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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Principal Mario Fernandez was everywhere Saturday at Stillwater Central High School's graduation ceremony at the Saratoga Springs City Center.

One minute, he was clearing the seating area for the school's teachers. The next, he was striding through the room where students were waiting to line up, telling them which side their tassel should be on: "Right first. You haven't graduated yet."

Soon, he was walking up and down the line of the 98 graduates and several dozen teachers, and finally he stood in the doorway of the hall at the City Center, punching his right thumb up in the air to signal the band to start "Pomp and Circumstance."

Unlike most other principals, Fernandez did not have a speech scheduled during the ceremony, but he did show up in the class president's speech, while Jennifer Spall was thanking the parents, other family members, teachers and her classmates.

"Your job requires that you be the disciplinarian, and by all accounts you did your job well," Spall said. "But you still managed to be our friend, which is a difficult feat."

Spall was one of three student speakers and was followed by Salutatorian Abby Fusco, an unabashed Dave Matthews Band fan who built her speech around DMB's song, "Funny the Way It Is."

"We are living in exponential times," she said, noting a series of ironies, including the fact that the top 10 demand jobs in 2010 did not exist six years ago, and that she and her classmates will be training for jobs that do not currently exist.

Valedictorian Kimberly Hall recounted the challenges and fears facing her and her classmates, including "How to eat lunch with that pesky loose tooth."

Superintendent of Schools Stanley Maziejka invoked both Mark Twain ("You will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do") and Lewis Carroll.

Maziejka talked about Alice meeting with the Cheshire Cat in "Alice In Wonderland" and asking for directions.

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there," he said, noting that at his high school graduation, he had no idea he would ever be a superintendent of schools. He also told the graduates to ask their parents and their mentors for advice. "Do not ask the family cat," he said. "Parents, if you see your student on the floor talking to the cat, you might want to stage an intervention, maybe a family meeting."

On a more serious note, Maziejka gave out the district's first Superintendent's Medals to Fusco, Jake Kardash and Daniel Palmieri. The medals went to students who had an Advanced Regents Diploma with distinction and an average of 90 or better on the tests, an SAT score of 1,875 or higher and a solid amount of community service. Fernandez also gave out nine Principal's Medals for students with an Advanced Regents Diploma with an average of 85 or better on the tests and community service.

Meagan McKeever, who will be attending Cornell University and studying food science, said she was glad she grew up in a small town and attending a small school.

"It's so nice, because it's so small, and you're growing up with everyone you graduate with," she said. "We know all our teachers. Everyone is so nice."


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