Madison Elementary School District

Volunteer tutor Paula Sherman works with Israel, a student at Madison Heights, as part of the OASIS tutoring program. The next volunteer orientation is set for Sept. 23-25 (submitted photo).

Volunteer tutor Paula Sherman works with Israel, a student at Madison Heights, as part of the OASIS tutoring program. The next volunteer orientation is set for Sept. 23-25 (submitted photo).

Literacy tutors Sought for kids
Madison’s volunteer tutoring program is for community members who are interested in sharing the love of reading with a child. By becoming a literacy tutor, you will support a student once a week for an hour in the skills of reading and writing.

The program is sponsored by Madison School District and OASIS. OASIS is a nonprofit organization that partners with school districts to pair adult community members with students needing literacy support. This tutoring program serves children in Madison School District’s four elementary schools (Heights, Camelview, Rose Lane and Simis) and targets children needing additional academic support in literacy.

Tutors will receive training by a reading specialist along with a tutor handbook, bag and supplies. The training will be held at Madison Heights Elementary, 5601 N. 16th St., from Sept. 23 through Sept. 25, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For more information, contact Maggie Kraft at Madison Heights Elementary 602-664-7839 or e-mail her at

Phoenix Union High School District

Teachers, staff receive awards
Camelback Principal Chad Gestson and the district’s Dropout Programs Specialist Cyndi Tercero were among those presented with Phoenix Union High School District 2013 Employee of the Year awards by Superintendent Kent P. Scribner and Governing Board President Randy Schiller at the District’s Opening of Schools Convocation on July 30.

Gestson, the Administrator of the Year, has transformed Camelback’s culture in his four years as principal, engaging students, staff and community. He implemented an Advisory Period, an initiative that has been adopted by most of the schools in the district. He requires all students to join a club or sport, complete community service and attend a certain number of campus events a year.

He has steadily increased Advanced Placement and Honors classes, instituted extended library hours and piloted a credit-recovery virtual evening school. This year, Camelback had among the highest increases in the district in AIMS Reading, Writing and Math.

This year, he was the only high school principal to be named an Exemplary Principal by the Rodel Foundation, one of seven leaders in the state.

Tercero, the Special Achievement Employee of the Year, oversees school community liaisons and student-parent liaisons, providing student support services. She connects the community with Phoenix Union, developing and maintaining partnerships with agencies, organizations, colleges and universities.

She also coordinates the many volunteers who support the district’s students and schools. Tercero works with parents and students to improve college preparedness and address the challenges associated with dropping out.

She is involved in dozens of community organizations, including ASU Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, Friendly House, Degree Phoenix, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, and COPE (Community, Outreach, Prevention and Education Coalition.)

Camelback alumni inspire students
More than 30 former Camelback High students came back to their alma mater on Aug. 13 to speak to current students about their personal stories of college, career and life after Camelback.

Each year, volunteer Jeff Stephens, a local architect, gathers Camelback DECA alumni students from 1988-2012 to speak to the DECA students. The activity usually takes place in the marketing classroom, but so many came back this year that they moved to the school’s auditorium.

“These amazing alumni motivate our present marketing students to work hard in school so they too can attain their personal goals,” marketing teacher Julia Bourdo said.

Fashion students are guests of Phoenix Suns
Central High fashion students were invited to a unique fashion show on Aug. 15 as guests of the Phoenix Suns at the public reveal of their new uniforms at Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale.

Central and the Suns Charities have a partnership called Suns-Central, that includes academic assistance, career exploration, mentoring and more. The fashion students of Mary Swierceski’s class were treated to dinner, attended a dress rehearsal to learn more about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the show from Suns staff, and meet the players. Twenty-seven students from Central’s fashion classes attended.

Exchange students visit from Japan
Central High’s Global Studies magnet program welcomed 10 students and their teacher-chaperone from Himeji, Japan, Aug. 20-26.

The Japanese students from Kotogaoka High School arrived for a welcome reception with Central faculty and staff, host families and community members. The Central students will become the visitors in October, when they travel to Himeji during fall break.

Metro Tech’s Partida takes first place
The one-man team of “Thrive,” comprised solely of Metro Tech student Andres Partida, placed first at the Virtual Business Management Challenge at the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, June 26-July 1.

Metro Tech had two of only eight teams nationally that qualified to compete in the finals of the Virtual Business Management Challenge, an online contest that began with more than 500 teams and competitions in October and March.

The other Metro Tech team of Crystal Loza, Kevin Parra and Edgar Robles, named the “Dreamers,” took fifth place. Robles and another student placed fifth nationally in this event last year, as well.

Partida, who graduated from Metro Tech this year and is now attending Phoenix College, earned a $1,000 scholarship for his first-place finish.

The contest is intended to help teach high school students entrepreneurship, management and supervision. Students use Virtual Business software to experience the virtual management of a warehouse distribution center. Students must incorporate a variety of decision-making strategies and execute scheduling, planning, organizing, and financing of their business.

Peters featured in art exhibit
Behind every successful art student is a dedicated and influential art teacher. North High Art Teacher Julie Peters is one of five Valley teachers and their students’ art that will be highlighted at !nspire at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art this fall.

The exhibit kicks off Friday, Sept. 27 with an Opening Reception, and runs through Jan. 5, 2014.

Peters is a National Board Certified teacher, and has been teaching drawing, painting and advanced art for North’s International Baccalaureate program for seven years.

Washington Elementary School District

District welcomes new administrators
The Washington Elementary School District introduces several new school administrators for the 2013-2014 school year.

Heidi Keefer is the new principal at Royal Palm Middle School. Keefer began her career in the WESD and even taught at Royal Palm. Most recently, she was an assistant principal in the Peoria Unified School District.

As a student, Keefer said her favorite subject in school was math and her least favorite was social studies. She said this experience shaped her as an educator.

“Unfortunately, most of the teachers I had in Social Studies were those who like to lecture and give a lot of notes,” Keefer recalls. “This experience has always made me very sensitive to student engagement and encouraging teachers to use a variety of strategies to present information and make the content come alive. Educators need to inspire students so hopefully they don’t have a ‘least favorite’ subject in school.”

Rebeccah Potavin is the new principal at Maryland School. Potavin began her career in the WESD nine years ago as a first-grade teacher at Sahuaro Elementary. Most recently, she was the assistant principal at Ocotillo Elementary.

Potavin said she is ready to begin this next chapter of her professional career and hopes to make a difference in the community. “I would like for the Maryland School community to feel welcomed and know that they are an integral part of the success of our students. If the school community knows at the end of the year that all of our decisions are based on what is best for kids, I will know that I have done my job.”

Mike Waters returns to the WESD as the new principal at Mountain View School. Waters is a product of the WESD, having attended Sunburst, Sweetwater and Desert Foothills Junior High as a student. Most recently, he was the assistant principal at Copper Canyon High School in the Tolleson Union High School District.

Waters said the best advice another educator has given him is to learn what he can control and what he can’t. “You can’t control the socio-economic status of your students. You can’t control parents taking a genuine interest in their child’s education. You can’t control how the legislature funds education, etc. However, you can control your attitude. You can control the way you interact with every child. You can control the way you teach. You can control the perspective you bring into the classroom. You can control how much you care.”

Kyrsten’s Kids brings in donations
Students throughout the Washington Elementary School District were the recipients of hundreds of donated school supplies thanks to the efforts of U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema.

“Kyrsten’s Kids” Back to School Drive ran the first two weeks of August. Community members were encouraged to drop off supplies and backpacks at any WESD school or one of several local businesses, including Karl’s Bakery and the Bakers Daughter, Bikram Yoga, Bookmans, El Bravo Mexican Food, The Eye Opener, Grinders, North Mountain Brewing and the Sunnyslope Senior Center.

Supplies were distributed to students in need by school social workers following the drive that ended on Aug. 16.

Private and Charter Schools

Mulligan makes All-American list
Recent Xavier College Preparatory graduate Kathleen Mulligan of North Central Phoenix was named to the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association / Speedo Girls High School Swimming All-America List.

Mulligan made the list both individually as one of the top backstrokers in the nation, and as part of a relay team that included Xavier teammates Madeline Brandt, Hayden Walker and Madeline Wells.

She also is the recipient of many academic awards and recognition, including National Merit Finalist honors, the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence, and National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society memberships. Mulligan will begin her freshman year at Princeton University this fall.

Brophy foundation gets big financial boost
The Brophy Community Foundation, an independent nonprofit school tuition organization (STO) supporting low-income Arizona families with K-12 tuition assistance, announced it had received the first installment of a three-year, $300,000 donation from New York Life.

“All of Arizona’s youth, regardless of financial constraints, deserve an excellent education leading to achievement in grade school, graduation from high school, and preparation for college,” states Genny Matteucci, executive director, Brophy Community Foundation.

The impact of corporate support is best summarized by Sabino Vargas of The Vanguard Group, who graduated from Brophy College Prep in 2004. “If it wasn’t for the financial aid I received through the Brophy Community Foundation, I would not be where I am today,” Vargas says. “And my younger brother, who also attended Brophy, has now graduated and is going to college. Brophy is really about building a legacy … for us it started a legacy as an immigrant family here in the United States.”

“New York Life supports the Brophy Community Foundation’s mission to provide high-quality education to economically challenged youth through Arizona’s Private Education Tax Credit program,” said Maria Collins, corporate vice president, New York Life. “Education is the cornerstone to success in life and we’re pleased to help Arizona youth on their path toward achievement.”

New York Life donated to the Brophy Community Foundation under the state’s Private Education Tax Credit program, which allows a dollar-for-dollar tax credit to businesses that make a contribution to certified school tuition organizations.

Skinner takes helm at GLAAZ
The Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona (GLAAZ), the only all-girls public high school in the state, has announced the appointment of Debra Skinner as the new chief academic officer. Skinner will oversee the academic progress of 130 GLAAZ students.

“I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Skinner as we move into our third year of the Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona,” said Dr. Kellie Warren, CEO of Florence Crittenton, which holds the charter for GLAAZ. “This past May, we celebrated our first-ever graduating class, and 100 percent of those young ladies are prepared for and planning on attending college. We are confident Dr. Skinner will build on this foundation to create similar opportunities for current and future students.”

Skinner brings more than 21 years of experience in local education and academic leadership to GLAAZ. She is a certified principal and teacher with ESL (English as a Second Language) and reading endorsements. Skinner also is a certified trainer for Common Core State Standards and Structured English Immersion through the Arizona Department of Education.

Most recently Skinner served as a principal and field specialist for the Maricopa County Regional School District (MCRSD), a position she held for three years. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Capella University and serves as an adjunct professor for Ashford University.

To learn more about GLAAZ and its unique approach to education, visit

Two reasons to celebrate at CCS
Christ Church School had two reasons to celebrate on Aug. 19. It was the first day of the new school year, and the first day of the second decade of the school’s existence.

Christ Church School opened in August 2003 with a staff of 12 teachers and 33 preschool students. Teaching and administrative staff now number 35 and there are 175 students who range from age 16 months in the parent-toddler Play & Learn program, preschool classes for children ages 3 to 5, and a Differentiated Learning Community from kindergarten through third grade.

Students, parents and grandparents gathered for the annual Opening Day Chapel service to sing “Morning Has Broken,” to welcome the Reverend Alison Lutz—who is the newest member of the clergy at Christ Church of the Ascension Episcopal Church—and to enjoy a visit from the Rt. Reverend Kirk S. Smith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.

Schnell heading to nuclear power school
Valley Lutheran High School graduate and North Central resident Johnathon Schnell, 18, has been selected for the prestigious U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School at Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, S.C.

Schnell gained acceptance into the highly competitive program based on a score of 98 percent on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) exam and outstanding scholastic achievements in high school. He will receive an education that will teach him how to run the U.S. Navy’s nuclear plant operations on its formidable fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers in worldwide locations.

Upon completion of an education at what’s known as “the toughest school in the military” and serving his country at the top level of national security, Schnell will receive a $180,000 scholarship to attend the university of his choice.

Schnell credits his science teacher, Joe Richter, with “great science classes, including chemistry and physics,” and motivating his interest. “He taught me about discovery and problem solving,” he said.

Schnell entered his senior year with aspirations of pursuing a career in meteorology. However, after acing the ASVAB exam, he was intrigued by the military option. “It’s a challenging opportunity. You can go places and see the world,” he said. “Plus, I get to serve my country and do something really cool.”

Xavier ladies lauded for acting abilities
Four Xavier College Preparatory students—Frances Mayasich, Paige Michelet, Emma Van Der Linn and Hannah Zieser—each captured “Outstanding Lead Actress” honors in the 8th Annual National Youth Arts Awards competition. They will be honored at an awards ceremony at Phoenix’s Herberger Theater Center at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

In addition, Xavier/Brophy Theatre’s productions during the 2012-13 season garnered a total of 13 nominations, including Mayasich and Van Der Linn’s “Outstanding Lead Actress” wins.

The awards were as follows:
• Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical: Frances Mayasich as Maria Rainer in “The Sound of Music” (Xavier/Brophy Theatre).
• Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical: Paige Michelet as Cat in the Hat in “Seussical the Musical” (Desert Stages Theatre).
• Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical: Hannah Zieser as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” (Greasepaint Youtheatre).
• Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play: Emma Van Der Linn as Madame Celeste in “Cursing Mummies” (Xavier/Brophy Theatre).


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