Meridian board makes switch to Latin honors system


photo by Sarah Gregory

The Class of 2019’s graduation featured Sadie Scott as the valedictorian for the class. Scott gave her speech in front of family and friends after four years of hard work and stress. “Becoming valedictorian wasn’t easy, and there’s a reason not everyone does it,” said Scott. “It takes a lot of sacrifices, giving up classes you might have wanted to take, giving up free time to do homework; maybe if I could do high school over, I would do things differently.”

by Hannah Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

The Meridian school board has voted unanimously to do away with valedictorians and salutatorians and introduce a Latin honors system. This came after a committee of teachers did research and sent it to the board who ultimately voted on June 17.

The committee consisted of Eric Hurelbrink (high school principal), and teachers Sheila Moore, Sheila Rappé, Kelley Mullaney, Tony Hicks, and Phil Stielow. They started their research by looking at how other schools dealt with academic honors, then they established classifications to make it fair for all students.

“It actually opens opportunities for those students who would have, before, been avoiding different electives to take another core class,” said Hurelbrink.

Weighted-system causes heavy choices

The board consists of Chris Jones (President), Monte Hogan (Vice-President), Rebecca Kraft (Secretary), Adam Herbert, Matt Roush, Clint Gorden, and Kara Morey. The board recognized that over the past several years, there had been a growing number of students, who gave up elective coursework in favor of taking more core courses to be valedictorian. This has had a domino like affect with other students who follow in order to keep up. The most widely affected elective courses are Band/Chorus, because students give these up to take more weighted classes. This makes it difficult for some elective courses to maintain class numbers, which goes against Meridian’s philosophy of providing a well-rounded education to all. Also, teachers of upper level classes have seen a higher stress level among students.

“Becoming valedictorian wasn’t easy, and there’s a reason not everyone does it,” said Sadie Scott, valedictorian of the Class of 2019. “It takes a lot of sacrifices, giving up classes you might have wanted to take, giving up free time to do homework; maybe if I could do high school over, I would do things differently.”

“I think it [Latin honors system] will help with stress a lot,” said Gorden. “I know from my experience in high school for some of my friends it was just a life or death situation whether they were gonna be valedictorian or not.”

This new system would allow students to seek the highest recognized honor “Graduate of Distinction” without compromising their interests in extra curricular classes for higher weighted courses. The Graduate of Distinction will be the student that you would now refer to as the valedictorian. However, this system would recognize the achievements of more students- Summa Cum Laude (3.9 or above GPA), Magna Cum Laude ( 3.75-3.89 GPA), and Cum Laude (3.50-3.74 GPA).

“If the mission of the school is to encourage this creativity and yet we have people dropping the creative classes in order to try and earn a title, then that’s not really fitting with our mission statement,” said Moore. “This is a way of allowing them to do the things they love.”

The Graduate of Distinction will be signified by a white cord plus the corresponding Latin cord. To be able to achieve this honor, a student must attain a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher on a weighted scale. They also must complete the following successfully:

  • English 101/102
  • Any of the following: Physics, Anatomy, or Microbiology/Genetics
  • Trigonometry/Pre Calculus or Calculus
  • At least two credits in Foreign Language
  • Four credits in any combination of Art, Music, Business/Technology, Foreign Language or Agriculture

Summa Cum Laude with Highest Honor will be signified with a green cord. Magna Cum Laude with Great Honor will be signified with a black cord. Cum Laude with Honor will be signified with a silver cord.

“We will see students flourish with well-rounded course schedules, and ultimately, less academic pressure at a time when the approach of adulthood can be somewhat overwhelming,” said Rappé.

Since approved by the board, this system will start with the class of 2022, which are the sophomores of the 2019-2020 school year.

“I think it’s a good thing moving forward, we have a good band/chorus program, good journalism class, and are getting an ag program, so I think it’s important to utilize those,” said Gorden. “Kids are staying happy to succeed and succeeding that way.”