Friday, May 06, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Guests of honor are turned away

Twenty honor graduates from North Pulaski High School were locked out of a banquet hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce on Monday. It has angered and embarrassed many people in the community.

The North Pulaski students arrived late because they were taking an AP chemistry test. Not even a chamber lunch could pull these scholars away from their studies for very long.

After the test, the North Pulaski students went over to the community center, where the lunch was being held, but the guests of honor were unfortunately turned away.

Jacksonville High School had 13 honor graduates at the lunch, along with 10 from Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter College Preparatory Academy. So the 20 missing North Pulaski students made the room look a bit empty.

It was an embarrassing misstep by the chamber, which discourages stragglers from interrupting guest speakers, who are often among the most important figures in Arkansas. Even Mayor Gary Fletcher and our own Rick Kron have been locked out of chamber events when they were a couple of minutes late.

Monday’s speaker was Donald Bobbitt, the University of Arkansas’ system president, who should not have been distracted by the students’ late arrival. He probably would have been glad to have the students join him for the luncheon.

North Pulaski students often feel they haven’t been as celebrated as their counterparts at Jacksonville High. North Pulaski’s academics are stronger, its campus is in better shape and it had a first-rate marching band.

But this will be the last year North Pulaski exists as a high school. Its campus will become a middle school, and students will join JHS while a new high school is built downtown. They should have been consolidated years ago.

The Cabot chamber recently honored 193 Cabot High School honor graduates. For perspective, Jacksonville High graduated 176 students last year, and North Pulaski graduated 154. This year, Cabot will probably surpass the 639 students it granted diplomas to last year.

We salute all honor graduates and hope many of them will start businesses in the area. Perhaps one of those locked-out honor grads will become chamber president one day.

In the meantime, the chamber issued a statement Thursday reassuring the North Pulaski students and their parents that they are much appreciated. They will be honored with a special lunch at Olive Garden on Wednesday, May 18.

We hope the chamber picks up the check.