Danielle Stokes has the highest grade point average at Rolesville High School, but the graduating senior won’t be named valedictorian this year.
The school, which is graduating its first group of seniors, is already switching to Wake County’s pending policy change, in which valedictorians and salutatorians won’t be named starting in 2019. Instead, schools will opt for the grade-based Latin honors of summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.
Stokes, 18, said she was disappointed when she found out she wouldn’t receive the valedictorian title.
“It was kind of a slap in the face, is really the only way to put it,” she said.
The Wake school board is scheduled to finalize the policy change Tuesday. Officials hope it will reduce competition and recognize the achievements of more students.
Because the change was coming, Rolesville officials never planned to name a valedictorian.
“The county was moving towards it anyway, so it was an easy transition for us,” said Principal Ericka Lucas.
Wake schools are not required to name a valedictorian or salutatorian, said Matt Dees, a spokesman for the school system.
Wake’s other newer high schools, such as Apex-Friendship and the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, are not planning to name valedictorians, either.
At Rolesville, seniors graduating with a weighted GPA of 4.25 or higher got the distinction of summa cum laude. A GPA of 4.0 to 4.249 earned magna cum laude, and 3.75 to 3.99 were named cum laude.
Eleven Rolesville students achieved summa cum laude, and 12 students will graduate magna cum laude, Lucas said.
When senior class accomplishments are highlighted at graduation, Stokes will be acknowledged as having the highest class GPA, Dees said. The school will also begin annually adding plaques to the “Rams Wall of Fame,” commemorating the school’s top senior.
Stokes said her GPA is a 4.43.
Her mother, Melodee Stokes, sent a letter to the school board voicing her concerns about not having a valedictorian.
“I think it’s great that they’re honoring more students because the students worked hard for the grades they got,” she said. “But I still think they should recognize the valedictorian and salutatorian.”
She spoke Thursday with Edward McFarland, area superintendent for Eastern Wake, who alleviated some of her concerns. Still, she prefers the old system.
“In college it’s going to be competitive, and in the real world there’s constant competition,” she said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi