The challenge to be met in all Rim country elementary schools is to cover the basics of education with the limitations of each districts' budgets.
Regardless of funding, local educators continue the successful programs that have helped make Rim country schools some of the finest in the state.
But, principals and teachers at the schools are not always content to maintain programs already in existence -- they are constantly testing new offerings they hope will meet the needs of the diversity of students.
Frontier Elementary School
Frontier Elementary School has undergone a facelift -- inside and out -- over the past year.
Outdoors it is all about safety and beauty, according to Principal Gail Gorry.
The parent pick-up area has traded places with the school bus zone.
Landscaping has occurred primarily on the west and south sides of the campus, creating more parking and the first of several quiet reading areas so classes can enjoy the sunshine without footballs flying overhead.
Inside, colored trim was added to the windowless hallways and each grade now has its own set of the Character Counts bulletin boards.
Internally, student achievement continues to be top priority. New programs like BUGS (Bringing Up Grades) have been added while Character Counts, accelerated math and accelerated reading programs continue.
"With teachers, we are looking at math," Gorry said. "What my whole staff is very conscious of and what we don't want to do is teach only what is on the (AIMS) test. We want to teach them skills to use in life and how to handle situations, not just test-taking skills."
The Teacher's Math Club gets together on their own time for an hour each week to compile new lessons to make certain that the students use five different components of math every day.
Those components are: computational and mental skills; conceptual understanding; problem solving and applications; basic math facts; and performance tasks (aligning to real life situations).
Gorry considers music to be an academic program, and said she was grateful that it continues to be funded by the Credit for Kids program.
"The community is so supportive in all of our endeavors," she said. "Whether that be fund-raising or curriculum."
Julia Randall Elementary
At Julia Randall Elementary School, the principal and staff strive to meet the increasing educational needs of their students.
With new Principal Peggy Miles at the helm, many positive events have taken place over the past year.
The campus was secured with new fencing.
A rock sign and seating area were placed at the entrance to the school. This beautification project was recognized by Payson Main Street's design and review committee.
Basketballs bounce higher on the newly resurfaced courts and the United States map and bulldog --he school's mascot --ave been repainted.
These improvements would not have happened without the support of the school's Parent Teachers Organization, Miles said. The PTO is involved in cookie dough sales, and other fund-raising events like the dinner held to raise money for a student who had lost their possessions in a fire. The organization is 100 members strong and growing.
Also growing is the student garden. The children are learning about different types of plants and how they grow. Students at each grade level are responsible for a particular section and looking forward to expansion.
"We just received a grant from Western Growers chosen by Rep. Bill Konopnicki for a student garden which we will be working on soon," Miles said. "Currently in the garden, there are two ash trees, a rosemary bush, petunias, marigolds, and snapdragons."
Accelerated math is available in grades three, four and five. Second-graders are able to use accelerated math on a limited basis with the help of a parent volunteer.
Using Credit for Kids money, the school was able to purchase an additional computer and printer. These things help Accelerated Math run smoothly and allow the students to move forward.
"Teachers, parents and staff, working together as a team, will do everything in our power to help students excel," Miles said.
Payson Elementary School
The staff of Payson Elementary School truly displays a high degree of personal moral integrity, which flows to the students and creates a positive climate in which to learn and work.
Principal Roy Sandoval believes it is one of the best things about the school.
An estimated 75 percent of students don't have the natural inclination toward mathematics, he said. Sandoval said his goals as an educator are to explore more effective ways to improve students' basic mathematics skills, making them more successful later in life.
He would like to provide students with a math education that is more consistent in language definitions and a systematic approach to problem-solving and steps of operations because they are entering a world where the standards in mathematics are much higher than in the past.
Returning physical education to the classroom was a major advancement this past year. In previous years, PE was dropped due to budget constraints.
Sandoval said the community is incredibly supportive of schools.
In addition to weekly assemblies for the Panthers, at the end of each quarter, PES also holds special awards assemblies where students are recognized as the Kiwanis Clubs' "Terrific Kids" and recipients of the Principal's Award.
"Our (after school) intervention programs for math, reading and writing, art, music and activities have been tremendously successful and well attended," Sandoval said. "The Arizona tax credit for public schools aka Credit for Kids funds these valuable programs. This town is filled with people who really care and put their money and expertise on the line for kids."
Pine-Strawberry Elementary School
There have been no big changes in curriculum for kindergarten through eighth-grades at Pine school in the past year, according to principal Kathe Ketchem.
The school district continues to have an academically successful school district.
"We continue to be ahead of the game in terms of curriculum mastery," Ketchem said.
The current focus is preparing students for AIMS testing.
With enrollment in decline over the past several years, there are now about 155 students versus 222 in October 2001. That means federal and state funding has declined as well.
Ketchem said the greatest challenge the school faces is continuing to provide programs on limited funds.
With the excellent parental support and the support of the community, about $50,000 was received as part of the Credit for Kids program. The money supports field trips and fine arts. It helped develop the ballfield and games that are played on it (and away) through the interscholastics sports program which makes it possible for junior high school students at the Pine school to play games with other regional schools of a similar size.
Pine's preschool program is nationally accredited.
Ketchem said one of the best things about the school, which serves children in the Pine-Strawberry community, is the way students and teachers work together, and "the way teachers and staff focus on doing what is best for the individual child."
Tonto Basin School
The staff of Tonto Basin School is committed to the pursuit of excellence for its students.
Principal Johnny Ketchem and some of the teachers won a $43,000 technology grant that enabled them to outfit the school's computer lab with 19 computers and purchase a "smart board." A smart board is an interactive white board that hooks up to a computer to allow the user to interact with whatever is being projected on the screen.
The accelerated math and accelerated reading programs continue, but trying to keep up with the state on all of their requirements is making it difficult to move along as fast as Ketchem had hoped with their Step Up to Writing Program. Step Up is geared to help students learn to write essays and narratives in an area where they often get lost -- organizing their thoughts by topic and explanation, from beginning to end. There is good parental and community support for the school, which is important because the school has lost some of the funding it counts on to operate.
"We were denied our Title I funding because they used 2000 Census data and it said Tonto Basin had only nine qualifying kids," Ketchem said. "Over 80 percent of my students are receiving free or reduced lunches."
Last year, the school received $13,000. As part of the elementary and secondary education
act, Title I monies represent the largest single federal investment in education, typically supporting supplemental instruction in math and reading for children at risk of school failure who live in low-income communities.
Ketchem went to the state department for help.
Data from Tonto Basin's school lunch program has 13 out of 70 total students paying full price for their meals, the rest are assisted or free.
Jake Flake, Arizona's District 5 Senator is trying to have Tonto Basin school statistics re-evaluated so the money can once again flow.