By RAY QUIROGA
Port Isabel-South Padre PRESS
After approximately two hours of negotiating behind closed doors Thursday, attorneys representing both sides of a dispute involving the Port Isabel High School senior class ranking came to a tentative understanding.
Late last month, the courts granted a temporary restraining order preventing the District from releasing this school year’s senior class rankings. At the center of the issue, one student, Myranda Woolly, and her parents, allege the District committed an error in tabulating student ranks and that she was inadequately informed that one of her classes would not count towards the ranking process.
When preliminary rankings were released earlier this spring, Woolly, who had been ranked first in her class the previous two years, was listed as second. Sitting in first was Marina Wise Herring, who began the 2015-2016 school year ranked third.
During Thursday’s court proceedings — held at Cameron County Court at Law No. 2 with Judge Laura L. Betancourt presiding — the parties agreed on four key issues as they pertain to the original petition.
Firstly, the parties agreed that the District and the high school correctly calculated Woolly’s GPA but both parties were not in accord with whether or not all the “policies” were properly followed in doing so.
Both parties also agreed that the District would be allowed to display a banner acknowledging this year’s top 10 high school graduates but only after classes are dismissed on May 17 and the banner must not include the students’ rankings.
The Point Isabel School Board of Trustees must also conduct a Level II Complaint Hearing filed by the plaintiff in this case, with the open possibility that there may be a Level III Complaint Hearing. Kevin O’Hanlon, who represented the school district in court on Thursday, told Judge Betancourt that the District would work to coordinate the logistics of that meeting as soon as the court was dismissed. He added that the hearing could take place on Tuesday of this coming week, May 17 as soon as the board members who ran in this past weekend’s elections were sworn into office. Listed among Tuesday’s agenda items to be discussed in executive session is the “Discussion and possible Level III Grievance Hearing on behalf of MW.”
But while the valedictorian, salutatorian and rest of the top 10 students can be recognized during graduation ceremonies, the Certificate of Highest Ranking Graduate will not be issued until this matter is resolved. The Certificate of Highest Ranking Graduate provides a tuition waiver for the student graduating at the top of their high school class for their freshman year of college. Thus, even after the graduation ceremonies come to pass, the District can retroactively award the valedictorian recognition to a student other than what is determined as the results of the coming proceedings.
All told, after Thursday’s proceedings, representatives from both sides determined that the original injunction which kept the district from releasing the names of the top 10 students or acknowledging and recognizing them in any way was no longer in effect. Ysmael D. Fonseca, one of two attorneys representing the Woolly family went as far as to define it as a period of abatement, so long as all parties continue to make a “good faith” effort to come to a more permanent resolution.
Dina Arévalo contributed to this report.
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