SOUTH GLENS FALLS -- Physics teacher Girard Marcino, known to students as “The Hammer,” used his keynote speech at the South High commencement Saturday to hammer away at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policy.
“In the future, you may lose your job, just as teachers do, but nobody — nobody — can take your education from you,” he told the 231 graduates of the South Glens Falls Class of 2012.
Marcino was selected to be the keynote speaker by a vote of the senior class.
At one point, he said his speech wasn’t about politics, but he repeatedly mentioned the governor’s education policy.
“It’s not about Gov. Cuomo’s cuts in education. But I can’t help think that this class might be the last class to have an excellent education,” he said.
Cuomo pushed through a 2 percent property tax cap law in 2011, which critics say has led to cuts in school district programs and staff.
Marcino said scheduling more study halls is not the solution to budget woes, but at least students would have more time to study for physics exams.
“Cutting education is analogous to cutting practice for the U.S. Olympics team,” he said.
He encouraged graduates to vote for political candidates who support education, regardless of political party.
Marcino also encouraged graduates to think positively and achieve great things.
“You will never reach a goal wishing for it. You have to work hard,” he said.
The South High Marathon Dance was a common theme in student and administration speeches at Saturday’s ceremony at Glens Falls Civic Center.
“If there is one answer that we have gotten from hours of cramming for Regents prep, it is that there is not an exact answer,” said Class President Joshua McClean.
But he touted an exact figure for how much the charity dance raised this year: $395,352.19.
“South High, itself, is an astounding community,” he said.
“It was amazing to see an entire school dancing, and an entire community coming together to generate almost $400,000,” said new Superintendent Michael Patton, in his first speech to a South High graduating class.
Graduates gave a standing ovation when Matthew Sorano, being pushed in a wheelchair, received his diploma.
Sorano, who has Parkinson’s disease, was a recipient of marathon dance funds.
Valedictorian Chase Brooks encouraged classmates to find solutions to problems and to think positively.
“Whatever it is that makes you happy — do it, live it, and never take it back,” he said.
Patton praised Assistant Superintendent Jean Tedesco, who is retiring after working 30 years in the district as a teacher, coach and administrator.
“There is no one who symbolizes ‘Bulldog Pride’ more than Mrs. T,” he said.
Graduating Choraliers joined underclassmen to sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon, while graduating band members joined underclassmen to perform “The Best of Journey,” arranged by Paul Murtha.