The Silicon Valley Voice

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District, Community Try to Make Graduation Special for Class of 2020

For the first time that anyone can remember, Santa Clara Unified School District’s (SCUSD) seniors will not have a graduation ceremony. The shelter in place order is still in effect in Santa Clara County, forcing the District to cancel all graduation ceremonies.

In a letter sent at the end of April to members of the Class of 2020, SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Stella M. Kemp informed students of the decision to hold graduation ceremonies via livestream instead of in person. When schools were closed in March, the District was hopeful that graduation events would still go on or only be postponed, but with recent developments they decided to cancel graduations all together.

“This is not at all the senior year that you wanted. Nevertheless, you have remained diligent with your classes — keeping your attendance and participation high, and completing your assignments,” said Dr. Kemp in her letter. “Though the future may feel uncertain right now, know that the resilience, flexibility, and compassion you are exercising through this time are important and useful attributes for your continued success in life after graduation.”


The district’s five schools with graduating seniors will hold separate online ceremonies.

  • May 29 – Mission Early College High School 5 – 6 p.m.
  • May 29 – Wilson High School and Adult Education 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • June 2 – New Valley High School 6 – 7 p.m.
  • June 3 – Santa Clara High School 4 – 5 p.m.
  • June 3 – Wilcox High School 5 – 7 p.m.

All graduation events will be live streamed on or on the District’s YouTube channel at The district is inviting community members, friends and family to watch the ceremonies and show their support for the graduates.

Viola Smith, the Principal at Mission Early College says it was tough for her students to learn there would not be an in-person graduation ceremony this year.

“For the students, it’s just the culmination of everything that they’ve looked forward to and worked towards and worked hard for over their entire tenure in education. It’s like a right of passage for them,” said Smith.

Smith says, it took a while for students to come to grips with the change, but now most of them are embracing this new graduation format.

“They’ve dealt with the disappointment and now they’re bouncing back, leaning in and engaging in this process in putting together an online ceremony for them,” said Smith. “They’re submitting photos and videos and little sayings and all the things to make it personal for them.”

The community is doing the best it can to make this graduation special. On May 23, members of the Santa Clara Schools Foundation will display nearly 1,200 signs throughout the community. The district and the foundation are encouraging community members to decorate their yards and windows with well wishes.

Meanwhile, Mark Richardson, a member of the SCUSD board of trustees wrote an open letter to the Class of 2020.

“In our hearts, we are straightening your prom bow ties and holding the mirror for you to admire your new dress,” said Richardson in the letter. “We are cheering your last games and adore your strong faces as you shake hands, smile shyly and accept your diplomas. The year that we hoped for you did not appear, but I believe you will somehow make it unique and somehow better.”

Dr. Kemp has promised that when it’s possible, the district will work to make sure that seniors have a celebration to mark their achievement.

“Many of you long to see your friends, teachers, and school staff all in one place and we will make sure you have the opportunity to do that when it is safe to do so again,” said Dr. Kemp in her letter to seniors and their families.

Given the uncertainty of when the county’s health department will allow large groups to gather again, there is no timeline yet for when the event will occur.


  1. Emily Adorable 4 years ago

    I am extremely impressed with the outstanding job that new superintendent, Dr. Stella Kemp, has done! Who would have thought her first year would turn out like this! She has showed tremendous leadership and compassion for both students, staff and parents and found numerous ways to help learning happen in a new way. Congratulations and welcome to SCUSD!!

  2. Notthatsimple 4 years ago

    She has hired multiple admins at $170 a pop plus benefits that have no connection to students or schools during a major budget shortfall. They have a major budget hole but have not stopped hiring or spending. She has not given any info about school,in August except weekly emails telling everyone what a great job everyone has done. Palo Alto actually came up with an innovative car parade and more. They also made difficult cuts and have been transparent as have many other districts. Crickets from her “leadership”. Watch what happens in the next 60-120 days – possible layoffs from the bottom – she and her colleagues at the top will lose nothing. Read the board agendas – spent 3 million on playgrounds they cant even use without endangering all our lives….more transparency, less 15 yr strategic plans where everyone involved will be gone including her, less hiding of the plans for the future

  3. WithAllDueRespect 4 years ago

    Dr Kemp deserves the respect of the community, as a parent in the district I am more than impressed with her Leadership, something that was lacking the last few years. How Fortunate as a district we have such a great Superintendent. For years we have battled the force of a few, who all they wanted was something far from what the children needed. I for one am happy to finally see some new, much needed, play structures in some schools (be they unused at the moment). We are not in Palo Alto Toto, that is a district with more money than us. Compare us to other small cities but not Palo Alto! We should be give Dr Kemp the respect she deserves. Great year in deed!!

  4. Facts 4 years ago

    Major issues everywhere – freeze spending and hiring…SCUSD has way more $$ then PAUSD….the comment was asking for transparency….we will wait and see…who knows what the future brings

  5. Mom of 3 4 years ago

    Dr Kemp has done a fantastic job and we need to give her credit for a year that was not easy. She gave continued weekly updates to the community and led elementary, middle and high schools through a tough time while meeting the individual needs at each school level. My child was a graduating senior this year and while it was not at all what we had hoped for, Dr Kemp made the tough decisions that were needed.
    As for the future I’m glad the hiring continued and the playgrounds were built. The district will be in great shape when school resumes in the fall. And it will resume. This pandemic might seem like an eternity right now but it will pass and kids will need a strong district to return to when it does. Bravo Dr Kemp. Thank you for your leadership.

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