School officials do the math to determine salutatorians

f The New Era

Sweet Home High School is recognizing two additional salutatorians after reviewing the process by which they are selected.

Salutatorians have the second-highest GPA in a class. Valedictorians have the highest GPA in a class. They all must earn honors diplomas to qualify.

Caitlyn Snyder and Dani Thireault were added to the list of salutatorians after finishing with grade-point averages just a thousandth of a percent behind the other salutatorian, an effect caused by pass/no-pass classes on students who had a single B.

“The bottom line in what we did was look at where we normally draw the line,” Principal Pat Stineff said. “It didn’t really feel very good.”

Snyder’s father, Robert Snyder, a local attorney, visited the School Board on May 15 and explained what he saw as a problem: pass/no-pass classes do not affect students with all A’s, but they can knock students out of the running for salutatorian.

For example, a high school student with 45 A’s and one pass would have a GPA of 4.0. Forty-five times four and then divided by four equals four. A student with 46 A’s also has a GPA of 4.0. Forty-six times four and then divided by four equals four.

A student who receives 45 A’s and a B finishes with a GPA of 3.978 – Forty-five times four plus three and then divided by 46 equals 3.978. A student who receives 44 A’s, a B and a pass finishes with a GPA of 3.977. Forty-four times four plus three and then divided by 45 graded classes finishes with a GPA of 3.977.

Carried out to more decimal points, the difference is less than a thousandth of a percent.

Stineff talked to counselor Julie Harvey and retired counselor Pat Haneburg about what the school has done in the past.

This year, she decided to add the two other girls, Stineff said. In this case the difference was minimal. Rounded to two decimal places, all three salutatorians have identical GPAs, 3.98.

“I’m pleased that the board and administrators looked at the process of selecting the salutatorians this year,” Snyder said. “I thank them for looking at this issue this year.”

“Students need to understand that when they take pass/no-pass, it can adversely affect your GPA,” Stineff said. Five or six pass/no-passes can knock the GPA much lower if a student has a B. The more credits a student takes pass/no-pass, the more the GPA is diluted by a B.

The first salutatorian had one pass/no-pass class, while the two new ones had multiples.

In this case, the results were so close, staff decided to give them both the distinction of salutatorian, Stineff said. In the past, “it hasn’t been this obvious.”

Of the valedictorians, one had six pass/no-pass classes, Stineff said. The most any salutatorian had was four pass/no-pass classes. With a single B, that valedictorian would not have been in the running at all for salutatorian. It would have dropped that student below 3.98.

“Parents calling me brought it to my attention,” Stineff said.

School staff will look at this issue for next school year, Stineff said, but she warned “if you guys want to be in the running for valedictorian or salutatorian, don’t take pass/no-pass classes.”

During the summer, staff will come up with criteria and rules that are “extremely clear,” Stineff said.

“I want to do what’s best for kids,” Stineff said. “I have to be fair and equitable across the board, so we’ll be re-evaluating this and seeing what happens. We’ll let kids and parents know.”