Payson High School students achieved a mark they've never reached before.
The year 2006 witnessed the first time in the history of Payson High School that the school achieved a rating of "highly performing" by the state, based on test scores.
Students scored well enough on the state-required AIMS test, which measures students' abilities in math, reading and writing, to garner the distinction, principal Roy Sandoval said.
Along with elevated test scores, students should be proud of their behavior. Sandoval said that discipline referrals dramatically decreased in 2006.
The number of extreme infractions and fighting incidents were much lower than in the previous year, he said.
Sandoval said that the split-lunch schedule could be a reason for the improvements in conduct.
Students converted to two lunch periods -- the first group of sophomores, juniors and seniors leave, followed by a 20-minute lag before freshmen have lunch. The remaining students in the second group follow the same structure.
The division in lunch periods reduces the traffic flow out of the school as well as the infractions that might occur between students, Sandoval said.
Another change that could account for better behavior is the reduction of time between class periods from five minutes to four.
Sandoval said that teachers and administrators also took a more active role in monitoring students.
"The visibility has increased," he said. "Teachers are more engaged and involved."
The academic schedule got a boost in 2006 -- changing from six periods to seven -- creating more opportunities for students.
The State of Arizona is upping its requirements for high school students, Sandoval said. "So we've increased the opportunities that they'll have in four years."
The students now have 28 chances for different classes compared to 24 in years past, vice principal Tim Fruth said.
"We know change is a difficult thing to do, but the transition has been smooth," he said.
Along with academic opportunities for all students, PHS administration decided to better protect freshmen students by closing the campus during lunch. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are still allowed to leave for lunch.
"There is a lot of concern about freshmen because they can't drive, so they go out any way they can -- the backs of trucks, without seat belts," Sandoval said.
"There was a high rate of ditching after lunch for freshmen, as well," he added. "That's gone."
Sandoval said he is proud of what the high school accomplished in 2006.
"We made big changes last year," Sandoval said. "I'm most proud that we could look at changes and have the courage to implement them and see them through."
Other notable occurrences for PHS in 2006 include:
Renovation of the administration complex was started and has since been finished, resulting in a better service for students, Sandoval said.
The school can expect artificial turf for the football, baseball and softball fields and a new, larger parking lot after a $34 million bond measure was passed to improve several schools in Payson.
Decreasing the freshmen failure rate was a major focus for faculty.
One hundred and sixty-nine students graduated from Payson High School in 2006.