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Recognition for excellence is getting to be a habit in the
Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District.

For three out of the last four years, at least one Ken-Ton school has been designated a School of Excellence by the state Education Department. The latest to receive the distinction are Kenmore West High School and Kenmore Middle School.

That brings to six the number of schools in the district to receive the honor. That's nearly half of the 13 Ken-Ton schools. The list includes all three middle schools, two out of eight elementary schools and one of the two high schools.

"That's quite unusual," according to Susan Gibbons, a state Education Department spokeswoman. "A district that has been that consistent has a lot to be proud of."

The ratings are done blindly for each school that submits an application, said Mrs. Gibbons, associate director of Quality Assurance. There are 3,958 public schools in 720 districts across the state, she said. From those, the state Education Department received only 77 viable applications, which were narrowed down to 27 schools that will be recommended to the U.S. Education Department for nationwide honors.

The two Ken-Ton schools singled out for state honors last year, Thomas Jefferson and Oliver Wendell Holmes elementary schools, went on to become two of 221 schools in the country to be chosen National Schools of Excellence.

The principal at Kenmore West High, Charles Kristich, and at Kenmore Middle, Florence Kern, are hoping their schools will be so honored next May.

Their applications will be forwarded to the U.S. Education Department, which will make a decision based on the thousands of applications they receive, what schools will be selected for on-site visits from department representatives in February. The schools that make the best showings will receive national recognition at a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House next fall.

But for right now, Kristich and Ms. Kern can look forward to a state ceremony in Albany early next year.

"There's a good feeling in the building for being recognized for things that we've been doing for a long time," Kristich said today.

Kenmore West places a strong emphasis on improving instruction, staff development, parent involvement and building self-esteem among its students, he said, Ms. Kern said her school emphasizes programs to raise test scores and immerse pupils in music and arts programs.

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