Archive for Thursday, January 13, 2011

No decision yet on valedictorian question

Members of the Class of 2008 from Basehor-Linwood High School and Basehor-Linwood Virtual School celebrate their graduation by throwing their mortarboards into the air at the conclusion of the commencement ceremony

Members of the Class of 2008 from Basehor-Linwood High School and Basehor-Linwood Virtual School celebrate their graduation by throwing their mortarboards into the air at the conclusion of the commencement ceremony

January 13, 2011

The Basehor-Linwood school board did not make a decision Monday on whether to keep the high school valedictorian honor, but board members who spoke on the issue leaned toward keeping the honor while adding a weighted-GPA system for determining the winner.

Superintendent David Howard said the district did not place a valedictorian decision on the agenda so that board members would have time to discuss the issue and make an informed decision. The board members first heard about the issue at last month’s meeting.

The board did discuss the issue, though, and Basehor-Linwood High School principal Sherry Reeves clarified the district's position.

Howard said the valedictorian issue was a decision for the school board to make, and the district did not have a position on it.

“Sherry and I both said this isn't a hill that we're standing on, ready to do battle,” Howard said.

He said the district's only position is that whatever recognition is given to top students, it rewards students for taking more challenging classes by using a weighted-GPA system.

Reeves agreed, but she said her chief concern about continuing to recognize valedictorians is the possibility that students might lose out on the honor because of scheduling quirks rather than their performance in the classroom.

“We understand and we appreciate the traditions of the community, and we value those traditions here,” Reeves said. “We're not looking for changes in how we recognize kids, but we definitely want to be fair to all kids.”

Under a weighted-GPA system that awards up to five grade points for an “A” in an honors course, a student unable to take a particular honors course because of scheduling conflicts might be disadvantaged, Reeves said.

School board member Jeane’ Redmond said one district patron had suggested that the high school could limit the number of courses for which students could receive weighted grades each year, as a way of leveling the playing field in the case of scheduling conflicts. But she said students may simply be forced to choose between honors classes and other classes creating a conflict.

“Everyone has choices, and sometimes choices are really tough,” Redmond said, “and that goes throughout life.”

Board member Eric Dove, a strong supporter of keeping the valedictorian honor at last month's meeting, said he thought it more important that students challenge themselves than to try to keep a perfect grade record.

“You don’t want to discourage kids from taking hard classes, is my thing in the end,” Dove said. “I have no issue with a valedictorian who’s got some 'B’s' in some really hard classes.”

Member Gary Johnson said most of the feedback he'd received from district patrons was in favor of keeping the valedictorian honor. Reeves said the district had received feedback on both sides of the issue.

On a snowy night in the midst of three straight canceled school days for students, member Richard Zamora was absent from the meeting.

Also during the meeting Monday, the board:

• Heard an update from Howard on the likelihood of state funding cuts. He said that legislators at one meeting last week said cuts were unlikely for this academic year, while officials at another meeting suggested a possible $75-per-pupil cut for 2010-11.

• Approved, 6-0, an extension of Howard’s contract as superintendent until 2013, with pay to be determined later.

• Approved, 6-0, the appointments of Brian Lohafer as BLHS baseball coach and Matt Lackner as BLHS assistant baseball coach.

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