Diplomas this week for 221 graduates of San Juan County high schools
As May comes to a close, so does San Juan School District for the school year. A total of 211 graduates are scheduled to receive diplomas in ceremonies that began on May 23. Diplomas were presented to the nine graduates of Navajo Mountain High School with valedictorian Susan Nelson.
The San Juan High School graduation ceremony begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25 at the school auditorium. Tickets are required to attend the event, which will honor 69 graduates.
Eight students receive summa cum laude honors from San Juan High, including Cassidy Berrett, Hans Hurst, Taj Eldredge, Katie Hiatt, Ty Hosler, Josh Meyer, Kelsi Meyer, and Stetler Shumway. Speakers include Cassidy Berrett and Hans Hurst, along with the featured guest speaker, San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge.
Graduation at Monticello High School will begin at 7:30 p.m. on May 25 at the school auditorium. Dr. Curtis Black is the featured guest speaker to the 51 graduates.
Valedictorians include Devin Wright and Abigail Chadwick, and salutatorians are Loren Randall and Miriam Reay.
Whitehorse High School will present diplomas to 39 graduates on Thursday, May 26 beginning at 10 a.m. Valedictorian is Austin Billie and the featured guest speaker is Bernie Sanchez.
Monument Valley High will award diplomas to 43 graduates on Friday, May 27 beginning at 2 p.m. The valedictorian is Haily Augustien and the salutitorian is Devon Denny. They will speak, along with guest speaker Gerald LaFont.
Graduates will not be the only ones leaving the school system as the school year closes. A number of longtime school employees are retiring.
Retiress include three employees of the district media center. Kathy Hurst completes a 30-year career as the director of the media center, Don Mose retires after 21 years of coordinating Navajo language projects and Betty Shumway retires after 28 years as a printer.
Rita Charlie is retiring after working for 24 years in Special Education at Mexican Hat Elementary School.
Mark Christiansen retires after 33 years as a CTE teacher. He was named the school district Teacher of the Year on two occasions.
Ila Starks retires after spending the past nine years as a coordinator in the Special Education department.
Sherri Redd retires after working 16 years as a kindergarten teacher.
Rebecca Benally worked in the school system for 25 years, including many years as the principal of Montezuma Creek Elementary School.
Richard Blackwater retires as the head custodian at Monument Valley High School, culminating a 32-year career.
Nancy Helquist served as Special Ed Aide at Monticello High School for the past 22 years. Tanya Lowry retires after working at Monticello High for the past 21 years.
Sandy Laws also retired after working as a cook at Blanding Elementary School for the past 25 years.
The retirees were honored at the May 18 meeting of the San Juan School Board.
In other matters at the school board meeting, a letter from the school district to the Bluff Service District was discussed.
School officials are concerned that the lack of progress on a community-wide waste water system in Bluff may eventually result in the closure of Bluff Elementary School.
The Bluff Service Area Board voted in March to continue the status quo in Bluff, in which private treatment options or septic systems handle waste water.
It was anticipated that the board would choose one of two options for a community-wide waste water system.
Health officials state that the soil conditions in Bluff have contributed to a high failure rate of septic systems, including the system that serves Bluff Elementary School. The Bluff School system last failed in 2001, with the replacement system estimated to last just a few years.
School officials state that they have carefully monitored the system, which has already exceeded it’s life expectancy, and fear that a system failure could occur.
The letter states: “The purpose of the letter is to clearly communicate the concern and position of the San Juan School District with the ongoing wastewater issues in Bluff.
“...In light of the most recent decision by the Bluff Service Area Board to not pursue a long-term solution to the wastewater problems in Bluff, we feel an obligation to clearly and publicly delineate the ramifications we foresee for Bluff Elementary School as a result of this decision.
“…Unfortunately, by choosing to not provide a reliable wastewater system in the Bluff community, the Bluff Service Area Board has essentially guaranteed the future closure of Bluff Elementary School.
“At some point, either the onsite wastewater system will fail, or due to lack of upgrades to the building, the students will be better served by busing them to a more up-to-date facility that better meets their educational needs.
“Until there is a reliable and permanent solution to the wastewater problem in Bluff, the District simply cannot gamble with scarce resources by expending money to replace or upgrade a facility that is predicted to experience an incurable failure of the onsite wastewater system.”
The letter was presented to the Bluff Service Area board at their April meeting.