means at least 500 graduating seniors. If each one of them brings 4 people, then you need 2000 seats for guests.

    You need maybe 100 seats for teachers and staff and dignitaries.

    Then you need 500 more seats for the graduates to sit in after they walk across the stage.

    So the needed space is between 2600 and 3000 seats.

    For comparison, the new Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center has just over 1000 seats. The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center has 2750 seats. The Gwinnett Civic Center must be bigger, since Dr. Green managed to have his Convocation there for teachers and staff, and I think there are about 6000 teachers.

    Does the greater metro area really have enough business to support yet another large multi-purpose civic center?

    And while I agree that the old GM plant in Doraville is an attractive site for almost any new facility in DeKalb, it unfortunately is smack-dab in Region 1 in the northern part of DeKalb. It has great MARTA access but I can just imagine the complaints from schools in the southern and eastern parts of DeKalb.

    Also, keep in mind that the money that DCSD spends to rent the GWCC comes out of either the Quality Basic Education funds from the State of Georgia or the school taxes that DeKalb residents pay. It’s sad to know that “education funds” are used so many places other than the classroom.

    I’m not sure what I would do as a BOE member but I definitely would not be happy with the current plan and the lack of timely communication of the plan to parents.

  39. @anonymous: Your numbers are low. Think 8-10 tickets/student if they follow recent allotments so you need a space for closer to 6000.

  40. @Anonymous, I agree with AB, your numbers are low. A larger facility would be needed. For comparison, Gwinnett arena can seat about 13,000.

    If DeKalb were to build one, I would suggest 8-10,000. I would also set it up so it can handle youth sports tournaments, i.e. basketball, cheer leading, gymnastics, tennis, etc. along with hosting concerts and conventions. Who knows, perhaps we could attract a semi-pro team looking for a new home. With the right kind of sales and marketing staff, it could be a self sustaining or perhaps even a revenue generating facility.

    The fact that DeKalb has MARTA and is closer to the airport can make it more attractive than Cobb and Gwinnett. If this could be offered to DCSD at little to no cost (aside from security), additional money could be utilized for the classroom. Wouldn’t it be nice to have access to a facility like this in DeKalb County and keep those dollars here? This could happen but it takes vision and support for citizens to move forward with this. Do we have the wherewithal to request our commissioners consider something like this?

  41. Disappointed resident

    Large, expensive venues for graduation ceremonies are necessary because our high schools are large. This problem is only going to get worse when DCSD adds hundreds of additional seats at high schools in Regions 1 and 2. Remember the days before the middle school model was adopted? DCSD had twice as many high schools with half the number of seniors at each one. It was probably a lot easier to find a graduation venue back then, and the ceremonies were a lot shorter. When will DCSD learn that bigger isn’t necessarily better?