East Valley Tribune: Back To School

Back To School

  • New projects, programs abound at EVIT

    As the 2014-15 school year is about to start, we are excited about a number of new programs and projects we are offering at the East Valley Institute of Technology.The Future Engineers program at our East Campus will provide students with hands-on activities and college credit at ASU Polytechnic in a unique high school engineering program designed to ultimately result in more homegrown engineers for Intel. Our Culinary Arts program will open Bistro 13 on Main Street, giving our students experience in operating a restaurant while providing downtown and west Mesa with a wonderful menu featuring global cuisine. A new partnership with George Brazil Home Services will lead to the first-ever George Brazil School of Home Services and Plumbing being established at our Main Campus and help ensure that the Valley continues to have well-trained workers in this vital industry.But most of all, we are excited about another year of providing quality, advanced career and technical education to high school students and adults. Career and technical education has come a long way since you and I took home ec and wood shop in high school. Indeed, it has come a long way since the EVIT Joint Technological Education District formed in the mid-1990s.We have a wide range of students at EVIT. Two out of three are going on to college. An additional third plan to go directly into the workforce. Many go into the military. EVIT is able to serve them all because career and technical education is for everyone — honors students, kinesthetic learners who learn best in a hands-on environment, students with special needs, average students who have an aptitude for a particular vocation. EVIT supplements the education they receive at their district high school, charter school or at home by teaching them to think and put that knowledge into action as they find their passion for what they want to do in life.And in doing so, EVIT supplies the Valley with its next generation of firefighters, nurses, cosmetologists, collision repair experts, precision machinists, and so many more productive professionals who are vital to our economy and quality of life.Each EVIT student’s experience is unique. For example, our EVIT School of Health Sciences provides many different pathways for students who want a career in the health care industry. Some start out in our Human Anatomy & Physiology program as juniors before moving on to a specialty such as dental careers in their senior year. Some are in a program such as medical assistant for two years as they prepare for their CMA licensing exam and a career right out of high school. Some enroll in the nursing assistant program so they can get their license and work as a CNA while going to college to become a registered nurse. In fact, many of our students plan to use their EVIT training to obtain a job to help pay for college.

  • A healthy after-school snack that eats like a treat

    The words hungry kids heading home from school hate most? “Have a piece of fruit.”After-school snacks are one of the toughest terrains for parents to navigate. The kids want a treat, but parents — mindful that dinner is just around the corner — want to keep it healthy. So we decided to come up with a healthy, filling snack that kids would still consider a treat.These chocolate and granola covered frozen bananas are a healthy snack that eat like a frozen pop with a hit of chocolate. If your kids aren’t into granola, you could substitute chopped nuts, crushed whole-grain pretzels or even raisins or dried cranberries.Frozen chocolate granola bananasStart to finish: 20 minutes, plus freezing; Servings: 41 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate bits

  • EVIT provides array of occupational training

    The East Valley Institute of Technology is still accepting enrollment for the 2014-15 school year in most classes, including the new Future Engineers program at the East Campus.EVIT, a public career and technical education school, offers a wide range of occupational training including aviation, automotive, early childhood education, cosmetology, numerous health care programs, and much more.EVIT programs are tuition-free to district, charter and home-school students who reside in 10 East Valley school districts — Mesa, Gilbert, Higley, Chandler, Tempe, Apache Junction, Queen Creek, J.O. Combs, Fountain Hills and Scottsdale. Tuition-based programs for adults are also offered with financial aid available.Classes are offered at two centralized Mesa campuses — the Dr. A. Keith Crandell (Main) Campus, 1601 W. Main St., and the East Campus, 6625 S. Power Road — and Apache Junction High School, 2525 S. Ironwood Drive.EVIT’s newest program, Future Engineers, was developed by a retired Intel engineer to prepare high school students for success in a two- or four-year college engineering program. Superintendent Sally Downey said no other Arizona high school offers Future Engineers, which is based on a state-of-the-art curriculum developed by Southern Methodist University in Texas. Students will explore thermodynamics, robotics, electricity, chemistry, solar power, biomechanics, environmental engineering and much more.Up to 50 percent of the course time will be dedicated to hands-on engineering projects and experiments at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus with the opportunity to earn college credit. Downey said the program aims to encourage more students to become engineering majors at ASU, and then go on to Intel to work as engineers.

  • Kyrene School District ready for the 2014-15 school year

    The beginning of the school year provides opportunities for fresh ideas and positive changes to enhance learning experiences for all children. During the spring and summer, the Kyrene School District Governing Board and district leaders were hard at work considering ideas that would impact the budget for the 2014-15 school year. The final budget approved on July 8 was not only balanced, it also represents an investment in spending for whole-child programs such as art, music, physical education, library, math/literacy coaches who provide support and a change to the start times for Kyrene middle schools. This budget also demonstrates the board’s commitment to invest in one of our most valuable resources — teachers and staff who received a cost of living increase.Kyrene’s ability to enhance valued programs and provide additional compensation for employees was welcome after several years of some of the most severe budget reductions we have ever seen. The governing board has always been very clear about the fact that every budgetary decision must primarily consider the impact on children, and they ensured any reduction was kept as far away from the classroom as possible. In addition, innovative initiatives to save money, such as the Kyrene Power Challenge, an aggressive conservation program that yielded over $200,000 in savings in 2012-13, were encouraged and supported by the board. The leadership provided by the board over the years, along with their commitment to maintaining a threshold of reserve dollars that preserves the district’s excellent credit rating, have been keys to managing the budget.In addition to the leadership provided by the governing board, the community overwhelmingly supported the budget override in November 2013, which represented $12 million in maintenance and operations funding for the district. Without the passage of the override and the strong support from the parents, businesses and homeowners of Kyrene, the budget landscape would have been much different.It has been a long haul for school districts in Arizona and around the nation in recent years. State funding for education has been on the decline, while state and federal mandates for student and teacher performance standards have increased. Student enrollment figures fluctuate as the demographics of Kyrene continue to change and parents have more educational choices for their children. Maintaining a balanced budget without compromising the quality of education has been a challenge.As we continue moving into the 21st century, it will be important to invest wisely to best serve the diverse student population of our “A” rated school district.• David K. Schauer, Ed.D., is superintendent of the Kyrene School District.

  • School officials try healthier cafeteria options

    Bean burgers, peanut butter substitutes and pre-sliced vegetable packets were on the menu recently as school lunchroom managers from around the country sampled offerings in a hunt for fare that will meet stricter health mandates — without turning off sometimes-finicky students.“I have my work cut out for me,” said Sara Gasiorowski, who was among the roughly 6,500 people attending a conference for school nutrition professionals at the convention center.A director of food services for the school district in Wayne Township, Ind., she was looking for healthy, affordable breakfast options as her district expects higher dairy and produce costs.This fall, new requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will alter the makeup of school meals, calling for less sodium and more fruits and vegetables. Grain-based foods such as breads, tortillas, crackers and pastas will have to be rich in whole grains. Calorie, fat and sodium limits will be placed on snacks and drinks sold in school vending machines, snack bars and a la carte lines.Schools must meet the requirements to be reimbursed by the federal government for what they spend on serving free and low-cost meals to low-income students, an important source of income for districts in an era of strapped school budgets.Part of an effort to fight high childhood obesity levels, the nutritional mandates are being ramped up after first taking effect in 2012. Since then, more than 1 million students have stopped choosing to purchase school lunches, according to the School Nutrition Association. The group also says school cafeterias have wasted nearly $4 million in fruit and vegetables each day, as students end up throwing out foods they are served under the guidelines.

  • Pathfinder Academy moves to new Mesa location

    A local charter school is moving into its new location just in time for the beginning of the school year. Pathfinder Academy will open the doors of its Monticello-inspired campus on Aug. 5, and will serve kindergarten through eighth grade with a classical-focused curriculum that teaches students in a style more akin to home schooling than the classroom style of public schools.In the late 1990s, Susan Stradling, principal of Pathfinder Academy, joined with Sequoia Charter Schools, now called Edkey, to infuse her private, in-home school, where she educated her 10 children as well as others, with the support charter schools in Arizona receive. This allowed her to expand her scope and bring the quality of education she gave her children to others.Stradling’s school is consistently rated “A”-plus and students excel in testing. She credits this to her focus on the basics but says that her curriculum goes the extra mile to round out each student’s experience. In-depth study of Greek and Latin roots, recitation for building memory, and a phonetic reading curriculum combine to instill basic knowledge on a deeper level than might otherwise be accomplished.“It’s a back to basics, if you want to call it a particular genre,” Stradling said. “We focus on, of course, reading in the early grades. We have sort of a heavy slant in history, as far as, we feel like the great history stories of our heritage they need to know.”Pathfinder has always been a small school, and will remain so, Stradling said. The school expects to enroll about 190 students this fall with an eventual capacity for 260-270 students in 14 classrooms. The new facility, located at 2906 N. Boulder Canyon in Mesa, has a gymnasium and stage for recitals and presentations.“We think that this move is a benefit to the families that have been so loyal to us over the years,” said Doug Pike, superintendent of schools for Edkey. “We’ve had a number of students we’ve had to turn away for a number of years … and so we’re excited to provide that opportunity for a lot of people to have a new place and to be able to partake in such an excelling school.”

  • BASIS continues to grow across East Valley

    For those of us who work in education, “back to school” is certainly the best time of the year.At the three BASIS charter schools in the East Valley, we’ve been reviewing, revising and otherwise tinkering with the specifics of our world-acclaimed, nationally-ranked curriculum, in preparation for the second school year for BASIS Ahwatukee and BASIS Mesa, each of which had standout first years. We’re also looking forward to our fourth year of academic and extracurricular life at BASIS Chandler, which has been exceedingly successful for a young school, and has the confident, sure-of-itself sensibility of one of the original BASIS “legacy schools” in Tucson or Scottsdale.Indeed, at all three of the BASIS charter schools in the East Valley, the classroom has proven to be a place of success: of learning, action and responsibility, of asking questions, seeking and finding answers. We know that Americans frequently see classrooms depicted as focal points of frustration for parents and students, for teachers and communities; we know that they embody expectations in August, and failure later on. Ramping up to BASIS speed in a new BASIS school may seem like a formidable hill, but in Ahwatukee and Mesa last year, and in Chandler in 2011, we enjoyed quite a bit of success, and most of our East Valley students found that the steepness of the climb is a positive and purposeful part of the process. We are thankful to the fantastic support we received from students, parents and the community for each of our East Valley schools, as well — and look forward to that spirit continuing in the upcoming academic year.Besides preparing for the day-to-day classroom life and learning that begins anew in the coming weeks, a new academic year also means we get to revitalize ourselves in the face of BASIS’ overall pedagogical mission, to raise the levels of American education to the highest international standards. We are appreciative at BASIS charter schools to be part of the public education system in Arizona, and the United States — and proud to be among the state’s and the nation’s very best institutions: open-enrollment, tuition-free public schools whose eligible campuses are consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10. When there is space available at a BASIS school, any child who wants to learn can fill that space — and be instilled with a love of acquiring knowledge that will last a lifetime, from middle and high school, to higher education, and beyond.The progressive education advocate John Dewey wrote of learning as a social and interactive process, and schools as “the fundamental method of social progress and reform.” Of course, as educators, we hold schools and what they can do in the very highest regard, and we therefore believe that each of our students — and, in fact, any child — can rise through education. That’s why we account for and take pride in teaching each of the children who walk through our doors. We are gratified by our curriculum, the successful response to it and the eminence of the teachers who teach it, but additionally, we hold dear that in a BASIS school, children not only learn from teachers who are collectively among the brightest and most passionate anywhere, but also learn from each other’s curiosities, questions, and answers. BASIS classrooms are electric; they are crisscrossed with multiple layers of learning, of sharing knowledge, of support and ascension. The more any BASIS student learns, the more we all learn.The new school year is a fresh beginning for that idea, and while the thrum and vigor of a BASIS classroom is always something to behold, at the start of the school year, curiosity is maximized for students and teachers, and possibilities truly seem endless.

  • Creating good habits early helps lead to success

    The start of each school year is an excellent time to set into place good habits that can lead to a success in the classroom and self-confidence for students. Take the time to write down steps for students — no matter their age — to help guide them as they return to school. Review them as needed. For the younger children, make the steps visible each day. Add picture reminders for students who are not reading yet.Set up a schedulePlan a schedule out with your student for each day to include a morning routine, homework time and bedtime. Don’t forget family time, athletics practices, fine arts rehearsals and just time to play, relax or read.Make homework a priorityStudents today live busy lives, but parents can emphasize the importance of school by setting an expectation for homework and study time. When possible, set homework time earlier in the evening, rather than after practices when students may be tired. Though schedules may vary (swim practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, piano lesson on Wednesday), attempt to keep as much of a routine as possible. One hint: Be certain students get a snack or dinner before homework to keep the “hunger grumbles” at a minimum.Turn off the electronics

  • A do-ahead dinner to make back to school smoother

    Those first few weeks when the kids head back to school can be among the most hectic for families. The lazy days of summer quickly give way to crazy schedules, homework and after-school activities. And don’t forget somehow managing to slip dinner into the middle of all that.This is why a do-ahead dinner can be a lifesaver as families get accustomed to their new routines. So we created this easy, kid-friendly ham and cheese casserole that can be prepped and refrigerated the night before, then just popped in the oven the next evening.And here’s another bonus — the leftovers make a great breakfast the next day, too.Easy overnight ham and cheese casseroleStart to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (20 minutes active); Servings: 1210-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

  • Guidelines help prevent kids' backpack-related injuries

    The signs in front of local schools do not carry a message that most kids want to hear — “School Begins in Early August.” In spite of protests, our kids are now making the usual preparations: buying school supplies, school clothes and often a new backpack. Whether old or new, some guidelines for using backpacks will come in handy for both youth and their parents.Several different medical and consumer organizations have developed guidelines for using backpacks to prevent injury and medical problems. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) indicates that nearly 14,000 youth are treated (annually) in hospitals or doctors’ offices for backpack-related injuries. Far more injuries go unreported. In addition to immediate injuries such as muscle strains and back, neck, and shoulder pain, incorrect use of backpacks can lead to poor posture (but not scoliosis) and muscle imbalance over time.As your kids prepare for school you (and your kids) may want to consider several guidelines derived from the AAOS, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Safety Council (NSC).• Limit backpack weight to 10-20 percent of body weight (NSC and AAP). The AAOS recommends 10-15 percent.• Choose a backpack with two wide padded shoulder straps. Always use both shoulder straps to properly balance the weight of the pack.• Tighten the backpack using the appropriate straps. This keeps the backpack closer to the back and avoids movement of the pack. Teach your child how to use these straps properly.

  • School options abound in East Valley

    Parents will find few states that offer families as many schooling options as Arizona. A longtime leader in the national school choice movement, Arizona has an education marketplace with a school for nearly any income, interest or situation.And nowhere in the state do options abound like they do in the East Valley.From Apache Junction to Mesa and Tempe, from Queen Creek to Gilbert and Chandler, the traditional neighborhood school is a popular mainstay. But there are also schools where your son or daughter can learn to sculpt or sing, focus on horses and equine science, or study aviation, to name a few specialties. And those are just a few of the public school options. Arizona’s tuition tax credit scholarships and empowerment savings accounts also make it possible for families to send their children to private schools that were unaffordable to them before.The following definitions and resources can help you as you navigate Arizona’s K-12 market.Public schoolsThere are two general types of public schools: charter schools and schools operated by districts. Charter schools and district schools are both tuition-free and regulated by the state Board of Education, but charter schools are privately operated and exempt from some regulations that districts are required to follow. For instance, charter school teachers are not required to be certified, although many are. School districts and charter schools both have governing boards, but district boards are elected by the community and charter boards are appointed by the charter operator.

  • Many changes ahead for new middle school students

    The transition to middle school means more opportunities for creative classes, learning, athletics and growth, but it can also create some of the toughest months for students.The middle school years may bring about a sudden shock to families when it comes to social development, academic rigor and time demands of school.AcademicsStudents suddenly go from having one main teacher each day to teachers for six different classes. The work is harder. The grading policies are tougher and more responsibility is placed on the student for his or her academic growth.What that means is students and parents need to be certain they are aware of what is required of each class. Teachers care about the progress of each student, but now teachers are responsible for 150 or more students — rather than just 25 or 30 students. Parents may not hear from teachers as often, but may need to seek out information through websites or by sending a teacher an email.The rigor of classes changes greatly at middle school. Students at Higley’s Cooley and Sossaman middle schools write responses to literature, study geometry and ratios, discover Earth and space sciences, explore American history, and likely learn a foreign language.

  • Faith-based preschool opens in Mesa

    A new preschool has opened up in Mesa after fresh renovations. Munchkins Preschool has 16,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor playground and six classrooms.Munchkins staff members provide part-time and full-day care for children from 6 weeks to 5 years old. School-aged siblings are welcome to join during school breaks.Crafts, music and sports round out the faith-based curriculum while children are prepared for kindergarten. Students are split into three groups based on age: 6 weeks to 12 months, 1 to 2 years, and 3 to 5 years.“We can separate ourselves from the local preschools and child learning centers in the area,” said owner Jay Lopez in a statement. “By also providing a few more options, a few times a month childcare in the evenings and weekends, we plan to capture a niche of parents that currently have few options during these times.”The center features 24-hour surveillance and key code access unique to each family. Teachers are certified in CPR and first aid, have undergone a background check, obtained a fingerprint card and have been tested for tuberculosis. They also are required to take 18 hours of continuing education annually.“We’re excited to be welcoming new people to our school, said Nikki Tingue, director of Munchkins Preschool. “We do a faith-based curriculum, which makes it fun for the kids to learn. We also include Bible stories into it. We do anything we can to engage the kids and make learning fun.”

  • Bedroom desk? It’s somewhere under all that junk

    Alyssa Kimble, a soon-to-be fourth-grader in White Plains, N.Y., says she uses the desk in her bedroom for “everything” — creating lesson plans for her make-believe school, writing stories and storing stuff.Everything, that is, except homework.“Usually, my desk is covered with things, a computer isn’t nearby and my mom isn’t there to help me,” Alyssa says.So she prefers doing homework at the kitchen table.Although bedroom desks remain common, many kids don’t use them for their intended purpose. Thanks to laptop computers and more casual living spaces, they often opt to do homework in kitchens and family rooms, on couches or on beds, turning their desks into depositories for books, toys and crafts.What that means for study habits depends on who’s doing the work, educators and parents say.

  • Chandler schools offer top-notch education with plenty of options

    The Chandler Unified School District is a premier district of choice. Academic achievement is a high priority in the district as evidenced by test scores that exceed state and national averages. We pride ourselves on providing outstanding educational programs at all grade levels.Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) has earned an “A” grade for three straight years. Chandler Unified is one of only 30 districts to earn the top grade, and one of only 10 districts to earn the grade all three years of the Arizona LEARNS letter grade accountability program. We have always believed that the performance of our high schools is a capstone of our combined efforts beginning in elementary school and continuing to junior high and high school. All five high schools — Arizona College Prep (ACP) — Erie, Basha, Chandler, Hamilton and Perry — earned an “A” grade.Furthermore, CUSD has 10 of the top 100 highest-ranked schools in the entire state. That is more than any other district in the state. The schools are: Hamilton High, Jacobson Elementary, Chandler Traditional Academy (CTA) — Independence, CTA — Liberty, CTA — Goodman, Perry High, ACP — Erie, ACP — Oakland, Fulton Elementary and Ryan Elementary.In addition to state championships in academics, fine arts and sports, CUSD’s 2014 graduating class earned nearly $90.8 million in college scholarship offers, 21,729 college credit hours and nearly 71,000 service learning hours!In CUSD, parents may choose from a menu of personalized learning experiences that best meet the needs of their children, including:• Free full-day kindergarten

  • Jordan Center for Early Education celebrates a successful 1st year

    Jordan Center for Early Education is celebrating its one-year anniversary.Part of Mesa Public Schools, the preschool center opened its doors in August 2013 to increase opportunities for children of all abilities and provide a seamless network of professionals to meet their unique needs. More than 540 students attended the center during the 2013-14 school year.Increased inclusion learning opportunitiesJordan serves a diverse population of special education and general education preschoolers, and utilizes a variety of programs and methods to maximize their learning potential. The educational program and campus are specifically designed to increase school readiness and develop skills to best equip young learners for future success. Inclusion, a focus of the school’s programming, promotes meaningful interaction between students with special needs and their peers.Kim Freehan, department specialist for early childhood, said, “Jordan has become a great place for children of all backgrounds to learn together, play together and become one community together.”Classrooms are grouped by “pods” to create a natural family atmosphere and allow teachers to easily transition children between special education and general education classrooms. Pods take turns hosting monthly music and movements sessions for all students and staff. During this time, students sing and dance while laughing with friends and building a sense of community through shared experiences.

  • High schools in the East Valley

    Thousands of students attend district schools in Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler and Tempe. Classes for Chandler Unified School District  and Queen Creek Unified School District begin on July 21. Students at Higley Unified School District, Kyrene School District and Tempe Union High School District start classes on Aug. 4; the Tempe Elementary School District begins again on Aug. 5; and sessions at Gilbert Public Schools and Mesa Public Schools start on Aug. 6.Below is a list of local district high school, as well as their addresses and contact information, in the East Valley.Mesa Public SchoolsDobson High School1601 W. Guadalupe Road, Mesa(480) 472-5900

  • Add zing to notebooks, store-bought or DIY

    When it’s time to start stocking the school backpack, it’s easy to just grab a stack of plain, boring notebooks.But since kids have to tote these things to and fro every day, why not trade the standard-issue ones for something snazzy and personalized?There are plenty of eye-catching options to buy or to make yourself.At Zazzle and Cafepress, you can upload favorite images and decorate custom journals and notebooks with different fonts and colors. There are also fun backgrounds like chevrons, animal prints, sports themes and nature motifs that can be jazzed up with monograms or catchphrases (www.zazzle.com; www.cafepress.com).Frecklebox offers cute, 50-page, wide-ruled spirals printed with owls, hearts, flames, robots, camouflage, flowers and other kid-centric patterns for grades 2-8. They can be personalized with names or initials in a variety of styles (www.frecklebox.com).My Paper Monkey’s got some fun designs, including sporty cartoon dinosaurs for the younger set, and star, splatter and checkerboard designs for older kids. Names can be ordered in cool fonts that resemble graffiti, industrial stamps or pretty, Parisienne-style script (www.mypapermonkey.com).

While year-round districts like Chandler Unified School District and Queen Creek Unified School District went back in late July, the rest of the region's districts begin the week of Aug. 4.

Chandler Unified: July 21

  • [Fall Break: Sept. 29-Oct. 10]

Queen Creek Unified: July 23 

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-Oct. 17]

Kyrene Elementary: Aug. 4 

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-10]

Higley Unified: Aug. 4 

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-10]

Tempe Union HS: Aug. 4 

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-10]

Tempe Elementary: Aug. 5

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-10]

Apache Junction Unified: Aug. 6 

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-10]

Mesa Unified: Aug. 6 

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-10]

Gilbert Unified School District: Aug. 6 

  • [Fall Break: Oct. 6-10]


East Valley Education on Facebook


East Valley Education on Twitter


Subscribe to East Valley Education via RSS

RSS Feeds

Your Az Jobs