National Recognition Marks 2020 as Year to Remember

  • While 2020 will be remembered in most of the world by the upheaval of the pandemic COVID-19 virus that disrupted, and even took, countless lives; however, in Lancaster, the 2019-20 school year was launched on much more upbeat footing, with a slew of awards that will be recapped here.

    First. came the announcement that our national class Marching Legends were selected as the sole marching band to represent New York State in a tribute to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

    Shortly thereafter, the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) bestowed the rare President’s Citation Award, the organization’s highest honor, to our music department. The award is so unique and prestigious that only 23 school districts have received it within the last 35 years; only once since 2016; and to only one other Western New York school district in its history.

    Not to be outdone, alumna and Lancaster string and symphony orchestra instructor, Mrs. Lynne Ruda was chosen as a finalist among 3,300 nominees for this year’s GRAMMY Educator Award, placing her in an elite group of 10 educators in the nation highlighted by the organization.

    Locally, Mr. Richard Goss was named Best Jazz Trumpet in Buffalo in the sixth annual Jazz Buffalo Poll.

    The accolades continued in 2020 when our school and community were voted for the fourth consecutive year as a Best Community for Music Education. With thousands of musicians and vocalists performing in our K-12 music program, it’s hard to deny the depth of the community’s commitment to music education.

    Our seven career academies continued to perform well and receive major recognition, with the Leadership Academy and its associated student union and our Academy of Finance being highlighted on the national stage.

    Lancaster was chosen as the host school for LEADDC, a leadership conference for students conducted by the National Association of Student Councils (NatStuCo), under the auspices of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mr. Peter Kruszynski, principal of Lancaster Middle School is NASSP’s immediate past president. At LEADDC, Lancaster students not only emceed the conference, delivered the opening session, and gave workshops, they also led activities and performed other leadership roles throughout the conference. As a fitting follow-up, our student union was once again bestowed the Gold Council of Excellence Award from NatStuCo; one of only nine in the nation who have received the award since its inception, and for the sixteenth consecutive year.  The Leadership Academy and student union, who share a number of students in common, perform thousands of school and community service projects throughout the year and have been largely responsible for keeping the Lancaster spirit alive and well during the pandemic upheaval.

    As for the Academy of Finance, they reached another national milestone, being one of only three of the National Academy Foundation’s 700 academies to have reached the Distinguished Academy Designation for the tenth consecutive year–each year since the award’s inception.

    Within the last several weeks, the U.S. News and World Report ranked Lancaster among its Top 100 high schools in the nation, placing in the top nine percent of almost 18,000 schools in a list released by the publication.

    Additionally, LHS has been named a Recognition School for the second consecutive school year. Recognition Schools are those with high academic achievement and strong progress, that also perform acceptably for all subgroups for which they are accountable. This year’s designees represent 13 percent of New York State public schools, according to the New York State Education Department.

    Dr. Andrew Kufel, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and pupil personnel services spelled out the formula for these successes in saying “It doesn’t just start at the high school. We are constantly working toward alignment from K-12. It’s all about supporting kids at their level.” With a full complement from seven career academies, 20 Advanced Placement courses, 18 dual-enrollment courses (allowing students to earn both high school and college credit), to the opportunity to earn a CDOS credential (Career Development and Occupational Studies) certifying a student as entry-level work ready, and an in-house alternative program (LAP), “we’re pushing kids to be the best that they can be, at whatever level that is,” Dr. Kufel said. He credits the dedication of faculty and staff, administration and board of education, students, and families for making the plan successful.