A plus: Deserved, earned and now received

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By Diana Whittle

No matter when this kind of good news arrives, or who receives it, it’s a thrill to say the least.

Connolly Middle School, part of the Tempe Elementary district, finds it no less so. Connolly is one of the newest recipients of an A+ School of Excellence designation for the 2016-17 academic school year.

The Arizona Educational Foundation recently announced the names of 39 Arizona public schools to receive the coveted A+ awards.  The entire Connolly community celebrated with an assembly that was attended by students, teachers and other staff. 

AEA Board Member Mike Gardener presented Connolly with a banner signifying the school’s A+ achievement, which is now proudly displayed on the school grounds. 

The award is valid for 3½ years.

Professionally, Gardner is a partner with Triadvocates, one of Arizona’s largest government relations firms. He also served in the Arizona House of Representative for three terms and was the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. During this experience he became frustrated by the many negative comments made about public education in Arizona.

“I chose to serve on the board of the Arizona Educational Foundation to help celebrate some of the wonderful programs in our public schools,” said Gardner, a fifth generation Arizonan, who also was raised in a household of educators—his father, mother, wife, father-in-law and two brothers are all public school teachers.

The Arizona Educational Foundation started the A+ School of Excellence Program to assess public schools and to tout their accomplishments.  AEF has identified and honored exemplary pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public schools in Arizona since 1983.

“School recognition through the A+ School of Excellence™ program can help to increase confidence in Arizona’s public schools and create greater parent and community involvement,” said Gardner. 

“In addition to the banner, schools receive $500 and scholarships from Argosy University Phoenix for staff and faculty.”

Connolly Middle School became eligible for the A+ School of Excellence award by submitting an application that provides demographic information, a description of current programs and practices, documentation of parent and community involvement, a profile of the school’s leadership and commitment to excellence, equity, and service.

“Connolly Middle School is highly worthy of this distinction,” said Christine Busch, Tempe Elementary School District Superintendent. “Our Connolly students, staff, and parents demonstrate all that is exemplary and noble about public education.”

Connolly earned this award for their superior ability to identify and meet the academic and non-academic needs of their student population.

“The staff of Connolly Middle School continuously collaborate to create an environment that allows learning, critical thinking, cooperation, tolerance, and self-discipline.

“We encourage students to become lifelong learners and responsible citizens,” said Principal Kathy Mullery.

Connolly Middle School offers a unique educational experience for a wide-variety of students, due to the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, as well as being home to ASPIRE Academy, which is designed for the most academically gifted middle-school students.

The school is also proud of its music programs, which offer many opportunities for music-oriented students, says Mullery.

“Connolly is one of the only middle schools in the state of Arizona to provide a full symphonic orchestra experience to band and orchestra students.”

Even students at the school are eager to sing its praises.  The Connolly Student Body President, Alexis Moreno, an eighth-grader is proud of the many programs offered by the school.

“The best thing about being a student at Connolly is the diversity of programs we have,” said Moreno. “From our Connolly Jazz Band to ASPIRE or the PBL engineering classes, there’s something for every student!”

Mya Lichner is a seventh-grade student at Connolly and served as tour guide for the judges from the Arizona Educational Foundation.

“The AEF judges were very nice and excited to learn about our school,” said Lichner. “I feel even more proud to be a student here now that we are an A+ school.”

Connolly Middle School is a school for grades sixth through eighth in Tempe, Arizona, and is part of the Tempe Elementary School District. It is a Title I school, and serves more than 1,000 students.

The mission of Connolly Middle School is to prepare students for college readiness and success in a global society through rigorous coursework and critical thinking.

Connolly Middle School is committed to the success of all students, creating a learning environment that emphasizes academic integrity and fosters emotional connections.

For more information about Connolly Middle School, visit www.tempeschools.org/connolly

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