Cherokee proposes co-valedictorians to end flap

The Cherokee County school board has proposed a solution to Etowah High School's valedictorian flap -- allow two top students to share the coveted title.

The board also plans to institute a new policy that goes to the heart of the debate at Etowah: Should someone who has never attended class at a school be eligible to be its valedictorian?

At a meeting Thursday night, the school board said, "No," and proposed that future valedictorians be required to attend at least two classes at a school in both their junior and senior years to qualify for valedictorian, the prestige and even scholarships that can follow.

A petition signed by 433 Etowah students expressed similar sentiments.

The furor at Etowah started several weeks ago, when new academic rankings came out. Kelly McCahill moved into the No. 1 spot and became the most likely candidate for valedictorian at this year's graduation ceremonies.

Until then, senior Sydney Perlott0 had been considered a shoo-in for valedictorian. She had been ranked No. 1, based on her grade point average, since the ninth grade.

Students argued that Perlotto should not have lost out to McCahill, a dual enrollment student who never attended Etowah and is an on-campus student at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.

Perlotto's parents also say the method of calculating students' high school grade point average gives unfair advantage to students in college courses.

The school board voted Thursday night to allow the county's high schools, for this year only, to have co-valedictorians and co-salutatorians to address the problem at Etowah and similar situations involving salutatorians at two other high schools, said Carrie Budd, board spokeswoman.

The school board also changed its policy of arbitrarily assigning the highest numerical grades possible for college A's and B's, while using exact numerical grades for high school work.

In April, the board will officially adopt the new policy, requiring future aspiring valedictorians to attend at least two classes at their high school during both their junior and senior years, Budd said.

Dawn Perlotta, Sydney's  mother, said Friday of the board's action, "It is not fixing the problem. It is to pacify the people involved."