By Nathan Ham
The Watauga County School System has something else to be proud of after it was named as the second best school system in the state by a project compiled at Niche.com.
Watauga finished with an A- grade behind only Chapel Hill/Carrboro city schools that got an A+ grade.
The rating system was based on different factors including student grades, teacher absenteeism and salary, parent surveys, per pupil spending, extracurricular activities, class size and diversity.
According to the data provided, Watauga County’s 10 schools and 4,402 students received grades of A in Teachers and College Prep, A- in Academics, Clubs and Activities and Health and safety and a B- in Diversity. The student-teacher ratio of 13:1 earned some positive points for Watauga County. That is below the national level of 17:1.
The data also took a look at the teachers serving Watauga County and they too got an exceptional rating. Watauga County was ranked at the third best place to teach in North Carolina and third out of 115 districts with the best teachers in North Carolina. The average teacher salary in the county came in at $41,642.
Financially, Watauga County Schools are a little below the national average of expenses per student. Here, expenses are $10,967 per student, below the national average of $12,239.
Taking a look at the academic statistics, Watauga County High School has a 91 percent graduation rate with an average SAT score of 1210 and an average ACT score of 26.
Rep. Ray Russell penned a letter to Watauga County Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott congratulating the county for this high ranking.
“Congratulations to the administration, the staff and the many parents and volunteers of the Watauga County Schools on being named one of the top two school districts in the state of North Carolina. This isn’t really news to those of us who have raised our children in the mountains of our great state. It’s recognition of what residents in Watauga County already know – our students, their families, teachers staff, administrators, the school board and countless community groups work together to create a model for what excellence in education and love for students should look like in North Carolina” Russell said in his letter. “My family can attest personally to this excellence. We have been privileged to benefit from Watauga County schools. Like thousands of other Watauga County residents, our children were well-prepared for academics and for life’s challenges because of the dedication of people who work, volunteer and advocate for children in Watauga County Schools. The dedication to children is not just their work. It is there passion.”
Russell continued, saying “we live in challenging times for students in North Carolina, especially for schools in rural areas. Watauga County Schools are a model for the state, rising above the challenge to true excellence. You demonstrate daily what can be done when people believe in investing in children and put that belief into action.”
The letter was shared at Monday night’s board of education meeting.
Dr. Elliott was happy to see Watauga County Schools getting the credit that they deserve.
“I’m so proud of our school system – students, teachers, staff – everyone who works so hard to make Watauga County Schools what it is. For us to achieve this kind of recognition, it takes the entire community supporting our schools, it takes parents working as partners alongside our teachers,” Elliott said. “Ranking as one of the best school systems in the state speaks to the high quality of our teachers and staff and the investment that our county has made in our schools as a whole.”