Greencastle-Antrim School Board to consider dumping valedictorian for Cum Laude

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

Some big changes are in store for Greencastle-Antrim High School graduating seniors if the school board approves some proposed changes. The valedictorian/salutatorian designation will no longer exist when the Class of 2019 walks to the podium. The top 20  students, ranked by grade point average, will no longer sit in the front row for graduation exercises if a proposal to adopt the Latin Honors System for academic excellence is approved by the school board.

High school principal Ed Rife presented the alternative method of recognizing academic achievement through the Latin system at the Jan. 22 worksession. Beginning with the Class of 2016, students would be honored as Cum Laude for a 3.50 to 3.74 GPA, as Magna Cum Laude for a 3.75 to 3.99 GPA, and Summa Cum Laude for a 4.0 or higher GPA.

“We can honor more students who are deserving to be recognized,” said Rife. “It ends competition between students for a position that doesn’t matter after graduation.

Colleges don’t look at being first or second in the class that much any more.”

He added that 50 percent of schools had moved away from naming a valedictorian and salutatorian for graduation.

“I can verify that,” said Mary Ann Naso, vice president for enrollment at Wilson College.

“You rarely see class rank on a high school transcript any more.”

She was present for another announcement by Rife.

“Who would give the speech at graduation?” asked Tracy Baer, who along with Brian Hissong, Linda Farley, Mike Still, Eric Holtzman, Lura Hanks, Ken Haines and Jim Winslow, considered the information. Melinda Cordell was absent.

Rife said they had four years to figure that out.

Superintendent Greg Hoover said, “Let’s be honest, no one wants to hear too many speeches. People are there for the students walking across the stage.”

Rife thought the new procedure would recognize more students. Comparing the Class of 2014, in which 20 students were singled out, in the Latin system, 74 would have been individually mentioned. There would have been 28 at the Cum Laude level, 26 in Magna Cum Laude, and 20 in Summa Cum Laude.

The other benefit was that fierce competition among students would end, and they could choose courses based on their interests rather than how it would affect class rank, Rife continued. All of the students would be measured against a standard of excellence rather than against their peers.

There were records of students dropping out of music since the classes were only half credit, which caused the GPA to drop when pitted against college credit classes. Other students would skip over difficult classes in lieu of ones they knew they would do well in. Students at Franklin County Career and Technology Center would also have an equal opportunity to earn the recognition.

“It’s a nice clear message to parents to tell their kids to get a 3.5 or higher,” commented Hanks.

In presenting the proposed Program of Studies for 2015-2016, Rife said new electives would be Vocal Methods, half credit; Anatomy and Physiology, one credit; and Spanish Language and Culture, half credit.

The high school had also created a partnership with Wilson College, which would offer two dual-enrollment classes on the G-AHS campus next year. Qualified students would be taught by a professor during the regular school day and be responsible for the $715 cost per course.

“We are very excited about this,” said Naso. “When we get an application from a Greencastle student, we know what we are getting. You do an excellent job educating students.”

Hoover said Franklin County schools were all looking at early starts next year, with some school boards voting on the calendar already. He was considering Aug. 17 for G-ASD so the first semester could end before the Christmas break. School would end in late May. One factor for the shift was getting more prep time for the Keystone Exams required in the spring. Hoover wanted the board to discuss the issue in March and vote on it in April.

The Program of Studies will be on the Feb. 5 agenda.