A weekend interview with ...
... Jane Gallucci, Pinellas County School Board member and president of the National School Boards Association. She spoke with the Gradebook about the Pinellas school district's policy of naming valedictorians and salutatorians following the Palm Beach County School Board's recent decision to rethink its policy.
Q. The subject of valedictorians and salutatorians has come up in Pinellas County several times. What's your take on the district's practice of honoring the two students with the highest grade point averages at each school at graduation?
A. There will always be a No. 1 and No. 2 student. You can't take that honor away. But the graduation ceremony shouldn't be centered around those two students. I believe the graduation ceremony should center around all the students who have culminated their careers by walking across the stage. We should make graduation a big deal. But I've felt it's not been a big deal for all the kids. It's not just about who's No. 1. It's not just about the person to whom God has given the extras.
Q. You've advocated honoring a percentage of students at each school rather than the two students with the highest grade point average. Who would give the commencement address?
A. The students could decide. It could be a student who has shown leadership or one who has done something for the community. The class would have the right to choose.
Q. When the subject of doing away with valedictorians and salutatorians has come up in the past, parents have overwhelmingly spoken against it. Is there a way an alternate plan could be introduced that would be more palatable to them?
A. In the past, parents have said, 'It's my year, it's my turn. You're not going to take this away.' I think we could start having this dialogue that says, 'It's not starting with your kid's year, it's going to start with the freshman class.' By the time those students were seniors, people would say, 'This wasn't such a big deal after all.' It wouldn't become an emotional issue at the eleventh hour.
Q. How would such a change be implemented? Would it be up to the school board?
A. It could be the board. We change policy all the time. People could come and speak for it or against it. It could be that simple.
Q. Could a school make the decision to change the policy on its own?
A. Probably. It cold perhaps happen more naturally if a school said, 'This isn't what we're about.'
- Donna Winchester, Pinellas County education reporter