After school resumed in January, Superintendent Clay Murphy visited the schools for a surprise announcement. He informed the students and staff of each school that the USD 356 district had won the Kansas Star Program award. This wasn’t any typical award, and Mr. Murphy wanted to express his excitement and share what a great accomplishment this was.
What stood out the most was just how few schools received this award. USD 356 earned gold for all four stars. This was rare to accomplish, as only 14 percent of schools in the state did this well. In addition, several schools didn’t receive stars at all.
“It was kind of shocking,” senior Garrett Robinson said. “I know it’s a good school and all, but just hearing it was pretty cool.”
Mr. Murphy stated any school district accredited by the state is eligible to win the award. The award contained four different categories, represented by four different stars. Each star was either gold, silver, bronze or platinum and indicated the level of achievement.
“It’s kind of a competition,” Mr. Murphy said. “It’s not just participation.”
Each star represented a different criteria: college readiness, success after high school, graduation rate and achievement rate. Generally, most schools earned a couple of stars, but the one that appeared most difficult to earn was the achievement rate. This star considered different risk factors. After considering these factors, the schools were judged on how well they overcome them.
“I feel we deserve these ratings,” freshman Kutter Barnes said. “It’s pretty cool to know other schools in this area didn’t get it.”
This is the first year this award program took place. It was set up four years ago, and will become a regular, five-year program. The award was given by the state commissioner of education and the Kansas State Board of Education.
Mr. Murphy, along with representatives from the other schools, were invited to attend a banquet in Manhattan in April to recognize the schools’ accomplishments.