School overturns policy requiring photo purchase

By Sajjan Sri-Kumar

Students are not required to buy prints of their yearbook pictures, after the school decided to reverse its policy.

The school had always required students to have their picture taken for the yearbook, but the school had never required students to purchase prints of those photos.

This year, the school was planning to charge all students $26 for a basic package of prints of the photos, which were taken in late September. The policy shift was brought to the attention of Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin by The Chronicle.

Levin subsequently called a meeting with Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra, Head of Middle School Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau, Yearbook Adviser Jen Bladen, Director of Student Financial Affairs Patti Snodgrass and Executive Assistant to the Head of School Emily Kennedy.

The school decided to allow families to opt out of purchasing prints if they do not wish to purchase them, Levin said. He said that families would be e-mailed soon to ask if they would like to decline the prints.

The initial plan to require all students to purchase prints grew out of a desire to streamline the process and to leave little room for error, Kennedy said. Kennedy also said that in past years, parents found it hard to figure out how many photos to order before they had seen them.

This way, Kennedy said, families can see what the photos look like first and order more if they wish.

The package of prints includes one five-by-seven print and a set of wallet prints.

The package also includes retouching for the photographs. In previous years, students who bought prints could also elect to have their photos retouched. Kennedy said that Nathanson’s Photography, the company hired by the school to take photos, said that most families chose to have their photos retouched last year, so the school had decided to charge everyone for the retouching as part of the streamlining process.

Students who paid to have their photos retouched had both the prints they paid for as well as the photos that appeared in the yearbook retouched, Nathanson’s photographer Cliff Cramer said.

Those who did not purchase photos or did not specifically pay for retouching had their original shots printed, so the yearbook has always consisted of a mix of retouched and original photos.

Students who decline prints will have their unedited photos printed in the yearbook, as in years past, since the photographers are not being paid to retouch the prints and the school’s yearbook staff does not retouch the photos.

Before reversing its policy, the school had decided to notify parents of the mandatory charge via a posting on the parent portal.

The receptionists at both campuses were given a paragraph explanation of the new system in case parents had questions. Kennedy said that the administration elected not to notify parents via e-mail as the school tries “not to bombard parents with e-mails.”

There was no effort to notify students themselves, Kennedy said.

She said that they felt that since parents are ultimately responsible for paying the bill, there was no need to let students know as well.

As a result, many students did not know much about the policy to require families to buy photos, which, in combination with the fact that many photographers were also unclear about the policy, led to confusion on picture day.

Oscar Beer ’12 and Alejandra Reynoso ’12 were taking their pictures, when Beer asked one of the photographers if students were being charged.

Reynoso said that after checking with another photographer, the photographer came back and replied that there was no charge except the “smile on your face.”