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Williamsville Tops <i>Business First's </i> Annual School Rankings

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – "Business First" newspaper is out with its annual ranking of local school districts. For the second year in a row, Williamsville is at number one.

Business First graded 97 school districts in Western New York, examining 123 statistical indicators compiled by the State Education Department. Williamsville ranked at the top largely due to student success on a broad array of tests.

The ranking is especially gratifying to Williamsville's first-year superintendent Howard Smith.

"Knowing about Williamsville before I came here, it was important to me to be able to work with the staff, students and board to continue the fine tradition that had already been in place here," Smith said.

Clarence, Orchard Park, Amherst and East Aurora round out the top five.

Hoping to blunt criticism that its rankings are influenced solely by socioeconomic factors -- that is, only wealthy districts do well and poor ones don't -- "Business First" released a separate list. It ranked area school districts that overachieved despite having a substantial population of poor students. Westfield Central School in Chautauqua County topped that list. But Westfield Superintendent Laura Chabe says that doesn't mean poverty is not a factor in determining student achievement.

"We certainly don't compare to the City of Buffalo where there is 80 to 90 percent poverty," Chabe said. "It certainly creates a strain on their system that we can't even imagine."

"Business First" also assessed the cost effectiveness of area school districts in a third listing. It found that the Lancaster Central School District spends its money more efficiently than any other district in Western New York.