The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

April 23, 2014

Danville among top 6% of high schools in nation

DANVILLE — A teachers’ strike, school construction controversy or budget concerns couldn’t dampen the spirits in the Danville and Lewisburg area school districts Wednesday: Their high schools are the 26th and 30th best, respectively, in Pennsylvania.

That’s according to US News & World Report’s 2013 rankings, announced Wednesday, which surveyed 168 high schools in Pennsylvania and 19,411 nationwide.

Both districts were silver-medal winners on the national magazine’s annual ranking.

Danville Area Senior High is also the 1,079th best high school in the United States, while Lewisburg Area High is the nation’s 1,184th best, according to US News & World Report.

With 711 students and 51 teachers, Danville Area High was lauded for a 14-1 student/teacher ratio, near the state average, and an Advanced Placement class participation rate of 34 percent.

With 583 students and 39 teachers, Lewisburg Area High was commended for a 15-1 student/teacher ratio, near the state average, and an AP participation rate of 39 percent.

This is the third silver-medal win for Lewisburg Area High, Superintendent Mark DiRocco said, adding he learned of the rank Wednesday morning from the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit.

“We’ve very pleased to receive a positive report and very proud of the work our high school staff is doing — really of all our teachers, who prepare the kids for the high school,” DiRocco said.

Lewisburg has been “fortunate, and strategic” given budget cuts and reductions in the work force, DiRocco said, particularly at the high school.

A particular concern, he said, was eliminating the assistant principal position at the high school in the 2012-13 school year. Chris Ruhl left that post to be interim principal at Kelly Elementary, a job he eventually took permanently.

DiRocco worried the move would overburden Principal David Himes in running the high school, but he lauded Himes’ leadership and commended other schools’ principals who helped.

“Everyone on staff pulled a little extra weight themselves,” he said, “so everyone has been pitching in to make sure the kids are getting the same quality of education. The staff works hard. We are fortunate they are so dedicated.”

DiRocco praised his students at Lewisburg Area High.

“We are fortunate to have great kids who want to achieve and work hard,” he said. “They want to excel in the classroom” and take their success with them beyond Lewisburg.

Lewisburg has been dogged by controversy over a new high school construction projected estimated to cost about $36 million. A public comment period on the plans is open until May 10, following an Act 34 hearing two weeks ago that outlined the project, including its financing.

Danville Superintendent Cheryl Latorre also complimented Danville Area High students, adding the school’s silver rank is the best it has ever achieved on the US News & World Report list.

“I am elated with the test scores,” she said. “We are so excited.”

Latorre praised the students and teachers for the achievement.

“We have great kids,” she said. “It’s a sad time with what’s happening right now, but we were happy for our students” who work hard on their personal goals of achievement.

Today is Day Four of a Danville teachers’ strike that’s expected to continue through Friday. The strike began Thursday, but students and staff were off last Friday and Monday for spring break.

Latorre attributed the achievement to several sources, including the school board and administration.

“We have the strongest administrative team, a curriculum director who’s really on top of her game regarding the Keystones and Common Core standards,” she said, referring to Dawn Brookhart, director of curriculum, instruction and technology.

US News & World Report’s analyzed 31,242 public high schools in all states and the District of Columbia. That number was reduced to 19,411 schools, which is the total number of public high schools across the country that had high enough 12th-grade enrollment and sufficient data from the 2011-2012 school year to be eligible for the rankings.

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