The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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June 4, 2014

Grandmother irate GED-earners can’t join Shik grad night

SUNBURY — The de-facto guardian of three Shikellamy dropouts who have earned General Educational Development certificates is up in arms that district directors will not allow the teens to participate in Friday night’s commencement.

“It’s just not fair,” Julie Miller, of Sunbury, said of her grandson, Sean Stover, and of Natasha Mainus and Brent Tallon.

The Shikellamy school board voted against allowing the three to participate because they didn’t attend the full number of classes as did other students, and that commencement exercises were a privilege, not a right.

Fighting back tears, Miller said that a GED is equivalent to a diploma.

“Why couldn’t the district treat it like an equivalent?” she asked. “Natasha, Sean, Brent, they worked so hard to earn their GED. It wasn’t easy. They’ve all turned their lives around. It is not like we have been asking for a diploma to be handed to us. They just want to take the walk.”

Stover, Mainus and Tallon dropped out of Shikellamy for different reasons, Miller said.

Stover had persistent migraines and celiac disease — although it had not been diagnosed as such while he was in school. Mainus had been relentlessly bullied, Miller said, and Tallon had been in various kinds of trouble.

“He was advised to earn a GED,” Miller said. “And that’s exactly what he did. He worked hard. He did it.”

Miller first approached the district in December with the idea that the three teens could trade their GEDs for a diploma.

“I did research,” Miller said. “I saw no reason why it couldn’t be done. It would mean so much to Sean, Natasha and Brent.”

But when Superintendent Pat Kelley did his own research, he found that trading GEDs for diplomas was not generally done, so he couldn’t recommend it to the board.

The students and Miller came before the board in May to ask for the chance to participate in commencement.

“I’ve always taught them to follow their hearts,” Miller said. “It took a lot for them to come to a district board meeting, stand up, tell them their story and ask to be a part of graduation day.

“It’s just not fair, what they’ve done to them,” she said with a sigh. “It’s just not fair.”

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