Sanchez returns

Columbia High School Principal Frank Sanchez after being introduced to the crowd at the Class of 2024 graduation ceremony.

Columbia High School Principal Frank Sanchez made a dramatic entrance into Codey Arena Wednesday night to be part of the commencement exercises for the Class of 2024.

Sanchez was placed on leave earlier this year after he was charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with an incident with a student in a school hallway. 

An Essex County grand jury reviewed and dismissed the charges against Sanchez earlier this month. Sanchez still faces a charge of simple assault, a disorderly persons offense, which will be addressed on a date to be scheduled.

Sanchez came to Columbia in June of 2020 and his first incoming freshman class was the group that graduated Wednesday night.

After teachers and students had entered the arena for the graduation ceremony, the Pledge of Allegiance was said, the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” were sung before Sanchez was introduced as he made his way down the center aisle of student seating towards the stage where the Board of Education and administrators were seated and where students would eventually receive their diplomas.

A loud and sustained applause was heard throughout the arena when he was introduced. Sanchez did not speak to the crowd but sat down and quietly acknowledged the ovation.

Sanchez later participated in the handing out of diplomas and shook hands with graduating students.

People can be seen cheering enthusiastically as Frank Sanchez, with his back to the camera, makes his way to the stage after being introduced.