Payson School District

A year of budget constraints and educational initiatives

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Every year, schools go through exciting times and 2004 was no exception.

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Herb Weissenfels

Payson Unified School District faced the normal challenges that every school district experiences from within and without: personnel changes, facility upgrades and maintenance, new legislation, budget considerations and educational initiatives.

I'd like to focus on the last two items: budget considerations and educational initiatives.

A highlight of the year was the successful passage of the budget override. Funds have been carefully accounted for and used as promised. Although the override did not provide for significant advancements, it did prevent reductions in staff and programs and preserved our emphasis on student achievement as the No. 1 goal.

We have been fortunate to be able to provide many programs that enrich, enhance, and encourage our students thanks to community support for Credit For Kids. We collected more than $200,000 this year, a record amount. Credit for Kids funding pays for a whole lot of extracurricular activities.

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Students from the Payson High School student government class help the district strive for excellence in education. "Student achievement is the No. 1 goal," said PUSD Superintendent Herb Weissenfels. Payson voters showed their support this year by passing a budget override.

In the educational initiatives area I was especially pleased about Payson High School's recognition as the first school to kick off the Arizona Scholars Program. Arizona Scholars will encourage and recognize students pursuing a demanding high school curriculum that better prepares them for post-secondary education and/or the workforce. We were selected, based on rigorous criteria, from a national pool of applicants. We are very proud to be in this program.

We also developed a new program called VID (Variable Instructional Delivery) to help students master the core content subjects using alternate methodologies. We hope this program will bolster students that find traditional teaching approaches more challenging. Additional programs to support at-risk students and prevent dropouts are in the development stage.

Our membership in Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT), the Joint Technical Education District, has flourished within PUSD and in cooperation with Gila Community College. Several Career Technical Education programs at Payson High School have had complete overhauls raising them to "state-of-the-art" status. Payson High School will add a culinary arts program next year. Successful graduates from the fire science and certified nursing assistant programs at GCC have acquired employment at above-average wages. Payson's positive vote two years ago allowing us to join NAVIT made these programs possible.

The No Child Left Behind Act continues to drive many of our decisions. New mandates for highly qualified teachers, required professional development, Title I restrictions, and even new special education guidelines have us scrambling to understand and implement the changes. What we are required to do, by law, has become a mammoth assignment. Two unqualified successes under the NCLB Act umbrella include our Parent Community Liaison and English Language Learner (ELL) programs.

Additionally, we have allocated district resources, human and financial, to bully prevention, facility care and usage, public relations, curriculum alignment and benchmark testing. As always, we remain committed to student achievement at the highest level. In a nutshell, that's what makes Payson a great place to go to school.

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