Parent advocates for her son
Story behind early graduation in Clintonville
By Bert Lehman
When Katie Hanson heard that her son’s request to graduate early from Clintonville High School was questioned at the Dec. 13 Clintonville School Board meeting, she said she felt “deflated” and “sad” for her son.
The school board ultimately approved the request.
Hanson said she felt sad for her son is because his request was questioned by board member Elizabeth Ruskosky, who is the ex-wife of Hanson’s fiancé.
“All I can say is his name and my name were on the request,” Hanson said. “I’m hard pressed to believe that that didn’t have something to do with it given that there had been other children (whose requests were approved) prior by the same member with no questions.”
Hanson said she also thinks the way the questioning was done was negative towards her son.
As reported in the Jan. 6 issue of the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, when questioning the request, Ruskosky said early graduation should be reserved for students who have worked hard and are goal oriented. She also stated the request contained only one complete sentence.
When contacted by email asking if she wanted to comment on the matter, Ruskosky said, she had no comment, as the matter has been discussed privately with the appropriate parties.
While Hanson acknowledged that her son wrote only one sentence in the request, she said he was told by teachers that the most important items in the request were having the required signatures on it and to makes sure that all the completed graduation requirements were noted.
“He simply said, ‘I want to work full time to save for my college education,’” Hanson said. “He didn’t go into detail, but he actually is enrolled and starting at Northcentral Tech in two weeks.”
Her son plans to study software engineering. Hanson said her son built his first computer when he was 13 years old.
Hanson said her son’s schooling hasn’t always been easy, as he has had to overcome several learning challenges.
“Going through the difficulty that he’s gone through, I didn’t want to discourage him from trying (to graduate early),” Hanson said. “Because I thought it was extremely important to him, and for him to try it and do it was extremely emotional for his entire family. School has not been easy. He’s not an A+ student, he hasn’t been a star athlete.”
Success in Clintonville
According to Hanson, the previous school district that her son attended misunderstood his learning struggles and he regressed during middle school. That changed when her son switched to the Clintonville School District in ninth grade, and things changed for the better. She said maybe the fact Clintonville was a smaller district helped him. She also pointed out that several Clintonville teachers helped her son become a better student.
“More of the (Clintonville) teachers and staff were very open with me. We spoke more. We shared,” Hanson said. “And they just had a different way of looking.”
Attending the Clintonville School District completely changed his life, she said.
The process to graduate early didn’t start until mid-October, according Hanson.
To achieve his goal of graduating early, Hanson’s son took all his first semester classes in-person, while at the same time, took all his second semester classes online.
“He’s very goal oriented. When he can see the finish line, it’s very easy for him to see it’s there,” Hanson said.
“If he challenged himself and didn’t make it, he still had the second semester to do in-person classes. It wasn’t going to hurt him,” Hanson said. “He is pretty extraordinary to not give up and not be negative.”
To say Hanson is proud of her son would be an understatement.
“I don’t think I can put into words how proud I am of him for accomplishing something like that,” she said. “When he approached me (about early graduation), I prayed that he would be able to, but I was reserved because that’s a big undertaking. He has a lot of people rooting for him in his life. Nothing has ever been easy. I think that’s a blessing and a curse. It makes you resilient, but it makes things a little bit more difficult.”
Unfortunately, Hanson feels that the accomplishment has been tarnished because the request was questioned.
“He saw the article and so did his friends, and we all know what he wrote. Enough was said (at the board meeting) that everybody knows who’s that was,” Hanson said.
Instead of questioning a student’s request to graduate early, Hanson said the accomplishment should be recognized in a positive light.
“I think it’s our job as parents, especially board members who are here to represent the community and all of the students, to kind of give a kudos to that,” Hanson said. “There’s nothing more important to our children than stability, safety, and love.”
Hanson also hopes that her son’s story may inspire other students.
“To watch him go from almost giving up on himself to challenging himself in that way, that’s super impressive, and that’s something that the school district should be proud of,” Hanson said.