These two weeks in late spring are possibly the most celebratory — and reflective — of the year as we slip into graduation season. In the Midcoast, that means a flurry of high school ceremonies, proms and picnics, bagpipes and and parades, pomp and circumstance. Caps are tossed, balloons released skyward and another class of teens step confidently toward adulthood, their wings spread wide for new adventures.

With the celebration come bittersweet tears, with goodbyes and transitions to new phases of life. Schools bid farewell to children long nurtured, encouraged and disciplined, but most of all, educated. The Midcoast lends much strength to its schools — the public, alternative and independent — and for all the battles that ensue in school board meetings over budgets and policies, the collective commitment to learning across all communities is one of our highest achievements.

The Maine Department of Education reported on June 7 that Maine’s graduation rate rose in 2008 to 76.5 percent, compared to the national average of 71.7 percent. That leaves Maine with the 16th highest graduation rate in the country, which is both an accomplishment and a warning: Our graduation rate is solid, but it must improve. Principals, guidance staff and teachers work hard to keep students focused and enrolled, but more must be done to ensure that no one slips through the cracks, that parents and administrators, as well as the community, collaborate to make education meaningful, purposeful and successful for all.

Twelve years of education is both an accomplishment and a privilege. We congratulate all graduates for reaching this significant milestone, and wish you all the best of luck in manifesting individual dreams and goals, down whatever path that is pursued. You make us proud!