Schools’ valedictorian selection policies questioned

Published 4:06 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Three parents displeased with the selection process for valedictorians at local schools addressed the Chilton County Board of Education at a regular meeting Monday.

The topic had been brought up at previous meetings, and BOE Chairwoman Lori Patterson said before the visitors were given the floor that, “We are working on concerns that have previously been addressed to us.”

First to address the board was Brian Jackson, who has a child that attends Jemison High School.

Jackson said it is unfair that policies about valedictorians have changed during students’ high school careers.

“As a parent, I’ve got some concerns,” he said. “It’s kind of a game—what classes you can get in and which ones you can’t get in.

“I just want it to be fair.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Superintendent of Education Tommy Glasscock, in answering a question from Board member Pam Price about weighted GPAs, said much of the process is outside the control of the board or superintendent’s office because of the introduction of dual enrollment courses and other changes.

“Everything has changed,” Glasscock said. “It is a mess. Chilton County is not new to this. This is going on all across the state of Alabama. There are districts where they no longer have valedictorians and salutatorians because the rules have changed.”

Price said she thought it was unfair that dual enrollment courses at Jefferson State Community College, for example, could be weighted more heavily than Advanced Placement courses or courses taken through the University of Alabama’s Early College.

She also pointed out that the teacher for courses at Jeff State was employed by the Chilton County BOE.

Glasscock said a plan was put in place to “create continuity across the district” and also that the matter should and will be discussed further.

The superintendent said those involved should be more concerned about creating pathways for students than honorary titles.

“We’ve gotten way away from what we should be discussing, and that’s moving our students along a pathway,” Glasscock said.

Jimmy Mims addressed the board after Jackson. Mims said he thought the school system had made a “step in the right direction,” but pointed out that information about the selection of valedictorians is not found in the official Parent/Student Guide.

Mims also said he thought it was unfair that students with high class standings can be denied enrollment in Advanced Placement courses in favor of students with a lower class standing.

In this scenario, because an AP course carries a weighted GPA, a student with a lower class standing could leapfrog a student with a higher class standing based on inclusion or exclusion from the AP course.

The last visitor to address the board was Jenny Pitts, who questioned the weighted GPAs associated with dual enrollment courses at Jefferson State Community College and those at STEM Academy at LeCroy Career Technical Center.

“I feel strongly that these matters need to be resolved,” Pitts said.

Officials said they were committed to finding the best solution to the issue.

“Our intent is to find a solution that’s fair to every student,” Patterson said.