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Kaneland School District 302 to add Latin honors system

MAPLE PARK – There will still be a valedictorian and salutatorian in graduating classes from Kaneland High School. Additionally, there will now be student recognition from the Latin Honors system.

That decision was made during the Kaneland School District 302 Board of Education meeting Nov. 27. A lengthy debate about abolishing the valedictorian and salutatorian designations and implementing the Latin honors system as its replacement originally took place during the Nov. 13 meeting. Additional conversations took place Nov. 27 before a new motion was made.

That motion stated that, “The Kaneland Board of Education approves the addition of the Latin Honors system beginning no later than the Class of 2022, keeping the valedictorian/salutatorian graduation recognition structure in place.” It was approved unanimously in a 7-0 vote.

Board member Peter Lopatin was the last to give his approval, remaining silent for several seconds before stating, “Aye, I’m not going to vote against Latin.”

Kaneland Board of Education President Teresa Witt, whose son, Ethan, was Kaneland’s valedictorian in 2014, introduced the idea of adding Latin honors while maintaining the current recognition system.

“While I’m in favor of adding Latin honors, I am not in favor of getting rid of valedictorian or salutatorian as long as we’re still continuing to calculate class rank,” she said. “That’s part of the culture, and if we know those kids at the top it’s my feeling they should be given those honors.”

Witt explained that this doesn’t have to be a permanent change, but makes the most sense now until “there’s a change or more information and more research on closing those mathematical loopholes.”

Michael Rice, director of educational services for grades six through 12, said the graduation committee will continue to work on those.

“One of the biggest things to address will be looking at how we weigh courses and where those capstone opportunities exist for students with the idea of trying to ensure we have a capstone at the end of every pathway a student may take,” he said. “It’s a solution we can get closer to, but it will probably take a few years to perfect.

“I think there’s always going to be some loophole that could be found or an extra class in a career field, but I think we can get a lot better than we are now.”

Board members shared their feelings about the recognition systems, and all seemed to be in agreement that using the Latin honors system would be beneficial.

Gale Pavlak, board secretary, agreed with Witt but also said it’s imperative that students know there is a process that’s more than only a valedictorian and salutatorian.

“Latin honors gives more students an opportunity to achieve,” Pavlak said. “I do think it’s important for valedictorian/salutatorian but I would love to see them mangled together.”

Board member Pedro Rivas said he appreciates the competitive nature of the current system.

“I reiterate what Teresa said about not getting rid of the valedictorian,” he said. “The reality is that beyond these walls it’s very competitive.”

Board member Shana Sparber said moving to the Latin honors system makes a lot of sense.

Lopatin said he preferred the Latin honors system.

“I’m in favor of moving to the Latin honors system and in getting rid of the valedictorian/salutatorian,” he said. “However, if the majority of the board feels otherwise, I would support the proposal as recommended to the board.”

Board member Aaron Lawler also expressed interest in the Latin honors system and voiced concern with a hybrid system and calculations.

“I’d like to know what we’re going to do with valedictorian and salutatorian specifically,” he said. “How are we going to calculate that now? I think that’s the sticking point to me. Is it really calculating what we said it’s evaluating, and if it’s not, what are we doing with that? I’m in favor of the Latin system because I think that’s a clean slate.”

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