MASSENA - Some Massena High School parents and seniors say theyve been advised that the students senior portraits will not be in the yearbook unless theyre taken at a photo studio that has a contract with the schools yearbook.
But, district officials say, seniors have the option of getting their pictures taken at any studio to be included in the yearbook, as long as they all have a uniform background to make the yearbook consistent.
Jeanette Porcheddu says her son, David, a member of the class of 2013, was excluded from last years yearbook after they chose to have his senior portrait done at Forevermore Studio.
I was told I had to go through the photographer at the school, Ms. Porcheddu said, adding that after they elected not, to her sons photo was not included in the yearbook.
I was pretty disappointed, she said, adding that since Davids photo was not in the book they also opted not to purchase a senior yearbook for their son.
I would have liked to have gotten him a yearbook so he could of had everyone sign it, but we ended up with a banner, she said, explaining that she created a banner that included a couple of the photos from Forevermore Studio. It ended up better than we thought, she said.
After already having pictures done at a studio other than Small Shadows Photography, Ms. Porcheddu said she was told that in order to have her sons photo included in the yearbook she would have to have a second set of pictures done there.
There was a $40 sitting fee, she said. I said, Im not paying $40 and his photo was never put in.
Ms. Porcheddu said that the $40 fee would have included a free 8x10.
When asked if she had any regrets, Ms. Porcheddu said that while it was unfortunate that her sons picture wasnt in the yearbook, she was satisfied with the photos she did receive.
I was never disappointed that we didnt go through the school. I was blown away. He did a wonderful job, she said referring to Nathan D. Lashomb, of Forevermore Studio. I would recommend him to anyone.
Class of 2014 senior Justin Raymon also elected to have Mr. Lashomb take his senior photos.
They (school officials) told me I had to get my pictures taken somewhere else, Mr. Raymon said, adding he wasnt aware that if he did not do so his picture wouldnt be included in the yearbook until Mr. Lashomb had already taken his pictures.
When asked if he was still planning to buy a yearbook, at this point, Mr. Raymon said hes not sure.
Its kind of a big deal to not have your picture in the yearbook, he said, adding his parents are also upset over the situation.
They dont really think I should have to have my pictures taken by someone else just to be in the yearbook, he said.
Mr. Lashomb said since he began taking senior photos a couple years ago he has done pictures for students from all over the county without any problems, except with students from Massena.
Out of all the seniors Ive done portraits for this year, only one of them was from Massena, and hes having a hard time getting his photo in the yearbook.
Mr. Lashomb, who graduated from Massena Central in 1996 and operates his studio out of a downtown storefront, said the districts yearbook photo policy has led two other students to cancel appointments they had with him to get senior portraits done.
Ive had two cancellations this year, because they were told if they got their pictures done here they would not be in the yearbook, Mr. Lashomb said. I think as a senior you should not be left out of the yearbook because of where you go for your portraits.
Meredith Austin of Elm Circle Photography also operates a photography studio in Massena, and she said she has had some students from Massena come to her for portraits over the past few years.
Ive had one or two students from Massena in the past few years, she said. The kids that did come to me told me they were coming to me for their personal photos, because they had to go somewhere else for their yearbook photo.
While Ms. Austin said she would like to get more business from her hometown, she does understand the schools perspective.
It disappoints me that I cant get more business from Massena, but I see everyones point of view, she said, It all depends on how the school wants their yearbook to look and how the yearbook committee wants their yearbook to look.
Ms. Austin said she understands that not everyone can afford to go out and have portraits done and having one photographer for everyone creates a more uniform appearance.
Its kind of like kids wearing uniforms at the Catholic school, she said. Nobody cares what youre wearing, because everyone is wearing the same thing.
At the same time though, she said she understands where the parents and children are coming from too.
I can understand how the parents are frustrated, and I can understand the students are frustrated, because they want their senior portraits to display their personality, she said, noting that students who have came to her have used that very phrase.
They knew they couldnt use those images, but they specifically said they wanted pictures that portrayed their personality, Ms. Austin said, adding that while she specializes in infant photography, senior pictures are also a big part of her business.
In the grand scheme of things, I feel worse for the kids and parents, she said. For me its not about the lost business, its about the kids having an option.
Cassie McNeill of Small Shadows Photography said that what it all comes down to is she has a contract with the school.
Its just like with the elementary school. They have a photographer they contract with, she said. I actually do several of the kids for free if theyre unable to pay.
Students unable to pay the $40 may speak with the yearbook committee or guidance office to make arrangements to have their pictures done for free.
We want to make sure that everyone, regardless of their economic status, has their picture taken, she said. I eat the cost of those photos.
Ms. McNeill said that shes had a contract with the school for senior photos for the past four years after submitting the winning bid to the school.
Previous to me doing it, Penny Heath did it, she said, adding she pays a portion of whatever she collects from doing senior photos back to the school.
The money I pay the school as part of the commission helps to offset the cost of the yearbook, she said.
Ms. McNeill said that she has heard some grumblings this year about the policy, and she thinks thats because this is the first year students could submit a non-traditional senior photo.
This is the first year theyve allowed the students to use a picture without a backdrop, she said. This is their senior yearbook, and they should be able to reflect their personalities in their photos.
Despite the change, Ms. McNeill said students were all given paperwork that gave them clear directions of what they needed to do to have their photo published in the yearbook.
The paperwork clearly stated that they needed to at least get their yearbook photo with me, she said. Other than that, theyre welcome to get their senior photos wherever they want.
It literally comes down to the fact that there is a contract, she said. Any photographer can put in for the contract.
Ms. McNeill said for her the contract isnt about making money, adding the $40 sitting fee, a portion of which is donated back to the school, comes with an 8x10 and two 5x7s.
I hope parents see the pictures and say wow, she really spent a lot of time with the kids and then theyll think about coming to me for family photos, she said.
Despite the concerns from parents, seniors and some photography studio owners, Interim Superintendent William W. Crist said seniors have the option to use any studio for their photo.
But the portrait needs to be uniform, so using one photographer is the niche there, he said.
For the purpose of the senior portrait, they are utilizing a local photographer in town, Small Shadows Photography. My understanding is previous to that there was another person that did the same thing for approximately 20 years. It is a pretty standard practice, Mr. Crist noted.
He said no request for proposal is necessary to contract with the photo studio because its part of the districts extra classroom accounts.
Those kind of extra classroom things do not require an RFP process, he said.
Mr. Crist said the schools Yearbook Club is responsible for the content of the yearbook, and they wanted to ensure all of the senior pictures had a uniform background. But that hasnt meant using Small Shadows Photography in all cases, he said.
There have been a few cases where (high school Principal) Pat Farrand has allowed that to happen. At the same time its important for the uniformity of portraits throughout the entire yearbook. Its an important piece, Mr. Crist said.
There are other opportunities where students can have their names and photographs put in a different place for candid pictures. In that case they can upload them. The school provides access to a website, where they can put personal pictures or more candid photos using that web service, he added.
Mr. Crist said he also understood there was a concern about the cost, but he said students did not always need to pay.
First of all, its the photographer that actually pays the district to have the service. There is a certain amount of money that is collected from basic sessions, for instance for a portrait, and the school collects part of that amount to help offset printing costs and other costs of the yearbook itself, he said.
But, he added, Students or parents are not required to get a basic setting or anything like that. If they want to get their picture taken, they can get their picture taken. The woman from Small Shadows has been quite flexible and available. For the year they can opt, if they like, to just get a picture taken at no charge. There are other session options if they want. There are other opportunities for parents who want their child to have a larger set of portraits, he said.