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Sun, Oct. 20

Valedictorian/salutatorian

Discussions became a little heated about the valedictorian and salutatorian issue during the Prescott Unified School District Governing Board retreat Wednesday.

PUSD board member Tom Staley said he agrees with the current "Graduates with Distinction" program; however, he also wants to bring back the valedictorian and salutatorian titles.

"I think we've taken a very large aspect of competition in high school out of the equation," he said.

Staley emphasized how districts have a "Teacher of the Year" and how high school football teams have star quarterbacks. His solution was this: select a valedictorian and salutatorian from within the "Graduates with Distinction." Have both. He said he likes that "Graduates with Distinction" recognizes more students.

Dee Navarro, another PUSD board member, said before the "Graduates with Distinction" came into effect, students who took advanced placement classes sometimes wound up with lower GPAs ­ such as receiving a B in AP English ­ while students who took normal credit hours could achieve better grades from less difficult courses.

Staley's solution to this problem is creating a new formula for valedictorian and salutatorian selection that not only weighs the students' GPAs, but also their advanced placement classes and the number of credits they take. He said this will level the playing field.

"Val/sal should be brought back because it's just another goal for our kids to reach," he said. "We can still have a number one and number two without taking away from our 'Graduates with Distinction.'"

Navarro's main concern was educating the public on why the change happened and what it really means.

"I think there's a lot of misperception out there about what the site councils have done," she said.

Board members said the change creates a better set of standards, therefore recognizing more deserving students. David Martin, president of the Prescott Education Association, said the people on the site council studied the issue for a long time and looked at every problem, such as counselors struggling with whom to choose as the valedictorian and salutatorian.

PUSD Superintendent Kevin Kapp said 17 "Graduates with Distinction" sat on the stage during commencement exercises at Prescott High School this past year. Most of the parents who were originally upset about the change wouldn't have seen their children on stage that day, he continued.

Little by little, Kapp said he is seeing more acceptance of the program. By the end of the discussion, PUSD President Joan Fleming said the site council should revisit the issue and see if it needs to make any changes to the program.

Contact the reporter at slopatin@prescottaz.com

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