After conversations with the community, the school board decided Monday night in a 6-1 vote that there will be a temporary change to a policy regarding high school class rankings.
Policy 3450 regarding class rankings, which has been temporarily changed , was presented to the board in the late fall of 2017 and passed unanimously in January 2018 w as set to go into effect for the current school year, Putnam said.
A member of the community brought forward a question about the policy that then prompted the school system to look into the matter.
The policy stated, before the temporary change, “High school principals shall provide for the compilation of class rankings to be listed on student transcripts and may make class ranks information available periodically to students and their parents or guardians, and to other institutions, at the request of the student or the student’s parents or guardians. While no valedictorian and salutatorian will be designated, all seniors who have earned a grade point average (GPA) or 4.0 or above as of the end of the third nine weeks of the senior year shall be recognized as honor graduates, in accordance with the following guidelines.
» Students with GPAs between 4.0 and 4.24 will graduate Cum Laude
» Students with GPAs between 4.25 and 4.49 will graduate Magna Cum Laude
» Students with GPAs 4.5 of higher will graduate Summa Cum Laude
Members of the community were concerned that valedictorians and salutatorians would not be designated.
“The purpose for moving to the (Latin) system was because the General Assembly started weighing high school AP courses and community college courses more equally,” Putnam said. “This was in regards to quality of points and moving from a seven-point scale to a 10 -point framing scale.”
Putnam continued to list some of the pros and cons of having the Latin system to the board and those in attendance at Monday’s Board of Education meeting .
“The policy lists … ‘while no valedictorian or salutatorian will designated , ’ so board members for your discussion later , I am recommending that that should be striked out,” Putnam said. “I am proposing that we strike that and that it is left up to each school because I know that some of our schools do valedictorian and salutatorian differently and one school doesn’t even recognize it … and some schools do recognize it.”
The school board voted on Monday night in a 6-1 vote, with Board Member Buddy Armour voting against, to change the policy to add the following statement.
“Nothing in this policy shall be construed to prevent an individual school from further recognizing the achievements of individual students during graduation ceremonies with school-specific recognitions and designations based on criteria including class rank.”
Since the policy has been temporarily changed, it will have to go through a total of three readings before it reaches a final vote .
Board Member Buddy Armour said that when the policy was first passed approximately a year and a half ago , no community feedback was given.
“It would be about eight people who were really concerned about this policy and how it was construed and how it was passed,” Armour said. “I think that when I work on these (policies) and look at these , it is my feeling that when we voted on this on the third reading that we were ready to turn the page on valedictorian and salutatorian issue.”
Board Chair Randy Burns said he agrees with Armour, to an extent, and believes the policy that was initially adopted is the better policy, but also believes that the temporary change needs to be made.
“I agree with that to the extent that I was able to have a conversation with a member of the community and after that conversation one thing really spoke and rang true to me is the fact that we have sophomores and juniors who have been in class and this has been their goal for the last two years,” Burns said. “I just don’t think it is right that we let them get here and then snatch it away from them.”
Burns also said he looks forward to community input as they make the policy permanent and address all of the needs regarding the policy.
Board member Edna Weller voiced her appreciation for the way she saw the school system, community and school board work together on the issue.
“Working together we can make it what it should be,” Weller said.
Two members of the community, Russel Bridges and Bryan Lewis , spoke during t he public comments portion of the meeting regarding the policy.
“I would just like to add the valedictorian is not a subjective term like best dressed or most likely to succeed,” Bridges said. “Valedictorian is a class member who has the highest GPA period. While I am not a fan of any blatant exclusion or elimination, the fact is that we are not all equal. Some people are smarter than others at least on paper and some are more skilled athlete and some are more well-rounded . T hat is just a fact. That fact will continue with the children after they get into adulthood. Only one person will get that big job. Only one person is going to get that wife or husband. It is okay not to be the winner all the time and we have to let them know this.”
He suggested to the board that they get input from the teachers and the students to see how they feel about the situation.
Lewis also spoke in favor of recognizing students for their academic achievements.
“My niece came to me and she was upset and she had worked very hard her grades … and she confided in me that she was not going to be able to be recognized as (salutatorian) … I felt it was an injustice,” Lewis said.
He wants the accomplishments and hard work of those who are recognized as valedictorian and salutatorian to encourage the fellow classmates to strive harder, he said.
In other business:
Teachers who were awarded as teacher of the year in their respective high schools were presented with a certificate by Putnam.
Meghan Welty, an exceptional children teacher at Freedom High School, who has been recognized as BCPS Teacher of the Year, was given the keys to a brand new Jeep Compass from John Greene Chrysler Jeep Dodge to drive for a year.
Valdese Elementary School Pre-K teacher Jessica Thompson, VES Nurse Robin Smith, and Drexel Elementary School Nurse Lori Henry were recognized for making a difference.
After recognizing that a food item on the Nutrislice app that the school system uses through Chartwells had the incorrect amount of carbs, they notified child nutrition department to correct the information.
“We are happy to report because of the vigilance of this prek teacher and school nurses, many of our diabetic students were kept safe from receiving an incorrect dose of insulin due to the error,” said information from the school system.
Nikki Costello, principal at Forest Hill Elementary School, and Lisa Foy, principal at North Liberty School were awarded for accomplishing the Future-Ready Leadership.
All policies adopted by the BCPS Board of Education can be viewed at www.burke.k12.nc.us under the Board of Education tab as well as email addresses and phone numbers for members of the board of education for those who may want to give input in future policies or speak with them on educational matters.
Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at email@example.com or 828-432-8907.