Six months after a Burbank High School senior with the highest
grade-point average in his class was passed over for valedictorian,
the school district has moved to standardize and publicize the
selection process at Burbank and John Burroughs high schools.
Beginning with the Class of 2004, the criteria for choosing
valedictorians and salutatorians from both schools will be made
public, and the winners will be announced prior to graduation day,
according to a letter from the district outlining the changes.
Alexis Sheehy, the district’s assistant superintendent for
instructional services, could not be reached for comment this week.
Sheehy did, however, issue a written statement in which she said she
met with representatives from both high schools, including parents,
teachers, administrators and students.
“We have agreed upon common selection criteria for both high
schools effective with the Class of 2004,” Sheehy released in the
The district reconsidered the existing selection process at
Burbank High after Richard Huh, ranked first out of 590 seniors with
a total weighted grade-point average of 4.55, was passed over for
the honor traditionally given to the senior with the highest GPA.
Huh, one of 10 seniors named candidates for valedictorian and
salutatorian, complained that the selection process at Burbank High
was a mystery to students and parents alike, a process “the school
wasn’t really clear on.”
Under the revised process, valedictorians and salutatorians from
both schools will be selected from a pool of 20 students with the
highest weighted grade-point averages. Next, principals will count
each advanced-placement and honors class in which the student has
earned an A grade. That total will then be divided by the total
number of classes a student has taken, excluding athletics and
student tutor classes.
The student with the highest number will be valedictorian. In case
of a tie, there will be co-valedictorians. The student with the
next-highest number will be salutatorian.
Additionally, the principals at both high schools will publicly
announce the valedictorian and salutatorian soon after the 10-week
spring grading period before graduation day.
The process previously used by Burbank High School factored in GPA
and added points for advanced-placement, honors and college classes.
It was used for more than a decade.
School board members did not have to approve what President Trish
Burnett referred to as an “administrative guideline.”
“I think it’s always good to look at practices and see if they
need to be reevaluated,” Burnett said Tuesday. “Changes are positive
and serve students well.”
Board member Dave Kemp applauded the change because he says it
allows for a tiebreaker, and the selection process is out in the
“I don’t know how they could have picked one [student] over
another,” Kemp said Tuesday. “If it’s a unified district, [the rules]
can’t be different. It has to be the same.”
Huh, a freshman at UC Berkeley, welcomed the change.
“I think it’s a good step in the right direction,” Huh said. “It’s
good to have something to look at; it’s a very tangible thing.”
Huh said he is satisfied that he was able to bring about a change
in the way the valedictorian is selected.
“It’s good in the sense that I could see that it’s not going to
happen again in the future,” he said. “It’s set in stone now.”