Stage set for graduation’s return to Palace

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Naugatuck High School Class of 2013 president Melina Dezhbod leads her fellow graduates in the turning of their tassels June 24 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. Next year’s ceremony is likely to be held at the theater again due to ongoing renovations at the school. –FILE PHOTO
Naugatuck High School Class of 2013 president Melina Dezhbod leads her fellow graduates in the turning of their tassels June 24 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. Next year’s ceremony is likely to be held at the theater again due to ongoing renovations at the school. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School’s graduation at the Palace Theater in Waterbury is likely to return for an encore.

Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson said, during the Board of Education’s July 11 meeting, the high school grounds are expected to be unusable for next year’s graduation ceremony. 

“Our high school will be under construction and we won’t be able to have graduation again,” Tindall-Gibson said.

The school is currently undergoing an $81 million renovation project. The project, which broke ground in April, caused the gradation ceremony for the class of 2013 to be held at the Palace Theater.

The price to hold the ceremony at the Palace costs about $3,000 more on paper than having at the school. However, School Business Manager Robert Butler said the prices are actually pretty close.

“Remember, when we give you costs like that, what’s not factored in there is our custodial costs and other fixed costs that, really, we just absorb the overtime. Really it gets closer to a wash,” Butler said.

Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam said the theater worked hard to make sure the school’s graduation went well this year. She recommended using the theater again.

“I can’t say enough about the Palace and the staff. They were so accommodating. They kept saying, ‘Is there anything you need? Is everything the way you want it?’ It was exactly as we asked them to set it up. They were phenomenal,” Saam said.

Saam said holding graduation at the Palace allowed graduation to go on as scheduled without any concerns about the weather.

“I felt nice for families that they knew the date in advance and, rain or shine, we were going,” Saam said

Saam added the theater’s staff came through in a pinch when students arrived out of order due to a bus shortage. 

“We were shorted a bus from the bus company. So our intent was to have [the graduates] come off the bus in line as they were to take their seats. Well, they had to cram on buses three, four, five in a seat. They got off, it was absolute bedlam. The Palace staff said, ‘Let us take over.’ And within two minutes they had every kid where they were supposed to be on the right side of the stage,” Saam said.

The board agreed graduation went really well at the Palace. The consensus of the board was if graduation could not be at Naugatuck High, the theater is a great alternative.

“It was great at the Palace. It was grand,” board member Rocky Vitale said.

The board gave its consent for Saam to begin looking into holding graduation at the theater again next year.