Every Student A Success Story


Decorum, courtesy and respect are pieces of the expected code of conduct for students at the recently opened Payson Education Center.

At this school, the unwritten rules are just as important to the students' grades as their course work.

The teens who attend PEC are individuals who may have been unable to focus or are disruptive in a traditional school setting.

They may have spent time in juvenile detention centers, making re-entering high school for credit tough. Or they might be high achievers who can't wait to graduate.

There are some who might say these teens have failed and are doomed to failure, but that's not a label Gila County School Superintendent Linda O'Dell accepts.

"What I have said to them, mantra like, is that it is up to you to show those naysayers that not only are you valuable and you can succeed, but the school is also worthwhile and it is supporting you in succeeding," she said.

Working at his own pace is important to students Damon Koeschner, Jordan Hinton and Michael Sutton.

"I am way behind in credit but working at the pace I am I can graduate this year," Koeschner said.

He didn't like U.S. History before, but likes it better at PEC.

For Hinton and Sutton it is math that now makes more sense.

PEC classes meet the basic state graduation requirements, and for those who wish to go on to college, teachers help them take the required courses through the Internet or the community college.

A couple students are within four or five credits of graduating at this point, O'Dell said.

"Our goal is to provide an environment in which these students can succeed academically, hopefully graduate or if more appropriate for them to pursue a GED," O'Dell said. "Beyond that, the ultimate goal is to provide them with the background and academic experience that will support them in being successful as they move into their adult life."


Beverly Draper, Payson Education Center teacher

PEC student Kevin Boyle has his eyes set on an in-state university.

"I want to be a nature photographer, or a photo or news journalist," he said.

Unlike a traditional "too crowded" high school, Boyle said, at PEC he can get help from the teacher when he needs it plus work at his own speed.

He admits to putting off math because he does not like it, but plans to tackle it next.

With three and a half credits to go until graduation Crystal Ashing is a girl focused on her work.

"I came to this school, because I am a high achiever and I like to do work at my own pace instead of having to sit in a classroom and do work at everyone else's pace," she said.

Ashing completed one credit in the two-and-a-half weeks PAC was open before spring break, compared to the semester it would have taken her in a traditional setting.

Ashing has started nursing classes at Gila Community College.

The discussion that takes place in a traditional social studies class happens at PEC when there are students in the same place academically.

"We have created as we have gone," O'Dell said. "The kids ... have very particular avenues of learning that appeal to them, so we hand pick the curriculum and materials that we believe suit their needs.

"The talents of the teachers are the reason for our success because they are flexible, creative and understand that all of these kids can be successful," she said.

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