Parents searching for homes in the Syracuse area are always interested in Westhill. Real estate agent Suzanne DeMartino says the school district's academic record and the community itself draw potential residents in.
"[The district is] just a great selling point," said DeMartino, of Prudential First Properties.
She should know. Not only is she a highly visible agent selling homes in Westhill, she has also lived in the district for 21 years and sent two daughters through its schools.
"We moved to Westhill because of the district," DeMartino said. "We liked the size and wanted to give public schools a shot. We haven't regretted it."
For those seeking an intimate school district, Westhill's size might be the top-selling point. Physically, Westhill is a small district, only about eight square miles. Just over 2,000 students attend Westhill schools, compared to neighboring West Genesee's 5,113 students.
Despite its size, Westhill outperforms many schools in SAT scores and four-year college attendance. More than three-fourths -- 76 percent -- of the 2006 graduating class went to a four-year college, compared to neighboring West Genesee's 61 percent.
Westhill also scored higher on both verbal and math SATs. Westhill students not only beat other schools in test scores but also showed improvement. The average SAT math score jumped 25 points to 561, while verbal scores rose by nine points to 533. Compare these scores with 2006 averages of 570 and 574 in verbal and math, respectively, at Skaneateles, and averages of 563 and 598 in verbal and math, respectively, at Fayetteville-Manlius.
Westhill's administrators point to the advantages of the district's small size, such as more chances to participate in school activities, more personalized learning and a strong community bond. But all this comes at a price.
Since most of Westhill's district is residential, 95 percent of its tax base comes from homeowners, according to the district web site.