Students and Parents Push to Reinstate Valedictorian and Salutatorian

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PANAMA CITY-- Bay County students head back to class Tuesday.

School board members are at odds over one of the changes that took place last year and some want to reinstate the valedictorian and salutatorian honors at local high schools.

Bay County School Board Member Steve Moss approached school district officials with the issue about a month ago. "The parents came to me with a lot of concerns, and what I did, is I listened," Moss said.

They were concerned about a policy passed back in 2010, but didn't take effect until last year. It eliminated the valedictorian and salutatorian recognitions for two seniors with the top GPA's in each school.

Moss is working to get that policy reinstated. "I hope to one day live in a school district where we recognize academics as much as athletics," he said.

Moss says he did his homework, speaking with 18 Panhandle superintendents. Only four districts do not acknowledge those top two spots.

"I think that sent the wrong message to our students," he said. "Especially those high academic achievers that work very hard on getting a 4.0 [GPA] and above. I believe when we took that designation away we sent the wrong message."

Moss' proposal would enact three major changes: It would include the valedictorian and salutatorian. It would require a weighted 3.5 GPA instead of a 3.0 GPA to graduate with honors and it would change the terms graduating with distinction, honors and excellence to Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude and Summa Cum Laude

Moss said academic competition should be a motivator, not a deterrent. "For some it's athletics. For some it's band. For some it might be drama. But for other students, academics is their motivation. That is what they strive to do very well in," he said.

Bay District Schools officials were not available to comment on the other side of this issue. School board members are scheduled to discuss the proposal at next Tuesday's board meeting.