Principals Propose Eliminating Valedictorian

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Principals Propose Eliminating Valedictorian

Prince Frederick, MD - 9/22/2011

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By Marty Madden

A big change could be coming to Calvert County’s graduations as early as 2015.

During a Calvert County Board of Education (BOE) work session Thursday, Sept. 22, the county’s four high school principals along with the principal of the system’s Career and Technology Center proposed the elimination of designating a valedictorian and salutatorian for each graduation class. Students holding those distinctions are the graduates with the highest grade point averages, with other scholastic components weighed.

“The valedictorian and salutatorian don’t serve any real purpose,” said Huntingtown High School Principal Rick Weber. “It serves as motivation for very few students. We don’t think it represents the schools’ best interest.”

Weber said the principals believe Calvert County Public Schools should instead implement a system employed by colleges and universities where graduates with lofty grade-point averages receive the designations “summa cum laude” (with highest honor) and “magna cum laude” (with high honor).

Weber and Calvert High School Principal Susan Johnson both spoke about the angst the selection of a single student at the top of a graduating class causes administrators, families and students.

“It’s a stress-filled, negative experience of students competing against one another,” said Weber.

Johnson told the BOE about a long-time graduate she has kept in touch with who still rues the fact that she had to settle for being her class’ salutatorian.

Patuxent High School Principal Nancy Highsmith noted there is not only a national trend moving toward elimination of the valedictorian system but several counties in Maryland have made changes. Highsmith indicated that principals of the schools implementing the change have reported no adverse impact on student motivation.

“I personally think it’s a great idea,” said BOE Vice President Dr. Eugene Karol, who agreed the change would make commencement exercises more meaningful to a larger number of students. “We have a lot of great kids. The more we can recognize the better. Draft something and let’s look at it.”

“I think we all like the direction this is headed,” said BOE President William Chambers.

“I think it needs more study but I’m totally in favor of it,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Smith, who indicated the public should be given an opportunity to weigh in before a firm decision is made.

Johnson said the principals are recommending implementation of the plan with the current freshmen classes, which would make the 2015 graduations the first year with the new format.

Contact Marty Madden at

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