Cum Laude Or Valedictorian?

Another attempt to tackle the class rank and honors policy by the Warren County School District board of directors on Monday yielded no discernable conclusions.

Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gary Weber said during a meeting of the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee on Monday that he sent out a survey to board members to gather their thoughts on this issue and he said the results were clear except for whether to continue with the current valedictorian system or shift to a Latin honors system.

Committee Chairman Dr. Paul Yourchisin said that “a lot of schools are moving” towards the Latin system. “That seems to be a direction I see public schools going in this area,” he added.

Board President Arthur Stewart noted that if the district was to do away with the valedictorian model, similar awards for athlete of the year in different sports should also be eliminated.

He explained that, as an alumnus of Allegheny College, “I talked with their admissions office. They say ‘It’s true that some high schools are not giving us that award. We will ask for class rank. We still rely on class rank as an important measure.’ Why wouldn’t we allow that hard work to be conferred what’s wrong with earning those honors?”

“Going with the Cum Laude system does not preclude class rank,” Yourchisin said. “There is always going to be a number one.”

“I disagree with that. You’re still going to have the rank put that out there,” Board Vice President Donna Zariczny said.

Board member Jack Werner noted, “At times, I have leaned that direction (Laude) principally because (of) all the turmoil… Continual conflict. If we resolve it this year, something else will come up next year.”

Stewart argued that the conflict has not been rooted in the fact that the district has a valedictorian. He said that one of the issues was with weighted courses, another the result of a transfer and a third because of a conflict with the St. Bonaventure University dual enrollment program.

“(It) had nothing to do with a decision to classify the awards,” he said. “It was a problem where we hadn’t considered the consequences. The decision to confer that honor never has.”

Board member Tom Knapp took exception with sports awards. “There are several classifications,” he said. “A lot of the awards are awarded by the team and not the coach.”

“It doesn’t make a difference how it is awarded,” Stewart said, noting that the awards are intended to spur on competition. “So we’re going to award athletes but at our core function we’re not going to use the same incentives.”

Weber originally brought the issue to the board to gather information regarding how the board wishes him to re-write the policy. When he proposed to write two policies, one that maintains the valedictorian system and one that implements Latin honors, board member John Grant said, “You don’t have a clear mandate for change Let the board make its decision by properly writing one policy.”

A policy, which will likely leave the valedictorian system in place, will be prepared for the board for action at the August meeting.