Wednesday, January 24, 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At a School Board workshop Tuesday, Browning said the "val" and "sal" concept is outdated and "problematic."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decision to eliminate the tradition in Hernando County last year prompted such a huge backlash that board members rescinded the policy.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

Five Hernando County educators nominated for LifeChanger of the Year Awards

Hernando County Public Schools has five educators in the running for prizes ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 in the 2017-2018 national LifeChanger of the Year awards. The program will give out 17 awards.Travis Bruns and Doug Poteet of Pine Grove Elemen...
Updated: 12 hours ago
More teacher protests and another charter school approval expected at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting

More teacher protests and another charter school approval expected at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting

TAMPA — This will seem familiar: Teachers are mobilizing to protest outside Tuesday’s Hillsborough County School Board meeting about their frozen pay rates.And this too: A vote is expected on a new charter school.Florida Connections Academy is a virt...
Published: 01/23/18
Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Want to annoy an education leader in Florida?Tell them they’ve turned your child’s school into an assembly line of tiny test takers. Tell them innovation and imagination and excitement are rapidly disappearing in favor of teaching to the test.And whe...
Published: 01/23/18
Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas County school district officials have spent weeks analyzing bus routes and brainstorming ideas to see if later high school start times could be a reality this August.Today will tell how far they have come.Clint Herbic, associate superintende...
Published: 01/23/18

Class Notes for Jan. 26

Theatre/Art/MusicCenter for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (727) 774-7382.• The center’s Learn it Live! series presents The Three Little Pigs, at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24- 25. Pre-K – grade 4. Public show at 11 a.m. Jan. ...
Published: 01/23/18
USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Holding a piece of computer paper and a microphone, the leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a Friday afternoon forum by repeating the USF administration’s new mantra.He reassured the crowd before him that t...
Published: 01/19/18

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Published: 01/19/18
Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exis...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

The Florida Department of Health has reported a sharp increase in flu activity in the last several weeks, prompting area schools to send out letters warning parents about the virus. At least two districts, however, say that flu activity in their scho...
Published: 01/19/18

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18