PUSD Superintendent's Report: Bringing families back to Prescott
The more experience I get in my job and my life, the faster a school year seems to fly by. It is hard to believe, but it is time again to watch our Prescott High School seniors walk across the stage with the backdrop of the sun setting on Thumb Butte. The school year has been wonderful, with hundreds of stories of student success.
That success is credited to the intelligence, creativity and resilience of those students. They could not do it without the undying support of their teachers, unbelievable community backing, and the love and dedication of their families.
While our Prescott families are such an integral part of our community, and the entity that created “Everybody’s Hometown,” the harsh reality is that the pool of families in Prescott has gotten smaller and smaller over the past decade and beyond. While these family and student numbers shrink, charter school buildings are being built on golf courses with no demographic study, and your 100-year-old, community-built public schools are being vacated, sold and torn down. This is out of our circle of control. This situation lies in the hands of our legislators, who actually created and subsidized this process on the backs of our public school teachers and students. It looks like, once again, this legislative session will end without one step toward any charter school accountability in Arizona.
While I mention that, this is not in the control of a public educator, or even our voters and taxpayers, I am hopeful and excited about what is in our control. We have been working hard to change the narrative on this topic of families, and it does not have to be a choice between either retirement or families in our amazing community. I believe Prescott, Arizona, can be number one in retirement, and, at the same time, the best place in the country to raise a family. Like many of us, my wife and I moved (back) specifically to raise our boys in this town, in the Prescott Unified School District. I know that thousands join us in the belief that Prescott is a perfect place to raise children.
We are also a great community because of our amazing retirees who we have attracted from all over the world, and bring immense backgrounds, knowledge and diversity to our community. Thanks largely to our retirees, the Prescott schools have one of the most thriving volunteer programs anywhere, with over 800 volunteers and 17,000 hours of service this year alone. These are the same retirees who passed a bond and override in 2015 in the community where many said, “It can’t be done.”
In the meantime, a large part of the solution to losing families in our city is affordable housing and attractive jobs and industry for our families. Without a doubt, the City of Prescott, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, Yavapai College, along with many other business and entities, are working hard on these angles to attract families back to our community.
I truly believe that the people of Prescott are taking action, and that we will eventually bring the family numbers back to a whole new level over time. My challenge to you today is to think about how each of us as individuals can do something to make sure that we have a balanced demographic in our beautiful Prescott.
Joe Howard is the superintendent for Prescott Unified School District.