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Matt Kupec: Is Syosset High School the Best in Nassau County?

Syosset High School is regarded as one of the top high schools in Nassau County for its combination of academic excellence and prowess of its student-athletes. This blog looks at academic rankings and All-Long Island production of athletes in measuring what High School is the best in Nassau County

by Matt Kupec

August 3, 2018

I recently penned a blog post commending Syosset High School for its #11 ranking among all Long Island high schools (public and private) for the number of All-Long Island athletes it has produced.  (https://medium.com/@mattkupec/matt-kupec-syosset-high-school-ranks-11th-in-producing-all-long-island-athletes-e5877007d2f3).  In that post, I also mentioned how impressive this ranking is particularly considering Syosset High School’s high academic standing.

The post generated a lot of interest and feedback which caused me to pose this question – is Syosset High School the best high school in Nassau County? 

Of course, an answer to that question depends on the criteria one chooses to use in evaluating the “best” high school.  In this post, I chose to use two public pieces of information – annual academic ratings of High Schools (Niche.com and US News & World Report) and the listing of all the All-Long Island athletes selected (Newsday) – to develop a “best high school” formula.

The best high school, in my opinion, is one that combines a rich academic experience which includes a healthy offering of curricular and extra-extracurricular activities.  As the great education philosopher John Dewey stated that “every blade of grass on a campus contributes to the quality of education” about the importance of all factors inside and outside the classroom leading to a quality education.    With Dewey’s writings in mind, we will take the two aforementioned sources of information to develop a list of Nassau County’s finest high schools.

One could make a case for other aspects of the high school experience that contribute to the quality of education and making it the best.  Take participation in the arts, theater and journalism.  I found no rankings of these important areas but Syosset’s impressive list of highly acclaimed and successful alumni in these fields make a compelling case for Syosset.  Think Natalie Portman.  Think Judd Apatow.  Think Michael Isikoff.  Think Leonard Shapiro.  These are but a few of the long impressive list of Syosset alumni who have become giants in their respective professions.

The foundation of academic excellence is in the quality of teaching and support from faculty and administrators.  The strength of the faculty leads to students gaining that rich, challenging and rewarding academic experience.  No rankings exist to rate the faculty but I submit that Syosset had as talented and dedicated a core of teachers as any high school.

And, finally, the quality of administrative leadership at the High School level plays an critical role in creating a culture of excellence.  My siblings and I know first-hand as our Dad – Bill Kupec – served as a revered and beloved principal at Syosset High School for many years.  What a talented, dedicated and decent leader our dad was.  There were many comments to my last blog but this one from Leonard Shapiro, Syosset alum and former “Washington Post” sports editor really meant a great deal, “Matt’s Dad was the all world principal at Syosset High School when I graduated in 1964.”  Thank you, Leonard.  And thank you for all the great leaders Syosset has had.

But for this blog post, we will stick with High School Rankings and Most All-Long Island athletes produced to analyze the Long Island high schools.  We’ll make a case for Syosset as Long Island’s finest high school and look forward to hearing feedback supporting the case or perhaps offering compelling reasons for another high school to warrant claim as Nassau County’s finest.

  1. The Rankings

Let’s take a look at the “rankings”:

  • The first ranking reports the aggregate number of All-Long Island athletes, as picked by Newsday, by each high school.  Garden City is the clear leader in Nassau County with a whopping 216 All-Long Island selections.  Syosset finishes fourth, just ahead of Manhasset, but the Braves’ total of 91 All-Long Island athletes pales Garden City’s totals.
  • The second category is “Best Nassau County Public High School,’ as compiled by Niche.com., a Pittsburgh-based company.  The 2020 Best Public High Schools ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, and high school ratings.   Surprisingly, Garden City High School is only ranked #12 in the Niche.com ranking, well below Syosset’s 3rd place standing.
  • The third ranking is an Academic Ranking of Nassau County high schools from “US News & World Report” that has been the gold standard over the years.  In this ranking Syosset drops to 5th place behind both Garden City and Manhasset high schools.
  • Three schools – Syosset, Garden City and Manhasset – seem to be the clear leaders in the debate over which high school is the best in Nassau County.
  1. The Case for Syosset High as the best in Nassau County?
  • Syosset has high rankings in all three categories – #4th in Long Island athletes produced, #3rd in Academic ranking (Niche.com poll) and 4th best Long Island High School in the US News & World report poll.  Manhasset is aligned closely with Syosset in all three rankings.  Syosset’s cumulative ranking is 12 (#4, #3, #5) while Manhasset trailing closely with a cumulative score of 14 (#5, #4, #5).  Garden City has the clear advantage in number of All-Long Island athletes produced and a higher US News & World Report academic ranking than either Syosset or Manhasset.   But Garden City falls to #12th in the Niche.com academic ranking and sits with a cumulative ranking of 15 (#1, #12, #2).
  • Syosset has the largest student population – 2,084 compared to Manhasset’s 1,157 students and Garden City’s 1,115 students.  Syosset competes in the toughest athletic conference -Conference I with schools that have the largest student enrollments in Nassau County.  Garden City and Manhasset compete in the next level – Conference II – with smaller sized schools.  Not to take away the great accomplishments of the 300 combined All-Long Island selections by these two schools but Syosset faces week in and week out a tougher schedule against schools with much large school population. 
  • On a very personal note, I remember when I was in 8th grade watching older brother Chris and the Syosset Braves just tear up Garden City High School in a playoff game his senior year in high school.  At one point in the game, Chris rolled left – and as a right-hander throwing against the grain – tossed a perfect 60-yard pass in the air for a touchdown.  The blow-out left a lasting impression on me that there was no way Garden City could ever be as good or strong as the Syosset Braves!  At least, not in football.  In fact, four years in my senior year, conference realignment merged the bigger schools from north and south shores together so Syosset would never face a smaller school like Garden City or Manhasset squad in the playoffs. 
  • Garden City and Manhasset are great high schools, two of the finest in this country let alone Nassau County.  But at the end of the day, when considering academic and athletic rankings, it is my contention that Syosset High School is the best in a county with 53 public high schools and 1.37 million people.  Go Braves!!

Would love to hear your comments and feedback either on Facebook or mattkupecassociates.com

About the Author (mattkupecassociates.com)
Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit and is currently leading the fundraising at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL.

A proud Syosset High School graduate, Matt was named Newsday All-Long Island quarterback after the undefeated 1974 Syosset Braves team won the Long Island Championship game and was ranked #1 in New York State.  Kupec was named the winner of the Thorpe Award.  Matt’s older brother Chris was named Newsday All-Long Island quarterback in 1970 after leading the Braves to the Nassau County title.  Both Kupecs went on to have prolific careers as record-setting quarterbacks at the University of North Carolina.

Four other Kupec siblings – Barbara, Liz, Andy and Tom – also attended and enjoyed successful careers at Syosset High School.  Andy was a standout basketball player earning All-County honors for the Braves.  Andy had a record-breaking career as a scholarship standout at Bentley College and was eventually drafted by the Boston Celtics. Tom was a highly successful quarterback for the football team and key member of the Braves squad that captured the Long Island baseball championship.  Tom went on to a stellar career as a record-setting quarterback for LIU/CW Post.

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