RSS keeps valedictorian and salutatorian titles after tie vote

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 25, 2020

SALISBURY – Valedictorian and salutatorian honors will be sticking around at Rowan-Salisbury high schools for the foreseeable future after a tie vote at Monday’s school board meeting.

Jean Kennedy, Susan Cox and Chairman Kevin Jones voted to do away with the titles. Dean Hunter, Josh Wagner and Travis Allen voted against the motion. The vote tied at 3-3. When a vote is tied, the motion fails.

Board member Alisha Byrd-Clark was absent from the meeting following the death of her husband, Alex Clark, over the weekend. The couple became well-known in Salisbury after forming a pair of mentorship programs for boys and girls in Salisbury. They received keys to the city last year.

The possible change to titles was first discussed in 2017. At the time, the board chose to add Latin honors like summa cum laude and keep the valedictorian and salutatorian titles as well. The latest discussion on the issue began at the work session meeting on Feb. 10 — when Chief Legal Officer April Kuhn presented the potential change to the board.

The idea behind removing the titles is that they are antiquated and could detract from the education of some high-achieving students while not affording them any advantages in scholarships or admissions.

If the district removes the titles, class rank would still be listed on transcripts, and titles awarded by the school do not affect collegiate opportunities. Colleges and universities consider things like overall coursework, GPA, extra curricular and other activities in admissions and merit awards.

The concern is high achieving students may pursue coursework that does not align with their academic goals to boost their GPAs in pursuit of one of the titles. High achieving students would still receive Latin honors.

Kuhn pointed out the change would affect a small number of students, and taking high school level classes in middle school opens up the opportunity for students to take classes that impact GPA more than other students who have also just begun their high school careers, effectively giving the student an advantage from the start.

“The competition is not necessarily apples-to-apples,” Kuhn said.

Universities, as well as some other public school districts only use Latin honors.

The board discussion hinged on the importance of the titles and whether it was necessary to remove them or not.

Wagner questioned what would be the point of removing the titles and whether that district should need to make that decision for students.

“I just don’t see the point in changing this for the percentage we’re talking about,” Wagner said.

Kennedy pointed out she was a valedictorian and said she was concerned with the quality of her work in school rather than being at the top of her class. She noted that higher learning institutions use latin honors.

“What’s wrong with cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude?” Kennedy asked.

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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