When “Pomp and Circumstance” leads this year's class of Picher-Cardin seniors through graduation ceremonies, five students will be recognized as earning the highest academic honors.

In a district where one valedictorian and one salutatorian have always been chosen, the 2007 class consists of four valedictorians and one salutatorian.

The decision was made earlier this year to allow the deviation from tradition when parents of some of these students challenged the wording in the student handbook.

Tuesday, board members voted to amend the handbook to more clearly specify how long a student must be in attendance at Picher-Cardin Schools to be eligible for valedictory and salutatory honors.

“The amended handbook specifies that students must attend three semesters at Picher-Cardin High School,” Superintendent Bob Walker said. “Those three semesters must include the first and second semester of their junior year and the first semester of their senior year.”

According to the former handbook, the student with the highest “honors core grade point average” is named valedictorian and the second highest is named salutatorian.

“In addition, the handbook stated that students must have attended three semesters in this district to qualify,” Walker said. “It did not specify that the semesters must be completed consecutively.”

Parents whose children who attended Picher-Cardin High School, transferred to another district and then returned to Picher-Cardin High School and meet all other criteria for top honors argued that the handbook is not specific about what three semesters of high school their student must have attended. They felt like their children should be eligible for valedictorian or salutatorian honors.

On the opposite side of the argument were parents of students who have attended Picher-Cardin High School for the past three consecutive semesters. They say it isn't fair to to allow classmates who have not attended school at Picher-Cardin the entire year the same honors.

The fact that the handbook was not clearly written was the deciding factor for the board members.

In addition to amending the student handbook, board members also accepted resignations from three more elementary teachers.

Shanna Kirk, Donna Meador and Rachel Morris will not be among the teachers returning for the 2007-08 school year.

Since a federal buyout was announced last year, the Picher-Cardin School District has lost one school board member, the high school principal, the superintendent and more than a dozen teachers and staff members, all of whom have resigned.