Beginning with the class of 2014, Southampton High School students will no longer vie for the salutatorian and valedictorian distinctions.
Southampton School District Board members officially eliminated the traditional ranking and weighting system at Tuesday night’s board meeting. Instead, high school courses will not be weighted and rigor will be reflected in course titles alone. High achievers, meanwhile, will be recognized as cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude, based on academic performance.
The board also approved a new policy that would allow students to take online courses that are not offered at the school, but would be subject to the approval of Dr. Brian Zahn, principal of the high school.
After several months of reviewing the grading and ranking policy, the board finally moved toward what it sees as a more even playing field.
To qualify to graduate cum laude, or “with honors,” a student must maintain an 89 percent grade point average. A magna cum laude distinction (“high honors”) requires a 92 percent or above GPA, and a summa cum laude distinction (“highest honors”) requires a 95 percent or above GPA.
Instead of honoring just the valedictorian and salutatorian at graduation, two speakers will be selected through a “comprehensive process” by a high school commencement committee. One candidate must be chosen from the summa cum laude recipients, and the second must be a representative of the entire graduating class. The committee will be made up of administrators, faculty and staff, members of the board, parents whose children have graduated no fewer than five years earlier, and alumni who graduated no fewer than five years earlier.
Graduation speakers will be required to submit a written speech to the committee for review and be willing to first deliver the speech in front of the committee for evaluation.
The changes have faced much speculation by parents, students and some board members over the months the policies were on the table, but officials said some opponents are beginning to come around.
“After speaking with students and parents, they seem much more receptive of the changes we’re making,” Dr. Zahn said. “Based on what I’ve been hearing, it’s appropriate for us to proceed with what we’re proposing.”