Creighton Elementary School District

Strings program nurtures love of music
Biltmore Prep Academy is dedicated to teaching a love of music to children at an early age through its unique strings program.

The program began in 2011, when Nokuthula Ngwenyama, a Harvard-educated, world-renowned musician and a mom of a daughter enrolled in Biltmore Prep’s Foreign Language Immersion Program, learned of the desire for a strings program by many of the school’s families.

“I kept hearing from parents that they wanted to know where and how to start their children on an instrument. I remember my first lessons at the age of 5, and I wanted to be able to share this experience with my daughter and her friends, ” Ngwenyama recalls.

Ngwenyama, who performs with symphonies all over the world and most recently as a featured soloist with the Phoenix Symphony, asked the school principal if she could start an afterschool violin program for students between the ages of 4 and 8.

“I was thrilled that our students would have an opportunity to have this level of instruction at such an early age,” said Principal Faith Burtamekh. “I am unaware of any other school that offers this type of on-campus program for children in their very first years of primary school.”

The violin classes are taught by some of the country’s finest string players. In addition to Ngwenyama, there are two first section violinists with the Phoenix Symphony—Carter Pendell and Tessa Gotman—who juggle their performance schedules to provide world-class string instruction to the Biltmore Prep students.

“My children so look forward to violin class each week, and I have seen significant growth in their violin skills,” said Sharon Gordon, a parent of two children in the Biltmore Prep strings program.

Biltmore Preparatory Academy is an “A- Rated” school by the Arizona Department of Education. For more information, contact Faith Burtamekh at or call 602-381-6169.

Madison Elementary School District

Rose Lane students get a sweet treat
Lynn Dolan’s fourth-grade language arts class at Madison Rose Lane recently welcomed surprise visitors as a result of a business letter writing assignment. Emma Swanton had written a letter to Mary Coyle’s Ol’ Fashion Ice Cream Parlor at 5521 N. 7th Ave. to compliment them on their successful North Phoenix ice cream shop. In her letter she also suggested that they offer a new flavor, bubblegum.

After reading Emma’s letter, not only did they add this new flavor to their delicious selection, but they also brought samples to the class to taste.

MTA raises funds with flower-grams
Madison Traditional Academy’s National Junior Honor Society sold carnation grams for Valentine’s Day to help raise money to fight childhood hunger. More than 500 carnation grams were sold at $2 each.

The NJHS chapter was able to donate their profit of $800 to Feed My Starving Children, which will provide 4,000 meals for hungry children. In addition, the NJHS members will visit the organization in Tempe to help make food boxes.

Healthy yogurt recipe wins student a prize
Madison Camelview fourth grader Henry Palmer, 10, took the top prize in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Walk On! Cooking Challenge, which asked kids ages 9-12 to submit their favorite, healthy lunchbox recipe. Henry’s Brain Berry Parfait made with berries, yogurt and granola won with the judges. As the winner, Henry received a new bike.

“Eating healthy is helping me perform in my swimming and all the other sports I play,” said Henry. “I don’t like sandwiches in my lunch, so I came up with some different things I can make and take to school. And my mom makes sure it’s healthy.”

Henry is an avid swimmer and also plays basketball, lacrosse and football. He also loves to eat asparagus, mushrooms, kale salad, spinach and yogurt.

The Walk On! Challenge is a fun program that teaches elementary school students easy ways to eat better, to get enough exercise so that they can be strong, healthy and full of energy to do all the fun things they want to do (plus do well in school). It’s a fight against childhood obesity.

The official challenge takes place in the month of February but the goal of Walk On! is good all year long and great for kids of all ages. The Walk On! goal is 5-2-1-0: Eat five fruits and vegetables every day; limit screen time (TV, video games, computers) to two hours or less per day; get at least one hour of physical activity each day; and avoid sweetened drinks, filling up on water instead.

Phoenix Union High School District

Teacher job fair set for March 9
PUHSD will hold a Teacher Career Fair Saturday, March 9 at Metro Tech High School, 1900 W. Thomas Road, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Openings are available in all subject areas. Screening interviews will be conducted from 8-10 a.m. by school and district personnel.

Prospective teachers should bring resume, transcripts, teacher certification, letters of recommendation and a copy of a fingerprint clearance card. It is recommended that applicants who have not completed a Phoenix Union online application complete one prior to the job fair. A general certified employee application can be accessed at For more information, contact Alvina Turman at 602-764-1519.

Camelback athletes sign letters of intent
Camelback High School last month had three football players sign letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at colleges.

Antonio Zepeda signed with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where the Rebels plan to use the 6-6, 250-pounder as a tight end. The All-Arizona First Teamer was also a defensive end in high school, but is glad that UNLV wanted him as a receiver.

Jamar Pinnock is headed to Scottsdale Community College, projected to be a cornerback. The 6-3, 195-pound defensive back led the team in tackles last year with 53.

Angel Medina, the Spartan’s quarterback this past season, will play free safety at Phoenix College. Medina, 6-1, 170 pounds, threw for more than 900 yards, and rushed for 610 yards. He also was a long snapper, a wide receiver and played safety for Camelback, recording 52 tackles.

This is the second year in a row that coach Brandon McNutt has seen three players move on to college. “We are getting noticed, and people are starting to come to Camelback to see our athletes. When college coaches see kids moving on to college, they are more inclined to come back each year,” McNutt said.

Central singers make All-Region Honor Choir
Central High choir students auditioned against more than 800 students to participate in All-Region Honor Choir in January. Two students, Ricardo Cisneros and Octavio Edgington, were selected to participate in the ensemble, which was held Feb. 15-16 at the All-Region Music Festival at Central High.

“Both of the students have auditioned past years, were not selected, but continued to work and improve. They both have a diligent work ethic and I am very proud of their success,” said Choirs Director Troy Meeker.

The Concert Choir traveled to Flagstaff Feb. 8-9 to compete in the NAU Jazz and Madrigal Festival. The students enjoyed watching performances by the NAU choirs and seeing other high schools performs. Their performance earned a “superior” rating (the highest given at the festival) for the performance in the Madrigal genre. Their set included music from the 16th and 17th centuries in French and Latin, as well as a modern composition sung in Latin and German written in the chant style.

“This music was quite foreign to them as we began but they grew to love it and perform it quite well. They will be performing more world music at our Spring Concert on March 7,” Meeker added.

Ponce earns two boxing recognitions
Central High sophomore Jacob Ponce is the current Golden Gloves and Silver Gloves Boxing State Champion. He won the state title in December, and qualified for a regional tournament in California, but the Arizona Junior Olympic chairman recruited Ponce to compete for a Jr. Olympic National title instead.

Ponce, a light bantamweight at 112-114 pounds, was the youngest person on the Arizona team at 16 years old, but he won a bronze medal, placing third in the nation in his weight class during the grueling five-day tournament in Reno, Nev. He is an alternate on the U.S. team that is going to the Ukraine this summer.

Ponce has competed in boxing for less than three years. He also has a State Golden Gloves title won in March 2012.

Alegria a finalist in cooking challenge
North High Culinary Arts student Gustavo Alegria was named to the top 30 senior finalists at the Careers in Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Feb. 9 and has advanced to the March 16 State competition.

In addition, Leonel Sosa and Angela Pugliese were named Top 10 Juniors. Their reward: they will prepare the luncheon for the seniors and a guest during the final competition day. They will receive a gift and may receive a trip for a weekend to a culinary school out of state. North’s Culinary teacher is Mary Sarwark.

Washington Elementary School District

Children receive books on birthdays
Birthdays will become extra special for children at the Richard E. Miller Elementary School thanks to the new Assistance League Birthday Book Corner, which was dedicated on Jan. 28. It is housed in the school’s guidance counseling office.

The Birthday Book program enables all the children at the school to choose a new book on their birthday. Assistance League of Phoenix (ALP), which developed the program, provides and maintains a supply of books for various grade levels that the children can choose from.

R.E. Miller School, 2021 W. Alice Ave., is the ninth school in the Phoenix area to participate in the Assistance League Birthday Book program. Each school provides space for the book closet and arranges for the children to select a book on their birthday. The books then belong to the children and can be taken home.

Shannon Bonnette, principal at R.E. Miller School, is facilitating the program on site to ensure that all the students in the school receive a book gift from Assistance League of Phoenix this year.

“Many of these children have never had a book of their own, and often there are no books in the home,” said Linda Lammersen, an ALP coordinator for the Birthday Book Program. “We want to encourage reading skills and recreational reading, so we want children to feel that having a book is a special gift. This program does both in an exciting way. We often say that a book is a gift you keep opening.”

The Birthday Book Corner is one of several Assistance League programs that encourage and develop literacy skills among elementary school children in the Phoenix area. For more information, visit

District to host teacher job fair
The Washington Elementary School District will host a Teacher Job Interview Fair Wednesday, March 6 from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the WESD Administrative Center, 4650 W. Sweetwater Ave.

The WESD is searching for kindergarten, math, science, language arts, music, special education and speech pathology applicants. Scheduled interviews will be limited. To obtain a prescheduled interview, you must apply online by Friday, March 1, 2013.

Interested applicants must apply online ( by clicking on the Employment button above and then the Apply Now link. Scheduled interviews will be limited. Applicants must upload and attach proper documentation to the application to be considered. Successful candidates may receive a Letter of Intent to hire for the 2013-2014 school year.

If you have questions, call or e-mail Lydia Garcia in the recruitment office at 602-347-2622 or lydia.garcia@wesd

RP student heads to state spelling bee
Royal Palm eighth grader Mariano Yanez Ibarra will be one of only 27 students statewide competing for the title of “best speller” as they step up to the microphone for the 2013 AEF Arizona Spelling Bee, 1 p.m. Saturday, March 23 at Eight/AZ PBS, 555 N. Central Ave., 6th Floor. The public is welcome to attend.

Mariano first won the 2013 WESD Spelling Bee after nine rounds with the word “gregarious.” This was the first time Mariano participated in the district bee and he said afterward that this year it was his goal to try hard and do his best in school.

He then advanced to the Regional Bee on Feb. 9, where he earned himself a spot on the stage for the state spelling competition. The top 27 spellers in the state compete in the Arizona Spelling Bee to determine who will represent Arizona in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The winner and an escort receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete with spellers from all over the nation from May 26 through June 1.

In addition, the winner of the Arizona Spelling Bee will receive $800, a trophy, a copy of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, The Samuel L. Sugarman Award ($50 value), and enrollment in his or her choice of one of 25 Rosetta Stone language programs and payment to take the College Level Examination Program/CLEP in chosen language from Harrison Middleton University. Four runners-up will receive a $25 gift card and a trophy.

All 27 state finalists receive a medallion and their choice of The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy or Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary from Harrison Middleton University.

Revamped website easier to navigate
The Washington Elementary School District web address is the same——but the district has unveiled a new website with greater accessibility for families. The site will expand over time to allow parents more individualized access to information.

All schools in the WESD maintain their own websites that link to the district site or may be accessed directly by parents and community members. Check out the site(s) for upcoming events, news and announcements.

Private and charter schools AmeriSchools students raise funds and run
AmeriSchools Academy is in the midst of its sixth-annual Fundraising Raffle, which will benefit the 16 students selected to attend Catalina Island & Marine Institute this spring. Some of the many items in the raffle this year include a bicycle, a 39-inch LCD television, a $75 cash price, gift certificates, and more. Tickets are $10 each or three for $25 and are available in the AmeriSchools office, 1333 W. Camelback Road, until the day of the drawing on April 17. For more information, call 602-532-0100.

Sixteen AmeriSchools students participated in the PF Chang’s Kids Rock Arizona 1-mile fun run at Tempe Beach Park on Jan. 19, the day before the annual full and half-marathons.

The students prepared by training for two months, completing and documenting a total of 26 miles in order to participate in the event. Participants can become full marathon finishers by completing a 25.2-mile training program or they can just run, walk or jog the 1-mile course on race day. Every child was rewarded with an official race number, T-shirt, goodie bag, and colorful medal—just for finishing.

Brophy senior wins debate competition
Brophy College Prep senior Samir Reddy won the Golden Desert Debate Invitational at the University of Nevada in January. Reddy beat out students from 15 different states, 67 schools in all, to win the Las Vegas tournament in Lincoln-Douglas. In the final round Reddy got a 2-1 decision against Harvard Westlake.

In addition, juniors Max Waxman and Gavin Singer took third place at the Stanford University Speech and Debate tournament last month, bettering more than 100 debaters from all over the West Coast to earn them their first bid to the Tournament of Champions, May 2-6 in Lexington, Ky.

Brophy Speech and Debate attends the top debate tournaments in the country. This past fall, the National Forensics League (NFL) named Brophy’s Speech and Debate team the Leading Chapter in Arizona for the 2011-2012 school year. This is the highest honor the League can bestow. Each year, only one school in each district achieves this distinction.
Brophy next heads to the Arizona State Finals March 15-16, followed by the National Qualifier April 4-6. For more information, contact Beth Clarke, Speech and Debate coach, at or visit

Student athletes lauded at Xavier
Xavier College Preparatory seniors Megan O’Sullivan, Ellie Ladensack and Sarah Fakler were named 1st Team All-Americans by the Arizona Coaches Association and the Dairy Council of Arizona for their athletic and academic successes and their outstanding community service.

O’Sullivan and Ladensack were recognized for volleyball, and Fakler for cross country, at the 20th Annual Arizona Coaches Association and Dairy Council of Arizona’s Winter All-American Awards Banquet at Mesa Community College in January.

In addition, Fakler was named the 2012-13 Gatorade Arizona Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year by The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports. This is her third consecutive year in receiving this award.

The award—which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse—distinguishes Fakler as Arizona’s best high school girls cross country runner for the third year in a row.

In addition to her athletic achievements, Fakler has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom. A devoted member of her church community, she has volunteered on behalf of local environmental sustainability initiatives and as part of a project to design, build and supply solar ovens to a disadvantaged community in Ghana.

Fakler has verbally committed to an athletic scholarship at the University of Virginia beginning this fall.

Bryant moves to varsity team
Lamar-Renee Bryant has been named the new varsity volleyball head coach at Xavier College Preparatory. Since arriving on Xavier College Preparatory’s campus eight years ago, Bryant has guided its junior varsity volleyball team to an impressive 121-7 record as head coach.

She played collegiate volleyball at Morgan State, which won back-to-back conference championships in 1997 and 1998, and appeared in the NCAA tournament for the first two times in the school’s history. Bryant was a two-time All-Academic Conference Selection and earned the prestigious Arthur Ashe, Jr. Scholars Award in 1999.


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