Superintendent's Letter February 2018
Dear Scottsdale Unified School District Family,
Every morning, district school buses arrive at the neighborhood corner to transport your students to one of our 29 outstanding SUSD schools. Our dedicated teacher corps puts the final touches on the day’s lesson plans and prepares to welcome students for another day of engaging instruction. Many of our nutrition staff are at school even before that, to prepare the most important meal of the day, breakfast, for many students and get to work on the day’s lunch menu. Custodians make sure the campus is clean and ready for another day, office staff listen to messages left overnight and school nurses check their first-aid supplies. Overseeing all of this is the school principal.
While it is sometimes easy to see each school as an island unto itself, each is really part of a much bigger canvas that the district is creating to ensure student success, enhance teacher training, and develop effective curriculum and principal leaders. Some of you may have noticed this school year that principals and a variety of teachers are not on campus for a few days during the month. That is because they have been called on to help the district write its future.
Teacher leaders have been tasked with an aggressive schedule to ensure that SUSD’s curriculum aligns with state standards. This very fundamental work is key to ensuring that our students continue to learn not only what they need to know to advance through the K-12 grades, but that they are prepared for whatever future path they choose. At the same time, principals have been gathering for world-class McRel professional development coaching that will result in their becoming even more effective, impactful leaders of their schools. The result of all of this hard work will be a better SUSD!
One of my favorite things to do is celebrate our students, teachers and principals. Every day, they are doing amazing things in our classrooms, in our concert halls, on area athletic fields and in the community. Here are some of their latest, stellar achievements:
- Congratulations to seniors Hannah Bernier and Logan Farrington from Desert Mountain High School and Christina Wang from Chaparral High School. They are candidates for this year’s U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, established in 1964 to recognize the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
- This week, an elite group of our high school musicians was in concert at Saguaro High School, under the direction of famed Chinese conductor Zhang Yue. The experience of performing music from another culture was outstanding for members of the SUSD Honor Orchestra.
- Speaking of music, SUSD was honored last week with several awards from the Arizona Music Educators Association:
- It was ‘all in the family’ for the Irvins of Desert Mountain: Graduating trumpeter Ashley Irvin performed with the Arizona All-State Jazz Band at the opening concert of AMEA’s annual conference. Meanwhile, her mother and Desert Mountain Band director Michelle Irvin received the organization’s George C. Wilson Leadership and Service Award for her exceptional service and leadership to Arizona’s school music community.
- Desert Canyon Middle School’s DC Voices, under the direction of Andrea Squires, performed on the conference’s second day. DC Voices was one of only two middle school ensembles selected to perform this year.
- And Tonalea K-8 Principal Dr. David Priniski received AMEA’s Outstanding Administrator Award at the organization’s Hall of Fame luncheon for his dedicated advocacy for music education in the Tonalea K-8 community.
- For the third consecutive year, Redfield Elementary School student Omkar Bharath spelled his way to the SUSD Spelling Bee title. The winning word was … ontological. Omkar and runners-up Max Greenspan, Cocopah Middle School; Jiatian Yin, Cheyenne Traditional School; Gabriella Tadio, Desert Canyon Middle School; Victoria Bourgeois-Conti, Hopi Elementary School; and Kelly Ciardullo, Anasazi Elementary School, will represent SUSD Feb.23 in the regional Spelling Bee in Cave Creek.
Please mark your calendars for the annual SUSD Dance Festival Showcase at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 20 at Chaparral High School. Dance students from each of our five high schools will, no doubt, deliver an amazing, artistic performance. The following day, Wednesday, Feb. 21, it’s the annual Special Kids Field Day. Special education students from 18 of our schools will gather at Mountain View Park for a morning of games and adapted sports. Students will also have the opportunity to meet representatives of local first-responder agencies and view the equipment they use in protecting our community. Team mascots from local professional sports teams will be there, too. And on Feb. 25-26, high school juniors who signed up will take the ACT Test, offered at no cost by the district.
Lastly, this is National School Counseling Week, and on this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to SUSD’s outstanding staff of middle school and high school counselors. They help support our students as they navigate growing up and make decisions about their lives and future educational endeavors. Counselors truly do help students ‘reach for the stars,’ the slogan attached to this year’s celebration. If you have not met your student’s counselor, I encourage you to check in with her or him at least twice each school year to ensure each of you understands where your student stands academically and with challenges they may be facing. Thank you, school counselors, for the sound guidance you provide to SUSD students.
Dr. Denise Birdwell