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Business First rates schools’ efficiency, spending and more

INSPIRING — Colden Elementary School fifth grade teacher Elaine Mitchell was named a 2013 teacher of merit by Business First of Buffalo. She was nominated by Springville-Griffith Institute class of 2013 member Jesse Maeder.
SPRINGVILLE — In addition to its annual school district overall rankings, which were released in mid-June, Business First of Buffalo has revealed other qualifying figures for Western New York school districts.

A total of 98 schools were ranked, according to their administrative efficiency. Business First studied schools in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

According to Projects Editor G. Scott Thomas, the Lancaster Public School District is the “leanest in Western New York,” in terms of spending.

That district shells out $12,894 per year, per pupil. The top five-rated WNY schools, in the administrative efficiency category, also included Hamburg, Clarence, Williamsville and East Aurora.

“Business First’s three-part rating formula is designed to determine which Western New York school districts have the tightest budgets and leanest staffs, regardless of academic performance,” Thomas said.

That formula took into account the amount districts spend, per pupil. “The lower a district’s per-pupil spending, the more credit it receives in the administrative efficiency formula,” Thomas said.

Business First also factored in the ratio of pupils, per administrative staffer. This includes district office employees, principals and assistant principals. “The higher a district’s pupil-administrator ratio, the more credit it receives in the administrative efficiency formula,” Thomas said.

The percentage of districts’ school budget that is devoted to debt service was also accounted for. “The smaller a district’s debt load, the more credit it receives, in the administrative efficiency formula,” Thomas said.

The Springville-Griffith Institute School District was ranked No. 34 (three stars) for its administrative efficiency. The district has a total enrollment of 1,968 students and was given an administrative efficiency rating of three stars.

The Erie County district spent $17,287 per pupil, in 2010-11, “the latest academic year for which official statistics are available from the New York State Education Department,” according to Thomas.

Springville was ranked No. 48 on the pupil-administrator ratio list. In 2011-12, the latest year for which statistics were available, the school had 164 pupils, per administrator.

The Springville district devotes 6.30 percent of its budget to debt service. It came in at No. 21 on the debt service rankings. Its teachers’ median salary is $50,740.

The Yorkshire-Pioneer School District of Cattaraugus County, which has an enrollment of 2,451, was given a two-star administrative efficiency rating and a ranking of 57 out of 98.

Yorkshire-Pioneer spent $17,754 per student, in 2010-11. It also reported 124.3 administrators, per pupil.

Ranked No. 25 for its debt-service load, the Yorkshire district devotes 7.76 percent of its budget to debt service.

Yorkshire’s teachers receive a median wage of $61,968.

Thomas reported that the Belfast School District “has the lowest rating for administrative efficiency, partly because its spending rate ($66,271 per pupil), is the highest in the eight-county region.”

Rounding out the bottom five, in the Buffalo publication’s administrative efficiency ratings, were Friendship, Ripley, West Valley and Andover.

West Valley Central School, a Cattaraugus County district, was ranked No. 95 and given one star, for its administrative efficiency. The school spent $24,019 for each of its 311 enrolled students, during 2010-11.

The school district employs one administrator, per 77.8 pupil, and devotes 11.20 percent of its budget to debt service. Its teachers receive a median wage of $49,498.

Business First also revealed the top 1,000 highest-paid public school administrators and teachers in 2011-12.

Former West Valley Superintendent Hillary Bowen came in at No. 95 on the list, with a salary of $136,490.

Eight S-GI employees, including School Superintendent Paul Connelly ($147,118), Crew Chief Larry Strauss ($110,276), Business Administrator Ted Welch ($109,536), Community Education Coordinator David Hawkes ($106,716), Paul Tellgren ($106,591), Assistant High School Principal John Baronich Jr. ($103,161), High School Principal Vincent Vanderlip ($100,715) and Director of Technology, Data and Assessment JoAnn DePue ($99,159) appeared on that list.

Yorkshire saw 14 employees appear on the top 1,000 list.

Those included Sharon Huff ($143,889), Nicholas Silvaroli ($125,086), Kevin Munro ($121,274), James Graczyk ($116,931), Ronald Brunner ($110,159), Pamela Kattermann ($107,595), Mark Schultz ($105,429), Michael Lucow ($104,925), Ravo Root III ($103,112), Kathleen Morris ($101,432), Karen Ritenour ($100,384), Nanci Bailey ($100,164), Elwyn Roll ($100,029) and Caren Dubay ($97,985).

Williamsville Superintendent Scott Martzloff was the region’s highest-paid public school administrator in 2012. He earned $191,946. A total of 809 WNY high school employees received $100,000 or more, in 2012.

Business First rated teacher experience in all 98 WNY districts, on a five-star scale. The top 10 percent received five stars, the next 15 had four stars and the remaining increments of 25 percent were given three, two and one star.

At No. 44 on this list, West Valley Central School was awarded three stars.

At No. 56, Yorkshire received a two-star rating and, at No. 75, S-GI was given one star, for teacher experience.

According to Business First, 22.62 percent of Springville’s teachers have 21 or more years of teaching experience. In addition, 25.64 percent of West Valley’s teachers and 28.77 percent of Yorkshire’s teachers have 21 or more years of experience.

“One of the best ways to measure a teacher’s performance is to ask his or her students what’s happening in the classroom,” Thomas said.

“Researchers found that students are remarkably accurate, in assessing a teacher’s ability to explain new concepts clearly or to maintain firm control over a class.”

Students nominated for the All Western New York Academic Team were asked to provide the names of the “best teachers they’ve had, during their 13 years in school.”

Twenty-five teachers were chosen as Business First teachers of merit.

Elaine Mitchell of Colden Elementary School won a Business First 2013 Teachers of Merit Award. She was nominated by class of 2013 member Jesse Maeder, who said, “She was the teacher who got me interested in learning and established the work ethic that I’ve carried, through high school.”

To read the complete listings of all of the reported rankings, visit

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