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Vermilion Parish principals vote to separate schools from project graduation

It looks like Vermilion Parish project graduations may be going in a different direction next year.
On Monday, the parish high school principals voted to do away with project graduations after this school year.
Their vote will be brought up at this month’s school board meeting, and the school board will have the final say on project graduation.
Since 1996, Vermilion Parish high schools have put on project graduations for graduating seniors. The original idea of project graduation was to have seniors, who had just graduated that night, meet at one location and spend one final night together.
What began as small fundraisers to help buy fast-food gift cards to award seniors who stayed the entire night, has now turned into large fundraisers.
Project graduation parents have raised as much as $110,000 for the one night. When it first began seniors were walking out with gift cards to McDonald’s. Today, seniors are walking out with as much as $600 in cash and expensive gifts.
“Project graduation is not what it is supposed to be anymore,” said School board member Chris Gautreaux at a recent school board meeting. “When it first began, it was a night of fun and games to win door prizes.”
The money raised is having to be funneled through the high schools, which is causing extra work on high school personnel in the front office.
Now, high schools will have to issue W-9 tax forms to students who won $599 or more. That means the school’s bookkeeper is going to have to print out at least 100 to 200 W-9 tax forms and hand them out to the graduating seniors.
Some high school principals voiced their frustration with the high schools overseeing the money being raised for project graduation. The principals would instead let parents of graduating seniors be in charge of the money raised and not the high schools.
Also, if the graduating seniors want to hold the project graduation in a school gym, they would have to provide their insurance and security for the one-night event.
Over the years, principals have witnessed other school programs get hurt financially because of project graduation.
Kaplan Principal Dr. Janet Guerrini told the school board that last year’s Kaplan High Project Graduation raised $90,000, which came out of the community of Kaplan.
“When you start pulling out that kind of money in the community, our track program, softball program, and other programs will be without,” said Dr. Janet. “They are hitting so many of our local businesses.”

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