Good News Amidst Bad Year For Schools


It’s hard to find the shards of good news in the debris of education news these days. But amidst all the clamor and calamity, we took heart at one tidbit in a recent high school progress report to the Payson Unified School Board.

Far fewer freshmen and juniors flunked a class last year. The failure rate among sophomores and seniors also declined, but less significantly.

Moreover, the wealth of data released showed a heartening embrace of evidence — an example we hope the school board will take to heart in its budget deliberations.

High school principal Kathe Ketchem and vice principal Anna Van Zile were rightly cautious in interpreting the statistics showing that last year students flunked 144 fewer classes. But the figures seem to support the wisdom of the new scheduling that gives students six instead of seven classes, with more time in each class.

Of course, that shift also makes it harder to interpret the numbers. After all, if students take 14 percent fewer classes that could account for a drop in the number of failed classes. That may largely explain the 14 percent decline among seniors and the 8 percent decline among sophomores.

However, the striking 38 percent decline among freshmen and 46 percent drop among juniors represents real improvement. Of course, 20 to 25 percent of high school students still fail at least one class — a dispiriting number, even if it is declining.

However, we take heart in the trend — and the willingness to make a detailed report to the community.

In a world that made any sense, reforms would follow in the wake of such a report as we build on that success. Administrators credit things like the Gear Up program, a grant-supported effort to identify struggling students in time to help them.

But the world doesn’t make much sense lately. The school board will likely spend this year hacking away at various programs, trying to get rid of an $830,000 deficit.

Still, we have this one, undeniable piece of good news. So let’s sit here a moment in the ruins, admiring its heft in our hands.

Make a difference

“To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers.”

— Louis L’Amour

No money. Long hours. Lots of pressure. Great potential for conflict. Sound like the perfect job? How about if you get to shape the future and crusade for truth and justice?

Please note the small item in today’s paper saying the Gila County Board of Supervisors is seeking applications to serve on a committee to draw the boundary lines of the three supervisorial districts to reflect the results of the 2010 census.

We don’t yet have the latest numbers on the population shifts in the county that have taken place since the 2000 census, but Arizona’s population has risen 24 percent. Most likely, the numbers will show that the northern part of Gila County now has the majority of the population, which should force a realignment of district lines that currently favor Globe, the county seat.

The board of supervisors is now seeking a pool of people to serve on a nine-person committee to draw up new district lines. The applicants must be registered voters who haven’t been elected officials, lobbyists, on campaign committees or county employees — and who will promise not to run for office in the next three years.

We hope a strong core of Rim Country residents will file applications and that the board will not politicize the ultimate selection process.

Make no mistake, the committee has a vital job. An adroit line-drawing last time around gave southern Gila County effective control of the board of supervisors and the Gila Community College board. That helps explain why Payson has inadequate county facilities and a shriveled share of county attention and spending. We hope that a strong, incisive, fair-minded redistricting committee will produce fair district lines that still adhere to federal laws that seek to preserve the clout and integrity of minority communities — like the two Indian reservations within the county boundaries.

Anyone interested can get an application online at or swing by the offices of District One Supervisor Tommie Martin, at 610 E. Highway 260 during business hours.

We know serving will require the sacrifice of time and effort.

But the pay is great: You’ll make a difference.

“Remember one thing about democracy. We can have anything we want and at the same time we always end up with exactly what we deserve.”

— Edward Albee


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