Parents react to new valedictorian policy

Published 8:34 pm Monday, March 28, 2016

Education officials have clarified the local public school system’s policy on the selection of valedictorians, but confusion remains.

Jimmy Mims was among the group of parents that addressed the Chilton County Board of Education about the issue.

“The biggest objection I had was the majority of parents were unaware they were going to make this change,” Mims said.

In February, the board adopted a policy that would have resulted in one valedictorian and one salutatorian from each local school—a significant change from what had become the common practice of schools bestowing the honor on multiple students each year.

The new policy had to be posted for 30 days before it took effect. At a special meeting of the BOE on March 24, instead of approving the “1-and-1” policy, the board shifted to a policy closer to the previous one.

The result is that local schools will likely once again have multiple valedictorians. Any student with a grade point average of at least 4.25 is eligible for the honor.

Salutatorians would be the student at each school with the next-highest GPA.

The policy that was under consideration called for valedictorians and salutatorians to be selected after the end of the first term—the halfway point of the school year.

Instead, the honors will be determined at the end of the school year, as has been the case in the past.

Tammy Hand is a math teacher at Chilton County High School and the mother of a graduating senior at the school. Hand said her child was first notified that she tied with a classmate for salutatorian.

After the change in policy, Hand said her child is eligible to be one of the school’s valedictorians but has not been notified.

“She doesn’t know what she is now,” Hand said while adding that she is honored her child would be eligible. “This senior class has a lot of smart kids in it.”

Hand said she wonders whether numerical grades could be used instead of GPAs, but it’s unclear what the board will implement for the next school year.

Superintendent Tommy Glasscock said he would like to see a “1-and-1” policy adopted but added that the issue will be studied over the summer.

Mims, also a parent of a graduating senior who could be eligible for the valedictorian honor, said he was glad to see the board change its course.

“I’m in agreement with it,” Mims said. “It puts more of the decision regarding the valedictorian and salutatorian in each school’s administration’s hands.”

Mims said he thinks a uniform, system-wide policy is difficult to implement because each school is different. As an example, Mims said Chilton County High School has multiple teachers for Advanced Placement courses, which receive weighted GPAs, while Jemison does not.

“You can’t compare schools apples to apples because each school is different,” he said.

Mims said he was also concerned that the proposed policy is not included in the student handbook (the policy was added to a lengthy document on the BOE website), and that the change was taking place at the end of some students’ high school careers.