With the 2014-2015 school year starting next week, the Pasco School District has plenty of challenges to confront. So we continue to wonder after the debate over how Pasco schools should recognize academic excellence. It would appear we have a solution in pursuit of a problem. At issue is Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning’s suggestion that the school district come up with an alternative to the traditional practice of naming the top graduating senior commencement valedictorian and the number-two student salutatorian. One reason Browning cited in raising the issue at a school board workshop in June was that the naming of valedictorians and salutatorians had become too contentious, including complaining from parents who thought their child had been snubbed. The initial response to Browning’s proposal was muted, but then a national cable TV news program aired a report on it and a mostly negative backlash hit the district in the form of emails. Last week, Browning announced the matter is on hold until next year and in the meantime he will name an academic panel to study the best way to encourage and recognize student achievement. Browning said he still thinks a change is needed but denied he wants to give “a trophy to every student,” a reference to complaints that institutions such as schools and youth sports leagues now put self-esteem building ahead of academic and athletic rigor.
This is a situation in which the best course is naming a committee and then forgetting the whole mess. Even if an alternative to valedictorians and salutatorians were found, we’re pretty sure parents would just find something else to complain about.