The Payson Unified School District went through some big changes in 2005. There were multiple shifts in administrative assignments, improvements to the Rim Country Middle School facility and work on a major remodeling project at Payson High School was started.
Longtime Rim Country educator and administrator Sue Myers became the district's superintendent.
Myers started her work in the area as a teacher at the Pine Elementary School, then became its principal/superintendent. She was tapped to open Payson's Frontier Elementary School as principal, then retired. The post of Payson High School principal drew her out of retirement and from there she went on to run the district.
With Myers' move to the district office, an administrative shuffle ensued, with only two principals remaining with their schools -- Peggy Miles at Julia Randall Elementary School and Gail Gorry at Frontier Elementary School.
Payson Elementary School principal Roy Sandoval moved to the high school and teacher Will Dunman took over the reins at PES.
Payson Center for Success principal Monica Nitzche moved to the Rim Country Middle School head office and Kathe Ketchem, Pine Elementary School's former principal/superintendent took over the district's alternative learning center.
"For years the mantra in education has been -- and still is -- every child can learn," Myers said. "But now, district-wide, that is being modified. We are all working to make the system better for our students."
Now, in addition to "every child can learn," educators in the PUSD are asking:
- "What do we expect them to learn?'
- "How will we know when they have learned it?"
- "What will we do when they don't learn it?"
- "What will we do if they already know it?"
Myers said the district-wide meeting opening the 2005-2006 school year addressed this new approach at length and since then educators and administrators have been creating the criteria that will be used to answer the questions.
Another point of progress in the school district is the work the three elementary schools are doing to align their curriculums and discipline policies, and make them agree with rules at the middle school. The goal is to help students get "on the same page" quickly if they change from one elementary school to another and to know that every school has the same expectations and consequences for good and bad behavior.
Part of this project is to develop a student handbook that applies at all the elementary schools, Myers said.
The district hired Kathy Kay as its curriculum director to facilitate the alignment work.
Another new hire was Tom Piowarsy as maintenance and transportation director.
"He has really made a difference," Myers said. "The facilities have never looked better." She said even the buses are parked in an orderly way. In the past, it often looked like drivers just pulled in where they could.
Contributing to the improved look of the district's campuses has been the efforts of the beautification committee, Myers said. It has raised tens of thousands of dollars and made a tremendous impact.
Other changes Myers took note of:
- The district's student population grew slightly, with the equivalent of 20 full-time students added. The all-time high enrollment was in the 1999-2000 school year, when the PUSD was providing for 2,808 students. In 2005-2006 there are 2,715 students, Myers said.
- The later start time at the high school and middle school has been very advantageous for the students, she said. There has been better attendance and fewer tardies. She said she has heard the students are more alert and discipline problems have dropped.
"We want to raise the bar and unite the students, parents, staff and community to achieve excellence," Myers said.
The district was able to make improvements to its middle school and high school facilities through an interest-free loan, called Qualified Zone Academy Bonds. The loan brought $2 million into the district for capital improvements.
About $750,000 of it was used to add new air conditioning and heating units at the middle school.
The bulk of the money will be used to remodel the district's 40-year-old high school and the balance will pay to remodel rest rooms in the Rock Building at Julia Randall Elementary School.
The work on the high school began in December and is scheduled to include: a new roof, improved heating and air conditions, construction of a centrally located reception area, updating three science classrooms and constructing offices to house all high school administrators and their secretaries, along with the school resource office. Additionally, exterior improvements will be made to give the facility a more contemporary look.
The plans for the remodel were created by Thom Bohlen of Oracle Architecture in Phoenix. The $1.65 million bid for the work was awarded to BMJS Construction Company of Winslow.
The district hopes the work is completed early in the 2006-2007 school year, but it is possible it might not be done until later in the fall.