By Diana Whittle
Three schools in the Kyrene district — Mariposa Elementary, Kyrene Traditional Academy’s Sureño campus and Pueblo Middle School — have earned the Arizona Educational Foundation’s A+ School of Excellence recognition for the 2014-15 academic year. The awards follow an in-depth evaluation in the areas of student focus and support, school culture, active teaching and learning, curriculum, leadership, community and parental involvement, and assessment data. A lengthy written document is submitted by each school, followed by a rigorous site visit by a team of judges. Preparation of each school’s application involves collaboration among students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members. Spencer Fallgatter, the principal at Mariposa, says that his school’s staff worked as a team, along with the school’s site council, during the year. “We had one teacher, Amber Kremlacek, who authored the 35-page application with assistance from me,” said Fallgatter. “Mariposa received the A+ award in 2003-2004, again in 2008-2009, and (now) for the third year.
I believe we are the only school in Kyrene that received the reward three times.” He says that one of Mariposa’s strengths is having a diverse community along with an extremely active parent group, who are highly engaged in ensuring their children receive a quality education. “We also have a very caring school community. We have a group within our school called Mariposa KARES that focuses on many service projects,” said Fallgatter. “Most recently, we partnered with a non-profit to raise money for a former Mariposa student, who unfortunately, has cancer.
We are a school that prides itself in meeting the needs of ‘all learners’ while continuing to work together to find innovative ways to provide ongoing support to our students.” Fallgatter says that as principal he is always looking for ways to improve the school’s performance. “A first-class school like Mariposa is always looking to up its game. Our teachers work with instructional coaches to improve their instructional delivery, focus on the specific needs of their students and deliver instruction in a highly engaging way.” For Kyrene Traditional Academy, this was the first time it applied for the award and received it, according to principal Marianne Lescher. She agrees that the application was a shared effort that included students and parents.
Through the intensive process, the school also learned about its qualities. “We rediscovered the strength of our climate and community, and the positive impact our collegial relationships have on students,” said Lescher. “We saw the positive impact of our Spalding reading program, and how well our students are achieving across all reading and language areas. We also saw how our positive and pro-active approach to behavioral supports has proven beneficial to our students and their behavior and our school’s climate.” As for improvements, Lescher says she wants to continue on an upward trajectory. “We want to continue to improve on teacher training in Spalding reading and Saxon math, our two unique resources and strategies.
Our results are really great with these resources and we want to continue.” Both schools reported parents and students to be enthusiastic upon hearing news of the award. “All day, parents were coming in to school to congratulate everyone, and we got lots of congratulatory emails! We are also excited because we have also been nominated for the National Blue Ribbon School award, and we will hear about that in September,” said Lescher. She plans a school assembly for April 27 to celebrate as a school.
Recognition through the A+ School of Excellence program can help increase confidence in Arizona’s public schools and create greater parent and community involvement, educators agree. Schools receive $500 and a banner designating it as an A+ School of Excellence winner. All staff and faculty at the award-winning schools will be eligible for partial scholarships from Argosy University Phoenix. The award is valid for 3½ years. “This is a well-deserved honor for the staff, students and parents in these schools’ communities,” said Kyrene Superintendent Dr. David K. Schauer.