Clayton News-Star

Schools might do away with valedictorians, salutatorians

Shawn Patrick Behunin, valedictorian of the Cleveland High School Class of 2015, addresses his fellow students during the commencement ceremony June 12.
Shawn Patrick Behunin, valedictorian of the Cleveland High School Class of 2015, addresses his fellow students during the commencement ceremony June 12. jwhitfield@newsobserver.com

Johnston County schools might stop naming their top high school seniors.

In a proposed move to a Latin honors system, the district would stop naming valedictorians and salutatorians. Instead, for students with high grade point averages, the schools would award one of the following distinctions: summa cum laude, meaning with highest honors; magna cum laude, meaning with high honors; or cum laude, meaning with honors.

The proposed change comes from a group of principals who reviewed Johnston grading policies in light of the state’s new 10-point grading scale for high schools.

Just as the 10-point grading scale lines up with most colleges and universities, so does the proposed Latin honors system.

Rodney Peterson, the district’s chief academic officer, said principals thought the Latin honors system would better serve students on a path toward an honors program in college.

Students who enroll in the college-prep course of study would be eligible for the Latin distinctions, according to the proposed policy.

Peterson said the district would still rank top students and denote that on their transcripts. However, the Latin honors would replace the valedictorian and salutatorian distinctions for the top two students.

Each high school’s valedictorian and salutatorian have traditionally spoken at graduation. Peterson said the principals’ group proposed that, going forward, students vote on who speaks at graduation.

The awards would go out for the first time in the 2018-19 school year, or for freshmen entering high school this coming August, Here’s the proposed scale:

▪  Students with a GPA of 3.75 to 3.99 would receive the cum laude distinction.

▪  Students with a GPA of 4.0 to 4.249 would receive the magna cum laude distinction.

▪  Students with a GPA of 4.25 or higher would receive the summa cum laude distinction.

Peterson said he was aware of at least three other school districts that had switched to the Latin honors system.

“I really think you are going to see more and more districts move this way,” said Superintendent Ed Croom.

“I think the only sticking points you are going to have from a few folks is going away from valedictorian and salutatorians in four years from now,” Croom added. “But what this does is treat them just like they are at universities.”

The Johnston County Board of Education heard the proposal at its June 9 meeting. Board members are scheduled to vote on the matter next month.

Croom said he wanted staff to publicize the idea before the board’s next meeting so the district could get feedback from parents.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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