In Cloquet, there’s only room for one at the topWho’s at the top of the class? It’s an interesting conundrum. There are often multiple students who graduate with grade point averages above 4.0 because of extra points given to college level courses. This year, Cloquet is graduating 10 such scholars.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Who’s at the top of the class? It’s an interesting conundrum. There are often multiple students who graduate with grade point averages above 4.0 because of extra points given to college level courses. This year, Cloquet is graduating 10 such scholars.
But do the numbers truly reflect who should be chosen as class Valedictorian and Salutatorian? How do students who take on the most difficult courses and heavy class loads, compare with students who take light course loads and pass/fail classes? What about students who move into the school district without having had the option of taking the advanced placement courses that the other students did? Who decides who is number one, and is there room for more at the top?
The Cloquet School Board wrestled with all these questions during their Monday meeting this week. With high school graduation coming on May 29, resolution couldn’t wait.
In Cloquet, choosing the Valedictorian and Salutatorian has been at the discretion of Principal Warren Peterson. And when the numbers were close, he would name more than one.
“I look at what’s best for our kids in Cloquet competing against other kids across the nation [for college placement],” said Peterson. In a handout to the board he further explained that students who don’t challenge themselves, or who take no college level courses, would be more likely to have 4.0 GPAs, thus “watering down the Valedictorian status significantly,” he wrote.
High School Seniors Ashton Johnson and Andrea Tobias addressed the board in support of letting the GPA numbers—4.1283, 4.1242, 4.1210, and the like—decide who are Valedictorian and Salutatorian, instead of the current, more subjective process.
“It seems as if we’re rewarding all the students who do good instead of those who have succeeded to the top,” said Johnson. “I feel if you’re at the top you should get the title.”
School Board member Sandy Crowley agreed and made a motion that this year there would be one Valedictorian and two Salutatorians honored. A committee would be formed to look at the issue in depth for reconsideration by the board for future graduations. The motion passed with Duane Buytaert and Stephanie Hammitt opposed. Both wanted to keep the procedure the same until a committee could review all the information and make a proposal to the board.
“There’s going to be controversy either way,” Peterson said during discussion. “I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’ve been doing what I think is most fair for the kids.”
In other board action, it was decided that the opening for a full-time English/speech teacher at the high school be posted as both a licensed Communication Arts (grades 5-12) and English (grades 7-12) position. Terry Tyler, who filled this position after Julie McMerty retired last year, will not be returning, according to Cloquet Schools Superintendent Ken Scarbrough.
Peterson acknowledged the board’s desire to hire someone who is licensed in English and speech, but argued that it would narrow the pool of candidates.
“If think, if you assimilate speech into English, it’s going to disappear. I don’t go for that,” said Sandy Crowley. “What do our students need more than anything else now? Knowing how to present themselves.”
Buytaert added that he felt speech skills should be used in all the classes on a regular basis.
“I have every intention to keep speech in the curriculum,” said Peterson. “We’ve had some teachers who have been phenomenal [speech teachers] but they didn’t necessarily have that certification. I want to assure you that we won’t lose it by not putting it in the [posting] title.”
Also before the board was a first reading of a Pandemic Health Crisis Response Plan. This will be reviewed two more times before a vote is taken. It covers details like influenza awareness, preventative measures, mitigation steps, communication plans, and more.
Scarbrough said the state is starting to soften its recommendations for influenza outbreaks as the virus has been much milder than anticipated.
“It was good to go through the preparations and look at the policies,” said Scarbrough. “There have been some positive things coming out of this latest health scare.”
He said that more sanitizing stations are being ordered for the schools and more attention paid to making sure hand washing is taking place on a regular basis.