It was no surprise to the and Kinnelon Public Schools administration that the high school of the best high schools in the state this week. The school staff has been working to climb the list for years now.
"The KHS Administration is very appreciative that NJ Monthly has recognized the outcomes of the combined efforts of our teachers, supervisors and district administration, who work with us in helping our students reach their potential," Principal Dr. Wayne Merckling said. "The support of our board of education and the township, along with the encouragement of the parents, have complemented our efforts."
Kinnelon High School was ranked No. 5 out of 328 public high schools in the state. NJ Monthly uses the state Department of Education's school report cards and examines three categories to determine rankings: student performance, student outcomes and school environment. The magazine's last rankings, in 2010, pegged Kinnelon High School at No. 21.
Kinnelon as well, but Interim Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe said the district has always considered it a special honor to be ranked high amongst other schools in the state.
"We're very happy that NJ Monthly has recognized Kinnelon and that we've moved up," she said.
Echoing the words of Merckling, DiGiuseppe said the achievement would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the school and district staff, as well as the . She said the Kinnelon school community has placed an emphasis on student performance and increasing test scores.
"I think part of the reason we've jumped so much is our SAT scores have jumped and we did really well on the HSPA," DiGiuseppe said.
DiGiuseppe during the last board of education meeting, in which she told board members that HSPA scores improved by about 10 percent in math this year and about 3.5 percent in language arts. The high school also met its District Factor Group goal for SAT scores this year, meaning Kinnelon scores are comparable to those of other high schools of the same socio-economic status.
The environment of Kinnelon High School is also favorable, DiGiuseppe said, as the student-to-teacher ratio is low, with class sizes being small. The district has been able to maintain or improve quality with a limited amount of state aid and limitations on raising the district budget.
"We do a lot with not a lot of money and not a lot of staff," DiGiuseppe said. "We've had a lot of staff cuts over the last couple of years. We tried to to make the most out of what we have and it's really nice to see that we have."
The interim superintendent said a great deal of credit also goes to former superintendent Jim Opiekun, who Opiekun began what DiGiuseppe called a "full-out campaign" to motivate and push students toward high achievement.
"It's just been a combined effort with the principals and the teachers to just keep moving in that direction," she said.
The NJ Monthly ranking is not the only good news for the district this week. DiGiuseppe said she has also learned that five of the high school students have been named National AP Scholars; 21 students have been named AP Scholars with Distinction; seven students have been named AP Scholars with Honor; and 13 students have been named AP Scholars. Four high school students have been named to the All-State Chorus for the 2012-13 school year as well.