The pros of Foothill Tech’s elimination of Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Ruby Jenkins, Writer

The sun is setting on Foothill Technology High School’s (Foothill Tech) tradition of Valedictorian and Salutatorian after having been in place since its founding in 2000. For the first time in 23 years, students of the graduating class at Foothill Tech can no longer garner the title of ‘best in class.’ Admin has chosen an alternate to this award by “replacing” it with a new title, called the Hometown Hero award. 

These sudden changes have come as quite a surprise to some, but to others, the change has been long awaited. Although Valedictorian and Salutatorian are considered to be a high honor, there is a long list of drawbacks that have come with the title. From stress to the plethora of strict rules that one is forced to follow, it seems the change should have occurred long ago. 

In an email that principal Russell Gibbs sent out on March 22, 2023, he stated that “Valedictorian and Salutatorian negatively impact student culture by making high performing students very competitive with one another, causing significant anxiety and stress.” Foothill Tech is already known for its high-performing academics, so the extra layer of stress that these awards put on students is unnecessary. A 2023 study shows that over 61 percent of students, ages 13 to 17, feel overly stressed about producing satisfactory grades. These numbers take into account all classes, but what about classes that future Valedictorians and Salutatorians are taking? Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors classes are known to spike stress levels; is the grade bump really worth it?

Another reason the abolition of these awards is beneficial to the school and students is because of the confusing rules one is forced to follow in order to get this title. Due to Ventura College’s close proximity to Foothill Tech, many students have done dual enrollment so that they could get ahead on required classes or take special-interest subjects. Gibbs told students that only classes taken at Foothill Tech count towards Valedictorian and Salutatorian: “Counseling reported that students who desired Val/Sal honors would not enroll in dual enrollment since only classes taken at FTHS counted towards Val/Sal calculations.” Many students that worked towards this title were never made aware of this rule, thus making them ineligible for the honor unknowingly. 

The biggest issue that people had with the award, and thus the dissolution of it, was that students who aren’t in a special pathway are unable to get this award. The only pathways that make one eligible for the award are ones where applications and selections are made, such as BioScience and DTech. Only a minority of students in the graduating class are a part of these pathways that one would have to apply and be accepted into in their freshman year. Students may not even know what they want to do in the future, so having a three-year gap between the decision to apply and the award of Valedictorian is unfair. 

Foothill Tech has always been considered a very academic school, and many wonder what these new changes will mean for the educational integrity of the school. Although students at Foothill Tech can no longer get Valedictorian or Salutatorian, there will be no changes to the Magna Cum Laude or Summa Cum Laude awards. These are also GPA-based awards that many students of the graduating class are able to receive, alongside plenty of other awards that students can still get. Other non-GPA awards that will still be awarded include individual honors for academic departments, Renaissance honors, the “Most Inspirational” award, the Scholar Academic award, the Community Service award, the Eternal Optimist award, the Most Improved award and finally the “Best All Around Student” award. The loss of the Valedictorian and Salutatorian may mean a lot to some, but the elimination of it is better for the majority of students.

What do you think?