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Decision would have diluted academic achievement

Some Hernando School Board members deserve an F in reading comprehension. But credit them for successful remedial work last week by opposing a prior plan to kill the tradition of naming high school valedictorians and salutatorians.

As Times staff writer Danny Valentine reported, board members recently learned their July 2012 unanimous vote approving an 88-page high school procedures handbook included authorization of a significant policy change that had escaped their attention. It read: "Effective with the class of 2016, (students entering ninth grade in 2012-13), the current designation for valedictorian and salutatorian for graduation will no longer be in effect.''

A dumbfounded board now claims ignorance of the change, criticized staffers for failing to draw attention to the new policy, and ordered a rewrite to reinstate the distinction for the top two academic achievers in each graduating class.

The reversal is wise, but blaming the staff for their own inability to decipher a significant policy change — written in bold-faced type — is a poor attempt to duck accountability for the oversight. A more appropriate time to scrutinize the staff would have been 11 months ago when a committee presented this recommendation

District administrators said the intent was to honor more students with a cum laude designation and to allow a greater number of students the opportunity to deliver commencement addresses. If that's the case, why not have each senior class designate an additional speaker to supplement the traditional speeches from the valedictorian and salutatorian?

The ill-advised policy approved last summer called for each high school to form faculty committees, assign topics to seniors and require the teenagers to write essays and jump through other hoops for the chance to deliver their preapproved comments at graduation ceremonies.

The honor of addressing the commencement audience should be earned objectively through four years of academic performance, not by subjective consideration of an essay. The School Board is wise to reconsider its prior vote. The highest academic achievers deserve public acclaim, not a policy that dilutes their recognition.

Decision would have diluted academic achievement 06/08/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 6, 2013 6:35pm]
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