QUINCY -- What separates the valedictorian and salutatorian at Quincy High School can be measured only in 100ths and 1000ths of a decimal point.
The bigger difference, QHS Principal Jody Steinke believes, is the game playing students take in creating that slim margin -- and decisions against taking courses that might better prepare them for a college or career to maintain a chance at the top graduation spot.
"We should seriously consider looking at whether or not we recognize valedictorian and salutatorian," Steinke told the Quincy Public Schools Curriculum Committee on Monday. "In my mind, if we recognize academic excellence, what separates one from five is minuscule and almost inconsequential."
Steinke's preference would be to stop naming the top two students but continue to recognize high-achieving students with summa and magna cum laude honors at graduation.
That's the same recommendation made by a curriculum subcommittee in April 2014. The committee adopted the recommendation and so did the School Board -- except the board agreed to maintain the valedictorian and salutatorian recognition while adding the additional honor in the 2015-16 year.
Curriculum Committee Chairman Sheldon Bailey said more information is needed before making a recommendation.
"What the committee was asking for was, how would we go about it? We've always done it. The tradition is strong. How do we walk away from that? What would be the process?" Bailey said.
The committee also wants more information on what students are taking or not taking as preparation for college because of how it may affect class rank.
"We need to look at that a little bit more to what degree is that happening," Bailey said.
"We're better off to push them academically than to have them creatively come up with a schedule that's going to give them that No. 1 recognition," School Board member Mike Troup said. "You want people to take the honors biology. Their life in college will be that much easier no matter what grade they get in high school."
Superintendent Roy Webb said he's more concerned about students avoiding a class for fear of earning a lower grade.
"Our kids need to learn how to fail," Webb said. "The need to learn they can get a B, a C, a D in my world and still go on and do something successful in life."
Class rank -- not being named valedictorian or salutatorian -- still matters to college admission, but "it would just not be public like it is now," Steinke said, and some type of application and interview process could be used to determine a graduation speaker instead of the valedictorian.
How any change with valedictorian and salutatorian recognition might affect the high school's grade-weighted courses has not been determined.
"Maybe if we get rid of valedictorian and salutatorian, that goes away a little bit, too," Steinke said.