Cobb County held its final graduation ceremonies of the school year recently at the Kennesaw State University Commencement Center, where most high school seniors in the district graduate each year.

The school system hopes to soon have a new facility of its own for graduations and other events. But at one of the district’s largest commencement ceremonies, parents and guests had different opinions on the school district’s plans to build its own facility for such events.

Most seats were full at the KSU Commencement Center when more than 600 Campbell High students graduated. The venue can host roughly 4,300 people.

Those coming in late had to squeeze into single seats at the center of rows while “Pomp and Circumstance” played, or stand along the railings on the upper level as the graduates’ names were called. Each graduate was allowed five tickets, and anyone who needed more had to enter a lottery or scour social media for families willing to share extras.

These pressure points are why the district is in the beginning stages of building a new graduation venue. The $50 million venture will result in a multipurpose facility big enough to host 8,000 people at a time, and an accompanying parking deck. The district has not yet announced a location or a timeline for the project, which is still in the planning phase.

After attending the Campbell High commencement ceremony, attendees were split on whether a new venue is necessary.

“That’s not necessary whatsoever,” said Aisha Anwar, who was there to see her sister graduate. “There was plenty of seating” even after arriving a little late, she said.

On the other hand, after sitting through the two-hour ceremony, Daniel Parker said the district “absolutely” needs its own venue.

“You’re only allowed so many tickets, and they give them out the day before graduation,” he said. Each Campbell High graduate got five tickets, but Parker said his family was able to find two extra.

“So many schools in Cobb County would be able to use it,” he said.

The new venue has been controversial for the state’s second-largest district. Superintendent Chris Ragsdale tried to use sales tax funding for the project two years ago, but the school board at the time rejected the idea. This year, he proposed using money the district earned from selling property and from reimbursement for construction projects. Most board members agreed, although Becky Sayler questioned whether it was necessary.

Ragsdale has said that the new facility will allow more people to attend the ceremonies. He’s also suggested that it will save the district money in rental fees and can be used throughout the year for other events. And attendees wouldn’t have to pay $10 to park, like they do at KSU. The district paid roughly $50,000 to host graduations at KSU this year.

Steve Lang, whose kids graduated from Cobb schools in recent years, urged board members at their May meeting to use data and public input to guide spending decisions like this one. He called the proposed venue “a chunk of real estate that will likely be used less than 0.1% of that student’s life.”

“You have a choice,” he said. “You always have a choice.”

Susie Davis, whose daughter was graduating from Campbell, said some people could have benefited from a bigger facility.

“I think it’s a little tricky to ask people to sit that long in bleachers,” she said, referencing the second level of seating at the stadium. The first level is comprised of individual folding seats. “We were able to get a good seat and be comfortable, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a bigger spot.”

Jennifer Flannery, whose twin sons graduated, said a larger-capacity venue would be nice. But she’d rather see the district invest $50 million into school facilities. She said Campbell High only has one turf field that multiple sports teams have to share, which can pose problems.

“Put the money into something the kids use every day of the school year,” she said. “This was fine.”

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /