Alternatives In Education

Rim country charter, private schools offer students choices


In addition to public schools, the Rim country's educational offerings include a diverse selection of charter and private schools.

The charter school concept was developed to provide an alternative to public schools. According to the Center for Education Reform, a Washington D.C.-based research organization, charter schools are a diverse group of independent public schools that are allowed "to operate freed from the traditional bureaucratic and regulatory red tape that hog-ties public schools."

Since charter schools are, in essence, small public schools, they are funded by the state according to enrollment. In Arizona, charter schools receive about 80 percent of the amount public schools receive.

The Rim country currently has three charter schools: The Shelby School, a K-10 institution in Tonto Village that was private until receiving a charter in June 2000; Star Valley School, a ninth-12th-grade high school, which began operations three years ago as a middle school; and the Payson Center for Success for students age 16-21, which opened in 1996 and is sponsored by the Payson Unified School District.

The Shelby School


Steve Rensch

The mission of The Shelby School, located off Highway 260 in Tonto Village, is to develop well-balanced, expressive and compassionate young people who have a strong sense of purpose in their lives.

The school provides a unique learning opportunity, in part through a low student-teacher ratio -- especially in the elementary grades. Classes in language arts, math, and social studies are balanced with art classes in clay and drawing, physical education, Tai Chi and theater.

Noteworthy changes to the school include:

  • A new bus, so the school can now offer transportation to Shelby students who live in Payson;
  • This is also the first year the school has had an aviary, currently inhabited by zebra finches;
  • Finally, the school has opened a second site in Mesa, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school offering bilingual instruction to its students.

The school play "Alice in Westernland" will be performed in spring of 2005.

The Shelby School is at enrollment capacity of 95 students and has a waiting list for students who wish to attend. You can arrange to see the school and register your child by calling (928) 478-4706.

Star Valley School

Star Valley School is an alternative high school serving grades nine to 12. It was previously known as Clearview Star Valley Middle School.

The school, under the leadership of Principal-Teacher Russell Koch, offers a less restrictive learning environment for all students, including those with special education needs. It operates under the charter of Cottonwood-based New Visions Academy.

As a charter school, Star Valley School functions under the authority of the Arizona Department of Education, just like a public high school. There is no tuition or fee to attend and it offers an education package that incorporates the AGS (American Guidance Services) curriculum.

"This curriculum is designed especially for alternative high school students," Koch said.


Monica Nitzsche

The Star Valley School philosophy, "Truly child-centered education can only occur in a small, safe environment," Koch said. "As soon as you get more than a few children in a school, you cease to be child-centered and are forced to move into crowd control."

Payson Center for Success

Payson Center for Success High School is unique as a charter school by virtue of being chartered and run by the local district. This is, according to Principal Monica Nitzsche, the best of all situations.

"PCS is able to draw upon the expertise of an experienced and well-established district educational team, while providing for uniqueness and flexibility as outlined in the charter document," Nitzsche said. "All students graduating from PCS receive a PUSD diploma."

As of March 2005, seven students have already completed graduation requirements for the current school year, and eight more are expected to complete requirements by May, for a total of 15 graduates.

The charter requirements that set Payson Center for Success apart from traditional schools are:

1. The use of computerized learning lab for curriculum delivery.

2. An open format that allows students to enroll at any time within the school year without danger of being behind in a specific class.

3. Flexible scheduling options that include a mandatory 20-hour school week.

4. A strict attendance policy that requires 100 percent attendance (all students must make-up any time missed).

5. An all-school focus on career exploration and the attainment of technology skills and work ethics.

6. Collaboration with the community to implement the City-As-Schools program where students actually learn in the community through career research, interviews, job shadows, field trips and internships.

PCS students continued to improve on the pass rate for AIMS. PCS staff worked throughout the year collaboratively with PUSD math instructors to address math concerns and to provide individualized tutoring for all students.

Students are required to apply for enrollment in the program by completing an application, participating in an interview and signing a contract in which all school expectations are clearly outlined. Parents participate in enrollment proceedings and co-sign all documents indicating agreement to be involved with their child's educational experience and support student success. Enrollment for PCS is capped at 54 students. This allows for the small, personalized environment that has proved to be vital to academic success.


Lynne Winans

Anyone interested in learning more about Payson Center for Success High School can call (928) 472-2011 or stop by the school at 501 S. McLane Road.

Payson Head Start

Payson Head Start is an early childhood program that is governmentally funded and provides services to lower income families and children with disabilities.

Goals of the agency are to provide accessible, comprehensive, early childhood programs, promote family literacy for the development of self-sufficient and healthy families, and to be recognized as a quality program with diverse knowledge and skills.

The program offers "Creative Curriculum" at the preschool level and operates Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-noon. Breakfast and lunch are provided and complete health screenings are ensured with follow-up as needed. In addition, the program offers a wide variety of hands-on activities that incorporate kindergarten readiness skills including literacy, numeracy, reasoning, problem solving and decision-making. A large part of the program is designed to help the children develop feelings of competence, self-esteem, self-control, and a positive attitude toward learning.

Head Start encourages family involvement and provides parent training, workshops and other opportunities for families to become a valuable part of the program. Volunteering in the classroom, field trips, monthly parent meetings, home visits, and participation in lesson and menu planning are just a few ways our families support the program.

Staff is available to assist with community resources and referrals as needed and encourage family goal setting to create positive family relationships and achievement within the family unit.


Teresa Purtee

For more information, call (928) 474-2738. The facility is located at 1008 S. Westerly Road.

Payson Community Christian School

Payson Community Christian School is a private school that offers a Christian-based education for pre-kindergarten through high school.

"We strive for personal academic achievement, and we educate with enthusiasm, encouragement, achievement and love," Principal Teresa Purtee said. "Foremost, our students will grow in their love and knowledge of God and acceptance of one another."

The philosophy of PCCS is to center education on Biblical values.

"Each student is viewed and treated as an individual and not a part of the masses," Purtee said. "Our goal is the whole child -- spiritually, mentally, socially, physically, emotionally and aesthetically. Parents who teach in their homes a respect for God's laws and a sense of individual responsibility will find these same values promoted by the school."

The school uses the following curriculums:

  • Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten: Complete curriculum with an advanced phonics/reading program.
  • Elementary (1-6): Advanced overall curriculum that challenges individual students.
  • Junior/Senior High: College preparation.

PCCS currently has 55 students and is actively seeking one location for the 2005-2006 school year. The school has also started Payson Christian Child Care with the same values.

It is located at 614 W. Frontier St.

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