LOGAN - Graduating high school seniors in Logan County who are at the top of their class may no longer have the opportunity to obtain the title of valedictorian if a new proposed policy update from the Logan County Board of Education goes through.
Under the current proposed update to Policy 5430, which deals with class rank, students would only be ranked cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, removing the title of valedictorian entirely. The update also proposes changing the time of ranking students from the first semester to the second semester instead to better assess student performance during their senior year when many students tend to slack off a bit.
If the update is approved, the first group of students that would be affected are the incoming freshmen classes.
Logan County Schools Superintendent Patricia Lucas said the changes were proposed by the principals of the three area high schools. She said the full reasons will be addressed by the principals at the next meeting of the LCBOE on July 8, but noted that schools sometimes have difficulty choosing one valedictorian because more than one student may have the same ranking.
Lucas polled five surrounding counties - Mingo, Boone, Cabell, Wayne and Lincoln - and found that each had dropped the valedictorian title in favor of the rank system instead, with no apparent effects.
The proposal has garnered a fair share of criticism. At the meeting of the LCBOE on Monday, June 10, several individuals, including parents of previous valedictorians, addressed the board in opposition to the plan.
Numerous past Logan County valedictorians - including Justin Saunders (Chapmanville High School Class of 2006), Misty Collins (Man High School Class of 1989), Jake McCoy (Man High School Class of 2013), Leah Smith (Man High School Class of 2010), Briana Crisp (Logan High School Class of 2010), Shaun Wagner (Logan High School Class of 2010), Eli DesRocher (Chapmanville Regional High School Class of 2012), and Man High School's most recent valedictorian, Grace Crosby have all written letters to the LCBOE urging against the proposal.
One of the individuals leading the charge against the idea is Tina Goodman, a parent and teacher at Man High School. She addressed the LCBOE on June 10 and on Monday spoke for a second time, this time providing her own policy update proposal which includes keeping the valedictorian title and class rankings, along with bringing back the title of salutatorian for the second highest honor student in the class.
Goodman says that taking away the valedictorian title would remove recognizing the great effort put forth by the top-achieving students.
"Our school system has all kinds of safety nets in place. We have all kinds of different policies to help the struggling students, and in today's society, there's a trend toward ignoring those over-achieving kids," Goodman said. "We've been given reasoning that the competition for that was too stressful on kids, but I don't see anybody proposing to take away any of our athletic programs I just think we're doing a disservice to our kids if we take away something as simple as acknowledging them for being the top of their class."
She added that many students, including her daughter, work hard over a span of four years in pursuit of the title.
"If we want our kids to achieve and we want our kids to really push themselves to be the best they're capable of being, then we need to have avenues of success available to them," Goodman said. "For some kids, it is academic, some kids, it's artistic. We need to have outlets for these kids to shine. The more outlets the better."
Goodman also said that some scholarships could be affected by this change, such as the Logan County Charitable and Educational Foundation's McCain Scholarship, which is specifically awarded to the valedictorian of Man High School. Lucas, however, said that during her talks with other counties, no scholarships were affected under the ranking system, and there is no word on whether the valedictorian-specific scholarships would have their language changed to suit the new system. At the end of Monday's meeting, LCBOE President Debbie Mendez advised Goodman to come back to the next board meeting to hear the principals' sides of the story. That meeting will be at 6 p.m. July 8 in the board meeting room at Ralph R. Willis Career and Technical Center.
Dylan Vidovich is a news reporter for HD Media. Contact him by phone at 304-896-5196 or follow him on Twitter @DVidovichLB.