District adopts Latin honor system

By Evan Myers | Times-Post
ptnews@ptlpnews.com

LAPEL — In just a few years there will be no more valedictorians or salutatorians at Frankton and Lapel high schools.

Beginning with the Class of 2021, the district will not recognize the top two students in a graduating class. The schools will instead acknowledge students as summa cum laude, magna cum laude or cum laude.

The Frankton-Lapel Community School Corp. recently approved a change from the valedictorian/salutatorian honor system to a Latin honor system.

The Latin honor system divides students by grade-point average. School leaders contend this will challenge students to compete for a prestigious academic designation — instead of against their fellow students.

The system also gives the district the opportunity to recognize more students for academic accomplishment, Assistant Superintendent Sterling Boles said.

“The thought was that if we had benchmarks there, then (students) would be competing for the benchmarks instead of competing against each other,” Boles said. “We’re hoping for a better spirit of collaboration.”

“They’ll still be in the running for scholarships and honors,” he added. “We’re going to recognize not one or two people at the top of the class, but instead 12 to 17 percent of the graduating class at the ceremony.”

Administrative surveys were sent out among school staff and parents, and the data suggest the community is in support of the switch. Of 100 responses, about three-quarters indicated they favored the switch.

The decision was reached after two years of research, Lapel High School Principal Chad Kemerly said.

School officials spoke with admission counselors at each university in Indiana to ensure the change wouldn’t have a significant impact on college acceptance rates.

Also, there was additional discussion regarding healthy competition in the school setting, Kemerly added.

For example, instead of taking classes designed to prepare for specific collegiate paths, often students were taking weighted dual credit courses they didn’t need, to compete for valedictorian of their class. He hopes the change will encourage students to rather select classes that cater to their future.

“I don’t want to take away from the importance of academics whatsoever,” Kemerly said. “I think it’s actually moving toward improving college readiness overall.”

The school board currently has no official policy regarding the recognition of top students at the graduation ceremonies.

The student handbook states the top two students will be recognized at the end of the school year. This section of the handbook will be amended when the new honor system takes effect in 2021.