Kathe Ketchem is completing her second year as principal of Pine-Strawberry School. The school serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade and is the only school in the Pine-Strawberry district.
Ketchem said the members of her staff, "whose first concern is always the student and how to create success for each child," are the school's greatest assets.
"Our school is successful because of our passionate, dedicated staff members, who give of their personal time to support clubs, extra-curricular activities, instructional improvement, parent partnership and community outreach," she said.
Time, Ketchem said, is her staff's most pressing need.
In addition to the daily challenges of teaching and preparing for instruction, the school's teachers and staff members need time for duties ranging from grant writing and committee work to working in partnership with parents and the community.
The staff collaborated on curriculum alignment in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics, as well as successful teaching practices, Ketchem said.
"The result was an improvement in test scores schoolwide, with scores above state and national norms, and outstanding performance on AIMS," she said.
Thanks to a $69,000 technology literacy grant, I-Book laptop computers were provided for the fifth-grade class, a new server was purchased for the computer lab, and staff received additional training on how to make effective use of technology in the classroom.
The Character Counts program, which was introduced in Payson's public schools, also was implemented in Pine-Strawberry. Ketchem reports that the program is making a difference on her campus as "parents and community members work together to build a community of character."
The statewide focus on AIMS and performance-based pay for teachers send the wrong message to parents and the community, Ketchem said. They imply that the state's teachers are not successful.
"One high-stakes test, AIMS, for high school graduation is not an appropriate measure of student success and achievement," she said. "I do not disagree with accountability or high state standards, however testing should reflect not only the basic skills necessary for success, but also a variety in program focus at the high school level.
In addition, student performance should be a compilation of individual student performance, not just one final test."
"Performance-based pay should be an incentive for teachers to work together for school improvement in all areas, not individual performance," Ketchem said. "It takes kindergarten through high school working together to create success for all children.
If a performance pay system is to accomplish its goal, collaboration and communication toward consistent practices and strategies are necessary across grade levels and school districts, such as (those that) Pine-Strawberry and Payson have implemented."