Category Archives: charter schools

Russian pianist plays Scottsdale

Story and photos by Daniel Friedman

Sixth grade students in Nancy Carvone’s music history/piano class at BASIS Scottsdale were treated to a private concert by Russian-born pianist Katya Grineva, who is in town for a concert at the MIM on Saturday at 7pm.

Grineva played Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Chopin and De Falla on a brand new upright Steinway that still had the tags on it. The students listened intently as Grineva played, then asked how long she practiced. Grineva said she practiced eight hours a day when she was a teenager, but now “just” three to five hours each day, depending on how much she was traveling.

Katya Grineva signs autographs at the end of class.

They wanted to know how she played so fast. The answer was the same as the classic “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” where New York-based Grineva has played many times: practice.

Grineva told students how she started playing piano when she was 5 and decided when she was 13 to make it her life. Her family didn’t have much money but when they managed to get a piano her mother said if Katya didn’t practice she would gladly sell it.

Grineva and new fans.

On the way out of class, students asked Grineva to autograph their sheet music, and only as the students were waiting to be dismissed did they ask to have their picture taken with her.

Some students asked their friends to take their picture with Grineva.


New charter school coming to the East Valley

Arizona Ball Charter Schools  is opening its third school, Val Vista Academy, in Gilbert. The school, which will eventually serve grades  K-8, will  start the 2012-13 school year with K-5 students.

A press release announcing the new school says it “emphasizes core academic excellence and individual character development, delivered through a mutual partnership between students, parents and educators.”

Arizona Ball Charter Schools currently operates Hearn Academy in North Phoenix and Dobson Academy in Chandler.

For enrollment information about Val Vista Academy, currently under construction in Gilbert at the intersection of Germann and Val Vista Roads, call 480-656-5555.

EAGLE Harmony focuses on performing arts

Photo courtesy of EAGLE Harmony.

EAGLE College Prep Harmony is expanding to offer third grade during the 2012-13 school year.

The sister school of EAGLE College Prep Elementary School, a charter school in the South Mountain area, EAGLE Harmony is currently a K-2 school. It will continue to add a grade each year until students reach the eighth grade.

EAGLE Harmony is a college preparatory school with an emphasis in performing arts. Students are exposed to college starting in kindergarten through field trips, guest speakers, presentations and lessons about college readiness, life on a university campus, information about scholarships, and much more.

All students receive two performing arts classes daily, including movement, choral and piano. In addition, the arts are embedded into the curriculum.

EAGLE Harmony currently is housed on EAGLE College Prep’s campus near 27th Avenue and Baseline. It will exist independently on a new site as it continues to grow.

For more information, visit To schedule a tour, contact Principal Ariel Elgar at 602-885-7333 or

AX your AZ taxes

Hate to ruin your holiday season but it’s time to think about filing your taxes for 2011 and that means hunting for deductions, exemptions and tax credits.

Can’t help you with deductions or exemptions but school tax credits are available in Arizona to anyone who is “making contributions or paying fees to a public school for support of extracurricular activities or character education programs” at public schools. That includes charter schools, by the way.

When you donate the maximum $200 for individual taxpayers or heads of household, or $400 for a married couple filing jointly, you can reduce your tax liability by the amount you donate, up to the maximum.

If you donate $400 but only have to pay $300 in taxes, you will not get a $100 refund for that tax year but you can carry the credit over to next year’s taxes.

And you can donate to any school, not just the one your kids attend. Grandparents can donate. Anyone can donate. Help out a school that needs money so kids can go on field trips, wear band uniforms or participate in a character education or anti-bullying program.

Taxpayers also can claim tax credits when they donate to a School Tuition Organization for scholarships to private schools. The maximum is $500 for single, unmarried heads of household and married/filing separate filers, or $1,000 for married couples filing jointly.

And yes, you can claim both credits in one year. For the most authoritative information, go to the Arizona Department of Revenue page for school tax credits for individuals. They have links to relevant information as well the tax forms you need to fill out for the credit.

Donations must be made by Dec. 31, 2011.

Friday FUN photos from school: Your response was overwhelming!

EDITOR’S NOTE: I asked the moms, dads, teachers and others who get our e-newsletter to help me build our “Friday FUN Photos from School” feature in this blog. What a fun (and overwhelming!) response we got! Here are some examples. Look for more in coming weeks and keep sending your pictures! We love to share examples of creative, positive, joyful and whimsical moments in the school day, all of which offer their own unique lessons to the Arizona kids we’re so busy raising. — Karen Barr

Principal David Finley, Ph.D. really cracks the whip at Entz Elementary in Mesa. This photo was taken during a recent Halloween celebration. Photo by Robert Turchick.

Cate Johnson, a contributor with Scottsdale Moms Blog, homeschools her three older children (ages 8, 7 and 6). "In our 'school' we have the freedom to explore and learn outside a traditional setting," she wrote. "Here, my oldest is learning science and farming lessons by feeding a baby kid at the Simple Farm."

Kindergarten teachers at Horizon Community Learning Center in Phoenix dressed up as women from the Revolutionary War to teach students about the war and problem-solving. Photo submitted by Melissa Hartley.

Want to see your school featured next Friday? Send your FUN photos to:

If you’d like to get our e-newsletter, which features links to web-exclusive multimedia content and RAK Giveaways, send your email address to Circulation Director Brandy Collet: Put “opt in” in your subject line.

BASIS Schools to open north Phoenix campus

BASIS Schools, Inc. will open a new Phoenix location for the 2012-13 school year. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools approved the new campus at its meeting yesterday.

BASIS schools have gained national recognition for accelerated curriculum and extraordinary student achievement results. Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post all named BASIS Tucson among the top 10 high schools in the nation and BusinessWeek named BASIS Scottsdale the #1 Arizona [High] School for Overall Academic Performance. The schools were featured in the 2009 documentary “Two Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution.”

BASIS currently operates schools in Chandler, Flagstaff, Oro Valley, Peoria, Scottsdale and Tucson.

BASIS Phoenix will serve students in grades 5 through 10 in its first year of operation, the 2012-13 school year. The school will add one grade per year until it becomes a 5 -12 campus in the 2014-2015 school year. While a specific site for the new campus has not yet been determined, BASIS representatives are working to secure a location in the north Phoenix area.

“We have had incredible success opening schools in Arizona and we have every reason to believe BASIS Phoenix will follow in the footsteps of its sister schools,” says Nick Fleege, new school development director for BASIS Schools. “Last year we opened three new Arizona campuses – BASIS Chandler, BASIS Flagstaff and BASIS Peoria. We completed construction on time and exceeded enrollment expectations at all three locations.”

“We are so pleased to be able to extend our academic program to students in Phoenix,“ says Sheri Pierce, new schools curriculum director for BASIS Schools. “With the mature BASIS schools earning top spots in national rankings, our goal now is to offer that same great education to more students in Arizona and beyond.”

Registration for the 2012-13 school year will begin in January 2012. Details will be announced to members of the BASIS Phoenix Interest List via email as that time approaches. Add your name to the list by visiting and clicking “Sign Up.”

Friday FUN photos from school: San Tan Learning Center

The 450 students at San Tan Learning Center in Gilbert dressed up as their favorite football players last Friday. They decorated their classrooms for their favorite NFL teams and enjoyed a variety of football activities to celebrate the start of the NFL football season.

The school has applied for a National Football League  “Play 60” grant, part of the NFL’s efforts to promote an active and healthy generation.

The program encourages kids to play for 60 minutes every day in order to tackle childhood obesity. San Tan Learning Center is a public charter (tuition-free) school for grades K-7 that depends on tax credit contributions from parents and community members to support a daily physical education program.  Grant funding would increase access to materials and resources.

San Tan Learning Center is located at 1475 S. Higley Rd. in Gilbert. 480-222-0811 or

Want to see your school featured next Friday? Send your FUN photos to: Here are more from San Tan Learning Center’s Football Friday: