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Superintendent's Letter March 2017

Superintendent's Letter March 2017
Mar 02, 2017

birdwell_web.pngMarch 2017

Dear Scottsdale Unified School District Family,

Exciting things are always happening in our District, and this past month has been no different.

Our Governing Board has been fully engaged in deliberating numerous issues that will affect what our learning communities look like in the future. We have launched the Coronado Success Initiative, aimed at improving the career and college readiness of Coronado High School graduates and bolstering the school’s graduation rate. An estimated 150 community members, teachers, current and former students, parents, business leaders and elected officials gathered on a Saturday morning in January at SkySong to begin the academic re-design of Coronado High School.

Under the guidance of Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and with the financial support of the Charro Foundation, smaller groups engaged in frank, meaningful discussions about what Coronado High School was in the past, what it is today and what it needs to be in the future to better serve students of this learning community. They discovered common goals: among them, a school schedule that is more conducive to student learning and teacher planning, the need to produce college- and workplace-ready graduates, the need for additional training for teachers and a much-improved graduation rate. They saw a bright future for Coronado that is on par with the success of our other district high schools. I do, too.

Since then, the Governing Board has named current Winslow High School principal Christopher Gilmore to be Coronado’s next principal, starting in July. In his nine years at the helm in Winslow, Mr. Gilmore has overseen the formation of teacher ‘professional learning communities’ within the school that have proved to be instrumental to its success. He is skilled in communicating with the school’s internal and external communities, and he understands how to direct resources to maximize student achievement. The result has been a dramatic increase in his school’s graduation rate.

I am confident that Mr. Gilmore is the right choice for Coronado, and I look forward to introducing him to you in the coming weeks and months as the Coronado Success Initiative continues its mission. The first opportunity will be at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 2, in the Coronado Media Center.

The Governing Board has also been considering future educational opportunities in the Granite Reef corridor learning communities, intertwined with determining a second and third school campus to rebuild with November 2016 bond money. After examining the instructional models that are available in south Scottsdale, the Board voted on Feb. 23 to re-build Hohokam Traditional School, now K-5, as a K-6 school. At its March 21 meeting, the Governing Board will consider a proposal to make Pima Elementary School the District’s southern ‘traditional’ educational institution, joining Cheyenne Traditional on the north, and to make it the third campus to be rebuilt. With the Board’s approval, it is anticipated that new schools would open to students in fall 2018 on the Hopi, Hohokam and Pima campuses.

From new schools to a new name: At the February Board meeting, Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center Principal Kat Hughes approached the Governing Board about changing the school’s name to reflect a change in the school’s instructional model that will begin in August. That is when ANLC will move from elementary grade multi-age classrooms to looping, in which elementary students will have the same teachers for two-year blocks (K-1, 2-3, 4-5) to enhance student achievement. The Board agreed a name change is in order, and ANLC will be known as Echo Canyon School, starting next school year.

As we turn the corner on the school year, our high school winter sports – basketball, soccer and wrestling – are over and spring sports teams – baseball, softball, tennis, and track and field – are practicing. I am pleased to report that our district is home to two state championship soccer teams: the Coronado Dons captured the 4A boys’ soccer crown on Feb. 18, followed by the 5A Chaparral Firebirds girls’ soccer team, which had to fend off a strong challenge from sister-school Arcadia. Both contests were decided in overtime, with the boys’ contest settled by penalty kicks. Congratulations to all three teams and their coaches. We are very proud of all of our athletes. The dedication to their sport shows whenever they take the field of play, and when you consider that they are just as serious about their academic commitments, the true picture of a SUSD high school athlete is revealed.

We learned recently that three SUSD students are U.S. Presidential Scholar nominees this year: Jake Ausdemore and Wesley Jung from Desert Mountain High School and Cameron Whyte from Saguaro High School. The Presidential Scholar program was established in 1964 to recognize the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. The semifinalists will be announced in April, with the Scholar finalists named in early May. We are extremely proud of these students’ accomplishments and know that even bigger achievements lie ahead for them.

The annual SUSD Spelling Bee was held a few weeks back and, once again, Redfield Elementary student Omkar Bharath outlasted the winners of bees from the District’s other elementary, middle and K-8 schools to repeat as champion speller. Omkar, now a fourth grader, successfully defended his title by spelling the word magnesium correctly. Omkar and runners-up Gabriella Tadio (Desert Canyon Middle), Dean Alkhairy (Kiva), Max Greenspan (Cherokee), Tanner Hertz (Copper Ridge K-8) and Andrew Pham, (Pueblo) represented SUSD Feb. 17 in the regional Spelling Bee. Although they did not claim the title, we know they d-i-s-t-i-n-g-u-i-s-h-e-d our district with feats of fabulous phonetics!

Lastly, we celebrated the naming of Ingleside Middle School orchestra director Rachel Mazzullo as a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) last month. The designation is considered one of the highest achievements in the teaching profession, with standards determined by teachers themselves. She is one of 10 teachers in Arizona to earn certification this winter and is the 87th in SUSD! Congratulations to Rachel for pursuing certification, and much gratitude to the SUSD Foundation and the Scottsdale Charros for providing her with financial assistance to do so.

It is hard to believe that spring break is just around the corner. We wish safe journeys to you and your families, and look forward to your returning re-energized for the final quarter of the 2017-18 school year!

Dr. A. Denise Birdwell
Superintendent 



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