OXNARD : Way of Picking Valedictorians Called Unfair

Saying they feel cheated out of recognition for their academic achievements, two Channel Islands High School graduates are asking the Oxnard Union High School District to change the way it chooses valedictorians.

Graduates Olivia Arboleda and Errol Nillo are protesting the district’s policy of awarding equal weight to honors and regular classes when calculating the grade-point averages for valedictorian candidates.

“Whenever I think about it, I get angry,” Nillo said. “It’s obvious you could get better grades with easier classes.”

During their four years at Channel Islands High, Nillo and Arboleda each took more than a dozen honors classes in subjects ranging from English to calculus.


And they each earned all A’s except for two Bs.

But the two were passed over for valedictorian in favor of two other graduates--Christopher Ingel and Julio Coronado--who took fewer honors classes but made slightly better grades.

Channel Islands High and the four other high schools in the Oxnard district all recognize honors classes with heavier weight on students’ school transcripts, listing grade-point averages on both a 5.0 and 4.0 scale.

On the 5.0 scale, honors classes are given more weight, with an A getting five points, a B four points and so on. The 4.0 scale treats all classes the same: A equals 4.0, B equals 3.0.


Nillo and Arboleda each had 4.54 grade-point averages on the 5.0 scale. Ingel’s score on this measure was 4.1; Coronado’s was 3.96.

But on the 4.0 scale, which the district uses to select valedictorians, Ingel’s grade-point average was 3.98. Coronado’s was 3.96. Arboleda and Nillo were tied at 3.95.

Nillo said his only two Bs were in honors chemistry and honors calculus.

“We got penalized for taking honors classes,” Arboleda said.

Despite their concerns, Channel Islands High School Principal John Triolo said the district has no plans to change its method of choosing valedictorians. The district set its policy eight years ago after a committee of parents and school officials studied the matter.

Choosing valedictorians according to 5.0 scale would “favor kids who take the most honors classes,” Triolo said. A 4.0 scale, on the other hand, “puts everybody on a level playing field.”

Students should not worry if they are not named valedictorian, he said, because colleges and employers are more concerned with class ranking, grades and the types of classes taken.

But Arboleda and Nillo said it hurt not to be recognized for their high grades. They still hope to persuade district officials to change the policy.


“It doesn’t really matter for my year anymore,” Nillo said. “I just want to protect future generations.”