A follow-up for a story from last week’s (19 May 2019, Premium only) issue. First, let’s start with the story:
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Starting next year, Mason (Ohio) High School will stop recognizing valedictorians and salutatorians at graduation time as part of a new initiative to “improve students’ mental wellness.” No really: “It’s about what it means to be happy and what it means to be successful,” says Associate Principal Shanna Bumiller, “and it’s not just about the grade but it’s about the whole child.” Principal Bobby Dodd concurs. “This will help reduce the overall competitive culture at MHS,” he said. (RC/WLWT Cincinnati) …So they’re getting rid of football next?
Football is a big deal at the school, though not to the exclusion of everything else. Let’s delve in.
For instance, the school’s Drama Club performs two plays each school year, and is a member of the Cappies of Greater Cincinnati. Its winter 2009 play Noises Off won the Best Play Cappie. Its theater facilities include a complete auditorium, scene and costume shop, Green Room, and newly constructed black box theater space.
Music is a big deal too: they have six concert bands (concert white, green, silver, winds, symphonic band, and wind symphony), four orchestras, a Marching Band, Jazz Band, Pep Band, Chamber Strings, Winter Guard, Winter Percussion, and AP Music Theory. The Mason Band Program was awarded the John Philip Sousa Foundation Sudler Flag of Honor in 2008, and the John Philip Sousa Foundation Sudler Shield, the highest honor a marching band can receive. MHS is one of only 15 schools to ever receive both awards. In 2016, the marching band came in third in the nation at BOA Grand Nationals.
Now for Athletics
Mason was a charter member of the Fort Ancient Valley Conference from 1965-66 to 2006-07, and the Comets now play in the Greater Miami Conference. As of today, Mason has won the GMC All Sports Trophy for 12 consecutive years. Their athletic facilities include:
- Dwire Field at Atrium Stadium has seating for 6,800 fans, a synthetic turf football field, 8-lane all-weather track, a Jumbotron scoreboard, three concession stands, and two press boxes.
- Mason Arena for basketball. Seating for 3,200 (with an auxiliary gym that seats 1,000), center-court scoreboard, four corner scoreboards.
- Multipurpose Field for soccer and lacrosse. Seating for 1,240, synthetic turf.
- Natatorium (indoor swimming pool). Seating for 600, 11 lanes, movable floor.
- Softball Fields — three, including main stadium with permanent seating/brick facade.
- Baseball Field (details not specified).
- Tennis facilities include 16 hard courts with seating for 100.
- And, to get the kids in shape for all of that, the Atrium Fitness Center — a “state-of-the-art” training and fitness center.
And the school administration worries about “the overall competitive culture at MHS” in academics?!
Addressing the School
Reader Diane in Arkansas wrote to the school to lament the change, and forwarded me her letter — and the school’s response.
I don’t live in your state and perhaps it is not any of my business. However, I have read that you are eliminating the recognition of your top ranking students. The reason is that it will reduce the competitive nature that is at school. You know, students work hard to get good grades and should definitely receive recognition for their efforts.
Now I don’t know about your school, but do you have a football team? If so, I would imagine that the best players get recognized. They probably get awards, patches for their team jackets, and scholarships are made available for their performance. That definitely fosters competition. That should be what is eliminated. Most high school athletes don’t become famous professional players. But great performing scholars do become successful and well-paid adults.
I just don’t get it. You are there to teach kids how to think. Not to raise their hopes of becoming the next star player, professional athlete, multi-millionaire with more money than God. That is enough money to buy drugs and all the other vices that too much money brings. And so many athletes don’t get a good education if they are stars on the team. They get passes in their classes because the school wants a good team. So many of them end up in lousy jobs because they have missed a good education. On the other hand, they did make that great touchdown pass at that one game one time.
Just my thoughts. I feel that most schools are definitely on the wrong track. Like I said above, schools are there to teach kids how to think. Not to be taught how to pass the state exams. In my home state the exams were the Regents. I don’t know what they are called in your state.
Please rethink your proposed change. Recognize those kids who worked hard doing what they are supposed to be doing in school.
Sincerely, [full name redacted]
The School’s Response
Tracey Carson, the Public Information Officer for the school district, responded, and this is also published unedited:
Thanks for writing. Since you are not from Ohio, I thought it might be helpful to share a little about who we are in Mason, Ohio. We’re lucky to live in a community that highly values education. We’re the largest high school in the state of Ohio, and on Sunday we graduated 871 students. We are an innovative, diverse district w/ over 74 languages spoken by our students and their families.
Our kids are driven, and they work REALLY hard.
– 40% of our 2019 graduates have a GPA of 4.0 or higher
– Over 30 students have a perfect ACT score
– 25 National Merit Finalists in Class of 2019
– We’ve been named the All-Sport Champions in our conference for 12 straight years straight
– Our high school Marching Band consistently ranks as one of the top in the nation
– Our Science Olympiad Team is nationally ranked – and will be making it’s second back-to-back trip to nationals this year
– Our students give back in huge ways – giving 1000s of hours of service and raising $100s of $1000s of dollars each year for others in need
We’re intensely proud of our students’ accomplishments. But, there’s another side of being a high achieving district that is very real – and very concerning. We’ve had a disturbing number of students who have increasing levels of anxiety, depression & suicidal ideation. Our students have been begging us to do something. In fact, our students leave Mason and say college isn’t nearly the pressure cooker that high school was.
We also had colleges coming to us and sharing that our GPAs didn’t make sense – as students “added on” weights from all those AP and College Credit Plus classes they were taking we had GPAs in the 6’s and even 7s. With that in mind, we knew we needed to “right-size” our GPA calculation to make sure we weren’t hurting our students as they applied for college. As we move to capping the GPA at a 5.0, we recognized we could end up with 100 valedictorians, and that it would be better to simply move to recognizing academic honors using the Latin system.
Over the last year, we’ve had over 50 community conversations – and at nearly every one people have asked us to do SOMETHING about the unhealthy competition. So, we’re making a series of moves to help create well-rounded students who aren’t just looking to chase a “magic” number or score, but are actually able to pursue learning they are interested in and that prepares them for life and to be positive contributors to our global economy.
Again, thanks for sharing your feedback and allowing us to give a little more context to this important decision.
Yes, that’s verbatim, right down to the “12 straight years straight”!
Not explained: “recognizing academic honors using the Latin system.” Their plan is to designate students with a GPA (grade point average) of 4.00 and above as summa cum laude; students with a GPA between 3.75 and 3.99 will be designated magna cum laude; and students with a GPA from 3.51 to 3.74 will be designated cum laude. Those designations do help students with their college applications.
Still, the bottom line is, what was the “SOMETHING” they did to reduce “the unhealthy competition” evident in the school?
Well, they sure couldn’t touch an athletics program like that, could they?
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