Board questions graduation proposals

Proposal to eliminate valedictorian and salutatorian sparks discussion

By Hope Lecchi -

Proposal to eliminate valedictorian and salutatorian sparks discussion

By Hope Lecchi

The Sedalia School District 200 had a lengthy discussion after a proposal was given by Smith-Cotton Principal Wade Norton and his guidance staff.

The proposal centers on the elimination of the Valedictorian/Salutatorian at graduation and instead would center on a Laude System whereby multiple students would be recognized for their academic efforts.

“One of the reasons we made this proposal tonight is as the board of education you are the ears for the community,” Norton said after the presentation. “We are seeking input from community members and you as to your thoughts on the matter.

Based on last year’s class rank, if the proposed system were applied to the class of 2016, 24.9 percent of the senior class would be recognized at graduation.

Sophomore class counselor, Pam Crafton who made the presentation on behalf of the counselors and Norton said that while it is commendable for the students to want to be ranked either first or second in their class, the distinction has no impact on college admissions.

“Colleges look beyond class rank and look at a student’s grade point average, test scores and the types of classes taken,” Crafton said. “They also look at their leadership skills and the extracurricular activities and community service that the student does.

“After we talked to several colleges we found that scholarships are not affected by class rank either,” she added.

In the proposal, the following reasons were listed for the board to consider in eliminating the current system of a valedictorian and salutatorian:

Students must take courses that are weighted in order to be ranked first or second in their class.

It may hamper a student’s ability to take classes they are passionate about or have an interest.

The students are unable to take things that they might enjoy because they are too focused on taking the weighted classes.

“We think this will benefit the student body because many more students will be recognized for their efforts while they attended high school,” Norton said. “It will also let students list on their applications that they graduated from high school with honors.”

“It will eliminate a tradition at the school of having the valedictorian speak at commencement, but this allows more students the opportunity to be recognized,” Crafton said.

The proposal has three levels of honors, Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude and Summa Cum Laude. The honors would be based on the student’s seventh semester GPA’s.

Several board members had questions for the committee including why both a valedictorian/salutatorian could not be named and why only National Honor Society members would be permitted to wear the collar signifying membership.

“A lot of kids work very hard to be included in the organizations they belong to,” board vice president Michael Stees said. “I don’t think it is right to simply recognize one group and not the others.”

Questions were also raised concerning basing the ranking at the end of the seventh semester and not waiting until the end of the eighth semester when the current class ranks are finalized.

Norton assured the board that this was only a proposal and the administration and counselors at Smith-Cotton welcomed input regarding the proposal.

Board members are expected to vote on the proposal at a later meeting.

The board also heard a report from Crafton on changes to the planning guide for the 2016-17 school year.

Most of the changes to the guide deal wording on class descriptions and the addition of courses to various departments.

Four new classes are under consideration in the English Dept.; one in Social Studies; one in the math department; one in the engineering and technology department one in business and computer education, one in physical education and four proposed elective classes.

The board heard a report by Dr. Nancy Scott assistant superintendent concerning extra duty positions and category placements for the extra duty positions.

The district reviews the positions every five years.

In other actions, the board voted to hire one additional teacher and two para-professionals for the Pettis County Early Childhood Cooperative.

The additional staff is need because of increased enrollment at the school.

The positions are fully funded by DESE.

•Approved a $1 an hour increase in substitute pay both certified and non-certified substitute positions in the district.

This year the number of substitutes hired by the district is down 200 individuals from last year but according to Superintendent of Schools Brad Pollitt the number of substitutes to the district is getting smaller.

The pay rate would go into effect beginning Jan. 1.

•The board approved some minor changes to work orders on the new additions to the high school.

Despite the heavy rains, project manager Dennis Paul of Septagon said he was pleased with the work that had been completed to date on the buildings.

“We’ve been working towards relocating utilities on building A,” Paul said. “The weather has slowed us down some but we have been able to make progress, especially on structure A.”

The board approved 72 students, who had met all the necessary requirements for graduation at the end of the first semester.

•Approved the refinancing of the 2007 and 2008 bonds sold for the construction of the building of Smith-Cotton.

Chief Financial Officer for the district, Dr. Harriett Wolfe, said the sale would allow for the refinancing of $8 million to the district or approximately $40,000 a year for the next 10 years in savings that could be used to target capital improvements at S-C.

“By refinancing the bonds will we see more than $2 million plus in savings to the district in regards to interest rates we have paid,” Pollitt added.

•Was presented the district attendance report.

Attendance is up overall throughout the district.

Currently the number stands at 91.01 percent.

That figure means that 90 percent of the students are in school 90 percent of the time according to Pollitt.

“I am extremely pleased with the hard work and effort all of our administrators and staff have put in the keeping the students in school,” Pollitt said. “I’m also very appreciative of the efforts of the students who recognize the importance of being in class.”

Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484

Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484

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