Pitt Co. school board considers removing valedictorian title from graduation

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – Pitt County Board of Education members are considering the future of high school valedictorians. They discussed the issue at their board meeting Monday night.

The change could potentially take effect after class of 2022 commencement ceremonies. Board Chairman James Tripp said parents fear students may be overworking themselves, trying to one-up the next person.

“Some parents had concerns that children are studying harder, trying to advance further, and it’s putting a lot pressure of them,” Tripp said. “We are addressing it and looking at it.”

Class of 2022 valedictorians from both J.H. Rose and Farmville high schools noted during their speeches that the honor felt somewhat useless, which raised concerns around the community.

“Most notable this year, we had two valedictorians from J.H. Rose and Farmville, so big school and small school,” said Anna Barrett-Smith, Board of Education District 5 Representative. “In giving their valedictorian speech, each of them expressed that they’d made tremendous sacrifices for that, and both expressed that they weren’t sure if it was worth it.”

Barrett-Smith said the title has caused students to set overwhelming expectations for themselves before they even start high school.

“They’re coming into high school with anxiety before they even walk through the door,” Barrett-Smith said. “They already know who the kids are who’ve been taking classes during the summer, which kids have the opportunities to take more classes the following summer, and it’s creating this anxiety that I think is unnecessary. There’s absolutely a way to encourage kids to push themselves and encourage to take the high level courses, but we need balance.”

Barrett-Smith said the board wants to create a level playing field for each student in the Pitt County school system to ensure they don’t feel the need to compete with one another.

No decision was made on this issue Monday night. Further discussions will take place at future meetings.

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