Some displeased with First Lady’s plan to deliver Topeka commencement address

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- First Lady Michelle Obama will be the commencement speaker at Topeka's high school graduation ceremony. Mrs. Obama’s visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision to end school segregation.

While some say it's an honor to have Mrs. Obama come to Topeka, not everyone is excited.

Normally Topeka's five high schools have separate graduation ceremonies, but this year with the First Lady giving the commencement address, the graduations will be combined and held at the Kansas ExpoCentre. Some students and parents say Mrs. Obama's plans have forced them to change their graduation plans.

Topeka school superintendent Dr. Julie Ford said news of the First Lady speaking at the graduation has required the district to do things, but she also said the graduation will be memorable.

“Do you remember your high school speaker at graduation and what their message was, who they were? This is a terrific opportunity for our students,” Dr. Ford said.

But everyone in the community isn't excited about the consolidated graduation.

“Our graduation was originally to be at 4:30 in the afternoon, now it's going to be at 1 o'clock. People have planned parties, they have family traveling in. A lot of people's plans are ruined by the sheer fact that the time has changed,” said mom Lisa Anderson who is also a PTO member.

One student is so upset about the time change and how long the graduation ceremony will last, she started an online petition to get the district to keep the graduation ceremonies separate,  but the superintendent said that won't happen. However, Dr. Ford says accommodations will be made to maintain traditions from each school and recognize seniors.

“They will all walk and they will all receive their diplomas that day. There was never any questions that they wouldn't walk,” she said.

Dr. Ford said in the past there was unlimited seating at graduations, but with the combined ceremonies students will get seven tickets and possibly more if other seniors turn in tickets they don't need.

She also said the ceremony will be live streamed on the district's website. In addition to the time change and seating, some parents are concerned the Kansas ExpoCentre doesn't have enough parking spaces.

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