Richard Huh was so sure he would be named Burbank High School’s
valedictorian, he prepared a speech.
Even Huh’s classmates thought he was a lock for the honor,
traditionally given to the senior with the highest grade-point
average, but determined at Burbank High by several factors.
“He worked for it, and he probably should have gotten it,” said
classmate Robert Kim, who like Huh was one of 10 seniors named candidates for valedictorian and salutatorian.
But when Aleksey Pesterev was named valedictorian and Ara
Abrahamian salutatorian at the school’s June 20 graduation ceremony,
Huh’s jaw dropped.
“I was more surprised than disappointed,” Huh, 18, said. “All of
us pretty much assumed that the valedictorian would be the student
with the highest GPA.”
As of June 25, five days after students graduated from Burbank
High School, Huh ranked first out of 590 seniors with a total
weighted GPA of 4.55, according to a copy of Huh’s transcript
obtained by the Leader.
“I’m not saying that Aleksey didn’t deserve it. He did an amazing
job,” said salutatorian Ara Abrahamian. “But it was so out of left
field, that Aleksey [got] it.”
The school’s selection process, which factors in GPA and adds
points for advanced placement, honors and college classes, has been
used by the school for more than a decade, according to Helen Quail,
vice principal of special events and athletics.
“It’s not a new process, it’s not something we suddenly came up
with,” Quail said. “If you want a process that’s going to choose your
best candidates ... I think this is a good system.”
Huh and his parents, Benjamin and Helen, don’t agree. They
criticized the school’s procedures and guidelines, claiming only a
few select school administrators know them.
Mike Bertram, Burbank High’s assistant principal of curriculum and
instruction, has raised concerns about the selection process after
meeting with the Huhs.
“We’re looking at changing the way the valedictorian is selected,
and making it a public document for all eyes to see,” Bertram said
this week. “We recognize there is a problem.”
Bertram stopped short of calling the system flawed, saying “there
is always room for improvement.”
Said Richard Huh: “There’s obviously something wrong about it.
There’s nothing I can pretty much do about it right now except help
change the policy.”