Some of the local highlights are:
All-Western New York Academic Team - The 100 best and brightest high school seniors from 71 high schools in the eight-county region were selected with the top 25 named to the first team, the 25 runners-up on the second team, and the subsequent 50 given special mention designations. John Billingsley of Starpoint earned special mention.
High school sports - Clarence ranks No. 1 in Business First's latest analysis of sports programs at Western New York's public high schools. Among the other top 50 schools in sports rankings were: 15. Barker; 16. Grand Island; 19. Niagara Falls; 23. Starpoint; 31. Lockport; and 38. North Tonawanda.
Salaries for educators - 546 administrators and teachers earn six-figure salaries. The median pay for Western New York school superintendents has soared 55 percent since 1998, easily outstripping the inflation rate of 34 percent for the same 12-year period, according to a new analysis by Business First. The typical superintendent in the eight-county region was paid $88,750 a dozen years ago, based on salary allocations reported by Western New York's 98 school districts to the New York State Education Department. The median salary for that same group shot up to $137,917 by 2010. (A median is a midpoint, with half of all officials earning more and half earning less.)
Sweet Home pays the highest salaries for teachers in Western New York, as indicated by Business First's analysis of pay levels at five different points in the typical teacher's career. Williamsville and Niagara Falls are the runners-up.
Thirteen school systems registered increases of 80 percent or more in their superintendents' salaries between 1998 and 2010, as determined by Business First's comparison of budget allocations for the two years. The largest jump was 107 percent in Starpoint, from $85,576 a dozen years ago to $177,143 currently.
The next largest rises were 94 percent in Ripley, 91 percent in Niagara-Wheatfield and Andover, and 88 percent in Royalton-Hartland.
Superintendents aren't the only employees of Western New York school districts who receive annual pay in the six figures. Business First has compiled a list of 546 administrators and teachers whose total compensation was in the $100,000-plus range in the 2008-09 academic year. The full list, broken down by districts, can be found on Business First's Web site.
Among the rankings of teacher pay were: 1. Sweet Home (median: $62,074, peak: $92,756); 3. Niagara Falls (median: $59,249, peak: $86,298); 5. Grand Island (median: $62,185, peak: $92,717); 6. North Tonawanda (median: $62,049, peak: $83,375); 11. Niagara-Wheatfield (median: $57,026, peak: $85,238); 13. Lewiston-Porter (median: $58,397, peak: $78,732); 17. Lockport (median: $54,769, peak: $81,257); 19. Barker (median: $53,584, peak: $86,367); 21. Wilson (median: $52,822, peak: $86,624); 25. Newfane (median: $49,950, peak: $85,358); 27. Starpoint (median: $51,473, peak: $84,946); 29. Royalton-Hartland (median: $50,942, peak: $79,956).
Elementary schools - Business First graded 287 elementary schools, based on four years of test data from the New York State Education Department. The rankings cover every school that participates in the statewide testing program for fourth graders. Included were: 1. Southern Tier Catholic School (Olean); 15. St. John Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield area); 17. St. Stephen School (Grand Island): 25. St. Peter's Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield area); 28. Errick Road Elementary (Niagara-Wheatfield); 32. St. Peter School (Lewiston-Porter); 36. Geraldine J. Mann School (Niagara Falls); 37. Huth Road School (Grand Island); 50. Kaegebein School (Grand Island); 55. North Tonawanda Catholic School (North Tonawanda); 68. Starpoint; 70. Charles A. Upson Elementary (Lockport); 71. DeWitt Clinton Elementary (Lockport); 73. Thomas Marks Elementary (Wilson); 75. Stella Niagara Education Park (Lewiston-Porter); 79. George Southard Elementary (Lockport); 89. Ohio School (North Tonawanda); 91. Newfane ; 98. Washington Hunt School (Lockport).
Middle Schools - Business First analyzed the records of 212 middle schools. Rankings included: 1. Transit Middle School (Williamsville); 13. St. John Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield area); 26. Stella Niagara Education Park (Lewiston-Porter); 37. Veronica Connor (Grand Island); 48. Holy Ghost Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield area); 49. St. Stephen School (Grand Island); 54. Lewiston-Porter; 59. Barker; 62. Starpoint; 63. St. Dominic Savio (Niagara Falls); 68. Newfane: 73. St. Peter School (Lewiston-Porter); 75. St. Matthew Lutheran (North Tonawanda); 76. St. Peter's Lutheran (Niagara-Wheatfield); 81 Royalton-Hartland; 83. Edward Town Middle (Niagara-Wheatfield); 88. Wilson; 93. North Tonawanda Catholic.