Mattituck Cutchogue School District

U.S. News & World Report ranks local high schools best in nation

(Credit: Jen Nuzzo)
A group of Mattituck High School teachers and students met with The Suffolk Times on Thursday to discuss the school’s ranking. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Mattituck High School junior Julie Krudop is grateful for the teachers that helped her improve her reading and writing skills.

After she was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, she was enrolled into the district’s reading program and said her teachers immediately pushed her to work hard in overcoming her personal challenges.

It’s that type of support Julie and her fellow students attributed to the school’s recent success of ranking as one of the best high schools in the nation.

“The teachers really do a great job preparing us,” said Julie, who plans to pursue a career in business. “Looking back now, I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best High Schools report analyzed about 21,000 public high schools across the country to find out which ones are successfully educating their student bodies.

Mattituck’s national ranking is 880, which puts the school in the top 4 percent of the country’s best high schools. The achievement carries a silver award.

Among the nearly 1,260 schools ranked across the state, Mattituck is number 95. And out of the 58 schools ranked in Suffolk County, Mattituck came in fifth place.

The best high schools rankings, first published in 2007, are based on AP test scores, disadvantaged student performance, and how well high schools overall prepare students for college.

Mattituck High School principal Shawn Petretti said he believes this is the first time Mattituck has ranked in the report. He described this year’s achievement as “truly an honor” because of the how the rankings’ criteria has shifted its benchmarks to show growth with ESL, special education and economically disadvantaged student performances.

“It’s been a culture of raising the bar for all students regardless of their backgrounds and to make sure they’re being supported,” Mr. Petretti said when asked what he attributes the school’s success to. “We have teachers passionate about teaching, their curriculums and, most importantly, their students. We have students that come here prepared to learn — they’re coming from households that value education. We also have a very supportive community and Board of Education.

“This didn’t happen by accident,” he continued. “A lot of different things had to take place in order to get those kinds of results.”

Greenport High School also ranked in the report, earning a bronze award this year after having received silver awards for the past two years.

“This is a real tribute to the hard work of our students, teachers and families,” said Greenport Superintendent David Gamberg. “Actually, it represents the efforts of everyone in the Greenport learning community who contribute to the achievements of our students.”

[Related: Greenport AP classes focus on environment, sustainability]

Of Greenport’s nearly 340 students, 20 percent take AP courses. Ninety percent scored proficient in math and 87 percent scored proficient in English. Forty percent of students come from low-income families.

Over in Mattituck, 56 percent of the high school’s nearly 770 students take AP courses. Eighty-eight percent scored proficient in math and 91 percent scored proficient in English. Twenty-two percent of students come from low-income families.

Like their classmate Julie, senior Rosa Perez and junior Samantha Kaelin said Mattituck has prepared them for the future.

Rosa is an ESL student who came to the U.S. five years ago from Guatemala. She’s currently taking medical courses at BOCES and wants to become a registered nurse. That dream wouldn’t have a chance of becoming a reality, she said, without the support she’s received from Mattituck’s programs.

Samantha, who was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), said the school’s teachers, reading program and resource room helped her achieve her goals. The experience has even helped her to decide to enter into the education field and become a preschool teacher or special education teacher.

“I’ve overcome it and can help others overcome it also,” Samantha said. “All the teachers have challenged me in ways to help me work harder.”

AP biology teacher Janine Ruland said teacher collaboration is key to student success. For example, reading skills her students are learning in AP Composition are critical to their success in her biology class.

[Related: A bit beyond advanced for this crop of AP students]

ESL teacher Denise Cheshire and special education teacher Jennifer Cressy agree that the district’s encouragement and focus on teachers collaborating with each other has fostered student success.

“The faculty and staff have a passion for teaching — we all work together,” Ms. Cheshire said.

“It’s nice we got the recognition here, but it’s down in the elementary school where it all starts,” Ms. Cressy added.

Students Kimberly Scheer, Rony Javier and Lika Osepashvili believe their teachers’ enthusiasm about course materials has made them into high achievers.

Kimberly said her high school experience has made her want to pursue mechanical engineering and Rony has decided he wants to become a history professor.

“Take advantage of every opportunity and try to expand — you’ll never know what you may end up liking unless you try,” Rony said when asked what his advice is for other students to be successful. “Our teachers are very enthusiastic, have lots of positive energy and they movative us.”

Lika, who is a co-editor for the school newspaper The Mattitalk, said she believes courses like AP English helped her develop the skills she needs to become a better writer. This is her third year with school newspaper and she’s slated to become its lead editor in September.

Susan McGinn, who teaches Lika’s independent journalism class, said she and other teachers enjoy the opportunities the district provides them to work and engage with students even after they’ve move on to different grades and classes.

The district’s supportive atmosphere, Ms. McGinn said, allows teachers to follow through with students until they successfully graduate.

“We still get to talk and have that relationship, which is very important,” she said. “That’s the reason why we come to school — it’s for the kids.”

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