Cleburne ISD officials at a Monday board meeting did not make a decision on how to move forward on the valedictorian/No. 1 ranked student policy snafu.
Students and a parent urged board members to keep a third-year graduate from being ranked in the top three spots, whether or not that student has the highest Class of 2014 grade point average.
According to district policy, three-year graduates are not eligible to be named valedictorian or salutatorian, but can be named No. 1 in the class they graduate with. State law provides that the student named No. 1 in a class receives the Honor Certificate, which grants them a one-year scholarship to a state school.
That worries four-year students who say they can’t complete against a three-year graduate.
Senior Scarlet Doty, who was on track to be named valedictorian, was recently bumped to the No. 3 spot after a three-year student claimed top GPA and district officials’ look into past grading records found a clerical error.
She spoke against the three-year student — identified as 16-year-old Madeline Steck by her father Ned Steck — from being named No. 1.
“It is mathematically impossible for a four-year student to compete with a three-year graduate,” Doty argued, citing a mathematical equation she submitted to district officials. She said early graduates, according to her research, have an advantage more than 29 times larger over traditional students when it comes to GPA.
The class rank weighs more heavily on college acceptance than the title of valedictorian, Doty argued.
On Tuesday Doty’s mother, Suzanne Doty, said that it would not make sense for her daughter, should she be ranked lower than No. 1, to be named valedictorian.
“If Scarlet does happen to be the valedictorian, we are concerned with her going to a college and telling them, ‘I am valedictorian but I am No. 2,’” she said. “To me that does not make sense. That’s what we are concerned about.”
Trustees went back to the drawing board on the policy following a lengthy debate at an August meeting, and discussed for the first time Superintendent Tim Miller’s recommendation that a policy mirroring the education code be phased in for current seventh graders. Starting now, the district would follow the education code by giving the highest ranked graduate the honor certificate. Meanwhile, the district would also honor the valedictorian with a local $10,000 scholarship to cover the first year of college.
“It gives us an opportunity to honor both the valedictorian to [give] the local scholarship, as well as following the education code, that says the highest ranking graduate receives the honor certificate,” Miller said.
But the issue still remains, Suzanne Doty said, that class ranks matter more than the scholarship. She and her daughter have at board meetings mentioned several alternatives to naming the three-year student No. 1, including giving the student a class rank of zero or placing the student at a rank of No. 4.
Ned Steck said on Tuesday he is pleased with the first reading of the policy and is glad that the district doesn’t seem to have plans to change the rules mid-year.
“Everybody does minimum requirements,” Steck said. “Certainly, if you looked at Madeline’s courses, she’s taking classes. It’s not that she is skipping out on any of the coursework. She had enough credits to be qualified as a senior this year. She’s a smart cookie.”
Trustees said they plan to continue discussions at future board meetings. School officials did not return requests for comment by press time.