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Naming of valedictorian, salutatorian may end

Published:   |   Updated: June 30, 2014 at 11:05 AM

— The Pasco County School Board could start the process Tuesday of eliminating the valedictorian and salutatorian designations for the top-ranking members of a high school graduating class.

The board is scheduled to give first reading at its 9:30 a.m. meeting to changes in the student-progression plan that include ditching the valedictorian and salutatorian titles beginning with the class of 2018. Proposed changes also include revisions to the district’s honor-roll system.

The board meeting room is at 7205 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.

Superintendent Kurt Browning and school board members discussed the proposed changes at a June 3 board workshop, saying at the time they anticipated at least some resistance from parents and students.

A school district committee recommended that, beginning with the freshman class of 2014-15, high schools no longer have valedictorians and salutatorians.

Instead, schools would be encouraged to use the Latin designations cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude that would give more seniors the opportunity to be recognized at commencement ceremonies for their high-achieving academic performances.

The final vote on the changes is expected Aug. 5.

At the June 3 workshop, school officials described the valedictorian/salutatorian tradition as one that had gotten out of control and overly competitive, with students making course selections based on how well a class could boost their grade-point averages and angry parents paying a visit to the superintendent when a son or daughter lost out, sometimes by hundredths of a percentage point.

The committee, which included teachers, district administrators, school administrators, students and parents, also had concerns that the system was not always fair. For example, a student could earn more points for a dual enrollment class than an Advanced Placement class. That fact helped drive class-scheduling decisions for some students.

Even with the dropping of the titles for the top two students, high schools would still have class rankings.

Some schools in Pasco already use the Latin designations in addition to naming a valedictorian and salutatorian. Students earn those designations based on weighted grade-point average. For cum laude, the GPA is 3.2 to 3.7999; for magna cum laude, it’s 3.8 to 4.1999; and for summa cum laude, it’s 4.2 or higher.

The district also plans changes to rules for making the honor roll. That became an issue after a mother complained to Browning that her son made honor roll, even though he had a D on his report card. It is possible for a student with a D to do that because Pasco’s honor roll for middle and high schools is based on weighted grade-point average of 3.2 or higher.

The proposed change would create different levels of honor roll — a straight “A” honor roll; an “A/B” honor roll; and an honor roll based on grade-point average of 3.2 or higher. The new policy would specifically state that students with a D or F are not eligible for honor roll.

High schools would have an additional “superintendent honor roll” awarded near the end of the year for students with all A grades.