Salamanca highest-ranked local district in list of best high schools

Salamanca High School is the highest-ranked Cattaraugus County high school in a recent list of the 500 best public high schools in New York state.

SALAMANCA — Salamanca High School is the highest-ranked Cattaraugus County high school in a recent list of the 500 best public high schools in New York state.

In the 74th position, Salamanca is the only high school from the county in the top 100 of personal-finance website WalletHub’s list. Most area districts ranked lower than 250.

For the past several years, the Salamanca district has developed a list of goals that are revisited annually, focusing on areas such as professional development and community engagement, something Superintendent Robert Breidenstein said could be impacting the school’s steady improvements.

“We think by articulating what our goals are, it’s easy to craft a message and prioritize the kinds of activities we think are important,” he said. “Community engagement has been one of those significantly important issues for us that we’ve tried to address in the past half dozen or so years.”

To compile the list, WalletHub compared over 1,200 institutions across 26 key metrics. In addition to academic performance, the data also considers factors like the school’s social environment, diversity and staff to “give a clear overall picture of how each school supports its students with more than just knowledge,” according to WalletHub.

Salamanca’s highest ranking was 40th in school experience, which Briedenstein credited to listening to what the community wants to see as the district continues to develop. He said also engaging the students has improved the overall culture of the district.

“When you look at the benchmarks that matter, like graduation and student and community satisfaction, all those numbers and metrics are up by a significant margin,” he said. “That suggests that we have community alignment, which is something critically important for us.”

Coming in at 149th in diversity and 191st in teachers and staff, Briedenstein said there has been a shift in the district in recent years to many new teachers in Salamanca — nearly 50% have been in the district five years or less — as well as a drive to have a more diverse teaching staff and opportunities for students.

“Regionally, we would like to be doing better with attracting candidates of diversity, especially when approximately 42% of our students are Native American,” he explained. “If we can’t have diversity in that area because of availability, we would like familiarity with the indigenous communities and indigenous history. We encourage all candidates that are excellent to apply and all candidates of diversity to apply.”

The district’s lowest ranking, at 653rd, was in college readiness, but the school is working to expand its upper-level college courses, Breidenstein said. The district has a good connection with Jamestown Community College and offers more AP courses than ever, but he said a large percentage of students enroll at BOCES and pursue vocational or trade careers.

“For the students headed down the college and university path, expanding our AP and college connection courses gives them a greater viability,” he explained, “and for students who are pursuing the trade world for vocations, then certainly BOCES is exceptional and a phenomenal place for those programs and those students who want to pursue that career path.”

Breidenstein said the district’s digital outreach through its website and social media is an outlet for what is happening daily in the classroom. He said there are always great things happening, but they have been capturing and sharing those images with the community more often only in recent years.

“Looking at the number of schools that follow us on social media and then have replicated some of the programs and activities we’ve created I think is a strong acknowledgment that we’re heading in the right direction as a district,” he added.

Other Cattaraugus County school rankings:

  • Gowanda, 171
  • West Valley, 249
  • Olean, 321
  • Randolph, 355
  • Portville, 368
  • Hinsdale, 444
  • Allegany-Limestone, 469
  • Franklinville, 496

Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Ellicottville districts were not included in the list.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)

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