Clayton A. Bouton gets another Blue Ribbon

Voorheesville volleyball captains

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Clayton A. Bouton Principal Laura Schmitz hands Voorheesville volleyball captains the Regional Championship plaque in 2017. 

NEW SCOTLAND — When Brian Stumbaugh arrived in Voorheesville some two decades ago, he couldn’t believe what he walked into. “When I first got here, I was amazed,” said Stumbaugh, who now chairs the English and World Languages Department at Clayton A. Bouton High School.

To walk into a building and to have students with the level of engagement that the young men and women of Clayton A. Bouton had, he said, “And it sounds corny when I say it, but there was a lot of intellectual curiosity here — there really was.”

Long after the last bell had rung, Stumbaugh said, the halls of the high school would still be packed. Yes, there were after-school sports, but for that first moment, that first hour after school, he said, there were lots of students in faculty classrooms, “chatting and getting extra help.”

“I mean, it just, it sort of was in the air up here,” he said. “And it was an expectation when I got here, it was a very seasoned faculty.”

This week, Clayton A. Bouton High School was recognized by the United States Department of Education as an Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School for 2020.

It’s one of just 18 schools from New York State to be recognized this year; nationally, 367 schools were honored. 

Exemplary High Performing schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education, “Have their state’s highest high school graduation rates and the highest achieving students (the top 15 percent) in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups,” according to the department. “Every year the United States Department of Education seeks out and celebrates great American schools, schools demonstrating that all students can achieve to high levels.”

There are approximately 27,000 public and private high schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In total, in New York State, there are about 1,9oo public and private high schools — a number which includes kindergarten through 12th-grade schools; junior and senior high schools; and stand-alone high schools — according to the state Education Department

Since its inception in 1982, 534 schools in New York State have been named a Blue Ribbon School; nationally, 10,000 awards have gone to more than 9,000 schools.

Just 48 of those New York schools have been repeat winners — Voorheesville has two repeat winners: Clayton A. Bouton this year and in 1991, and Voorheesville Elementary in 1992 and in 2014.

Other local schools to have received the honor have been Westmere Elementary School in 2008 and Altamont Elementary School in 2007 — both in the Guilderland Central School District.

Other local school districts pay teachers what could be considered significantly more than Voorheesville pays teachers — which translates into tens-of-thousands-of-dollars, if not more, over a career.

Tom Gladd, Clayton A. Bouton’s Social Studies chairman, has been teaching in Voorheesville for 20 years. With his experience, he could be making approximately $10,000 more per year elsewhere. 

Gladd said, when he and his wife first moved to the area, he taught in a Catholic high school for a year, he then taught for three years as a part-time teacher in an adjoining public school, and finally for six years in a nearby public school.

“And when I had the opportunity to come here … I think that timeline tells you how I feel about this place,” he said.

Gladd said Voorheesville has a nice size, although he’d “like it to be a little bit bigger than it is.” But it’s that smallness, he added, that engenders Voorheesville’s sense of community.

And the school faculty “tends to” stick around, he said, which is a very good thing. At a previous school district where he had worked, there was a lot of churn, he said. It was a “good” district but it was the type of district where teachers “went to cut their teeth and then moved on,” he said, “sort of like I did, in some respects.” 

“So, as far as money goes, it’s important, obviously,” Gladd said, who had a career prior to being a teacher where “he made pretty good money,”

But he wasn’t happy. 

Now, he said, “I don’t go to work. I enjoy what I do — I really do.” 

Clayton A. Bouton Principal Laura Schmitz attributes her school’s success to a “three-pronged approach”: high-achieving students; unparalleled community support; and a very supportive school staff — one that begins when the student enters kindergarten.

One of the key things to success in school, regardless of socio-economic background, is parental involvement, Michael Borges, then the executive director of the ‎New York State Association of School Business Officials, told The Enterprise in 2017. 

Educational research shows that about two-thirds of a student’s achievements are shaped by out-of-school factors whereas only about one-third are shaped by in-school factors, Jack Schneider, now an assistant professor at the college of education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told The Enterprise in 2017

Schneider said there are three major traits associated with education that middle- and upper-income families tend to exert on their children: Norms that they set throughout a child’s life; concrete supports to the child; and cultivating particular types of practices and behaviors.

In Voorheesville, 81 percent of students come from two-parent families, 61 percent of parents have at least a bachelor’s degree, and families in the school district have a median household income of about $141,000, according to demographic data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.

 

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