Monday, May 21, 2018
Education

Pasco School Board considers ending tradition of valedictorians, salutatorians

LAND O'LAKES — The longstanding tradition of students fighting it out to be first or second in their high school graduating class could soon become history in Pasco County.

Superintendent Kurt Browning has recommended eliminating the honoring of valedictorians and salutatorians beginning with next year's freshman class. Instead, top-performing students would be honored in groups under the Latin designations of cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.

At a School Board workshop Tuesday, Browning said the "val" and "sal" concept is outdated and "problematic." Board members did not object, and most on the five-member panel expressed support. A formal vote must be taken for the change to be made.

"I can make some pretty valid strong arguments why we need to phase out vals and sals," Browning said. "The difference between valedictorian and salutatorian is hundredths of a point."

A similar decision to eliminate the tradition in Hernando County last year prompted such a huge backlash that board members rescinded the policy.

Hillsborough and Pinellas also have valedictorians and salutatorians. Neither is considering a change.

In Pasco, the topic first came up a year ago when board members approved changes to the grading system that determines val and sals. Under that policy, which takes effect with freshmen entering in 2014, the district will use all courses that generate high school credit toward graduation — including those taken online, or in middle school — to calculate class rank grade-point average. The measure drew criticism that students might cheat in online courses. Board member Alison Crumbley also expressed concern that students who rarely visit campus could become the most honored graduate. Browning said then that the tradition should be re-examined.

Administrators said the new policy would make high school graduations more like college, where top graduates are designated by Latin terms signifying achievement levels.

Doing that, they argued, would reward more students. It also would eliminate problems posed by options such as virtual school and dual enrollment, which give grades on different schedules than traditional high schools.

Browning mentioned a student whose guidance counselor told her she would be salutatorian. But a virtual course she took awards grades past the deadline for final grade-point averages so it wasn't included in the calculations. "She ended up third," he said.

Browning admitted the issue is emotionally charged, so he wanted board members to weigh in early.

Most Pasco board members said they were okay with ending the practice.

"This is going to be like the buggy whip," board member Joanne Hurley said. "It's going to be obsolete."

Board member Steve Luikart, a former principal, said he has seen students "move from school to school" so they could have the highest GPA.

Browning said competition is so cutthroat, that at one meeting with parents "it felt like I was being deposed."

Bianca Gallina, 18, the 2014 salutatorian of Fivay High School, said she supports getting rid of the titles.

"They don't always take into account extracurricular activities or advanced placement classes," she said. "(For example), a student who takes all regular classes and has a 4.0 can place higher than students who take honors classes."

Gallina said in addition to her AP classes, she had a job and played soccer.

"It only looks at GPA," she said. "I think that's why it's not fair to everyone."

Trent Crawford, salutatorian of Anclote High, took the opposite view.

"It feels good to be recognized for a long four years of hard work," he said. "I don't think getting rid of it would be a good idea."

As for deciding who would give graduation speeches if vals and sals go away, Browning said he would leave that up to the schools.

"I'm not going to micromanage that," he said.

Times staff writer Jon Silman contributed to this report.

Comments
Parents score victory in effort to make travel for safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel for safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Updated: 4 hours ago
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.A 14-second video published by CBS affiliate WKMG showed a group of students filling a tub of water u...
Published: 05/17/18
The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The federal government now spends less than it did about 30 years ago on some of the country’s poorest children, the result of cuts to federal welfare programs, according to a new research paper.In 1990, the government spent about $8,700 on every chi...
Published: 05/17/18
Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

ST. PETERSBURG — Sarah Agee and her friends never pictured themselves wearing Crocs to their graduation. But the foam shoes were comfortable, offered better footing than heels, and now the Seminole High seniors had a story to tell.It all started a li...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18