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Marion High in top rankings of US high schools

News editor

Marion High School received notification last week that it was one of only six Kansas high schools to make Newsweek magazine’s list of the top high schools in America.

Principal Tod Gordon received the news and wanted to be certain of what he was seeing before he told anyone.

“I sent it to Gary Stuchlik, and I asked him if the way he read it was the way I read it,” Gordon said.

Marion was ranked 339th on the overall list. They ranked 131st on Newsweek’s “beating the odds” list of schools with a high percentage of lower-income students who outperformed their peers. The other Kansas high schools to make the overall list are large schools in Johnson County and Lawrence.

“I continue to be excited in telling people that it’s bigger than a state championship,” superintendent Lee Leiker said. “It’s a national recognition. I think it’s very special.”

The ranking measured state assessment scores, college readiness and ACT scores, and student retention and graduation. The largest component of the ranking is retention and graduation.

Stuchlik, a math and science teacher, said the small school environment creates an atmosphere that encourages students to stay in school and perform

“It’s very much like a family environment,” Stuchlik said. “There’s a personal connection between the faculty and students, an interest beyond academics.”

Gordon said that connection is particularly critical for some students in their final semester of high school.

“Once those kids turn 18 and they think they’re on their own, there’s some work that goes into keeping those kids in and helping them finish,” Gordon said.

“Our staff is willing to do the extra,” Leiker said. “We have a significant at-risk population, and our teachers know that they’re going to have to do the extra things to reach students. They’re willing to do that.”

All three emphasized that the award is a reflection of the entire district and the influence many people have on a student’s education. Stuchlik mention one group he said is often overlooked.

“Our secretaries,” he said. “They do a great job of giving students a stable place to go. The secretaries are always there. Students know they can go to that office and get help to take care of their needs.”

“It’s a ranking of high schools, but it’s all of our staff that have contributed to the success of students,” Leiker said.

The district hasn’t yet decided how it’s going to celebrate the achievement.

“We’re working on some things, we’re going to get some organized and formal recognition for our staff for this accomplishmen,” Leiker said.

Last modified Sept. 18, 2014

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