Parent Activism Helps School Win Award

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Too often, we float helplessly downstream — captives of the current. But just about everything remarkable about this country came about as a result of people with the courage to swim upstream — or better yet, build an irrigation canal and put that water to work.

So we wanted to call your attention to two, related stories in today’s paper.

First, make note of Rim Country Middle School’s great accomplishment in winning the “Lead and Inspire” award from a panel of experts at Arizona State University.

The award recognized the middle school’s creative triumph in offering rigorous and unusual classes, tracking student progress, providing extra help where needed and enlisting the energy and support of the community.

The middle school provided support for people like Gila County Teacher of the Year Scott Davidson, whose science classes asked such insightful questions that it prompted the ASU team programming satellites and landers to take pictures of certain impact craters.

Moreover, the school used a federal grant to set up an early warning system for struggling students, which contributed to a rise in the school’s AIMS scores.

Elsewhere in the paper, you’ll see a story about a meeting involving about two dozen concerned and active parents, who have formed the Payson Association for Advanced Learners (PAAL).

PAAL was started by middle school parents trying to make sure the district offered rigorous and engaging classes for their children, mostly kids in the gifted and talented program. But the group has broadened its focus, as evidenced by its role in convincing the district to offer a four-year science, technology and engineering program. The classes will focus on project-based learning — students will work in groups to solve complicated problems posed by things like designing a race track and building a robot.

The parents in PAAL played a crucial role in the middle school’s triumph in the past year. They show up at board meetings, meet with teachers and insist on high standards — and they raised about $60,000 to provide extras — like money for teachers and students to journey to Washington, D.C. on an educational mission.

So we congratulate Rim Country Middle School on its great accomplishment — and also thank PAAL for working so hard on behalf of this community and our precious children.

Their success gives lie to the notion that citizens don’t have any power and that nothing ever changes.

So don’t let the current carry you. Learn to dog paddle, then to crawl. Make a boat out of logs. Build a dam. Show up. Speak up. Join PAAL. And the next time the school board faces hard choices that involve increasing class sizes, laying off teachers or eliminating programs — make yourself heard.

Make waves — not excuses.

Star Valley to the rescue

Wow. How strange. Must be something in the water. Tonight, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans will seek the help of his neighbor — for a project to benefit everyone. Now, that sounds simple enough — neighbor helping neighbor. What’s the controversy?

None really — unless you consider the complicated history of the relationship between Payson and Star Valley.

Five years ago, Payson acquired rights to the Tower Well in Star Valley to help secure its water future. The arrangement alarmed many Star Valley residents and led more or less directly to the incorporation of that community on a vow to prevent Payson from stealing its water.

Mercifully, the current Star Valley council has worked diligently to understand the issues while still protecting its residents. That eventually washed away much of the fear and misunderstanding that had tangled the relationships between the two towns. Now, both towns stand to reap the benefits of that new relationship.

For starters, Star Valley can play a big role in rescuing the crucial but battered plan to convince Arizona State University to build a campus here. Payson needs the cooperation of both Gila County and Star Valley to set up a Separate Legal Entity, a special district that backers say they need to build a campus and support facilities.

Clearly, both Payson and Star Valley will benefit from the construction of a college campus here, which will provide hundreds of jobs and interject millions of year-round dollars into Rim Country’s precarious economy.

Star Valley and Payson councils have demonstrated a understanding in recent months of the old adage: We must hang together or we will surely hang separately.

The proposed agreement between the two neighbors to foster the college plan will surely lead to other benefits, including more cooperation in bringing the Blue Ridge water to a thirsty region. Hopefully, Star Valley’s participation in that project will also yield additional benefits.

What a difference a year makes. And what a great benefit that difference will bring to everyone who lives in Rim Country.

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