by Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) The iconic Highlander line, “There can be only one” might apply at most other high schools. But at Vanguard High School in Ocala, Florida, as many as 25 students could be classified as “valedictorian.”
What this means is that there are expected to be 25 straight-A students. Since they have taken college-level courses, which carry weighted credit, the result is a 5.0 GPA for dozens of seniors. And that’s not exactly unusual at Vanguard; last year, the school had 11 valedictorians.
So why is it graduating so many people at the top of the class? The school’s ranking policy dates back to 2004, when there simply weren’t as many college-level courses available. So with more of those to take and more students taking them, multiple 5.0 (perfect) GPAs are possible. And the school uses GPAs – not numeric class scores – to rank its students.
Sharing a top-of-the-class honor doesn’t bother students like Preston Culbert. “We weren’t trying to get a leg up on each other,” he said, “but you get towards the end and suddenly look at all these people who have succeeded just as well as you have. I think it’s really great we can be rewarded in this way.”
The windfall of achievement does create a bit of a conundrum for school officials. With as many as 25 valedictorians, who gives the graduation commencement speech? And will there even be a salutatorian? A school official from Marion County said having one of those would be “silly…especially in this case.”
The solution: All of the valedictorian candidates are submitting the speech they’d give. A committee will select one winner to actually do the talking, and regardless of who that turns out to be, every valedictorian will get a silver plate on graduation day.
Critics say having so many valedictorians could dilute the honor at Vanguard. Others believe it's a motivating factor: Since more than one student can be valedictorian, more students will try harder for the shared title.
You won’t find many principals who’d object to this, though. Principal Cynthia Saunders of Ocala’s Lake Weir High called having multiple valedictorians “tremendous,” saying she’d be happy to have the problem of choosing one graduation speaker from a group of top achievers.
As for the Vanguard valedictorians, no matter who is chosen to speak, their accomplishment speaks for itself.