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Thu, Oct. 17

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT: PUSD starts year off right

The 2016-17 school year has begun! We had an outstanding first two days of school last Thursday and Friday in the Prescott Unified School District. The beginning of school always brings excitement, hope and incredible potential for our nearly 4,000 students. Teachers and staff have been eagerly preparing for this time, implementing those fresh new ideas that have been brewing all summer, and mostly looking forward to meeting the students that we will get to work with for the next year.

We also wait with anticipation to see what enrollment looks like. We make projections based on who is actually enrolled, but the amount of students that come to school can often be different than these projections. This year, we find ourselves with a “good worry,” that students new to our schools are arriving in large numbers. This is a tricky conundrum in regard to staffing projections. Because funding is attached to student number, districts have to be patient and wait for an actual count. The good news is that if there is growth, and as a result, the budget will follow to support additional staff. We are monitoring the enrollment numbers closely, and we are prepared to add staff where growth requires it. Often, we will add a paraprofessional to support a teacher with larger numbers. However, if the growth is substantial, we may provide an extra teacher, adding a new “section” to the grade level in need. It can be a moving target at times, but we will get this handled as quickly as possible.

On the first day of school, Aug. 4, initial numbers show that the district is up 120 students from first day of school one year ago. After many years of decline, some severe, we are very excited about the direction of our enrollment. Enrollment, by the way, is a district goal and an entire section of our strategic plan

I mentioned earlier the great work that our staff does over the summer to prepare for the arrival of our students. Today, I would like to highlight a segment of our staff that does amazing things every day for our students. PUSD has a group of principals that are extremely dedicated to the important work of leading the charge of educating our children. This is a true “team” of educators that work together to support everything that it takes to teach our students.

Our principals are as follows: Stacy Williams (Director) - Discovery Gardens Preschool, Karen Hughes - Lincoln Elementary, Brian Moore - Taylor Hicks Elementary, Clark Tenney - Abia Judd Elementary, Teresa Bruso - Granite Mountain School (Grades 5-6), Mark Goligoski - Mile High Middle School (Grades 7-8), Stephanie Hillig - Prescott High School. It is my honor to publicly thank each of these leaders for their hard work and dedication.

In addition to their daily leadership responsibilities, each of these principals has assisted in guiding the district through several tough years of budget cuts. They have participated greatly in turning our focus from how to staff our schools with less money to the real work that we do: reach each and every student with the most effective instruction possible. This is the legacy of our PUSD principals.

Part of instruction is certainly assessment. For the past decade, there has been so much focus on test scores. Acknowledging that, PUSD has worked to “keep it real” with a balanced approach to instruction. Most people only hear about the “state test,” which for Arizona is currently the AzMerit. The data from this test is an important measure for us, but we also use a variety of other assessments that inform our instruction. These assessments are more frequent and less intensive, but they show us where students are succeeding in a snap shot. They also indicate where students have missed some learning. This is where the data is most valuable, allowing us to “circle back” and help a student master each important concept.

I also want to mention PUSD’s achievement on the AzMerit Test this year. The Daily Courier reported on this recently, but I will share an overall picture. PUSD is very proud of our students’ performance; they showed significant growth in only two years of the test’s existence. Our percent passing rates increased in most grade levels for math and English language arts (ELA). Not only did we improve in our scores compared to last year’s scores, but we significantly exceeded the state averages in most areas as well. Our scores show that students who have been taught the new Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards (AZCCRS) since they entered school as Kindergartners are doing well on the new assessment. In addition, our high school students are performing above state averages in all areas.

Overall, we are thrilled with our direction and progress in PUSD. We have our wonderful community, our dedicated staff and families, and our amazing students to thank for that. PUSD’s future is bright!

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