Tag Archives: Scottsdale Unified School District

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 ecoach.susd.org.


“A minute of kindness” essay winners honored

Julia Siclovan, second grader at Coyote Ridge Elementary in Glendale with her award.

The winners of the “How a Minute of Kindness Can Change a Day” Writing Contest sponsored by The Be Kind People Project were honored March 26.

The project mission “is to instill the concept of intentional kindness in students and to honor the 6.2 million teachers who bring their consummate skills and selfless devotion to our nation’s classrooms.”

“I’m truly inspired by the caliber of the writing entries we received and the enthusiasm for the contest and its goals expressed by students and teachers from across the Valley,” said Marcia Meyer, founder of The Be Kind People Project. “The essays demonstrated a keen appreciation for the destructive impact of bullying in our nation’s schools, where one in four kids is bullied on a regular basis. It’s time to take positive action to combat this growing problem. Educators can lead the charge by teaching students that kindness is one of our nation’s core values and by acknowledging and rewarding acts of kindness whenever they occur.”

One of the winners, Amalia Frohna, eighth grader at Cocopah Middle School in the Scottsdale Unified School District wrote in her essay, “Kindness: A Possible Change”:

One act of kindness can take less than a minute out of each day. Thinking about how many minutes I hope to live, one each day is fairly insignificant, but to someone else, that minute could possibly be the best minute of their lives. But giving one minute each day for the rest of our lives, the minutes add up and turn into something significant. If we give up one minute of the 1,440 in a day, we can make the world a better place.

The winners for the Phoenix metropolitan area are:

Emily Trent, grade 9, Westwood High School, Mesa. “One Smile Can Change a Life”

Megan Weidle, grade 12, Westwood High School, Mesa, “The Reunion of a Lifetime”

Zach Hendin, grade 3, Desert View Learning Center, Paradise Valley, “How a Minute of Kindness Can Change a Day”

Livia Del Housaye, grade 4, Paradise Valley Christian Prep, Paradise Valley, “Kindness to a Friend”

Nate Van Ness, grade 6, Cocopah Middle School, Scottsdale, “One Act of Kindness”

Amalia Frohna, grade 8, Cocopah Middle School, Scottsdale, “One Moment Lasts Forever”

Julia Siclovan, grade 2, Coyote Ridge Elementary, Glendale, “Kind at Home” (essay and drawing)

Emaree Vanzant, grade 5, Sunset Hills Elementary, Surprise, “The Pathway to Kindness”

Isaac Garcia, grade 6, Washington Elementary, Glendale, untitled essay and drawing

Halee Workman, grade 1, Horseshoe Trails Elementary, Phoenix, (Cave Creek Unified School District), untitled essay and drawing

Read more of the winning essays.

Teachers and districts pursue excellence

Story and photo by Dan Friedman

Teachers have to be certified by the state in which they teach. In education classes they learn teaching methods, strategies and classroom management skills and they also must log sufficient hours in the content area they intend to teach. Middle and high school teachers must take specific classes in and/or be degreed in their content area specialty.

Truthfully though, it takes time in the classroom to make sense of the material you learn in education classes. Classroom management theories only make sense when 150 eighth graders are showing up every day.

In my experience, principals and vice-principals had little or no time to observe teachers beyond once or twice a year for a few minutes. The number of issues at any one school, both trivial and significant, is mind-boggling.

I was observed more in my first few years of teaching at Aztec Elementary in Scottsdale (when it first opened and the student body was small) than I was in the following eight years combined. That was a real luxury. There’s nothing better for a new teacher than meaningful feedback from someone who understands teaching. Especially when it’s something like, “I didn’t understand where you were going with your lesson. What was your intention?” It’s one thing to think you’re reaching a bunch of 8- and 9-year-olds, and another to know you are.

It takes time (years) to master teaching, so feedback and training is crucial.

The Scottsdale Unified School District recently honored nine teachers who received National Board Certification, bringing to 46 the number of national board-certified teaches in the district. Many districts have teachers who have put in the considerable time and effort to become certified above and beyond the state-required level.

National board certification is a process teachers voluntarily undertake to improve their teaching skills. Teachers demonstrate through portfolios, videotaped teaching and documented accomplishments outside the classroom their understanding of their students’ needs and their ability to meet those needs.

This is not a weekend seminar or an online class. It takes at least one year to complete. The certification process costs $2,565; of that, districts or the State will kick in $500. Fortunately, the national certification can lead to career and salary advancement. Nearly  100,000 teachers nationwide have earned national certification.

School districts also undergo significant processes to ensure they are meeting their students’ needs and making continual improvements. The Peoria Unified School District is the first Arizona school district to pursue AdvancED District Accreditation. AdvancED accreditation certifies that your child’s high school provides a program of study that results in meaningful high school credits when students apply to colleges and universities.

AdvancED also  works with districts to help ensure that K-12 systems meet the highest standards. The Peoria district has 40 schools, so the process is lengthy, complicated and will involve ongoing efforts. A meeting Feb. 8 in Peoria will provide information for those interested in the process.

Free workshops help parents help kids make good choices

Scottsdale Unified School District and DrugFreeAZ.org will host a series of parenting workshops to help parents with the challenge of “Guiding Good Choices.”

The first workshop, “Getting Started: How to Prevent Drug Abuse in Your Family,” is from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Ingleside Middle School, 5402 E. Osborn Rd. in Phoenix.

Guiding Good Choices is a free, five-part workshop for parents and caregivers of children 9 to 14 years old. The program seeks to promote healthy development and to prevent teen alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by helping parents gain skills to:

•  Strengthen family bonds
• Establish and reinforce clear and consistent guidelines and expectations for behavior
• Teach children skills to resist peer pressure
•  Improve family management practices
• Reduce family conflicts

Guiding Good Choices has helped more than 260,000 families since 1987. In research studies, children of participants experienced:

• 40 percent lower rates of alcohol and marijuana use
• 54 percent less progression to more serious substance abuse
• 26 percent greater likelihood of remaining drug free if not already using drugs
• 38 percent lower rates of self-harm
• 28 percent fewer feelings of worthlessness

The remaining four sessions will be from 6-9 p.m. at Mohave Middle School:

Nov. 1 – Setting Guidelines: How to Develop Healthy Beliefs

Nov. 8 – Avoiding Trouble: How to Say No (children may attend this session with parents)

Nov. 15 – Managing Conflict: How to Control and Express Anger

Nov 22 – Involving Everyone: How to Strengthen Family Bonds

To register for the program, contact Cheryl Guthrie at 480-484-4916. Direct questions about the program to Dr. Milissa Sackos at 480-484-6239.

If you are unable to attend the Guiding Good Choices sessions, the DrugFreeAZ website has useful information for parents anytime. The site covers various aspect of drugs education and parenting tools.

For example, the Should I  Snoop? page broaches the topic of parental “fact-finding.” Parents who suspect their child is using drugs need information so they can address the problem. There are even some sample conversations parents and caregivers can use to communicate with kids about drugs.

DrugFreeAZ’s mission is to prevent and reduce youth drug and alcohol use through community education and awareness by providing parents, caregivers, healthcare providers, educators and others with educational tools, information and resources. drugfreeaz.org.

Live courtroom drama at Coronado High

High school government teachers rarely get to bring first-hand experiences into the classroom. In history and government classes, most learning comes from books and lectures. Government can’t compete with frog dissections in biology or “controlled” explosions in chemistry. (I ‘m thinking of chemistry classes at Central High in the ’70s, before things like rules and safety prevented Mr. Bereit from gleefully filling the classroom with smoke.)

Today at Coronado High School in the Scottsdale Unified District, the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, will hear oral arguments in an actual case, Coleman v. City of Mesa, regarding the denial of a tattoo parlor for a business license. These are not actors. Real life lawyers from for the City of Mesa and from the Goldwater Institute will present their arguments.

The character Atticus Finch, portrayed by Gregory Peck (left) in the movie version of "To Kill A Mockingbird," inspired many people to become lawyers. Perhaps students at Coronado High School will have a similar experience today. Photo: Smithsonian/ Watson Davis

Students in law and government classes will attend the hearing. Beforehand, attorney volunteers coordinated by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education prepared the students for what they will see and hear. Afterwards, over lunch, students will have a chance to ask judges and lawyers questions.

The Connecting with the Community Program is an outreach program of the Arizona Court of Appeals to develop a greater understanding among citizens about the function and role of the court and the judiciary.

Dan Friedman

All’s well on Indianola

We get press releases all the time from school districts touting their new programs, facilities, teacher awards and student achievement. Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) sent a release about an award for excellence in financial reporting.

Scottsdale Unified School District Education Center on Indianola and 44th St.

Often a press release like this might be deleted post-haste, but having worked in the SUSD from 1993-2003 this caught my eye and I gave a little cheer.

In the late 90s, SUSD was in hot water with the Arizona Attorney General’s office. In fact the AG’s office set up shop at SUSD district offices (44th and Inianola) so there were plenty of rumors, reports and media attention about what was going on down there. There were questions about how money was spent and accounted for, which for a district, is of major importance as there are strict rules regarding how money is spent.

Clearly though, things have changed for the better and I’m glad to hear that, because back in those dark days, the district had to spend a bunch of money to remedy the problems they faced.

Scottsdale district received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its comprehensive annual financial report. Sherry Celaya, interim director of Business Services and Chief Financial Officer, received the Award of Financial Reporting Achievement for preparing the award-winning comprehensive annual financial report. Celaya is one of the many district personnel who spend many hours unraveling red tape and keeping the lights on in the classrooms in SUSD and districts across the country.

Everyone assumes school districts spend money willy-nilly, but for well-run districts, there is no willy-nilly. Certain accounts can only be used for expendable materials like art supplies, or copy paper. Other accounts can only be used for capital goods like computers or tables. And if one account is empty there is no dipping into another. Keeping track of how money is spent and on what, is no small task.

People love to complain how wasteful public school districts are but truthfully, a district is a huge business, with many different locations serving customers with a wide range of needs and demands. The mission for any district is to provide as much of their service as possible, to as many kids as possible, every day, without charging them extra.

Dan Friedman

SUSD Preschool expands to south Scottsdale

Last year, the Scottsdale Unified School District moved its preschool, the Early Childhood Campus Cholla, to what used to be the campus of the Cheyenne School in north Scottsdale.

This year, the preschool will expand to include a second location, the Early Childhood Campus Oak, on the existing Sierra Vista Academy campus at 7501 E. Oak St. in south Scottsdale.

Before- and after-school programs are offered at both two locations. The Oak Street campus will also include a Head Start program, a no-cost childhood development program for families in need. Tuition rates will remain the same for infant through pre-K students (ages 1-4).

The preschool will subdivide by age group into three programs, all of which will be taught by certified teaching staff:

The Toddler Program (ages 1-2) promotes early learning, as well as social and physical development.

The Preschool Program (age 3) explores such subjects as introductory literacy, mathematics, science at an age-appropriate pace and level and social and physical development.

The Pre-Kindergarten Program (age 4) aims to prepare each child with the cognitive tools they need to begin kindergarten, with a special focus on developing essential language skills for reading and writing.

About 50 children are expected to fill the new campus’s six classrooms, which will open for school on Aug. 8.

Applications and registration are currently available online at www.suds.org/communityschools. For more information, contact Carla Partridge at 480-484-6223 or cpartridge@susd.org. — Sadie Smeck