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Valedictorian rules retooled

Molly Shore

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.”