Board proposes eliminating valedictorian, changing graduation requirements

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Following the recommendation of California School Boards Association, the Board of Education is seeking to change Board Policy 5127’s graduation requirements and activities among all high schools. This proposal may potentially increase the number of students participating in graduation and rid the long-standing valedictorian-salutatorian system.

Currently, Board Policy 5127 allows graduation ceremonies to include recognition of valedictorians and salutatorians to honor superior academic achievement. The proposed academic recognition program will expand to three levels: Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude, similar to how colleges honor graduates. Recognition will be based on an individual student’s cumulative seventh semester grade point average.

“Sometimes, it comes down to a tenth of a point as to who gets the valedictorian and salutatorian,” Patricia Mahony, Assistant Superintendent of Student/Employee Welfare, said. “Many students have a grade point average that is 4.4 or higher. Why not allow them to be celebrated and recognized for their hard work?”

However, some students said they believe eliminating valedictorian and salutatorian discredits the effort that the would-be valedictorian and salutatorian put into academics.

“It’s not right because there are people who worked hard to try to earn that title,” senior Victor Ton said. “People drive themselves day-to-day studying and getting good grades, pushing themselves further. They’ve pushed themselves as far as possible, and now, it’s like they’re getting a participation award.”

In addition to this change, the board plans to allow students who can reasonably be expected to complete graduation requirements during the summer to participate in graduation exercises. These students will receive the diploma when requirements are fulfilled.

“As a district, we spend a lot of time talking about equity and we have a number of kids who come to school with many, many challenges,” Superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo said. “[The policy] is something that would really expand that recognition of equity. You’ve got kids who work and hold jobs or life is just a little more different and challenging for them, so we really believe it would go a long way in helping students.”

The board recommends that the award recognition program be adopted for the 2020-21 school year and new graduation requirements be adopted for this school year. The first reading of the proposal will be held at the next school board meeting on Feb. 25.

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