By Robert Connelly
With many students vying to earn valedictorian status among their peers, Canfield schools administrators looked to a different system to ease pressure on students — but also reward more youths.
Canfield School District administrators said this is the first year the cum-laude scale will be used for graduates Sunday. Seniors will graduate at the high-school stadium at 2 p.m. In case of inclement whether, the event will be moved to the auditorium or gym.
District officials gave many reasons why they began to research the change years ago. Canfield’s board of education approved the change two years ago, when current graduating class members were sophomores.
Guidance counselor Becky Heikkinen said those students were hesitant at first, but began to like it over time.
“It’s what everyone is used to after this class,” Superintendent Alex Geordan pointed out.
Officials from the Mahoning County Education Service Center said that Canfield is the only school district in Mahoning County with the cum-laude system. Mike Moldovan, assistant principal of Canfield High School, said they have fielded calls from area schools inquiring about the system.
Now, the valedictorian system as well as class rankings are gone.
“The kid that finishes top 20 or 25 at our school might finish one or two somewhere else,” Moldovan said. “By not reporting class rank, colleges have to look into kids more.”
That appeals to the “holistic” approach of college recruiting that takes into account the toughness of the curriculum, ACT/SAT standardized scores and extracurricular activities. The cum-laude system, Latin for “with honor,” is divided into three tiers: cum laude, for grade point averages 4.01 to 4.09; magna cum laude, “with great honor” is for 4.1 to 4.19; summa cum laude, “with highest honor” recognizes 4.2 and above.
Thirty students are among the three categories for this graduating class. Cum laude will be represented with red and white cords; magna cum laude with red and black cords; and summa cum laude with gold cords. All 30 will have medals.
Canfield High School principal John Tullio said he has received calls from alumni who are happy with the change.
Heikkinen explained that in the old system, each student had to follow a strict class schedule to qualify for the honor. Now with a different approach under cum laude, students aren’t affected as greatly by taking other classes.
“Now, [students] could take an AP art class, and it’s not going to hurt [them],” she said. Canfield offers 11 advanced-placement classes with four college-credit classes through Youngstown State University. Those credits are transferable to any state university in Ohio. District officials also said seven students earned additional AP credit through an online state program.
Heikkinen said that under the valedictorian system, the top 10 percent were honored traditionally. That number would have only honored 24 students, not the 30 to be honored under the new system.