Category Archives: Public schools

Tech bus delivers training

Take a standard 40-foot, 84-passenger yellow school bus and make it into a rolling technology center.

Scottsdale Unified School District unveiled its eCoach yesterday at Mohave Middle School. They brought out the Saguaro High School Jazz Band, provided refreshments, put up a tent to shade attendees and conducted quick tours through the bus, which is equipped with a Smartboard, document camera, audio, Wi-Fi, extra air conditioners and enough room for 11 people and an instructor.

The eCoach was crowded with students, district staff and members of the media during yesterday's unveiling ceremony.

Tom Clark, the district’s chief technology officer, said it wasn’t too expensive to create because the district already had the bus, district employees made the furniture, partners donated various parts and services to make it a reality and they’ll have a district bus driver cruise around to where the teachers are. All in all, Clark said, it cost “a few thousand.”

The district also intends to use the bus for community outreach to teach parents about the technology their kids are using in school and to provide online access to kids who might not have a computer or an Internet connection at home.

The benefit for teachers is that they will be able to schedule the eCoach to come to their school when they need training rather than having to drive to another school or the district office.

One area of staff development Clark mentioned was the increasing use of iPads in the classroom and apps to enhance the teaching and learning process. The eCoach will make it easier for teachers to get up to speed on the newest apps.

Scan code on the side of the eCoach.

There are 31 schools in the Scottsdale district and about 1,700 teachers, so it looks like the eCoach driver will be on the road non-stop for much of the school year.

For more information, visit


The minutes add up

photo: Jacob Yarborough Photography/

Story by Daniel Friedman

I saw a newsletter from Paradise Valley School District today about how they are going to add time to the school day. Ten minutes to the high school day and 30 minutes to the elementary school day. Yes, you read that correctly, ten minutes to the high school day. Not sure what that ten minutes will add to the learning environment, aside from not stealing time from an academic period for announcements, or they could 1.67 minutes to every period. That’d be 100 seconds.

The thirty minutes added to an elementary school day is a chunk of time teachers can use. Maybe it’s for recess in the middle of the day. Maybe it’s more time to drill on the AIMS test content. I hope they use it for recess, young kids don’t benefit from more seat time. Recess calms the body and the mind.

I taught in the public schools for ten years. I always found that much of the school day was wasted on behavior management or logistics related to administering a large group. Passing stuff out, collecting things, explaining how to act in the hallways, reminding kids to be quiet, on time, faster, slower or more attentive. In truth, the school day could be half as long. Home schooled kids need far less time out of their day for school.

I sent an email to the Paradise Valley School District governing board asking what they are doing with the 10 extra minutes in the high schools. I know changing the work day is complicated. Teachers have contracts that specify how many hours they work and how much they get paid for those hours. A district can’t just add hours to a contract for the same pay. Changing the school day can get expensive.

When I taught in middle school, the most efficient days were days when the classes were shortened to 25 minutes for some special event. The students knew there wasn’t much time and they found the quick classes more endurable than the hour- long sessions. They were more attentive. More seat time, or school time is not necessarily better.

When I hear back from the PV district I’ll update this post.

School board training and advice

This photo is of a school board in 1918 in Washington, DC. Education has changed, as has fashion. Photo: Library of Congress

Arizona has 225 school districts. Heck, Maricopa county has 46 school boards by itself, so hundreds of school board seats will be up for election in November.

With the deadline a few months away the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) is offering webinars Monday, April 16 from 6:30-7:30pm and Wednesday, May 9, from 5:30-6:30pm, to help potential candidates understand what serving on a school board entails and what it takes to run for the position.

Topics in each webinar will cover
• Why Serve?
• Do You Have What It Takes?
• What School Board Members Do (and What They Don’t Do)
• Eligibility and the Basics of Running for Office
• Commonly Asked Questions about Board Service­
• Support Available to Board Members Once Elected

Participants can also ask questions which will be answered during the webinar.

Those interested in participating in the webinar can register by visiting the ASBA home page and clicking on the “Running for School Board” link in the What’s New section of the home page.

The mission of the Arizona School Board Association, according to the association website, is “Promoting community volunteer governance of public education and continuous improvement of student success by providing leadership and assistance to public school governing boards.” All the school boards around the state can get support and training from the association. The ASBA are members of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

A presentation titled “So You Want to Be a School Board Member” is available on the AZSBA website along with other online training sessions.

Read Lynn Trimble’s story, Running for the school board

Kristy Yamaguchi scores gold with Greenfield Elementary students

Kristy Yamaguchi autographs books at Greenfield Elementary.

Olympic gold medalist skater Kristi Yamaguchi stole the show at Greenfield Elementary‘s recent Read-a-Thon kickoff.

Now also the author of two children’s book, Yamaguchi talked with students about her figure-skating past and her reasons for writing the books.

“When people ask how do you go from ice skating to dancing to becoming a children’s author, I tell them I’m inspired to do it for my daughters,” she said, referring to her stint on Dancing with the Stars and her 6- and 8-year-old girls. “Reading is important in our family, and we read at bedtime. I thought it would be fun to read a book Mommy wrote.”

It’s a Big World, Little Pig features a persistent, ice-skating pig named Poppy who travels to Paris to participate in the World Games. Though it may sound like Poppy and Yamaguchi are one and the same, Yamaguchi is quick to point out that is not so. “Poppy is made up,” she said. “I draw from the lessons I learned skating and my own experiences, but she is not me.”

Profits from the sale of both of her books go to her Always Dream Foundation, a non-profit, public charity whose “continuing goal is to find innovative ways to provide funding for a diverse range of programs designed to inspire and embrace the hopes and dreams of children and adolescents.”

Greenfield Elementary students filed out of the auditorium after Yamaguchi’s reading and question-and-answer session abuzz with excitement at having met an Olympic medalist. With visions of an adorable, skate-clad pig in their heads, they begin their own reading adventures. This year’s read-a-thon goal is to raise enough money to ensure a SMARTboard in every Greenfield Elementary classroom.

Information and photos submitted by Brenda Morreim, Gilbert Public Schools

Yamaguchi, now an honorary Gator, shows off the Greenfield Elementary shirt given to her by the school.

FUN photos from school: Centennial photos are still coming in!

Paradise Valley High School culinary arts teacher Patty Nadzieja and students (pictured here are Brad Reeder, Chelsea Bailey, Shayla Armstrong and Jessica Manning) celebrated Arizona’s Centennial by helping make 1,500 mini cupcakes to share with the school and staff. 

Making our state a better place in increments of 100 was the centennial assignment for students at Playa del Rey Elementary School. On Feb. 14, each grade level shared their efforts at a school-wide birthday party and assembly.

“It was amazing to see the school come together and get excited about making Arizona better,” said fourth-grade teacher Sarah Wamsley. “The energy and joy in the gym was electrifying. The 100-themed activities by grade level:

Kindergarten: learned 100 facts about Arizona
First grade: read 100 books from A to Z
Second grade: donated 100 bottles of water to a shelter
Third grade: provided 100 pairs of socks to those in need
Fourth grade: wrote 100 thank-you cards to firemen, policemen, and paramedics
Fifth grade: donated 100 books to a shelter
Sixth grade: performed 100 hours of community service

Photo courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

The Meridian Mustangs celebrated the Arizona Centennial with month-long activities and a “Cents-sational Centennial Celebration.” Each grade level constructed displays throughout the hallways, and an Arizona-themed best door decoration competition took place. Copper coins were placed in a giant jar and more than $500 was collected and donated to the school’s library for the purchase of new books.

On Feb. 9 parents and children gathered for the big celebration, including the Meridian choir led by Marshann Donahue and breakout sessions highlighting Arizona-themed math, reading, art and science activities. Wildman Phil of Desert Wildlife Presentations was on hand to share some native animals with the groups. In addition, nearly 300 students took the Lost Dutchman’s Physical Challenge, which meant performing actions in 10 different areas of Arizona, such as 10 ski jumps in Flagstaff, 10 steps across the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, or 10 steps across the White Mountains in Pinetop.

Meridian choir presentation. Photo courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

Student Councils converge in Peoria for convention

Hundreds of high school Student Council members from across Arizona will gather at Cactus High School for the Arizona Association of Student Councils (AASC) Annual Convention Feb. 9-11. The Arizona Centennial Commission announced the convention will be sanctioned as an “Official Centennial Event.”

The three-day conference, themed “AASC Leaders Are Out of This World”, will feature speakers such as Peoria Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Denton Santarelli and Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs. Keynote speakers include teen behavior expert Josh Shipp and motivational speakers Mark Scharenbroich, Jerry Traylor and Russell Helwig.

Students will take part in workshops which focus on strong and empowering females. Community service will also be part of this year’s convention.

The Arizona Association of Student Councils was founded in 1934 by a group of educators who wanted to create an organization for student leaders that would encourage them to practice the democratic process, citizenship and service while fostering idea exchange and problem solving in the state’s schools.

More information and a schedule of the event here.

FUN photos from school – Christmas, copters and a cool rock formation

First grade students at Christ's Church School in Paradise Valley as they prepared for Christmas. Photo courtesy of Stacy Walsh.

Stewart Christie, a product marketing engineer from Intel, shows robotics club members at Gilbert Classical Academy how the Pelikan Quadcopter from Ascending Technologies is built and operated. Photo courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

Stephanie Hernandez, a sophomore at Raymond S. Kellis High School in the Peoria Unified School District, took second place in the statewide Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) Jack Peterson Photo Contest. Stephanie's photo of Slide Rock was found to be exemplary by the panel of judges, which included the director of photography for Arizona Highways.