County schools eye val, sal change

By Chase Jordan -



During the majority of graduation ceremonies, the top two students usually receive the most attention. But Col. Tommy Macon would like to see more honored in the Sampson County School District.

Macon, assistant superintendent for academics and student services, is currently making a suggestion to replace the valedictorian and salutatorian process with a Latin system, which honors students with titles of Cum Laude (3.5 to 3.7 GPA); Magna Cum Laude (3.8 to 3.9 GPA) and Summa Cum Laude (4.0 or higher).

“I’m not saying that it’s not important to recognize the valedictorian and the salutatorian or the top 10,” Macon said. “I just think more students are worthy of recognition.”

Some of the advantages of going this route include more students being recognized and not having a limit on how many can be acknowledged.

In addition, colleges and universities are familiar with the Latin system. Macon noted that only a few school systems in the state use it. But with more students challenging themselves by taking advanced placement and honor courses and the state implementing a 10-point grading scale, he believes more high schoolers should be recognized.

During a previous meeting, the Sampson County Board of Education was not ready to jump aboard with the Latin system. Although Macon and other school officials would like to see the academic recognition process change, the board has the final say-so.

“The board did not decline or disapprove this process,” Macon said. “They wanted it more discussion.”

Dewain Sinclair, chairman of the board, prefers the current system in place, which honors the valedictorian and salutatorian at the county schools.

“As far as recognizing our students, I don’t want to do anything to take away from students putting in 110 percent in the classroom day-in and day-out,” Sinclair said. “A lot of students push hard throughout high school to make the top 10.”

He understand the idea of the Latin system honoring more students, but he questioned if it would motivate students.

“Does it push every each and every one of our students to continue to be in the top 10 …,” Sinclair said regarding the students who serve as junior marshals and honored on stage.

Sinclair said the Latin system is something the board will research in the future, which includes getting more input from teachers, parents and administrators.

It’s not the first time, Macon requested to use the Latin recognition format. He made a suggestion to use it during his days as a principal at Hobbton High School.

“We couldn’t get much traction with it because the tradition is strong across the state and everywhere you go,” Macon said. “I’m even a traditional guy, but I recognize when it’s time to change and consider looking at different avenues and other approaches.”

Another reason for wanting to make the change is to deter students focused solely on becoming the val and sal or in the top 10. In the process, Macon believes they may miss out on taking courses which may benefit them in college.

“They’re concerned about points,” he said before explaining that the difference between the top 10 or other students is less than one point. “It’s so small. The kid who does not make the top 10 and done the same work, took the same difficult courses … they’re not recognized.”

In each Latin category, Macon believes up to 15 students can be recognized during graduation. If implemented, the proposal includes using the new Latin system for students who are currently freshmen and keeping the val/sal system for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“I have always been a person of inclusion and opportunity,” Macon said. “I believe every student needs to have a reasonable and obtainable opportunity to be recognized.”

Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

By Chase Jordan



Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

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