The 2004-2005 public school year opens riding a wave of optimism created by the budget override passed by voters May 18 and a successful Credit of Kids program that built up the PUSD coffers by more than $190,000.
With the override, teachers received an average of about an 8.2 percent raise. Administrator's pay raises averaged 8.5 percent.
The district was also able to retain a nurse at the middle school and keep 16 teachers on board who had been released.
Physical education classes that were eliminated last year were reinstated and extracurricular stipends for coaches and sponsors were increased by 9 percent. Substitute teacher pay jumped to $70 a day from $66 and three new positions, a computer technician, maintenance technician and an education counselor were hired.
The single biggest purchase from the Credit for Kids tax donations was about $128,000 for the new bleachers on the home side (north) of the Payson High School football field.
The new stands will have 15 rows, seat 900 fans and be fitted with a 8x24-foot press box.
PHS athletic director Dave Bradley is predicting the new bleachers will produce revenue for the school.
"Our gate (receipts) will probably increase because we will actually have places to sit and see the game that we didn't have before," he said.
At Rim Country Middle School, big changes are about to occur. Although it will retain the label "middle school" the school will be conducted this year more like the traditional junior high.
Four-person teaching teams will be replaced by single teachers responsible for a core subject and a classroom of 25-plus students.
In making the change, RCMS principal Frank Larby stressed that a junior high can offer more diverse programs using a traditional schedule.
But the change wasn't made without controversy. A core of RCMS teachers were of the opinion a middle school is superior to a junior high.
Their contention was that in a middle school environment, teachers interact with smaller groups of kids, share students and are better able to meet the teens' developmental needs.
District-wide, an additional school day will be added to the school calender.
The day was 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. This year, the school calender has 179 days, plus two snow days.
Also, the district will begin its second year participating in the Northern Arizona Vocation Institute of Technology program.
PUSD Curriculum Director Bill Lawson says he will soon present to the board the amount of funding that will be received for the program. "That money will really help us do some major strengthening of exiting programs," Lawson said.
In the 2002 general election, voters approved participating in the NAVIT, a joint technological education district. NAVIT assists member school districts in upgrading and enhancing their vocational education programs. It also provides additional technical and career programs at local community college campuses.
Last year, PUSD first offered certified nursing and fire science programs. They will continue to be offered this school year.
Other members of NAVIT which was formed in 1998, include Joseph City, St. Johns, Holbrook, Springerville, Winslow, Show Low and Heber.