LHS Plainsmen Pride Portraits Cause Controversy
Since 2005, the Plainsmen Pride Portrait has provided a glimpse into each Laramie High School class as it approaches graduation.
Anne Brande, photographer at Ludwig Photography, said she began taking the photographs after hearing complaints that LHS graduates were receiving their yearbooks long after they’d graduated, some after they were already freshman in college. Brande thought it would be a good idea to recognize the students while they were still at the high school. So she began organizing a photograph of the upcoming senior class.
“I thought, well let’s celebrate the kids who are involved at the school,” Brande said. “And it was fun.”
Brande said she knew some of the students at the school and teachers also made recommendations on students who might like to participate. Brande said the portraits aimed to be representative of the class and include students from all activities and clubs in the school. The Plainsmen Pride Portrait was born and has been an annual project ever since, with the LHS class of 2018 being the most recent portrait taken by Brande.
That portrait, however, might be the last. Brande said the Albany County School District No.1 board has asked her to remove the portraits from the high school.
“I have been asked to go and get the exhibit,” Brande says.
The issue stems from ACSD No. 1 policies 2009, 'Commercial Advertising in the District' and 2007, 'Acceptance of Gifts and Donations.' ACSD no. 1 School Board Chair, Janice Marshall, says the portraits are in conflict with the policies.
As far as the first policy, 2009, Marshall says the portraits do not follow the guidelines for ‘limited commercial exposure’ stated in the policy.
“A number of the portraits have a prominent Ludwig Photography logo on the front of them,” Marshall said. “In essence, having them up is an implied endorsement.”
Marshall said the portraits also do not fall into any of the three guidelines for commercial advertising in the district’s schools, which include enhancing student achievement, assisting in maintaining District athletics or student activities programs and assisting in enhancing other school district programs.
The portraits violate the district’s policy on the acceptance of gifts and donations as well, Marshall said. According to the policy, any gift or donation valued at $1000 or greater needs the approval of the school board before being accepted. Brande, who said she absorbs the costs of the portraits and donates them to the students, estimates value of the portraits hanging in the new high school to be over $27,000.
“Right now, we are in violation of our own policies,” Marshall said. “We have done a lot of policy work and it is very important that we abide by them.”
The two policies were last revised on May 11, 2016. Brande says she engaged in a process that took about nine months to locate all the portraits- not all of which were on display at the old high school- get them uniformly framed and behind protective glass. Brande said she worked with the LHS Principal Chuck Kern as well as Superintendent Dr. Jubal Yennie to get the portraits up.
“I facilitated helping them get hung up last year because we needed to continue getting artwork up in the building,” Yennie said. “I was under the impression that they had already been accepted, but what I learned subsequently was that I didn’t follow board policy.”
Yennie said that he has asked Brande to put together a proposal and submit it to the board so they can accept it. He says the portraits may be able to remain if the board accepts the proposal.
In the meantime the portraits have to come down, Marshall said.
“They need to be taken down while we are in violation of those policies,” Marshall said. Both Marshall and Yennie said it was possible for the portraits to be restored if the board accepts any proposal Brande provides. Marshall said the violation was brought to the attention of the board in August.
Yennie said the school board hasn’t yet removed any of the portraits hanging in the high school and said the district is trying to work through the process correctly with Brande.
“I certainly didn’t want to just go rip things off the wall,” Yennie said. “It’s still artwork. We try to take care of things as best we can.”
Brande says that she views the portraits as not belonging to her but to students. She says she feels the school board needs to have a conversation with students before removing the photos which feature so many students.
“What I am most concerned about is, I gave the exhibit to students, in my mind,” Brande said. “I just feel that the community should be able to have a conversation, at least the student community both past and present. These are their memories.”
The ACSD No.1 board didn’t include the issue of the Plainsmen Pride portraits in their agenda during yesterday’s meeting. Brande says they are expected to discuss the issue sometime in October. For now, the portraits remain on display on the walls in the new high school.