As part of the 90-day plan I submitted to the Governing Board, outlining my priorities for the first half of the 2016-17 school year, I identified five areas of priority—Middle School redesign, expansion of Early Learning opportunities, expansion of Kyrene Traditional Academy—Sureño Campus to PreK – 8, expansion of the dual language to PreK – 8 and creation of an International Baccalaureate Program
For the past several weeks, I have been working collaboratively with the Board, through study sessions, general Board meeting presentations and a retreat, developing the options for each of these categories.
On December 6, the Board gave approval for the District to move forward with the expansion of the Kyrene Traditional Academy to serve students PreK – 8 and to initiate the process of creating an International Baccalaureate program at Kyrene Middle School.
The unanimous vote of 5-0 was the culmination of an extensive vetting process of the “Superintendent’s Priorities” with the Kyrene community which included two public forums, several site-based meetings with parents, and an online survey that was open to the entire Kyrene community in which over 1700 individuals responded.
The expansion of KTA to accommodate students beyond 5th grade comes after many years of parents requesting extension of traditional instruction for students in Kyrene through 8th grade. This proposal has the potential for retaining and increasing enrollment among families seeking a traditional approach to learning for their children.
In its action, the Board approved moving forward with an Application for International Baccalaureate Candidacy and Trial Implementation (due April 1) for the 2017-18 school year and continued development and enhancement of the current 6-8 Dual Language strand at KMS for the 2017-18 school year. The creation of an International Baccalaureate program, to be located at KMS, will serve to complement the dual language strand for middle school students matriculating from Norte Elementary.
The Board also agreed with the District’s recommendation to hold off on creation of a PreK – 8 option for dual language citing the concern of families whose children transitioned to the dual language program from Niños to Norte this year and the impact additional change may have on their students. The Governing Board has expressed reservations about investing the resources in adapting the Norte campus to accommodate PreK – 8 taking into consideration the age and condition of the existing building, the location, limited availability of parking and traffic flow. As the first cohort of students from Lagos will not be matriculating into 6 - 8 until 2019-20, it allows time for further consideration of a centrally located PreK – 8 campus for dual language students.
With the Board’s approval of these recommendations, the District will now enter into the second phase of development and will begin to address the details of an implementation plan and provide answers to the questions raised through community engagement processes. For KTA, those details include a feasibility study for expanding the campus at KTA, how to accommodate extra-curricular activities and athletics, and use of shared space (cafeteria, multi-purpose room, gym/playground).
For the creation of the IB program at KMS, a team will begin preparing and submitting the application for Candidacy and Trial Implementation for the 2017-18 school year, planning for professional development for teachers, and addressing the needs of special education and gifted students. There will be opportunities for the KMS community, including feeder schools, to participate in additional forums to share information about IB and to discuss options for families who do not choose an IB program for their children.
The approval of these recommendations signals a bold and strategic plan to stabilize and increase enrollment in Kyrene. I want to thank everyone who has participated in this process, most especially Principals Sheryl Houston (KMS), Jaime Soto (Norte), Dr. Ana Gomez del Castillo (Lagos) and Dr. Marianne Lescher and their staffs. The team helped develop these options and worked tirelessly to address not only the Board’s questions and concerns along the way, but also engaged families and the community to ensure their needs and concerns were being addressed.
I also want to thank the Governing Board for their ongoing support and approval to move forward with these priorities.
If you want more information, you may view the presentation and board discussion by going to the video archive on the website. The presentation on the Superintendent’s Priorities begins at approximately 1:57:00.
As we move forward, the District will continue to involve staff and the community as we implement these recommendations and will provide regular updates on progress and changes for the 2017-18 school year.
Dr. Jan Vesely