The saying goes, “If you’re coasting, you’re either losing momentum or else you’re headed downhill.” As we begin the journey of a new school year, I am very encouraged that we are heading into the first week of school, not coasting, but with new momentum.
I’m optimistic by nature, but there is real evidence, not just my own rosy glasses, to support my prediction that we have the forward motion necessary to have an excellent 2011-12.
We begin this year with a number of new and exciting programs. Payson Virtual Academy is our state-approved online school for students in grades 7-12. Students may enroll either as full- or part-time students to take a comprehensive range of middle and high school courses.
Our emphasis for our first year will be with ninth and 10th grade students. Interested parents of students in these or other grades should call 474-5800 to speak with “PVA’s” Director, Barbara Fitzgerald.
The Payson Unified STEM Initiative (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) has begun with two cutting-edge programs. At RCMS, we have a new exploratory STEM lab using hands-on modules. This elective program is designed to expose and excite students about STEM career fields.
We’re also thrilled about starting our four-year engineering program at Payson High School. Project Lead the Way: Engineering will give students the opportunity to engage in project-based learning utilizing relevant and rigorous curriculum, integrating state-of-the-art computer software and applied technologies in the new engineering lab.
We are about to break ground on our Adventure Course at Payson High School. As part of the $1.1 million PEP (Physical Education Program) grant that we were awarded last year, this Project Adventure Program will include rappelling, a zip line, vertical climbing walls and other physical/confidence building stations.
Also, many of our students will begin rollerblading this year! As part of the grant our teachers are going through intensive training in these and other dynamic program areas to ensure that our students are properly instructed. Our goal with this grant is to establish “life fitness” appreciation and skills. By the end of the third year of the PEP grant we will have a physical education program unrivaled in our state.
I need to apologize in advance for some inconvenience at the high school campus later this year, but it’s really a good thing. We were able to obtain a large share of very limited state “emergency” funding for the purpose of replacing the roof of the high school gym. This may impact the location of some basketball games, but we’ll end up with a great new roof to keep the facility in use for many years to come.
While many other school districts have had to drastically reduce music education, we continue to have exemplary programs for students at all grade levels. Our Jazz Band performed to rave reviews at Disneyland this summer and our PHS Marching Band will be traveling to Oahu, Hawaii this December to play at the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
We’ve added Theater Tech as a new vocational program for students. Our goal with this program as with our Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs is to provide a solid career-readiness foundation in the career fields of today and tomorrow.
Speaking of CTE, I’m also very pleased about the largest class to date (24 students) enrolled in our Nursing Program at GCC.
Our strong Gifted Education Programs and Response to Intervention Program will continue to grow and via a special state grant, we have added a new program to support students with significant emotional disabilities.
Last, but not least, we’re updating our Web site and School Messenger system to support our parents as informed participants in their children’s schooling and keep our community well-informed about school events.
None of this momentum, particularly during this time of very tight budgets, would be feasible without strong parent and community support. You’re a big part of our success and you have my commitment; we’ll not coast, but always find the ways and means to move forward.