LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County high schools will continue to have valedictorians and salutatorians, for now.
Superintendent Kurt Browning on Tuesday killed his controversial proposal to eliminate the graduation honors. He made the move after consulting with board members, select high school principals and key district advisers as late as Tuesday morning.
"He decided that for now he is going to leave it as is, and we are going to put together a high-level committee to look at valedictorians and salutatorians," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
The committee also will look at related issues, such as grade-point calculations and school monitoring of student credits, with a goal of making a recommendation next summer.
Changes still could include deleting the top graduation recognitions, or other ideas might emerge, Cobbe said.
Board vice chairman Steve Luikart said the superintendent took the right path.
"I told him I can't back it until we hear back from parents and students. It affects both of them," Luikart said. "He said, 'Good, because I'm not going to do it.' He said it will be up for discussion next year. I was fine with that."
A majority on the board, including Luikart, Allen Altman and Alison Crumbley, had expressed strong reservations about Browning's proposal, putting its passage in doubt regardless. They had received emails and calls criticizing the idea, with few in support of it.
The negative comments grew louder after the board's first public hearing July 1 on the concept, which the board gave tentative approval. Fox and Friends interviewed a former Wesley Chapel High valedictorian, who blasted the move, generating a national influx of criticism.
The general sentiment was that the district would be sending the message that it's not important to strive to be the best in academics. Some suggested the district might as well give out participation trophies rather than diplomas.
In writing to his mentor superintendent, Browning stated that he remained convinced the change would be positive. He expected students to try harder, knowing that more of them would be noted at graduation with Latin honors based on set grade-point averages.
But he added that it might not be worth the effort, judging from the feedback, and said he might begin looking for a way to gracefully back away. His mentor, retired Seminole superintendent Bill Vogel, agreed this touchy issue might be one to drop.
Speculation in the district was that Browning would drop his proposal, although he did not indicate his intentions publicly until releasing his latest recommendation.
The board will consider the 2014-15 student progression plan without the changes on Tuesday.
Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. Follow @jeffsolochek.