A year filled with student achievement and highlights

West Jefferson Hills School District  |  Posted on

Thomas Jefferson’s production of “Legally Blonde” was selected a Kelly Awards “Best Musical”

West Jefferson Hills students were responsible for numerous outstanding achievements and highlights during a record-setting 2021-22 school year for the district.

The accomplishments came during a year that included substantial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic for a third consecutive year along with a record-setting enrollment of 3,249 students. West Jefferson Hills is Allegheny County’s second-fastest growing district, with a 12.1% enrollment increase since the 2016-17 school year, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The 2021-22 school year included continued academic growth and success across the district and history-making achievements in the arts and athletics.

– New Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) curriculum was introduced for K-5 students.
– The Amplify English Language Arts curriculum was implemented for students at Pleasant Hills Middle School.
– Thomas Jefferson (TJ) was ranked No. 15 among 132 Pittsburgh area high schools by U.S. News & World Report for the second consecutive year.
– Pleasant Hills Middle School (PHMS) was redesignated a Pennsylvania “School to Watch.” PHMS was originally designated as a “School to Watch” in 2014 and re-designated in 2017.
– A school record 237 TJ students took Advanced Placement (AP) exams, with a school record 400 AP exams administered. Both figures are more than double the totals from five years prior (94 and 180, respectively, in 2016-17).
– A school record 24 TJ students earned AP Scholars distinction, up from 19 in 2020, to 21 in 2020-21 and 24 this past year.
– A total of 64% of TJ seniors earned honors (cumulative 3.2 GPA or higher).
– The TJ Incubator Flexfood team advanced to the INCubatoredu National Pitch quarterfinals.
– Senior Anthony Sparta was selected a finalist for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship and received a full academic scholarship to Saint Vincent College.
– Three WJH leaders were recognized among the 16 principals from Allegheny County as Penguins Most Valuable Principals (MVP). The district principals to receive the recognition were: Dan Como (Pleasant Hills Middle), Pete Murphy (Thomas Jefferson) and Chris Very (Jefferson Hills Intermediate).

– Thomas Jefferson’s spring musical, Legally Blonde, was selected Best Musical by the Pittsburgh CLO’s Gene Kelly Awards in its budget category, the first time a TJ production has been so honored. Legally Blonde won five Kelly Awards, tied for the second-highest among all Allegheny County schools that were nominated.
– Jefferson Hills Intermediate School (JHIS) student Ava Floor was selected a PTA Reflections National Level winner, the first time a JHIS student has been so honored. Three JHIS students earned state-level recognition.
-Pleasant Hills Middle School student Samantha Strope won the Pennsylvania Student Radon poster contest.

-The Thomas Jefferson hockey team rallied from a 5-1 third period deficit to force overtime, where it won its first PIHL 2A Penguin Cup Championship since 2000. Sophomore Scottie Allan completed the comeback just 46 seconds into overtime to give the Jaguars the incredible 6-5 win over Franklin Regional. TJ lost to Pennridge in double overtime in the 2A state championship tilt. The Jaguars were led by first-year head coach John Zeiler, who was a center on TJ’s 1998-99-2000 Penguins Cup and state championship squads.
-Brian Finnerty captured TJ’s first PIAA wrestling championship, with a late comeback win at 215 lbs. Finnerty also became the Jaguars’ sixth WPIAL wrestling champion and finished his stellar career as the program’s all-time victories leader with 121. Freshman Maddox Shaw placed third at 126 lbs. to help boost TJ to 10th place out of the 115 Class 3A schools that had at least one PIAA Wrestling competitor.

-All district schools participated in the “Pittsburgh Builds Bridges” initiative with local artist and parent Ebtehal Badawi. Students and staff collectively created a unifying painting at each school to symbolize building bridges across cultures to create unity and celebrate diversity throughout the district.
-Gill Hall Elementary teachers Melody Devenney and Alexandra Bowser collaborated on a children’s book, Filled Perfectly and Wrapped in Culture, A Story of Family, Food and Friends! The book moved to the No. 1 new release in Amazon’s English as a Second Language (ESL) category six days after it was released and stayed at the top for one week.
-Thomas Jefferson students Emma Martinis and Olivia Supp led an effort with Team 4 THE CURE that raised $82,067.17 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Among the 19 Student of the Year teams in greater Pittsburgh, Team 4 THE CURE was among the top five fundraising teams. Their seven-week campaign was inspired by Scarlett Rundquist, a fourth-grade student at Jefferson Hills Intermediate School, who is battling leukemia.
-The JHIS TJ3D Club produced and sold nearly 950 Burgh Bus levels at $10 apiece, with purchases from 26 states. The club is using the proceeds to buy the materials needed to create a 3D-printed, life-sized LEGO go-kart.