Principal Roy Sandoval is completing his third year as the head of Payson Elementary School. The 24-classroom school opened its doors in 1987 and currently has 430 students.
Sandoval said the teaching climate at PES is the school's greatest strength.
"I have a balanced staff with a great deal of maturity and leadership from the veteran members," plus a group of "younger teachers who are filled with energy and enthusiasm," he said.
The district needs more funding to help offset the cost of insurance benefits for school support staff members so they can afford to stay, he said.
Appeasing the bureaucracies also is important, he said, so Payson's teachers, school administrators and support staff members can do what's best for the students.
PES bought and installed 24 state-of-the-art personal computers and a high-end server that's capable of networking all the stations in the computer lab and the school's classrooms to the library.
School officials also began replacing the old Apple Macintosh computers in the school's classrooms with personal computers that are networked to the district server.
The school also implemented an innovative teaching approach to math. The math facts students in each grade level are expected to learn were determined and taught by the end of the first nine weeks of school.
The school also launched a pilot program geared to help its lowest achieving math students. By teaching concepts concurrently rather than end-to-end, students with the lowest math scores made the same Stanford 9 gains as the rest of the student population, Sandoval said.
Several trends bear watching, Sandoval said.
Arizonans are learning how important it is to properly fund education, he said. "Ignoring the funding issues over the last 10 years has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in building and maintenance costs," he said, and if Arizona schools don't offer competitive wages, the best teachers will move to other states.
It may not be politically correct to say, Sandoval said, but the trend toward more parental choice as reflected in the charter school movement will ultimately lead to a school voucher system.
The Rim country's current "cessation in growth is temporary," Sandoval said. The current stagnation in enrollment is only temporary, he said, and "the future will bring rapid growth, forcing us to diligently seek solutions to equally disperse students while handling the influx."