GUSTINE - School board members recently gave their blessing to changes in the Gustine High valedictorian/salutatorian policy and fine-tuned graduation requirements.

Principal Adam Cano told trustees at their April 8 meeting that the valedictorian/salutatorian policy had not been updated since 2006, and that the existing guidelines sometimes resulted in the selection of several honorees.

Last year was the recent exception to the rule, as Gustine High had a valedictorian and a salutatorian.

But six students shared those honors in 2018, and seven were either valedictorian or salutatorian the previous year.

The previous policy, Cano said, was “very vague and we just had too many issues with it in the past. We have updated the policy. It makes it a little more simplistic and it is straight to the point.”

In one change, he noted, extra GPA points will be awarded only for courses taken at Gustine High. “Another student could not transfer in from another school and have extra AP/honors courses that our kids did not have access to,” Cano told Mattos Newspapers.

Grade point averages will be calculated to the third decimal point. In the past, the GPAs were calculated out to the second decimal point.

All eight high school semesters will be used in the calculations. Previously, the policy calculated the first seven semesters and then relied on progress reports, according to a copy of the previous policy provided by the district.

“Students who earn those titles are expected to demonstrate high levels of performance throughout high school. Using all eight semesters holds students accountable for their performance for the entirety of the senior year,” explained GHS counselor Melissa Estacio.

The new policy will not eliminate the possibility of multiple valedictorians/salutatorians altogether, Cano acknowledged.

In cases of multiple valedictorians, all will work together to compose a single speech which one will deliver at the graduation ceremony. Speeches will be delivered in English and Spanish when appropriate and, at the request of board member Pat Rocha, in Portuguese as well.

If more than one valedictorian wants to deliver the speech in each language, each candidate will deliver the speech to the administrative team, which will then make a selection.

The same criteria applies to salutatorians.

The policy will apply to this year’s graduating senior class, according to Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent.

Graduation requirements

Trustees gave final approval to a change to future Gustine High graduation requirements at their May 13 meeting. The new policy was introduced at the board’s April meeting.

Under the new guidelines, students will be required to take four years of English and four years of social studies courses, up from three in each of those two subjects.

The board also amended an existing policy which allowed Gustine High students to earn physical education credits through participation in athletics and marching band. Starting next year, freshmen must take physical education courses.

“We wanted to have ninth-graders in (physical education) for social-emotional learning, and they do have a ninth-grade physical fitness test,” Cano explained. “We were finding it difficult to pull those kids out of class for that.”

The policy allowing students to play sports or take band in lieu of physical education was established last year, Cano indicated. Sophomores, juniors and seniors will continue to have that option, he noted.

Rocha said she supported the policy offering that alternative.

“When they are in athletics they are playing harder physically than they are in P.E. for a short period of time,” she commented. “You may have more that join sports because of getting credit (for physical education).”