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Central High School exchange students earn diploma, will graduate with class

Posted on Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm


What could have been a disappointing conclusion to high school has turned out to be a happy ending for two Central High School foreign exchange students.

Seniors Caio Guimaraes from Brazil and Sigrid Eek from Norway were told last Thursday (Read the original story here) that they wouldn’t be walking the line with their classmates because they had not earned a diploma from CHS. But as it turns out, they have earned a diploma and will join their classmates at commencement exercises at 7 p.m. Friday at Carden-Jarrell Field.

“Whenever I was told that they weren’t receiving a diploma, as [I said before], our policy is they have to have met all graduation requirements to participate in the ceremony,” said CHS principal John Bush in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. “Well, whenever I was shared some information by a host parent I went to the records myself and had those transcripts pulled from their home school. Why there hadn’t been transcript analysis done beforehand I don’t know but we found the two students had enough transfer credits, plus what they had here that they both qualified for a high school diploma in the state of Tennessee.”

Bush reiterated that the students were not being given anything.

“They have earned a diploma.”

He added that after the concern was raised by host parents for the exchange students that he took those concerns seriously.

“When a parent comes to me and brings a concern to me I do my due diligence and take it seriously,” he said. “If there is merit to it then we fix it. If not we get back in touch with the parent and let them know I’ve investigated their claims.”

The issue came to the forefront last Thursday when word started spreading over Twitter under the hash tag “LetThemWalk” from CHS students that the two foreign exchange students were not going to be allowed to walk the line. Students were outraged at the idea. Some even insinuated they wouldn’t march at graduation if the two exchange students weren’t allowed to join the class.

Kimberly Goodwin, the host parent for Guimaraes, voiced her displeasure last Thursday saying it was “deceiving, to a degree” for the school to not let Guimaraes walk the line after attending school as an exchange student all year. “[Caio] ordered a cap and gown,” Goodwin said last week. Now she says she is just pleased that the issue has been resolved.

“I requested a copy of Caio’s records from Brazil,” Goodwin said Thursday. “And I went and saw John [Bush] and he said he had been out Friday afternoon but he would call me. He called me and said [Caio] would be … after looking at his credits, that he earned a diploma. He said he wasn’t giving him a diploma, but that he earned a diploma.

“[Caio] is very happy and very excited to join his class.”

Bush acknowledged that an organizational breakdown led to the problem.

“What we had was an organization failure,” Bush said. “It has been identified and we have a safeguard in place so it will never repeat itself.

“Our organization is like any other,” Bush added, “it is made up of people and people are flawed.”

Bush explained that the safeguard in place is that parent complaints are taken seriously.

“We have an appeals process. Whenever it came to me we looked into it and that’s why it didn’t fall completely through the cracks.

“I’m sure it was stressful to [the students] and I apologized to them for that – an apology from me and from the school as an organization.”

The high school receives foreign exchange students through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) program.

Graduation is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Carden-Jarrell Field. In the case of inclement weather, it will be moved to Joe Frank Patch Memorial Gymnasium.