Changes to High School Graduation Ceremonies - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Changes to High School Graduation Ceremonies

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Bay District School leaders are changing a decades old tradition. High schools are no longer recognizing a Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and the ten students with the highest GPA at their graduation ceremonies.

School Board members changed the policy on graduation four years ago, and it was designated to go into effect this year.

"My classmates and I are not very happy with this decision," Katie Kinard, a senior at Mosley High School, said.  "There are those ten kids we all know are in the 'Top Ten,' and they worked so hard, and now they're not even getting recognized [at Top Ten]."

High schools will now recognize students a lot like colleges do. Students with a 4.0 weighted GPA or higher will graduate with Excellence. Students with 3.5 to a 3.9 weighted GPA will graduate with honors, and those with a 3.0 to a 3.49 weighted GPA will graduate with Distinction.

"Me for example, I'm not in the "Top Ten" so I will be recognized with the highest accolades at graduation," Kinard said.  "At the same time, I feel kind of guilty because I didn't work as hard as the kids who are in the "Top Ten" did."

"What would have been more amendable to me and maybe the people who are in "Top Ten" is if we kept the "Top Ten," and then did this system on top of it," Zachary Grouev, also a senior at Mosley High, said.

Grouev, who holds the highest GPA in his graduating class, will make a speech at Mosley's ceremony, not because he was named Valedictorian but because his peers selected him. Under the policy, students with Excellence honors, vote on a graduate to make the speech.

"I think it allows me to represent my classmates," Grouev said.  "It allows me to make a positive message to everybody with my speech because that's really what commencement is about. It's about giving people a well wish off into the world."
School Leaders said this change rewards more seniors for their hard work and lessens the competition between students to earn a top spot.

"[Students] were eliminating courses or not taking courses they really wanted to take because it wasn't a weighted class. It wasn't going to count as much on their GPA," Suzanne Farrar, Director of Secondary Education, said.  "A lot of opportunities we're being missed simply by playing the GPA game, so to speak."

"I always felt bad for [students who were ranked] 11, 12, and 13, who are just as hard working. It's like an Olympic swimmer, the timing. It's like a hundredth of a second difference in their GPA's," Principal Sandy Harrison, of Mosley High, said.  "We are breaking ranks and tradition but sometimes that needs to be done."

A student's academic ranking in the senior class will still be included on his or her transcript.