LAND O' LAKES - Pasco County school officials are balking at a plan that would alter the formula for determining how high school valedictorians and salutatorians are chosen.
A proposed change to Pasco's student-progression plan calls for calculating grade-point averages by including online courses taken outside the regular school day and middle school classes that count as a high school credit. The grade-point averages are used to decide class rank.
"We know from past history this is a topic that draws a lot of attention from certain parents," school board Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said at Tuesday evening's board meeting.
The change would become effective for incoming freshmen in August 2014, so the graduating class of 2018 would be the first affected.
Board member Alison Crumbley said one of her concerns is that a valedictorian could end up being a student who spent little to no time on campus during four years of high school.
Crumbley said she is OK with calculating a student's grade-point average using the online classes and middle school classes.
"I personally feel they've earned the GPA," she said.
When it comes to class rankings, though, Crumbley said she prefers that only classes taken at the high school be counted.
"I think the (valedictorian and salutatorian) should be a reflection of what's on campus," said Crumbley, who said she has received a number of calls on the subject.
The board approved first reading of the revised student-progression plan Tuesday, but plans more discussion of the class rankings at a July 2 workshop.
Superintendent Kurt Browning said the change in determining class rank reflects how education is changing, with more courses "being delivered outside the traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom."
Darrell Huling, a supervisor in the district's Office of Teaching and Learning, said that in addition to online courses, there is an increase in the number of middle school students who take courses that give them high school credits.
Those developments led to a conversation within the department about why those classes don't count when determining the valedictorian, he said.
Pat Connolly, a Land O' Lakes High School teacher, said he has had students in upper-level courses who were on campus only a couple of class periods daily because of the opportunity to earn credits outside the school. If one of those students became valedictorian, he said, other seniors would wonder who the person was giving the speech at graduation.
Connolly said when he attended high school, class rank didn't determine who gave the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches. Instead, students and staff members voted from a list of 10 students with the highest grade-point averages. He suggested the Pasco school board consider that alternative.