On the eve of the 2003-04 school year, Payson Unified School District Superintendent Herb Weissenfels provided these updates and highlights:
- The modified school calendar, now two years old, will be re-evaluated in the fall by the Superintendent's Advisory Committee (SAC), whose recommendation will then be presented to the board. The calendar shortens the summer recess by two weeks and adjusts some holiday breaks so two-week recesses occur after each nine-week quarter. The SAC is made up of 18 PUSD staff members including teachers and principals.
- An additional school day will be added to the school calendar this year, mandated by the state as part of the Proposition 301 initiative approved by the voters in the 2000 general election. That proposition added five more school days to be phased in over a five-year period.
- All construction projects in the district should be completed before school opens.
- Enrollment is expected to be about the same as last year.
"JRE looks like it may grow a little, while the others are going to stay the same or drop off a little," Weissenfels said.
- The Character Counts and the incorporation of new technology are still receiving major emphasis district-wide. In conjunction with Gila Community College and the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT), PUSD will offer certified nursing assistant and fire science programs this year.
Voters approved the district's participation in NAVIT, a joint technological education district (JTED), in the 2002 general election. Such districts assist member school districts in upgrading and enhancing their vocational programs, while also providing additional career and technical programs at local community college campuses. Other members of NAVIT, which was formed in 1998, include the Heber, Show Low, Springerville, Winslow, Holbrook, St. Johns and Joseph City school districts.
- A lot of the emphasis district-wide will be on the No Child Left Behind Act, a federal mandate that went into effect last year designed to address the fact that American children are lagging behind children in many other countries.
"That's going to be driving a lot of decisions -- testing, assessment," Weissenfels said. "We'll be looking very closely at every child, every group to see if they're making adequate progress, and if not do something about it, which is going to turn some things upside down. There will be no limits on what we can or will do based on what the data shows us regarding student achievement."
See the education section of the Roundup's Internet edition to read local administrators' plans for their schools.