Cost of Oakland Grad Tickets: $0

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 30, 2009 - 07:31:00 PM

Despite budget constraints, Oakland Unified will stick with the school district’s tradition of not charging for high school graduation tickets this year, district officials said Thursday. 

The Planet reported April 23 that some parents and relatives of Berkeley High School seniors were upset that BHS had raised ticket prices for the June 12 graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater to meet increased expenses, estimated this year to be more than $100,000. 

This year, funding cuts and other economic uncertainties have drained the school’s budget, leaving it with little money to host a big celebration. Thus, the school decided to charge $10 for the first two tickets and $15 for every additional ticket. Until last year, the first two tickets were free and every ticket thereafter cost $5.  

Berkeley High has since decided to make the first two tickets for this year’s ceremony free of charge, announcing the decision a day after an earlier version of this article was published on the Daily Planet’s website.  

Some Berkeley parents had said they would not be able to afford the new prices during these bleak economic times. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokes- person Mark Coplan said student leaders at the school had made the decision to charge more money for the tickets in order to maintain a 40-year tradition of accepting diplomas on the stage of the Greek Theater. 

Oakland Unified School District spokesperson Troy Flint said Oakland public high schools had never charged for tickets to a graduation event. 

“It’s a momentous occasion for a lot of people, and we like to have as many people attend as possible,” he said. 

Flint said the district limits the number of tickets for each student. Students receive between six and 10 tickets, depending on the size of the school and the venue. 

Last year Berkeley High paid $19,109 to UC Berkeley for using the Greek Theater, including $900 for the facility, $4,000 for event staff, $9,942 for UC police and other miscellaneous expenses, according to numbers provided by university staff. The university increased this year’s charges by 3 to 4 percent, which they attributed to wage negotiations with workers. 

Berkeley High spends additional money on sound equipment, Berkeley Police Department security services, diploma covers and inserts and other miscellaneous expenses, but school officials did not return the Planet’s calls by press time regarding what expenses account for the remainder of the $100,000. 

Oakland Unified’s three big high schools—Oakland High, Oakland Tech and Skyline—pay $10,000 each to rent the Paramount Theater for graduation. 

“It’s steep, but paid for by the schools,” said OUSD Network Executive Officer Alison McDonald in an e-mail to the Planet. The Paramount’s fee includes ushers and security. 

Flint said that in the past, the district used to pick up the tab for the venue, but for the last few years the money has come out of individual school budgets. 

“The principal reserves money from the school’s budget every spring,” Flint said. 

Oakland Unified picks up the cost of diplomas and diploma covers for the district’s 25 high schools, Flint said, as well as printing expenses for tickets for the three big schools, which comes to about $30,000. 

The total number of students in the senior graduating class of Oakland’s three big schools is 963. Berkeley High has around 800 students graduating this year. 

McDonald said that many of the smaller high schools in Oakland Unified, such as Mandela, Media, Architecture, Life and Metwest, rent the auditorium at Holy Names College for about $1,600. 

Some smaller schools also use spaces for free. Dewey and Far West will use the auditorium at Oakland Tech this year. Last year they went to Oakland High. 

McDonald said she didn’t know how much the Mormon Temple or Laney College were charging for graduation events, but that the Oakland schools tried their best to keep costs reasonable.