Valedictorian-salutatorian policy debated at Lakeview schools meeting

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 12:06 pm on Tuesday, April 10, 2012

LAKEVIEW — Members of the Lakeview Community Schools Board of Education will review their current policy on valedictorians and salutatorians following an impassioned plea from Lakeview resident Paul Main.

Main’s son, Dan Main, graduated from Lakeview High School in 2006 at the top of his class of 139 students. For his efforts, Paul Main said his son received nothing but a copy of his transcript.

“When he graduated, this (transcript) was all he got from this school,” Main said, addressing the board during Monday evening’s regular meeting. “Dan ranked No. 1. I’m sure someone else ranked No. 2. For that accomplishment Dan got this transcript and no kind of recognition from the school.”

Main pointed out that at one time the school’s top two seniors not only received accolades and titles of valedictorian and salutatorian, they were featured speakers at the graduation ceremony. This is a tradition that should be reinstated at the school, according to Main.

“The school recognizes that the school has a state champion wrestler,” Main said. “Why don’t we recognize academic excellence? This is something we need to work on; maybe not this year but for next year. I’ve had six years to think about it. Now it’s too late (for Dan), the time is gone. But it’s a wrong policy that’s sending the wrong message to these kids. In the old days these kids would have been given a title. They deserved it then, they deserve it now.

“It’s four years of work that they’re focused on classes, every class, every semester for four years. How many kids can say this?”

Main added that the board that discontinued the practice of naming a valedictorian was probably doing so out of a desire to be politically correct.

“If this is being politically correct, then we’re going down the wrong road,” Main said. “I think it’s the wrong message to ignore an achievement like that. Just something as simple as a handshake and comment that Lakeview schools are proud of you would be enough. Thirty seconds is all it would take.”

Board member Tim Reed agreed with Main, saying the issue was “near and dear” to his heart, in large part because he was in the second graduating class after the policy was initiated and would have been valedictorian himself had the policy not been in place.

Reed explained the policy was adopted out of concern that some students were intentionally taking easy classes in an attempt to up their grade point average. He added the board changed the policy again at a later date to allow for a valedictorian, though no one on the board had any recollection of that ever happening or any action being taken on it.

Board President Ed Jonaitis also echoed Main’s sentiments, saying that schools in particular and society in general have put too much emphasis on making everyone feel “equal” regardless of their level of achievement.

“I do understand Paul’s (Main’s) frustration,” Jonaitis said. “I didn’t even know Dan was No. 1 in his class. What he said hit home pretty hard. In my day everyone had a valedictorian and salutatorian.”

The only dissenting opinion came from Lakeview Middle School Principal Tim Erspamer who said he had “a total opposite point of view. Our kids don’t lose out on scholarship money or success because they’re not valedictorian,” he said.

Board member Jeff Kurtze pointed out the title was not a matter of success, but a “point of pride” for both the student and the school.

Jonaitis suggested the matter be referred to the school’s Policy Committee for further review and research. He also suggested the school seek community input regarding the issue.

“I’m a strong believer that our society is too soft and afraid to reward people,” Jonaitis added.

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