After Ric Stranges took the job as principal of Hayes High School in 2013, he asked freshmen gathered at an assembly to sign a banner and pledge to graduate.

His request was met with an unexpected result.

"Nobody moved. It was weird," he said.

Stranges said the students requested he autograph the banner first and commit to lead the school through the end of the 2016-17 school year.

"I signed the banner and they all followed," he said.

Stranges said he'll bring the banner out to Hayes High School's Cornell Stadium for the graduation ceremony Saturday, May 20, to remind the graduating class of about 340 of how far it has come.

"We didn't know what that journey would entail, but we knew we'd (undertake) it together," he said.

Stranges said it will be difficult to say goodbye to a class of students that has contributed so much to the community.

"For me, it is an emotional one," he said. "They're great kids doing great things who represent us very, very well."

Stranges said the lack of complaints about the district's ongoing, multimillion-dollar effort to revamp Hayes High School typifies class members' selflessness. He said he hasn't heard any grumbling about dust, hallway detours or noise associated with expansion and renovation efforts.

"They really have had four years of inconvenience and they've handled it as champs," he said.

The Delaware City School District intends to wrap up the project ahead of the start of the 2017-18 school year.

Stranges said a celebratory mood at this year's ceremony will be tempered by a tragedy that occurred earlier in the school year. Senior Aaliyah Wilson died in a house fire in September.

Stranges said a chair will be left empty in Wilson's honor during the graduation ceremony.

He said he expects the class will have about a dozen valedictorians. District spokeswoman Jennifer Ruhe said the list of valedictorians will be finalized and announced later this week during an award ceremony for senior students.

Stranges said the school will have just one valedictorian and one salutatorian next year because of a policy change approved by the district's school board and supported by the administration at Hayes High School.

A dozen valedictorians would be a drastic reduction at Big Walnut High School, where 41 members of the class of 2017 will receive accolades as members of the honors court.

Principal Andy Jados called the approximately 250 members of the senior class, graduating May 20 at the school, "a great group of young people" and praised their "diverse talents and abilities." He said he was confident they had bright futures ahead of them.

"Overall, they're a very impressive group," he said. "I'm extremely excited about seeing these young men and women develop into outstanding citizens."

Jados said the 41 students with a 4.0 grade-point average or higher is the most in the school's history. This year's seniors also took more College Credit Plus classes than any other class.

"They've taken advantage of our College Credit Plus offerings -- the most classes we've ever offered," he said. "Almost all these students are taking College Credit Plus classes."

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick

aking@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAndrew