Only two people attended the first of two public hearings Tuesday night on proposed changes to Portland’s high school graduation requirements, and both criticized a provision requiring all students to apply to college, a vocational or technical program or the military in order to get a diploma.

“I was surprised to see this (requirement,)” said Pandika Pleqi, who has an eighth-grader and a graduating senior in the district.

“We should not tell them what to do with the diploma – we should give them the diploma if they deserve it,” Pleqi told the members of the school board’s curriculum subcommittee. “What they do with that diploma afterwards, we cannot tell them what to do. They can make a smart or stupid decision. They could travel the world for 10 years. But they should not be required to submit an application just because.”

A 2012 state law requires school districts in Maine to change to a “proficiency-based” diploma. The state outlines standards for English, math, science and technology, social studies, health education and physical education, visual and performing arts, world languages, and career and education development. But districts must determine how to measure proficiency and can add requirements.

In Portland, a task force drew up the proposal and the curriculum subcommittee is holding two public hearings. The second public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 10, at Casco Bay High School. The full school board will vote on the new graduation policy June 24.

Tim Rozan, who has two children at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, said the words “arrogance” and “elitism” flashed in his mind as he read the provision requiring students to apply to college or for other training.

“In one fell swoop you’ve alienated about 40 percent of the people,” Rozan said. “To say (to those students) you’re not worthy of a high school degree? I don’t think you can say that. That said, it’s a great idea, … but telling someone they can’t be a lobsterman is kind of wrong. Or that they can’t be a farmer.”

David Galin, chief academic officer for Portland schools, noted that Casco Bay High School and Poland High School in RSU 16 already require graduates to apply to college or further training.

It’s in keeping with the mission of having graduates “college or career-ready.”

“We want to back up that mission with an action, and also to show (students) we are supporting them all the way through that process,” said Marnie Morrione, who chairs the board’s curriculum committee.

The standards are supposed to be in place for the graduating class of 2018, but the state just announced that districts could apply for extensions of up to two years if needed.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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