This Farragut High School Class ‘now at a key part of history’
Punctuating their whirlwind ride was the scene during FHS Commencement exercises: it was held outdoors on the school’s Bill Clabo Field — not inside Thompson-Boling Arena more than a month earlier, as originally scheduled, due to the pandemic — Friday evening, June 19.
Festivities were kicked off by protest, as roughly 35 of more than 450 graduates on hand (of 476 total) took a knee or remained seated during the playing of the National Anthem to protest racial injustice (see related story starting on this page).
But celebrating graduate and teacher success, while throwing in a few moments to make you laugh and a few others to make you reflect, ruled the evening.
“We didn’t get to have the typical senior experience. … But we still made it here,” Jessey Yang, co-salutatorian, said while addressing the gathering. “We are now at a key part of history, graduating amidst a global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“And it is at times like these that we must stick together and look towards the future,” Yang added.
Lacy Hatfield, curriculum principal, said the Class of 2020 “has learned to persevere in challenging circumstances. … “The Class of 2020 is truly exceptional: there are 13 National Merit Finalists, 13 National Merit Semifinals and two students distinguished for the National Hispanic Recognition Program,” she added.
Valedictorian Alisha Soni (above a 4.70 weighted grade-point average/to attend the University of Southern California) and co-valedictorians Yang (above a 4.70weighted GPA/to attend University of Pennsylvania) and Prajwal Jagadish (above a 4.70 weighted grade-point average/to attend Duke University) were recognized with specific accolades announced by Hatfield.
Dr. John Bartlett, principal, recognized various other scholarship recipients in addition to those graduates choosing to serve their country through a military career.
Tiffany Johnson, ----- teacher, earned the 2019-20 Excellence in Teaching Award.
“She touches lives, as all of our teachers do, in ways no one knows,” Bartlett said. “I’ve watched this award-winner, this year, make an impact on many of you graduates.
“Some of your would not be here if it wasn’t for her making sure you got your homework done, that you were taking care of your business with each teacher, and you were doing your very best,” he added.
Three retiring teachers were recognized by Bartlett: David Moore, long-time driver’s education teacher and highly successful varsity softball and volleyball head coach; Wanda Lacy, award-winning ---- teacher; and Tracy Moore, school registrar and key sponsor of the national championship- and state title-winning FHS dance team. “who has worked hard behind the scenes,” Bartlett said.
During his address to a packed stadium featuring a few hundred parents, graduate Logan Stockham singled out Bartlett, “Who has done an absolutely astounding job, which was received with loud applause.
Having completed his first school year at FHS, Bartlett was credited with “refreshing not just the physical aspect of the school, but the moral aspect as well,” Stockham added. “Blank white walls were replaced with artful murals, and inspirational quotes are in no short supply.”
Stockham also credited fellow graduates Adam Fuller, Garrett Howe and Alexis Massingill for “doing an absolutely fantastic job” in rounding up participants and whipping up enthusiasm among the “Clabo Crazies,” the school’s highly vocal student section during football and basketball games.
Listing the high school experiences of he and his fellow classmates, Stockham drew laughs when mentioning “first love” by adding, “Unfortunately it didn’t apply to me.”
Joining Bartlett and Robert Thomas, Knox County Schools superintendent, at the commencement were former FHS administrators Ryan Siebe (principal from 2016-17 through 2018-19) along with Dwayne Simmons, Kim Gray and Anthony Norris.
Other Farragut schools administrators on hand included Weston Edmonds, Farragut Middle School principal.
While four of the five Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen were on hand, state and Knox County elected officials whose districts include Farragut also were present.