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Gainesville school board to offer its view on co-valedictorians

POSTED: February 22, 2012 11:50 p.m.

The Gainesville Board of Education will meet Tuesday night to discuss the issue of co-valedictorians at Gainesville High School.

The school board called the meeting after hearing from many residents at Tuesday's regularly scheduled board meeting on what has become a hot-button issue for many in the community.

The school's principal, Chris Mance, elected to name co-valedictorians for the 2012 graduating class.

The school system hasn't released the names of either of the co-valedictorians; however, Cody Stephens' name has become public knowledge due to the outcry of his supporters, who say he has the highest GPA and shouldn't share the valedictorian title.

Although Mance is within his jurisdiction to decide valedictorian honors, the school board has the authority to overturn his decision.

Board member Delores Diaz said Wednesday that the group is gathering information and isn't prepared to issue a statement yet. They'll meet at noon Friday at the school board office at 508 Oak St. in Gainesville and adjourn immediately into an executive session, which is not open to the public, to discuss student records.

The board will offer an official position during the called meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, also at the school board office.

According to the high school's policy on the matter, the valedictorian and salutatorian honors are calculated after students' first semester of their senior year.

"The valedictorian must have earned the highest grade point average in his/her graduating class based on the school's consistent use of a weighted scale," the policy states. "The salutatorian must have earned the second highest grade point average in his/her graduating class.

"The grade point average shall be determined by grades received in all high school classes, including: dual enrollment, Georgia virtual school, accel, summer school and high school classes taken in middle school and high school credit was accepted by the student."

Discussing student records is against the system's policy; however, Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the other student's parents gave permission to release their child's grades. Stephens' parents have not done the same, though for the board to discuss the matter the parents would need to release those grades, Dyer said.

In a previous email to The Times, Dyer stated that the parents of the other student "have given permission for us to share that the student earned all As in every high school course."

Dyer went on to say that the co-valedictorians hypothetically could have resulted from one student who earned A's in every course credit for 36 units of credit and one who earned A's in all but one course, which was a B, and took 31.5 course credits.

"This resulted in the difference in GPA being less than one one-hundredth of a point," Dyer said.

The amount of public scrutiny on the school's valedictorian selection process has reached unprecedented levels. Some have questioned the integrity of the school system, while others have demanded that Mance be fired and school board members resign.

"At the heart of the issue is how the school procedure was followed," Dyer said in an email to staff on Wednesday, which she shared with The Times. "A parent has objected to the procedure, and this has resulted in groups from outside of our community, who know nothing about us, making harsh and accusatory statements in the board's public meetings.

"In any organization, or family, there will be conflict. It is how we deal with that conflict that defines us."  



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