School board accidently approves unwanted changes to graduation honor system

Jun 1, 2013 by

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. – Officials in Florida’s Hernando school district are learning the hard way that it’s imperative to carefully read proposals before rubber-stamping them.

It’s a lesson that came to light after students complained about a new school policy that eliminates the traditional valedictorian and salutatorian in graduating classes, and replaces them with the “cum laude” system used by most universities, WTSP television station reports.

School board members last year approved the plan 5-0, based on the recommendation of a committee tasked with revising the high school handbook. Board members contend that committee members didn’t explain the change, but admit they didn’t carefully read through the proposal before approving it.

“We need to figure out where the communication breakdown was, and why the board was not informed,” school board member Dianne Bonfield told WTSP. “I can’t understand this, but we will get to the bottom of it.”

Bonfield apologized for not catching the change, which is supposed to begin with the class of 2016.

“Yes, I’m sorry. I missed it. I missed it. I missed it … and for that, I am truly sorry.”

Hernando superintendent Bryan Blavatt also apologized and said he plans to work with the school board to repeal the policy and reinstate the valedictorian and salutatorian distinctions.

“To be honest, I’m as guilty as anyone. I didn’t notice it excluded valedictorians and salutatorians. I thought this was a way to recognize more kids, not less,” he told WTSP.

Principals serving on the committee recommended the change to the cum laude system because they believe competition to be “top of the class” is unhealthy, and more students deserve to be recognized for their academic honors, according to the news report.

That may be true, but it should be a decision that’s fully vetted with the school board and the public. Quietly slipping the change into a handbook, unbeknownst to school board members, is not only wrong, but breeds public distrust of school officials.

The biggest issue, however, is the board’s penchant for rubber stamping recommendations without fully understanding what they’re endorsing. We  suspect this type of thing has happened before, and school officials would be wise to implement a policy that prevents it from happening again.

School board accidently approves unwanted changes to graduation honor system – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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