Northeastern High School is on a path leading to replacing valedictorians and salutatorians with an honor system for graduates with high grade point averages.

Principal John Markward proposed a Latin Honors program during the July 19 Northeastern Wayne Schools board meeting. Rather than recognizing valedictorian and salutatorian as the seniors with the top two grade point averages, it organizes high-GPA seniors with a system similar to that used by many colleges.

Effective for the 2027 senior class, Latin Honors would be awarded in three categories: summa cum laude for seniors with a 4.1 or higher GPA; magna cum laude, 3.9-4.09 GPA; and cum laude, 3.7-3.89 GPA.

The current system, with weighted grade points and averaging, sometimes results in intense competition among students, he said. Often, there is a tie for valedictorian. Last spring’s commencement included pre-recorded remarks from eight valedictorians.

Board member Kimberly Claypoole had suggested having only one or two student addresses during commencement. She and other board members expressed support for having a class speaker who would be a senior chosen on the basis of an application and audition.

Board member Daniel VanDuyne wondered how the new system would affect an academic honors wall that includes plaques with photos of valedictorians and salutatorians back to 1968. Superintendent Matthew Hicks noted that the wall is fairly full now and something different will need to be done with it in any case.

Markward’s proposal is included in a revised high school handbook. The board approved it pending some wording changes in the Latin Honors policy and a revised headgear policy.

The current headgear policy does not allow students to wear hats and headgear in school. Recognizing that many wear hats or caps almost always, the new policy would allow them in the building. Individual teachers could ask students to remove hats or caps in their classes. The policy allows hoodies, but hoods cannot be pulled over the head because it is difficult to see a student’s face inside a hood, Markward said.

The handbook also is taking steps to keep students from wearing backpacks from class to class, instead requiring packs to be stored in student lockers. That’s because no one can see what is in a backpack and some students keep vaping supplies or material that could be hazardous in schools in them.

“It’s our goal to keep kids safe,” Dr. Hicks said. “Another reason for this is that we can search lockers – it’s our locker. But it is very difficult to search a student; you have to have a very good reason to search them.”

Claypoole also asked about an email she and other board members had received, claiming that non-certified staff would not get raises this year. Dr. Hicks said that is incorrect. In the past, non-certified employees received raises in June. Dr. Hicks is waiting until after salary negotiations with the teachers association are over this fall. Non-certified raises would be based on how much teacher pay changes. Non-certified raises approved then would be retroactive to June, he said.

Dr. Hicks also informed the board that its attorney is still investigating the legalities needed to start a donations fund for a mural in the high school gym. That had been suggested at the board’s June meeting when several speakers asked that the 47-year-old mural not be painted over during current renovations.

The next regular board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the student services building, 7299 US 27 N. The public may attend. The board will conduct a work session, at which no final action is anticipated, on Aug. 2. That agenda includes budget discussions, a feasibility study and board goals.

The board approved personnel actions recommended by Dr. Hicks, as follows.

Resignations: Brandy Sheckles, teaching assistant, tennis coach; Sarah Booker, NMS math; Rob Shaffer, NHS head custodian; Mark Kerkoff, counselor.

Extra-curricular (coaches) / new positions: Erik Noland, assistant cross country; Michelle Neagle, NMS cross country; Wes Oler, head football; Jaymie Mastriano, Ryan Malloran, assistant football; Lee Reed, JV football; Shane Berry, JV football assistant; Frazier Phillips, 8th grade football; Archie Phillips, 7th grade football; Nate Schneider, Brian Wissler, volunteer football; Brian Wissler, varsity girls golf; Tyler Hostetler, varsity boys and girls track; Jerry Middleton, assistant athletic director, middle school; Vanessa Curtis, assistant AD, elementary; Brian Woesner, boys and girls bowling sponsor; Erik Noland, assistant varsity track; Matt Fisher, varsity volleyball; Sydney Townsend, assistant varsity and JV volleyball; Sydni Retter, volunteer volleyball; Angie Goble, 7th and 8th grade volleyball; Chelsea Wine, varsity cheerleading.

Hires: Kevin Cool, ag teacher, FFA sponsor, adult farmer sponsor; Daniel Eisenhofer, band.

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A version of this article appeared in the July 26 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.