No more Vals and Sals in Pasco County Graduations

Graduating seniors of Joplin High School applaud president Barack Obama after his speech Monday night, May 21, 2012 at commencement exercises in Joplin, Mo. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Rich Sugg, Pool)

WASHINGTON — The Superintendent of Schools in Pasco County, Florida, is recommending they end the tradition of honoring valedictorians and salutatorians among the high schools’ graduating classes.

The competition for the highest and second-highest honor, which is based on culminated grade point averages, is fierce, putting over-the-top pressure on students to win, according to a recent article in The Tampa Bay Times.

Instead of the two top monikers, top-performing students would be honored in groups under the Latin designations of cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude. Board members did not object to Superintendent Kurt Browning’s proposal, and most on the five-member panel expressed support.

The parents also fully engage in the competition and at times it gets cutthroat, said Browning. He recalled one meeting with parents that “felt like I was being deposed.”

Pasco County is not the only system in Florida that is getting rid of what Browning called the “outdated” titles. But not everyone is happy.

“It feels good to be recognized for a long four years of hard work,” said Trent Crawford, salutatorian of Anclote High. “I don’t think getting rid of it would be a good idea.”

As for the graduation speech usually afforded to the valedictorian, Browning said it would be up to each school to determine which student gets to make the speech and how that decision is made.

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