By Christine Sampson
The Sag Harbor School Board on Monday took a first step toward setting formal policies governing the weighting of grades and students’ class rankings during their senior year.
The proposed grade-weighting policy gives all classes a base value of 1.0. Classes that end with a Regents exam are assigned a value of 1.05, while honors courses are assigned 1.08. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes are weighted at 1.1.
“Weighting is applied at the completion of a course, except in the senior year where the weighting of students’ courses are applied at the end of the seventh semester,” the policy reads.
The proposed class rank policy governs the selection of valedictorian and salutatorian, who are to be selected at the end of the “seventh semester” – the second quarter of the senior year – based on the students’ “cumulative, weighted grade-point averages” calculated to the thousandth of a point.
The overall grade-point average includes courses in progress, which means midterm grades are included, and those that end mid-year. Grades from online courses will not be considered in the grade-point average, but summer school courses are included. In the case of courses that are retaken, both the original and new grades are figured into the grade-point average. High school courses taken in middle school, such as advanced math and science classes, will count toward the cumulative grade-point average.
To be eligible for either role, a senior must have spent a minimum of four consecutive semesters at Pierson Middle-High School, and in the case of a transfer student, only grades earned at Pierson will be considered. If there is a tie for the role of valedictorian, two “co-valedictorians” will be named and there will be no salutatorian named. If there is a tie for the role of salutatorian, two will be named.
Both proposals were developed by the school board’s policy committee, which includes superintendent Katy Graves and board member Theresa Samot. High school principal Jeff Nichols and high school assistant principal Michael Guinan helped draft these two particular policies, which were presented for a “first reading” during Monday’s school board meeting. Each time a policy is read, school board members may weigh in with their opinions. The school board sees policies at least two times before approving them.
“One of the questions people ask is, ‘Why don’t you rank at the end of the eighth semester,’ which is in June,” Mr. Nichols said. “There are a lot of things pertaining to class rank that have to be done in January. … Ninety-nine percent of schools will rank at the end of the seventh semester.”
Some board members, including Chris Tice and Sandi Kruel, said they supported the policies as presented.
“I’ve sat in this chair during many public discussions with opinions about needing a policy,” board member Chris Tice said. “I’m delighted by these policies. I think they’re very clear, very concise … and will remove a lot of questions.”
Board member Susan Lamontagne, however, raised a question about the class rank policy. Citing a situation that had arisen in a past school year, she wondered if language should be added to the policy to address a circumstance in which a student not named valedictorian or salutatorian may end the school year with a higher grade-point average than the student named to those positions, or if the valedictorian or salutatorian should later exhibit poor or unruly behavior.
In response, Mr. Nichols said the decision of naming a valedictorian and salutatorian at the end of the seventh semester would be final.
“It is not uncommon to have the rankings change between the seventh and eighth semester,” he said.
Superintendent Katy Graves said “there are checks and balances for students that keep them performing” at a high level.
“The institutions they’re moving onto weigh back in. … Scholarships, merit scholarships, weigh in on that. The honor society affiliation weighs in on that,” she said. “There are a lot of other dynamics in play. A student that is performing at that level in general will continue to perform.”
Ms. Tice pointed out that in most cases, with students with such high grade-point averages, “there’s not enough time to have radical shifts” in grades because students have been taking advanced classes since the eighth grade, which are figured into a student’s seventh-semester ranking.
The grade-weighting policy and class rank policy are posted on the school district website for public viewing under the February 13 meeting agenda link on the school board page available at sagharborschools.org.