For decades, Alhambra and Monterey Park eighth-graders have been celebrating the move into high school with "promotions," ceremonies that in many ways mirror senior graduations.
Students traditionally wear coats and ties or Sunday dresses to a special ceremony at school on the last day. Afterward, they throw parties with friends and family. Parents at one school, many of whom have conducted fund-raisers to pay for end-of-the-year bashes, celebrate promotions by treating their eighth-graders to dinners at fancy restaurants.
But during the past few years, promotions have gotten out of hand, according to the principals at the 13 Alhambra City and High School Districts elementary schools, which go from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Some boys have shown up in tuxedos. Girls have worn strapless evening gowns. Students sometimes arrive in limousines.
Now school district officials have been asked by critics of the tradition to scale back the ceremonies or simply get rid of them.
"We are trying to eliminate the hard feelings, but not the rite-of-passage aspect" of the ceremonies, said Donna Perez, director of elementary schools for the district. "We are just trying to bring this thing back down to reality."
Critics of promotions point out that most parents cannot afford to give their children the royal treatment. For some parents, it's a financial burden to buy the basics, such as suits and new shoes that will probably be outgrown before they can be worn again.
Each year, said Barbara Randolph, principal at Ramona School, parents are told not to allow their children to show up in formal attire. The warnings are routinely ignored, she said.
In late November, district principals voted to ask the Board of Education to replace the promotion ceremonies with recognition assemblies to be held during school hours--before the last day. The board has taken no action on the proposal, and teachers and parents are trying to work out alternatives.
Emily Chau, a seventh-grader at Marguerita School, says a move to scrap promotions--one year before her turn--would be unfair.
"I worked hard and everyone works hard. (Current students) shouldn't be punished for something they didn't do," Chau said.
"The kids are furious about this," said Kristine Cary, a teacher at Marguerita. "This is not the solution. There are other ways to go about this."
Board member Dora Padilla said the ceremonies probably will be scaled back considerably but not scrapped.
"The board doesn't want to take anything away from the kids. We just want all of the schools to operate under the same guidelines," Padilla said.