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Graduates celebrate at Union Pines High School. (Photograph by Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot)

All three of Moore County’s high schools will recognize valedictorians during this week’s graduation ceremonies, but it will likely be for the last time.

The school board voted in 2018 to introduce gradually a Latin honor system that will recognize all students who graduate with a GPA over 4.25 and replace recognition of a valedictorian for the class of 2022.

That’s come as a surprise to the school board members elected last year. In a post on his school board Facebook page Wednesday night, board member David Hensley said that he and board member Philip Holmes had called for a special board meeting this Saturday.

Hensley said that he planned to call for the reinstatement of valedictorians as well as individual recognition during graduation ceremonies of students who have received ROTC scholarships and appointments to the nation’s military academies.

“Earlier this evening I was shocked to learn that five years ago the previous School Board voted to eliminate Valedictorians and Salutatorians in Moore County Schools,” the post read. “I find it extraordinarily unsatisfactory that the pervious (sic) Board of Education voted to eliminate recognition of our students who worked tirelessly to excel academically and be the top of their respective classes.”

Although Hensley and Holmes called for the meeting, none was scheduled because the board was unable to get a majority of members available to participate.

School board policy normally allows any two members of the board to call for a special meeting “upon giving at least 48 hours public notice.”

Board Chair Libby Carter could not be reached for comment, but recently the board has interpreted the timeframes laid out in the board’s policies as applying to business days when school staff can be expected to be available.

Elected boards are allowed to call emergency meetings, but for that purpose state statutes define emergencies as “generally unexpected circumstances that require immediate consideration by the public body.”

As of this week with final exams wrapping up, all three schools had named their senior class valedictorians: Mallie Purvis at North Moore, Victoria Kays at Pinecrest and Thomas Reinhardt at Union Pines. Each will speak at their respective graduation ceremonies.

But the high schools aren’t expecting a single student to hold the highest grade point average in future graduating classes. That’s due to grading scale changes at the state level that went into effect about five years ago.

The school board initially voted to start the shift away from valedictorian and salutatorian honors based on the move to a 10-point grading scale, which widens the margin of what’s considered an “A,” a “B,” and so on. Around the same time new state policies changed how GPA is calculated, reducing the advantage associated with honors, Advanced Placement and community college courses.

That’s all combining to slim down the margins between the GPAs of individual students.

Starting next year, the schools plan to put in place a Latin honor system designating “cum laude,” “magna cum laude,” and “summa cum laude” graduates based on their GPA level.

Hensley said in his Facebook posts that high schools should also allow representatives from the military to “give brief presentations” recognizing ROTC scholars and military academy appointees during graduation ceremonies.

Those students are typically recognized in awards ceremonies at their schools as are recipients of academic and athletic scholarships.

In a post Thursday morning that has since been removed, Hensley framed it as a “remarkable coincidence” that three school board members are out of town for the holiday weekend. He also said “there really isn’t an excuse” not to meet on Saturday since board members are now well-practiced in meeting virtually.

(2) comments

Sally Larson

Glad they caught this, these are honors that have an influence throughout a student's life, it would be wrong to take them away.

Kent Misegades

Wokeness 101 : winners become losers and losers get the praise for showing up. What an injustice for hard-working students. No wonder so many opt out of government

schools. Private and charter schools have one valedictorian per year, the way it has always been done. Students accepted into apprenticeship programs out to win as much recognition as kids getting full-ride college scholarships or military academy appointments. The apprenticeship is better - the young person gets paid while learning his profession and has a guaranteed job at the end.

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