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Shining Examples

Trio of county school districts win Bright Star Award

Vince Zomboracz, a Saratoga School math teacher, helps new student Jose Cornejo with a math problem in his Digits workbook on Cornejo's first day of class Tuesday morning in Morris.
Vince Zomboracz, a Saratoga School math teacher, helps new student Jose Cornejo with a math problem in his Digits workbook on Cornejo's first day of class Tuesday morning in Morris.

Three local school districts have been honored with the SchoolSearch 2012 Bright Star Award for Excellence for high student achievement at a low cost per pupil.

Saratoga Community Consolidated School District 60C in Morris, Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201, and Channahon School District 17 each received the award last month, based on their 2011 Illinois State Report Cards.

"I was very pleased and very proud," said Kathy Perry, district superintendent at Saratoga. "Our staff works very hard and they accept every challenge that comes their way."

This is Saratoga's first Bright Star Award.

Only 85 school districts out of 868 in Illinois were given the Bright Star Award this year. A district's students must perform in the top third of Illinois districts academically and the expenditures per pupil must rank in the bottom quarter of the state to earn the award.

At the elementary level, which all three of the local winning districts are, at least 88.8 percent of the students must have met or exceeded the requirements on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in third- through eighth-grade in order to receive the award.

In Channahon, 91.8 percent of the students met or exceeded the requirements. In Minooka, 90.8 percent did so, while 89.7 percent met or exceeded in Saratoga.

Also, districts' expenditures per pupil could not exceed $8,725. The Illinois state range for operating expenditure per pupil is between $6,174 and $24,633. The average throughout the state is $11,537.

Saratoga's operating expenditure per pupil is $6,843, Perry said. Channahon's is about $7,785. Minooka's is $7,683.

"We have 4,077 students in our district," said Al Gegenheimer, superintendent in Minooka Dist. 201. "We could have spent another $4 million and still would have won this award."

This is Minooka's third year in a row earning the Bright Star Award.

Dist. 17 has won the Bright Star Award 15 times since the award's inception in 1996.

"It's exciting," said Karin Evans, district superintendent for Dist. 17. "We look forward to this award every year and hope we can reach it."

This award is something Evans' district is "very, very proud of," the superintendent added.

"To me, it's a testimony to all the students, parents and teachers," Gegenheimer said. "It's fantastic."

One community member in Minooka told Gegenheimer the Bright Star Award could also be known as the "Biggest Bang for Your Buck" award.

Gegenheimer is expecting to win the Bright Star Award again next year because Minooka's test scores were even higher in 2012 than they were in 2011.

"It's nice to receive outside recognition," Perry said.

Other nearby Bright Star Award winners included Dwight Common School District 232, Lisbon Community Consolidated School District 90, and Newark Community Consolidated School District 66.

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