Though many Burbank High School seniors may never have heard of the British punk band the Clash, they’ll soon grow acquainted with one of their greatest hits.
That’s because once again, the school’s seniors and their parents will contemplate a fundamental choice regarding the 2020 graduation: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Burbank Unified staff, led by Supt. Matt Hill, will give this year’s aspiring graduates the option for a second straight year to raise just under $40,000 to keep their graduation on campus or not solicit any money and hold commencement ceremonies at rival Burroughs High School.
“We shared with parents that they will need to raise the $36,000 each year to keep [a graduation ceremony] at BHS or it will be moved to Memorial Field,” Hill said in an email about the football stadium located adjacent to Burroughs. “That information will be shared again in the fall with parents.”
Last December, district staff considered moving Burbank High’s graduation to Memorial Field, which serves as the home stadium for the Bulldogs varsity football team.
The idea received serious consideration from Burbank Unified board member Charlene Tabet, a Burbank High alumna.
“I’ve never supported a BHS graduation on campus that costs $60,000 to 70,000 to hold,” Tabet said. “That just seems like a huge amount when Burroughs’ graduation spends roughly $10,000 for a similar ceremony.”
Burbank’s 2018 graduation cost $60,416, according to district figures, up from $57,265 in 2017. Former Burbank principal Michael Bertram emailed parents in January estimating the cost for the 2019 on-campus graduation at newly christened Kemp-Kallem Field to be around $68,000.
While the district, school site and graduation ticket sales generated some funding, Burbank High graduates and their families were on the hook for $36,000.
Hill and district staff maintained that a more equitable plan would be to move the graduation to Memorial Field, which is significantly less expensive to ready for a commencement ceremony.
Burroughs paid $26,237 for its 2018 graduation. Bertram estimated a 2019 Burbank graduation at Memorial Field to cost around $20,000.
The significant difference in cost stemmed from several items, such as the need to construct a tall platform at Burbank High, which is unnecessary at Memorial Field because of the height and angle of the stadium’s seating layout.
Burbank High School paid $14,310 more than Burroughs alone on a stage, chairs and podium in 2018, while Burbank also paid $5,613 for policing services and $1,764 to close down a portion of Third Street for the safety of pedestrians attending the ceremony.
Despite these issues, galvanized Burbank parents and seniors rejected the idea of a graduation at Memorial Field. Burbank High student-body president Aleko Brice told board members at a Jan. 17 meeting the plan “didn’t go very well by our senior class.”
Tabet hinted perhaps school pride sank the proposal.
“Yes, Memorial Field is a difficult thought for some people because they see it as Burroughs and that rivalry is strong,” she said. “However, it’s Memorial Field and Burbank’s home football field. So, why the difference? Good for football but not graduation?”
“We worked really hard, but it is a lot to ask of parents,” said Burbank High graduation chief fundraiser Ani Pakhanyan on commencement day. “It will be interesting to see what next year’s group of parents will do.”
Pakhanyan was grateful to key sponsors, like Club Pilates of North Hollywood and Burbank’s Kokoroll Cafe for providing key contributions.
Tabet was one of many board members and staff impressed and slightly soured by the feat.
“[It was a] great effort on behalf of those parents to raise the $36,000,” she said. “That’s an incredible amount of money and to expect that every year is not fair. We have countless needs in the district that [money] could easily have gone for.”
With that group of seniors gone, the question remains for a new crop of students: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”