A dramatic change in how kids learn

Registration is under way for parents hoping to enroll their children in Kyrene’s first Traditional Academy, which starts Aug. 6 at Sureño Elementary School. Signups will remain open until classes are full.

Dr. Marianne Lescher, current principal at Mariposa Elementary School, will replace Dr. Jim Strogen as principal of Sureño in the 2011-12 school year.

“I have been at Mariposa for 12 years, and I had planned to be for another 12 years until this opportunity came forth,” Lescher said.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity for me, as an educator and as an administrator, for the Sureño community and the Kyrene community as a whole.”

At a recent public meeting for parents, Lescher and Strogen addressed the changes that will be made as Sureño transitions into a traditional academy.

Lescher said the school will follow the same curriculum implemented across the Kyrene District, adding to it however a prescribed dress code, required parental involvement and more targeted instruction in math, as well as heavy focus on reading mastery and acceleration.

“It is a great school now; we’re just going to modify things a little bit to bring a new option to Kyrene and a new choice for parents,” Lescher said.

According to Dr. Gina Taylor, assistant district superintendent, Sureño’s move to a traditional academy stems from a variety of needs, with a major focus to grow the school.

She added that Sureño has had declining enrollment and district officials hope the change will help to rebuild it.

Parents attending the advisory session asked a number of questions on aspects of the changes to be made next year, specifically regarding how staff will address changes that are designed to minimize instructional distractions for students.

Lescher’s response was that reading instruction will take place in larger blocks than it has been in recent years, as it is necessary to provide more time for kids to comprehend the information. She added that the school will likely not have as many assemblies, minimizing schedule changes that would affect instructional hours.

Kyrene parent Theresa Arellano, whose son is in kindergarten, said she looks forward to enrolling her child at Sureño next year.

“Coming from a parent, I know one thing that’s going to beneficial about this is my son will be ahead a grade level,” she said. “He’ll be in first grade next year, but they will be teaching him second-grade material.”

Arellnao added that newly adopted Saxon and Spalding reading and math programs have been given good reviews, and will require parental involvement—one of the main aspects that will set the school apart from surrounding schools.

Family members will be required to meet a minimum of five volunteer hours throughout the year, Lescher said.

“Parents, students and staff are responsible for and committed to supporting the (academy) program, upholding the standards and following the rules and policies,” she said. “It’s really a commitment for everyone.”

The prescribed dress code will include uniform pants, shorts, “skorts,” jumpers and skirts which will be in colors of khaki and navy. Collared shirts in white, blue or red can be plain or match the school logo. Sweatshirts and sweaters worn in school can be red, white or navy. Outerwear can be any color or print. Jeans can be worn on “Friday spirit days” with any school shirt.

Also, homework time will increase from the elementary average of three nights per week to four nights.

Lescher said approximately 85 percent of the current teachers at Sureño will remain on staff next year.

For more information on the Kyrene Traditional Academy, visit www.kyrene.org/aboutksd/TraditionalAcademy . Open enrollment applications are available at www.kyrene.org/oe .

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