By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
The Ste. Genevieve R-II School District caught perhaps its only lucky break of the 2019-20 school year on June 20. Approaching rain held off just long enough for the Class of 2020’s postponed commencement exercises to take place at the football stadium.
The gradually cooling evening saw the class of 131 students — minus a handful who had already left for the military get their degrees and turn their tassels.
Dr. Julie Flieg, superintendent of schools, high school principal Chris Hoehne and the salutatorian and valedictorian all touched on the heartbreak and hardship the school year brought. The agonizing decision had to be made to close school in mid arch, with students wrapping up the spring semester with virtual learning.
Hoehne praised Flieg, who has had to weather an ongoing series of stresses since taking over as superintendent in July 2018.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. Flieg for 14 years now, as an intern and as an employee,” Hoehne said, “and during that time she has been amazing. But never more so than she has over these past three months. The reason we are all sitting here tonight is her dedication, her commitment and her understanding of how valuable this is.”
Flieg passed credit for the outdoor graduation, which featured social distancing and other pandemic precautions, to Dr. Jeff Nix, director of athletics, and Dr. John Boyd, assistant high school principal.
Before degrees were conferred, Flieg apologized to the seniors for having to take away the final quarter of their senior years.
“I apologize to each of you for the decision that had to be made to close school for the remainder of the school year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion as she spoke. “I know that is not how you envisioned ending your high school career. It was not an easy decision. But, I am extremely proud that you persevered during remote learning and made it here tonight.”
She later expressed pride that every single senior met graduation requirements, despite finishing their work from home in the spring.
Both salutatorian Koby Hatfield and valedictorian Christian Boyer said they felt their class grew stronger by having to go through the pandemic ordeal.
Harneld quipped that the Class of 2020 would be “the most-remewmvered class for some time,” but added that he and his classmates learned “how to handle adversity” and picked a big “life lesson” through the ordeal.
Boyer said that the class members will be “stronger from this, and more determined.” He called the pandemic shutdown a “defining moment” for them.
The annual Danforth “I Dare You” awards were presented to Evan Walker and Kristen Parmeley, while the Outstanding Senior Girl Award went to Julia McKlin and the Outstanding Senior Boy Award to Koby Hatfield.
Jeff Nix, athletic director, presented Ella Reed with the Armella Peterson Female Athlete of the Year Award and presented the Mal Kimmel Male Athlete of the Year Award to Bryce Trollinger.
Michelle Jokerst presented musical awards. She presented the John Phillip Sousa Award for instrumental music to Bryce Trollinger, and the National Choral Award to Harlee Boyd.
By MARK EVANS