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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Board decision sparks controversy

THURS. | 10-06-22 | NEWS

     On Monday, Sept. 12, the Pitt County Schools (PCS) Board of Education (BoE) added an amendment to policy 3440, adding factors in addition to class rank as factors for choosing student speakers at graduation ceremonies. 

     “The policy states that student graduation speakers will not be selected by class rank alone, but instead requires each principal to gather input from teachers, parents and students to develop a fair and equitable system for determining student graduation speakers,” Board member Caroline Doherty said. 

     When a school decides the method for selecting a commencement speaker, they must send a notice to parents and students notifying them of the selection process.

     This amendment will be put into effect beginning with the class of 2027.

     “It would not be fair for [the class of 2026] to change the policy now after they have already embarked on their high school pathway,” Doherty said. 

     The board decision appears to have caused confusing among some Pitt County Schools parents, students and alumni. Valedictorian and  salutatorian ranks will still remain in schools.  


Photo by Averi Simpson 

     Hayden Humphreys, the 2022 valedictorian for Rose, spoke at graduation about his journey to obtain this title. Humphreys wrote a letter to the PCS BoE, arguing that the valedictorian and salutatorian ranks should remain, despite the fact that the board decision does not affect class rank  or the valedictorian and salutatorian titles. 

     The purpose of the amendment to policy 3440, however, is to reconsider speakers at graduation so that the chosen speakers have connections with their peers, not to do away with the titles in general. 

     Additionally, Humphreys stated that he was told his graduation speech was being used as evidence as to why valedictorian and salutatorian should no longer be used, which Doherty said was not the goal of policy 3440. 

     Humphreys' speech from June 2022 ,among others, sparked the conversation in school communities around the sacrifices made to become valedictorian and called many students to question whether it was worth it. Humphreys specifically called into question the sacrifice of potential friendships in his speech. 

     “Nobody cares about a title we hold, or a grade we got on a test, we have so much more to offer than just that,” Humphreys said. “Therefore, we can feel free to work harder in developing our personal relationships with others.” 

     Humphreys declined to comment for this article. 

     Doherty said that the decision of valedictorian and salutatorian often does not happen until days before graduation, so she believes that it is not necessarily fair to other hard working students. 

     “Many students end up with very high GPAs that are a couple thousandths of a point away from other students,” Doherty said. “I believe that they are all deserving of recognition of the sustained effort it took to reach the Cum Laude level of excellence.”

     Doherty suggests that Pitt County residents who feel strongly about this issue discuss the criteria and process for selecting commencement speakers with their specific schools. 

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