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Whether or not some students are forced to pay more for their prom tickets than those with good grades has ignited a debate surrounding the Central High School prom.
Tickets at CHS jumped to $40 per ticket ($80 per couple) for this year’s junior-senior prom, which is significantly more than most surrounding high schools. Members of the prom committee told the Manchester Times the reason for the spike is, among other things, free admission granted to those with good grades via the school’s Raider Renaissance program.
“We know that [the price] affects those without Renaissance cards greatly,” Allison Jarrell with the prom committee said in an email to the Times. “The prom committee does not make the Renaissance card incentives, the CHS administration does that. We simply adhere to the criteria that has been set.”
Students with all A’s for a semester receive what is called a “red card” that grants them free admission to prom, among other discounts at the school and throughout the community. Students who have perfect attendance and no discipline referrals also get free admission to prom by earning a “white card” and students with all B’s or higher for a semester earn a “black card” and are rewarded with half-price admission to prom.
Jarrell admitted that those who garner free entry drive the price up on those who do not have a card.
“For a long time we have had to make up for both a lack of fundraising as well as issuing several free tickets,” Jarrell said. “I’m certainly not trying to knock the renaissance program, but it makes it tough on us trying to project how many people will actually buy tickets versus those who get in free. It’s a huge gamble which is why we can’t really even come up with a concrete budget until tickets have been sold. There’s a lot of last-minute planning for that reason.”
CHS principal John Bush said prices are higher this year because the prom committee is making an investment in decorations to continue holding prom at the high school and insisted it is not because certain students are admitted free.
“What was presented to me was that this was going to be one year the budget would be higher because we are buying things that will be reused,” said Bush, who added “my eyes about fell out of my head” when he saw the price of admission.
“We expect the price to be half what it is next year.”
Jarrell said the most expensive decorations come from transforming the cafeteria to look like a different location. She added some items are being purchased for reuse, including table cloths.
“We are hiring a company to drape the entire cafeteria in satin from floor to ceiling as well as change the color of the room with up lighting.”
Some remaining items of cost, including a crown, tierra, extra security, custodians, sash, DJ, food for over 400, chairs, tables and center pieces, are all recurring costs, according to the prom committee.
Jarrell added that poor participation in student fundraising also makes it tough to budget for the event.
“A small group of students did arrange a fashion show during school hours to help raise money,” said Jarrell, who added that very few students have participated in other fundraisers. “There was potential to raise $4,000 which would have helped keep ticket prices lower. Instead, only $1,400 was raised.”
She added that prices will likely remain at $40 unless unless students show more interest in fundraising.
“This prom will be the nicest ever, and the students will easily see where their money went when they walk through the doors,” said Jarrell.
Alexa Butler, who recently graduated from CHS, wrote on the Times Facebook page that the prices aren’t fair for those without a red card.
“For students who don’t have a red card, it’s not fair,” she wrote. “When I was in high school, I didn’t have a red card so my ticket was full price. It was $50 per couple two years ago if I remember correctly. A nice dress, dinner, flowers, pictures and gas all add up when going to prom. It shouldn’t be that much considering it’s at the high school cafeteria.”
Others feel like rewarding card holders is fine.
“Is it a bad thing to reward good attendance, behavior and good grades,” Brenda Ginnett asked on the Times Facebook page. “I think not. Maybe parents and kids should strive to do better in school and they could enjoy a free ticket to prom.”
Michelle Varden identified the problem as punishing some students more than rewarding others.
“They may call this a reward for the card holding students but it’s really a punishment for the students who are not card holding,” Varden wrote on the Times Facebook page, adding that her two grandchildren would not be able to attend at that expense.
The decision was made to move the prom to the high school last year for better security, according to Bush. In recent years the prom has been held at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center and the Arnold Lakeside Club.
“We can better secure the prom here instead of it being [at the conference center] with students afterwards going and getting hotel rooms … that is not anything the school wants to be associated with.”
Other schools in the area are able to hold their respective proms at nearly half the price. Franklin County’s prom will cost $25 for a single ticket this year and $45 for a couple and its prom will be held at a special location. Warren County and Tullahoma will each be holding prom on campus but are both charging just $25 per ticket. Grundy County is the closest to Coffee County’s price with a charge of $35 per ticket but its prom, like Franklin County, will also be held at a special location.
-Josh Peterson may be reached via email at email@example.com