Tuesday, 02 June 2020 19:15

Richmond County School Board abolishes two-student honor system to include more honorees

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HAMLET — Richmond County’s top students will no longer be limited to two.

The Richmond County Board of Education voted 6-1 Tuesday to switch to the Latin Honor System instead of using the valedictorian-salutatorian system.

Dr. Kate Smith, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said this would be the best year to make the transition from the “antiquated system” because of the inequities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith said the biggest concern with just naming a valedictorian and salutatorian is that the competition is so tight, with eight thousandths of a point separating the top two. She added that only a thousandth of a point separates those ranked 1-31.

According to Smith, the new system would honor the accomplishments of more students and the class rank would still be listed on the transcript.

School Board Member Pat Campbell asked why the district couldn’t combine the two systems and still name a valedictorian and salutatorian.

“Why take that away from them?” he asked Smith, saying just going to the Latin Honor System “feels like it’s a participation trophy.”

Just because other schools are making the switch, Campbell said that didn’t mean Richmond County Schools had to.

“They’ve worked hard for this,” he said, adding that it seems like the “next step toward socialism.”

Smith just repeated the points she had made earlier in her presentation.

School Board member Ronald Tillman said he believed the district should acknowledge all the kids that need to be recognized.

Chairman Wiley Mabe polled each of the board members, with Campbell being the only no vote.

The board also approved calendar revisions for the upcoming school year.

One change was ending the semester before Christmas so students could take their exams before the winter break.

Another revision was adding five days built in for remote learning, some of which would fall on staff development days.

Before the class ranking discussion, Smith updated the board on how the end of the school year will be handled.

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will not receive a report card, but and end-of-year feedback form.

The form will include social emotional feedback, which will be beneficial for the students’ teachers next year.

Smith said there were many who were not able to participate in remote learning in the last months of the school year.

Middle schoolers will receive both a report card and feedback form and will not be held responsible for anything after March 13, when Gov. Roy Cooper closed schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The schools will schedule pick-up days for the reports and forms or they will be sent by mail.

Smith said the district is required to provide a summer learning program of math and reading, which will be remote,  for those most negatively affected by the pandemic.

She said they are expecting guidance from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction by the end of the week.

The district is also required to have a 15-component remote instruction program for the upcoming year, Smith said, adding that the IT department has been “feverishly” working to train teachers.

The plan must be submitted to the state by July 22.

The board also approved:

  • The career and technical education plan
  • An alternative education model
  • An application for federal programs ($4.1 million in funding)
  • Two software contracts
  • Several budget amendments and new policies