Valedictorian criteria and selection process must change at CIHS.

Preface: As the editor of the Isle File, Channel Islands High School’s student newspaper, as well as a strong proponent of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, I believe it is my right to voice my opinions on this highly controversial issue. I understand many students and school administrators may disagree with the claims I make, but I am writing this to not disprove these individuals, but to raise awareness of this unjust policy and to protect future students who are deserving of academic recognition. I will (hopefully) be publishing this in the final issue of the Isle File.


Errol Nillo was one of the valedictorian candidates for Channel Islands High School’s class of 1994. He aced over 12 AP and honors courses, including calculus and English, and was involved in extracurricular activities throughout high school.

However, he did not walk the line as one of the valedictorians that year simply because of 2 Bs on his high school transcript.

Nillo protested the school district’s unjust policies, saying that he wanted “to protect future generations” in a story written by Maia Davis for the Los Angeles Times.

Although he didn’t know it, he was trying to protect me. He is my uncle.

I have been classified as a valedictorian candidate since my freshman year, earning an A in challenging courses ranging from AP Biology, AP English Language and Composition, and AP Macroeconomics. On top of that, I’ve had to balance a part-time job, community service for external organizations, and multiple leadership positions within the Isle File, Key Club, and other extracurricular activities.

But because I was 1.3 percent away from an A in AP Calculus AB on Friday, June 1 — two weeks prior to graduation — I am not deserving of “valedictorian status,” per school policy.

According to Section 5000 of Board Policy 5126, valedictorians are determined using “the highest academic average, based upon a 4.0 grading scale.”

Most students know that more weight is given to honors and AP courses on a 5.0 scale, which means that if a student were to earn a B on an AP course, it would still weigh more than an A in a college preparatory course.

However, because it’s still a B, it counts against the student on the 4.0 scale, decreasing one’s overall 4.0 GPA.

This is not fair. A student can cheat this system by earning an A in all regular or college preparatory courses – thereby not working as tirelessly as an AP or honors student – and still be recognized as valedictorian during the graduation ceremony. This discourages students from tackling more AP courses, promotes cheating, and fails to celebrate academically meritorious students.

One change that I implore Channel Islands High School and the Oxnard Union High School District to implement in the future is to base valedictorian status on the 5.0 scale. This takes into account the academic rigor that AP and honors students endure and makes the title of valedictorian that much more rewarding. It also adds more merit to the valedictorian/salutatorian title as opposed to aimlessly handing out rewards to everyone.

I also urge our school administration to refer to students’ final semester two grades to determine valedictorian status as opposed to using the grades from the date two weeks prior to graduation. This means that I can have a B on June 1 and earn an A for my final grade, yet still not be classified as one of the valedictorians due to my June 1 grade. Even worse, this means that a student with an A on June 1 and a B for his or her final grade will still walk the line as a valedictorian because of that student’s A-grade on June 1. This is illogical and unfair to all valedictorian candidates and eradicates the point for senior final exams, which are held one week prior to graduation, not before the cutoff deadline of June 1.

Like my Uncle Errol, I want to protect future generations who may endure the same challenge. In the meantime, I exhort the school to change its policies through which it selects valedictorians.

Though I am no longer receiving the recognition I believe I deserve, I can only hope that future Raiders will be recognized for their academic accomplishments in a just manner rather than the one that is currently implemented.

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