School board to look at more renewal plans, valedictorian and salutatorian honors

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 23, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — A pair of school renewal plans will be viewed for approval by the Rowan-Salisbury School Board on Monday.

Each school develops a plan to take advantage of renewal, which has granted the district “charter-like” freedom from state requirements. Individual school plans are based on the directional system created by the district, which has three focus areas: interpersonal skills, academic skills and unique life goals. Morgan Elementary and China Grove Middle will present their plans during Monday’s 5 p.m. meeting at the Wallace Educational Forum — 500 North Main St.

Morgan outlines four needs in its plan: producing globally aware students, positive behavior intervention support consistency, exposure to career opportunities and high-interest based activities. The school’s goals are to raise proficiency scores on state end of grade exams.

China Grove has two needs outlined: designing a curriculum to allow for greater student choice and improving engagement through a revised science and social studies curriculum. Its goals involve working on several areas on the Panorama surveys the district gives to students. Specifically, the school is looking at improving favorable engagement in classrooms, improving student perception of teacher-student relationships and improving favorable student responses.

If the two plans are approved, that would leave eight schools in the district without renewal plans in place. Two of those, Enochville and Faith elementary schools, are under discussion for possible closure by the board.

The board will also look at a policy presented earlier this month that would do away with valedictorian and salutatorian titles for the two top ranked students at a school. The change is recommended by school leaders because of the antiquated nature of the titles, which are not used in the college admissions process. Some say they can harm a student’s education by encouraging them to take classes just to boost their grade point average, rather than classes that align with their academic interests.

The titles do not lead to more scholarship opportunities for students, and class rank would still be listed on transcripts. Latin honors such as cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude would be added in place as awards for high achieving students.

The change would also give other students a chance to speak at graduation. A valedictorian or salutatorian may not want to speak, but other high-achieving students in, for example, the top 10 slots may be interested in speaking during the ceremony.

Chief Legal Officer April Kuhn presented the policy change to the board at its Feb. 10 work session for consideration at the Monday business meeting. Kuhn noted the change was recommended by administrators. A similar suggestion was made to the board in 2017, and at the time the board opted to keep the titles but add Latin honors as well.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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