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Sterling High School Named Performing Arts School of Excellence
Sterling High School Named Performing Arts School of Excellence
Phil Bressler
Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Today, KSHSAA announced Sterling High School as the winner of the 2019-2020 Performing Arts School of Excellence. See here for the KSHSAA Official Press Release.

The award recognizes high schools that scored exceptionally high in debate, speech, music and theater during the preceding school year and is selected by representatives of Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA), Kansas Speech Communication Association (KSCA), and the Kansas Thespians, along with members of the KSHSAA staff.

Congratulations to our students, both current and past, for their hard work and commitment to improvement and excellent. A special thanks to their instructors, who have worked countless hours to help them improve and build these tremendous programs over the years.

Betsy Dutton leads our 7-time State Championship Debate Team (5 in 2-speaker; 2 in 4-speaker), our 24-time State Championship Forensics Team (Speech), directs our Jester Award-winning Musical each year, and is four decades into helping develop well-rounded Sterling High School students.

Clark Comley is our Choir Director and oversees a 60-plus voice choir at the high school, a 40-plus student JH Choir, as well as several smaller ensembles. During Clark's three-plus decades, his choirs and ensembles are perennial recipients of I-Ratings at both the Regional and State Music Festivals. In addition, Sterling voices are well-represented in KMEA District and State Honor Choirs, with numbers rivaling or exceeding those of high schools with enrollments several times larger than SHS. Clark also serves as the Music Director for theatrical productions.

Abby Giles is our Director of Bands. A newcomer to the team last  year, Abby brings an unmistakable professionalism and passion for students and music and has demonstrated both a commitment to, and capability of, maintaining the instrumental program at a high level. Larry Brownlee, who retired in 2019, deserves mention for his 30-plus year investment into developing a state-wide reputation as one of the best bands in the state, as evidenced by multiple awards and consistent I-Ratings at both Regional and State festivals.

Cindy Anthony and Janis Fair are both instrumental pieces of the success of these programs, providing support to the directors, accompaniment for large and small groups, as well as for solos, and additional instruction. Cindy plays piano and works with our high school choir and serves as the elementary choir director, while Janis works with both choir and band at the junior high. They are an example of the teamwork required to build and maintain excellence.

Additionally, Marilee Kruse is now in her third decade as an Assistant Forensics Coach and has been instrumental in the growth and strength  of the program. Adam Moore joined the Debate staff last year, lending support to our debaters in practice and on Saturdays when multiple meets are being attended by our squads.

Sterling High School has been a finalist each of the past two years and, with this year's award, becomes the only school to have been a finalist each of the three years KSHSAA has made this award. On behalf of all of Sterling High School and USD 376, a huge congratulations to our Performing Arts programs being recognized today as the best in Kansas.

We will honor these programs during an all-school assembly in September. The public presentation of award date will be announced when finalized with KSHSAA staff.