Education

Digital billboard honors 'our valedictorian,' since NC school district won't, dad says

A North Carolina father is making sure his son, who he says has the highest grade point average in his high school, is recognized for his academic achievement because the school district won’t recognize him as valedictorian.

Drivers on U.S. 264 East, heading toward Zebulon, North Carolina, might not know Josh Allmon personally, but after reading the digital billboard with his name they’ll know he’s the valedictorian of East Wake High School.

“Congrats Josh Allmon. You will always be our valedictorian. East Wake Class of 2018,” reads the billboard just past the Wendell Boulevard exit on U.S. 64/264.

East Wake High School stopped recognizing valedictorian and salutatorian titles last year following a new Wake County Schools policy to phase out those titles and replace them with the Latin honors system, which is how colleges and universities recognize top-achieving students.

Under Wake County’s new academic honor system, seniors with a weighted GPA of 4.25 or higher will receive the distinction summa cum laude. Seniors with a weighted GPA of 4.0 to 4.249 are recognized as magna cum laude, and those with a weighted GPA of 3.75 to 3.99 are recognized as cum laude.

Garry Allmon, Josh's father, paid $1,800 for the billboard, which will be displayed until high school graduation on June 12, WRAL reported.

“It’s impossible to compete on the national stage when your accomplishments are limited by the system you have no choice but to come through,” Josh Allmon wrote on Twitter defending the billboard.

“New policies are aimed at making everyone feel as if they achieved equally; this is simply not the case. Some people work harder.”

Allmon’s 5.31 GPA is the highest of the 270 students graduating in the class of 2018, WRAL reported.

Allmon said beyond the recognition, the billboard was a public statement about how the reputation of high-achieving students is undermined under the new academic honor system.

All Wake County high schools will begin using the Latin honors system next year. Wake County is North Carolina's largest school district.

Megan Faircloth, East Wake’s top graduating student last year, was the first student to not be recognized by the high school as valedictorian. Faircloth and her family were homeless during most of her junior year and the beginning of her senior year. At one point the family lived in their car. Faircloth graduated East Wake High School with a 5.25 GPA. She now attends Stanford University.

Camila Molina: 919-829-4538, @Cmolina__

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