Glendale Union High School District

Future Freshman Night is set for Jan. 14
Incoming high school students and their families for the Glendale Union High School District are invited to attend Future Freshman Night on Jan. 14. The event is held at 6:30 p.m. at each of the high schools within the district.

GUHSD focuses on providing students with an education that will prepare them for success in college and in the workplace. Students will learn of options at the schools to help them prepare for their future, including honors and advanced placement courses, an International Diploma and Career and Technical Education courses. Families will get an opportunity to tour campuses, see classrooms and speak with teachers.

Thunderbird honors AAA award winners
Thunderbird High School honored its student, teacher, support staff employee, student group and volunteer of the year recipients at the annual Achievement Above All awards, held Nov. 18. The event is a special evening to celebrate the individuals who have contributed above and beyond for the school, its students and community.

Student of the year was senior Alejandro Baker. He will graduate high school with 72 college credits and is in the top 1 percent of his class. Additionally, Baker is president of the National Honor Society, plays soccer and has a part time job.

He was named the school’s Outstanding Senior for the Month of August and recently was named an AP Scholar with Distinction and awarded the National Hispanic Merit Scholar by the College Board. He speaks English, Spanish, German and Arabic, has studied Hebrew and is currently studying French. Baker plans to use these skills for a career in international business.

The teacher of the year was Chris Francis, who teaches U.S. and World History. Support staff person of the year was Ryan Wolff, athletic trainer. The student group of the year award went to the wrestling team; since 1997, Thunderbird wrestling’s overall record is 378-74.

The Achievement Above All Parent Volunteer recipient was Barbara Hofmann, who embodies the true spirit of giving to the students and community of Thunderbird High School. She currently volunteers as the president of the Chief’s Parent Association. However, she has spent the last 13 years volunteering at Thunderbird in the capacity of a classroom volunteer, CPA member/treasurer/president, golf tournament co-chair fundraiser, grad night committee chair, cheer booster parent and in the areas of hospitality and philanthropy. She is also an engineer at Honeywell.

Madison Elementary School District

Simis students have artwork in calendar
Hannah B. and Elizabeth B., two third-grade students from Madison Simis Elementary, were selected as winners in Valley Metro’s 11th annual “Cool Transit STUFF” art contest and will have their artwork featured in the 2016 Valley Metro Transit Education Calendar.

In addition to having their work published, the students were recognized by representatives from Valley Metro at a class assembly on Dec. 14.

This annual art contest for third graders in Maricopa County encourages students and families to use public transportation, and asks students to illustrate the light rail or a city bus. The winning contest entries are collected into a calendar and distributed throughout the valley. This year’s theme was “Ride With Me!” There were 629 entries submitted by third grade students from 39 schools in the Valley. The calendar displays the winning artwork for Best of Show (cover art), Top 12 and four Honorable Mentions winners.

Phoenix Union High School District

Art teacher honored for outstanding work
Central High Art teacher Roxanna May-Thayer has been named Arizona Art Educator Association Outstanding High School Art Educator for 2015. She was honored at an awards ceremony in November.

May-Thayer, in her 30th year in the district, teaches drawing and painting at Central. She taught for 13 years at South Mountain High School in the Visual Arts Magnet Program: art, drawing and painting, ceramics, and jewelry and fiber arts. She was a member of the staff that opened Cesar Chavez High School and taught Ceramics there for seven years.

May-Thayer says what she loves most about teaching is when she sees the “light go on” for a student. “When they are deeply engaged in a creative endeavor. That’s when the magic happens. It is a privilege to share those experiences with our youngsters.”

Smithers named a Coach of the Year
North High Swimming and Diving Coach David Smithers was named the Division II Coach of the Year. It is the fourth time he has won State Coach of the Year in his 20-year history as North’s only swimming and diving coach.

He has coached nine individual or relay state champions, 14 swimming and diving All-Americans and 70 Academic All-Americans. His Mustang boys teams have had two third-place state finishes, and finished fourth, three times. His girls teams placed second and fourth in 2005 and 2006.

His girls teams have been Gold Level teams 13 straight years, while his boys have had seven Gold Level teams and six Silver Level Scholar Awards. The NISCA Scholar Team Award recognizes teams achieving high academic standards. The award is based on the average cumulative GPA of an entire varsity team of 12 or more athletes. The three levels of recognition are Gold: 3.75-4.0 and Silver: 3.5-3.749.

Smithers is a business and accounting teacher at North. Besides his 20 years of coaching, he has taught for 24 years.

“We have had a lot of accomplishments, but the unseen part is the best—seeing the kids mature and grow into adults, as well as becoming good swimmers, and staying in contact with them years after they have graduated,” Smithers said.

Nicknamed “Smitty,” he currently has two assistants who were former Mustang swimmers and others who have become coaches at other schools. In his career, 288 swimmers and divers have come through the program.

Football program gets sportsmanship nod
The Camelback High School varsity football program has been awarded the 2015 Division III Sportsmanship Award. The award was presented to Camelback during halftime of the Division I state championship game on Nov. 27.

The award is presented by the Arizona Football Officials Association based on players’ and coaches’ conduct on the field and the sportsmanship they display. Officials are asked to evaluate each team on how they were greeted, the condition of the dressing facilities, security, and if there were any unsportsmanlike penalties or ejections.

“Coach Brandon McNutt and his coaching staff have done an excellent job with these young men, and I am proud of how they represent Camelback with character, integrity, determination and class,” Athletic Director Steve Kuipers said.

Washington Elementary School District

Orangewood School gets D-Backs grant
The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation recently announced the 22 winning schools in the “D-backs $100,000 School Challenge,” presented by University of Phoenix. Among the grant winners was Orangewood School, which received funds for its Robo-Ball Project.

Robo-Ball is a futuristic game that will introduce seventh and eighth graders to robotics engineering within a baseball format. The Orangewood Robo-Ball project will involve two hundred students working in teams to develop robotic ball players. Each three-person team will be assigned a specific playing position, conduct research into capabilities required for success in that position, and then plan, design, build, and test a robot that meets the given parameters.

The grant request was written by Dianna Bonney, Ed.D., K-8 Project Potential Teacher, working in collaboration with seventh and eighth grade Science teachers, Brooks Swigart and Joseph Malloy.

Each winning school will be honored and receive a check on the field at a 2016 D-backs game in April and May at Chase Field. The D-backs will donate 1,000 tickets for students, parents, teachers and staff to attend the D-backs’ game in which their school will be honored.

WESD hosts its Parent University
Washington Elementary School District (WESD) will host its sixth-annual Parent University on the campus of Cholla Middle School, located at 3120 W. Cholla St., on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 7:45 a.m. to noon.

WESD Parent University is a free, half-day educational opportunity designed to help parents and guardians assist their children with academics and behavior as well as provide important health and human service information and support. The free, half-day university begins with breakfast, then parents/guardians may attend up to three breakout sessions.

Does your child need extra assistance in math? What is STEM and why is it important? How can you support your child in successfully completing his or her homework? How can you help your youngster be a successful reader and writer? How can you talk to your child about the dangers of substance abuse? What can you do to help your child avoid bullying behaviors? These topics and many more will be offered.

Following the breakout sessions, attendees will enjoy lunch provided by North Phoenix Kiwanis. Local businesses have donated a 32-inch flat screen television, one adult pass and one child pass to Disneyland, and two Samsung Galaxy tablets, among other prizes.

For complete information on Parent University and to register, visit

Build relationship between biz, education
The Washington Elementary School District Business Advisory Team hosts its first meeting of the New Year 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27 at Open Door Fellowship, 8301 N. 19th Ave.

The meeting will showcase, highlight and celebrate the completion of the Valley Metro NW light rail extension and the businesses, schools, churches and other community groups along that route. Bring a canned food item to donate to the upcoming WESD Community Food Drive. The person that brings the MOST cans to this meeting will win a commemorative piece of the light rail station art, signed by the local artist, Matthew Salenger.

The Business Advisory Team was formed to develop, enhance and maintain mutually supportive, strategic relationships between WESD and its surrounding business community.

RSVPs are requested to by no later than Jan. 26. Business representatives are invited to bring fliers, brochures and other material to distribute on each table.

Private and Charter Schools

Local groups make season special for kids
Several community sponsors “adopted” the children at Midtown Primary School this holiday season. With the help of Premiere Health, Choice Hotels, many individuals, teachers, and two church groups—Camelback Community Bible Study and volunteers from the Church of Scientology—every child had gifts for Christmas. To keep the magic of “Santa Claus” alive for the preschoolers, parents picked up the gifts from the school in large black garbage bags to wrap and put under their holiday trees.

Midtown was then invited to a Gingerbread Brunch given by volunteers from the Church of Scientology. Families were treated to a delicious meal complete with eggnog and gingerbread pancakes. Kids and parents alike did arts and crafts and decorated cookies. Santa arrived with more gifts for all the kids in attendance.

Bourgade, Xavier partner for Piper Grants
Faculty at Bourgade Catholic High School and Xavier College Preparatory recently collaborated for two Virginia G. Piper Foundation Blended Learning mini-grants: “After School Robotics” and “Laudato Si: Studied and Applied.”

Xavier and Bourgade both have new Robotics programs. Students in those programs will now work together weekly on building and reprogramming robots. The goal of each school is to build a robot that will be able to tackle the January 2016 “First Tech Challenge Course” (which includes the robot climbing a wall) and to share the knowledge gained to the community.

In addition, sophomores in World History class at Bourgade Catholic and Theology class at Xavier will collaborate across campuses to create a web-based and interactive educational tool for others to use as a resource in understanding how they might personally impact our “common home.” Plans include a service learning project involving Catholic Relief Services. The Piper Grant provides for software to allow the sharing of information across campuses and 30 Chromebooks for each school.

Bourgade Catholic and Notre Dame Preparatory also were awarded a mini-grant for a Language Arts Multimedia Project. Faculty at the two separate schools will work collaboratively to design and publish a course that will assist students in developing sustained online research in a collaborative environment. Students will manage time, utilize technology and write and edit written reports in a blended learning environment.

Rankin named new swim coach
Xavier College Preparatory recently welcomed Maureen Rankin as its new Head Varsity Swim Coach.

Rankin was a four-time high school state champion swimmer at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon, where she was awarded Oregon Swimming’s “Most Outstanding Female Swimmer of the Year” honors. A nine-time All-American and member of the U.S. Swimming Junior National Team, she attended the University of Arizona on a swimming scholarship. She holds multiple national championship titles and numerous state records as a U.S. Masters Swimmer.

Xavier’s swim team finished fourth in the state this past season.

St. Thomas expands preschool, kindergarten
Opening in August 2016 is a new school-within-a-school on the Saint Thomas the Apostle’s campus dedicated to preschool and kindergarten students. The newly renovated Saint Thomas Preschool and Kindergarten, 4510 N. 24th St., will offer a new 3-year-old program, expanded pre-kindergarten classes, and a redesigned outdoor play space focused on nature and imagination.

By offering a separate preschool and kindergarten from the main campus, parents and their children will have all the community benefits of a traditional preschool experience.

“The preschool and kindergarten ages have their own distinct developmental milestones and we want to address the needs of our youngest students with age-appropriate spaces for them to learn and grow,” said Principal Mary Coffman. “Our curriculum focuses on play and exploration in our 3-year-old program and there is a progression to a more academic program as our students mature through our preschool and into our Kindergarten program.”

Prospective families are invited to attend an open house 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31. The Dads’ Club will be serving their pancake breakfast fundraiser. A second open house will take place 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 19 and includes a presentation, tour and craft time for children. Reservations are suggested but not required; visit

For more information, call the admission office at 602-954-9088.

Cross country team ends season well
Xavier College Preparatory’s cross country team placed 21st in the nation at the Nike Cross Country Nationals in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 5. Xavier seniors Jane Miller, Tessa Weiss, and Shannan Higgins; junior Sarah Carter; sophomores Caroline Liddy and Caroline McClelland; and freshwoman Helen Innes competed for the Gator team.

School to host VEX qualifying championship
The VEX Robotics state qualifier will take place at Madison Highland Prep, a STEM charter high school, this month. The event will host 24 teams with students from high schools throughout the state and country.

The state qualifying competition is one of a series of VEX Robotics competitions taking place internationally throughout the year. VEX Robotics is the world’s fastest-growing competitive robotics program for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges around the world, with more than 12,000 teams from over 30 countries that participate in more than 1,000 competitions worldwide.

The competition season culminates each spring, with the highly-anticipated VEX Robotics World Championship presented by the Northrop Grumman Foundation and the REC Foundation, which unites top qualifying teams from local, state, and international VEX Robotics events.

The event takes place 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9 at Madison Highland Prep, 1431 E. Campbell Ave. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 602-745-3800.

Gators capture top honors in coding event
Twelve Xavier students captured top honors at the Women in Computer Science Coding Competition at Arizona State University. The competition was arranged by Xavier alumna Nichola Lubold, Class of 2005, and was judged by a team of women Computer Science professors from ASU.

Xavier juniors Nsomma Alilonu, Gabriela Garcia, Erin Sweeney, and Hannah Tribolet were the overall winners. Their application, Typing Tempo, was designed to teach students how to play the piano by scoring their keyboarding efforts with an accuracy percentage.

Xavier senior Ellie Fessler of North Central Phoenix, along with seniors Talia Khan, Kirielle Singarajah, and junior Kassidy McIntyre placed second with an application called Xrossing Xampus, which enables campus visitors to map routes from one location to another.

Xavier seniors Andrea Kraetz, Claudia Lucca, Lisbet Maldonado, and junior Tatum Cork of North Central Phoenix placed third with an application that matches volunteers with agencies in need of volunteer assistance.

Students join in on international day of coding
All Saints’ Episcopal Day School participated in the Hour of Code as part of Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-13). All Saints’ students were among tens of millions of people around the world to take part in the largest learning event in history.

Computers are everywhere, but fewer schools teach computer science than 10 years ago. Girls and students of color are severely underrepresented. The Hour of Code is gateway toward providing all students with access to high-quality computer science education.

Every one of the 498 students at All Saints’ participated in the massive campaign to get 10 million students of all ages to participate in a self-guided activity geared to encourage interest in the field of computer science.

Middle school students in the DREAMlab continued to learn how to wire and program Arduino microcontrollers. The Arduino is a small programmable circuit board that allows the students to program in the real world by adding code to control LEDs, electric motors, Servos, and much more. Lower school students programmed their own computer games with help from

“We need to encourage and embrace our students’ interest in computer science,” said Tracey Williams, All Saints’ technology integration and iPad specialist. “Every student deserves the chance to learn computer science to access the best careers of the 21st Century.”

Builders Club leads successful food drive
All Saints’ Episcopal Day held its annual food drive to benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank just before the Thanksgiving holiday. The final total was 6,171 pounds of food—including many 50-pound bags of rice that the St. Mary’s partner agencies around the Valley and state will be able to use.
With $17,531.31 in cash donations included, this drive will allow the food bank to distribute more than 128,890 meals into the community.

The All Saints’ Builders Club, a service organization for students in sixth through eighth grades, led the effort. All Saints’ is the only school that has been named Hunger Heroes by St. Mary’s for the past three years.

Students at All Saints’ participate in service learning throughout the school year. St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance is just one of the School’s community partners.

Students do well in math contest
More than 70 St. Francis Xavier “Mathletes” in November competed in the national Noetic Learning Math Challenge (NLMC).

Noah Nuez, third grade, and fifth grader John Ross Wichterman of North Central Phoenix both made the National Honor Roll (top 10 percent of all national grade level participants). St. Francis Xavier had 20 students in grades 2-6 who received Honorable Mentions (top 50 percent of all national grade level participants.)

More than 20,000 students from 602 schools nationwide participated in the fall 2015 challenge. The Noetic math contest is a semiannual contest for students in grades 2-8 that is aimed to challenge and strengthen creative problem-solving and logical reasoning skills. Problems in this contest are non-routine and designed to challenge students beyond regular school curriculum.

FINAL program aids Native American youth
The Phoenix Indian Center is a partner with the U.S. Department of Education to help Native American youth become college and career ready.

Under the new Native Youth Community Projects (NYCP) program, the Phoenix Indian Center is one of 12 grant recipients in nine states that will provide services to impact youth in partnership with more than 30 tribes and involve more than 48 schools.

The FINAL program provides intensive career exploration, employer skills, college-going skills and visits, and a mentorship component. The program has several partners coming together to link their services to the success of the youth participants, including Phoenix Union High School District, Native American Connections and Native Health.

For more information, visit