Frank Larby, principal of the Rim Country Middle School, has no delusions about the impact of Arizona's budget on school funding, but he continues the fight to improve his school.
"It's hard. There's a lot of uncertainty and the budget deficit is so large," Larby said. "We probably won't know the full impact until the end of legislative sessions, but the state of our school is good."
One of Larby's priorities during the past year has been increasing the activities his students can participate in during their lunch hour.
"We've been offering structured activities like games, relay races, and basketball-shooting contests," Larby said.
Larby feels that offering structured activities is a way to add some exercise as well as teamwork into the student's day.
"Teachers are also participating and the kids love it," Larby said. "Two teachers recently participated in a Hula-Hoop contest which was really fun."
The school continues its emphasis on building character in young people with the Character Counts program.
"We want to promote character education," Larby said, "Things like fairness, responsibility, and citizenship -- things that constitute a decent person."
The program includes the use of videos and other methods promoting character.
"We play short messages over the intercom that are taken from a program called Words of Wisdom," he said. "These are quotes from authors, political leaders, religious leaders and social activists that emphasize the pillars of good character."
Larby also believes technology education is important to the future success of his students.
"We are very proud of what we've done with technology at the middle school," Larby said. "When I first came here we had one computer in the library and that was the librarian's. Now we have 11 work stations, three (laser) printers and several classrooms with multiple computers."
"We have revised the vocational technology program," Larby said. "We have changed the emphasis to student uses of technology. Our sixth graders now have their own web page."
Although the number of students at the middle school has seen a steady decrease, performance statistics have been on the upswing, according to Larby.
"We have fewer kids this year, but a good group of kids," Larby said. "I am hearing a lot of good comments from teachers."
Students at the middle school rank at the 60th percentile on the Stanford 9, a standardized test designed to reflect how Payson students compare to their national cohorts.
"One thing I was really happy about was that our seventh-graders were in the 70th percentile in writing," Larby said. "Our teachers did an incredible job."
He continues to be concerned about students with behavioral problems and plans to do what he can to keep them in school.
"We've worked really hard with a committee to plan an alternative program for the school," Larby said. "Whether we are able to do that is dependent on financing and where we are as a district next year."
Larby said that he has an alternative to keep kids that are eligible for long-term suspension in school. "We want to keep kids in school as long as possible," Larby said. "What we'd love to have is a separate facility, off campus, where two or more teachers can work with a small group of kids on an educational program."
Larby also also been working to improve the appearance of the campus.
"We hope to finish painting the buildings and we now have a new basketball court," Larby said.
Despite an on-going funding crisis, Larby is optimistic about the current state of his school as well as its future prospects.