The Cherokee County school board will vote Thursday night on changes to its dual-enrollment policy and a measure to allow co-valedictorians and co-salutatorians this school year.
If passed, the measure could settle a dispute over who should serve as Etowah High School's top-ranked senior student.
"I'm asking for this year only to waive that policy so we can by and large if the situation presents itself, give the recognition to two kids that deserve it instead of one," county Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said.
The district's current method for translating dual-enrolled college course grades has resulted in a student who has never attended classes on Etowah's campus surpassing a traditional student as the front-runner for valedictorian.
Kelly McCahill, 17, daughter of Patty and Brad McCahill of Towne Lake, attends all of her classes at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton through Etowah's dual-enrollment program.
In February, she surpassed Sydney Perlotto, 17, daughter of Mark and Dawn Perlotto of Towne Lake. Sydney, who takes all of her classes on the Etowah campus, had been the top-ranked student there since the ninth grade.
Both Sydney and Kelly declined to comment on the possibility of co-valedictorians.
Mrs. Perlotto, Sydney's mother, said she is unsure how she feels about the measure and is waiting to see what happens at the meeting. But the bigger picture, she said, is changing the system.
"It's not about Sydney versus Kelly," Mrs. Perlotto said. "It's poor policy writing from the beginning."
The waiver recommendation comes along with the first reading of a policy change that would require students to attend at least two classes per semester both their junior and senior years on the high school campus or through approved online or virtual programs to qualify for valedictorian or salutatorian.
Last month, the school board also approved the first reading of policy changes that would make the translation of dual-enrollment grades more equitable.
The changes will go into effect next school year if adopted.
Petruzielo said the measures "level the playing field" as far as how grades are awarded for dual-enrolled students. Instead of receiving a 100 for an A, dual-enrolled students will receive numerical grades that more accurately reflect the letter grade - such as a 92 for an A-, 95 for an A and 98 for an A+.
But the state, he said, mandates that dual-enrollment classes count for one credit per semester. Students in high school classes only earn a half-credit per semester, which factors into class ranking.
He said with the policy changes, the board doesn't anticipate having to waive the one-valedictorian rule again.
Since the issue at Etowah emerged, parents and former students have stepped forward to say policy revisions are long overdue.
In a letter to the school board, Lauren Clark, Woodstock High School's 2003 valedictorian, challenged the board to review how many valedictorians in the past 10 years were dual-enrolled.
"I don't think the answer [would] come as much of a surprise," she said in the letter.
Halfway through her junior year, Ms. Clark learned she had fallen from ranking No. 1 in her class to No. 2.
She decided to joint enroll at Kennesaw State University instead of continue with Advanced Placement classes at Etowah because the college credits would give her a ranking advantage.
"Anyone who has ever taken a college course and realizes that a 90 will get you just as good of an A as a 99 will tell you that they calculate their effort in the class to get just a 90," she said in the letter. "Even an overachieving, grade-grabbing perfectionist like myself saw no reason to waste time trying to get a perfect grade when I knew it would be given to me anyway."