What's the recipe for Pass Christian High's success?

 Pass Christian High School was ranked nO. 1 in Mississippi last week in the annual U.S. News & World Report school rankings.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/2010 Pass Christian High School was ranked nO. 1 in Mississippi last week in the annual U.S. News & World Report school rankings. SUN HERALD

Pass Christian High School landed the top spot for all Mississippi high schools in a national ranking last week, and it comes as little surprise.

U.S. News and World Report selected the high school No. 1 in the state in its annual rankings and awarded it a silver medal based on students' level of college preparedness.

The school consistently pulls in the silver medal in the annual rankings. This year, only four other Mississippi high schools were awarded the silver medal. Ocean Springs was among them, ranking third.

"I'm very proud of the ranking and our staff and students, but it doesn't surprise me," Pass Christian High School principal Robin Killebrew said.

Much of the school's success boils down to one word Killebrew said: support.

"We get a lot of support from the community, our central office and we have the best teachers and students. I think that plays a big role as to why we're successful," she said.

Killebrew said teachers and faculty at the school show an interest in student activities well after the school day is over. This helps with student and parent involvement.

"We try to get out in the community. We have events like Pirate Palooza, the Pirate showcase and other fundraisers. We get out to Rotary and talk to the alumni association. And we are very supportive of student activities. We go to athletic events. We show support outside the high school," she said.

This was the first year the study considered graduation rates in its review. The school has an 89 percent graduation rate.

Another part of the study focused on minority and economically disadvantaged student enrollment. Pass Christian has a 42 percent minority enrollment and 62 percent of its students are considered economically disadvantaged.

"We are very diverse," Killebrew said. "One of the things we have is a freshman academy. We put that in about three years ago. It allows us to identify the students, and more specifically determine their needs," she said.

The study showed college preparedness at the school is among the best in the state. Student achievement at the school is in the top 1 percent. As part of its curriculum, the school has 11 advanced placement dual enrollment classes ranging from math to history to English.

"Just by us offering those classes, it helps with college preparedness," Killebrew said.

The school also has a graduation coach.

While Pass Christian tops all 493 schools in the state of Mississippi, it is ranked 2,221 among high schools across the nation, according to the study. Killebrew said limited school funding from the state can be a challenge.

"Like other schools we have to deal with limited funding. You just have to adjust with what you have," she said.

She said there's no special recipe for the schools continued success.

"We aren't doing anything special. We have really good teachers that come in early and stay late. I think it just goes back to leadership," she said.