DESOTO, Texas — A former DeSoto High School student who was crowned valedictorian, is furious with the district after she was informed that her title, in fact, belongs to another student.
At the end of May, 18-year-old Destiny Brannon addressed her peers as valedictorian before they walked the stage and graduated as DeSoto High’s Class of 2018.
Brannon was even heavily publicized by DeSoto ISD as valedictorian before then.
On May 29, the district posted a photo of Brannon with board members to its Facebook page congratulating her on her achievement.
One of the first sentences reads, “Destiny Brannon is the top student in the class of 2018.”
The district even created a video of Brannon and the salutatorian of her class talking about how they would both soon attend the University of Texas in Austin.
But on Thursday, almost a month after graduation, the district confirmed to WFAA that a huge mistake had been made.
A spokesperson revealed that the district miscalculated student rankings and that Brannon is not valedictorian. Brannon said she and her mother were informed about the mix-up last week. “It’s just embarrassing to see your accomplishments taken away,” Brannon said.
The teen’s transcripts tell the whole scholastic nightmare. In a transcript from June 6, six days after graduation, Brannon is still sitting at the top of her class.
But when the district recalculated rankings shortly after graduation, a June 12 transcript reads that Brannon is number 3 in her class and not number 1.
“It’s just ridiculous, and they should be ashamed,” Brannon said. “I’m not proud to be an alumnus from DeSoto.”
Brannon told WFAA that she believes the district re-calculated the rankings because her graduation speech was critical of the school district. District officials insisted that the ordeal was simply a mistake.
The new valedictorian is now Brian Uzuegbunam. He told WFAA on Thursday that he was sitting at number 4 in his class and the new ranking put him at number 1.
The Brannon family said the timing could not have been worse.
In Texas, any student who graduates as valedictorian from a school accredited by the Texas Education Agency can get their first year of tuition waived at a public college or university in the state. That’s something Brannon can no longer count on.
“We’re possibly going to have to pay for a year of tuition that we’re not prepared for,” mother Samantha Brannon said.
To make things worse? The Brannon family just bought a new house, anticipating that they wouldn’t have to pay for their daughter’s first year of college.
The average annual cost at the University of Texas sits around $25,000. Brannon’s mom fears they may not have that kind of cash right now.
“It’s been very stressful, and very emotional,” she said. “It’s hard to tell Destiny that she may not be at UT this August."
Late Thursday night, after WFAA's story aired, DeSoto ISD sent a statement explaining what happened.
The statement said, "Upon learning of the academic ranking concerns related to the appointment of the DeSoto High School valedictorian, the district immediately investigated the discrepancy."
It continues saying, "Through the investigation, the district found that officials at the high school based the appointment of the valedictorian on fall semester academic standings."
The statement also said that personnel changes have been made due to the incident.
It finishes with, "The district regrets that it failed to ensure that systems were in place to prevent this from occurring in the first place, but has since worked diligently to ensure that those at fault have been held accountable and that there is a system and process in place to verify student academic ranking as based on grades, grade point average, and course weighting."
Brannon told WFAA that it’s a little late for that. “I just think to myself for the people who have something to do with this, how would you feel if it was your kid?” she said.
The University of Texas told WFAA that it would reach out to Brannon about her situation.
Uzuegbunam said by phone that he’s sympathetic to Brannon’s situation, and is disappointed the district didn’t catch its mistakes sooner.
He said he plans to attend Texas A&M, but may change his mind now that he has the benefit of waiving his first year of tuition.
On Friday, Brannon's family set up a GoFundMe page to help get her to UT.