Home » News » PH, Westview schools receive state Four Star honors

PH, Westview schools receive state Four Star honors

By Ashlee Hoos 
and Patrick Redmond 

Feb 23, 2018 Updated Feb 24, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS —Prairie Heights High School is an Indiana Department of Education Four Star School for 2016-17.

The school which serves students in Steuben and LaGrange counties sits in LaGrange County and is one of three schools in the county to receive the distinction.

The Four Star Schools designation is designed by IDOE to recognize great schools in Indiana.

The other schools in LaGrange County receiving the distinction were Westview Junior-Senior High School and Meadowview Elementary School.

Prairie Heights High School Principal Jeremy Swander said he is extremely excited about earning the distinction.

It’s the first time in his eight-year tenure at the school they’ve received this honor. It’s something he’s had as a goal to attain.

“We’ve received the letter grade of ‘A’ but never the Four Star,” Swander said. “We’re doing something right out here.”

“Receiving designation as a Four Star School signifies a pursuit of academic excellence among students, educators, and the administration,” said Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a news release. “I am honored to recognize these Four Star Schools for their hard work and dedication in preparing their students for a bright and prosperous future.”

Swander said it’s not just the teachers that have helped the school earn this award, but also the paraprofessionals, custodians, food service workers and everyone else involved in the school that make it a community that made the award happen.

“We have just an incredible staff,” he said. “I love them and they work absolutely tirelessly to do what is best for these students.”

He credits the staff for making Prairie Heights High School a community, a feeling that the students buy into and what he said really makes them a better school.

Swander also said he feels the school’s “unbelievable” ISTEP scores played a key role in the award.

He said he’d put the Prairie Heights math and English departments up against anyone in the state because of how good both are.

“It’s not just the English and math teachers, but all the subject teachers touching on all the disciplines to get the students through,” Swander said. “The students respect and want to do well for the teachers.”

Past graduates of Prairie Heights High School are coming back to teach in the school, which Swander said is great to see because they understand the dynamic of Prairie Heights.

“We can compete with those bigger schools because of that,” Swander said. “Prairie Heights has been by far my best experience as an educator.”

It’s also a school he said doesn’t feel cliqued up, with students all being a good, cohesive group of people.

The Westview principals gave credit to many for receiving the honor.

“Everybody is hard working, everybody focuses on the job at hand. They just all work hard and work well together. I have an awesome staff that really puts their all into it, and really cares about the student, cares about the whole child, not just the test. Our parents are very supportive and support what we do here. We have lot of parent participating in all of our programs and our students are awesome. We have very few discipline issues, they’re here to learn,” said Toni Whitney, principal at Meadow view.

High school Principal Rich Cory also beamed with pride.

“We’re very proud. Our teachers are putting in a lot of time to meet those ever changing state standards, that’s the difficult part. Our kids, they’re dealing with these changes as they’re trying to meet state standards to graduate so it can be frustrating at times, but we’re working through it, and just very proud of all the work our kids and staff are doing,” Cory said. “When I came here 11 years ago, I said this was a premiere school district, and I still believe that 11 years later. Look at the success we had with our referendum. I’ve already felt like our community supports us, and we have a great school board that will come out and back our superintendent and what he’s doing, so there’s support across the board and I don’t think every school district always gets that support.”

While the award is an honor, Whitney said, it doesn’t define the school.

“It’s nice to have the recognition for all the hard work we do, yet, it doesn’t define us,” Whitney said.

The Four Star School Award has been in existence for 30 years. To receive Four Star designation, a school must receive an “A” on the state’s A-F accountability system, have excellent ISTEP pass rates, carry an overall high graduation rate (if applicable) and show success in closing achievement gaps.

A total of 238 schools received the award for 2016-17.

For more information regarding the Four Star School Award, please visit: www.doe.in.gov/accountability/four-star-schools. To view a complete list of recognized schools, please visit: www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/2016-2017-four-star-list-final-lilly.pdf.