High School Earns An “A” Rating In 2012, Despite Challenges

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As a first-year principal of Payson High School, nothing makes “my heart swell” more than the students filling our classrooms, the teachers pushing them to learn, and the support staff holding us together.

Despite an economically challenging period, I am awed almost daily by the creativity of all involved in the education of our teens as we forge ahead toward new challenges, despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in our way.

Payson High School is an “A” school because of the dedication of our teachers, staff, parents, and community to the future of our students. The accomplishments of our students and teachers are many, and though the following is not inclusive, they all make me very proud of my affiliation with PHS.

Although it only takes one unruly teen to paint an unattractive picture of high school students in general, our students have earned a positive reputation locally and around the state.

New this year are the efforts of a group of young ladies and gentlemen known as our PHS Ambassadors, whose goal it is to provide customer service to the visitors of our campus.

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Anna VanZile Payson High School Principal

Our 16 foreign exchange students this year serve as a different kind of ambassador—representatives from Europe and Asia who contribute much to our campus culture.

Besides our students’ much publicized individual and team accomplishments in sports, their achievements in the non-athletic arenas have made a name for PHS, too.

Career and Technical Education boasts a DECA program that has produced 42 individual district awards as well as 37 state awards, qualifying nine students for internationals in April; an FBLA chapter with students receiving 29 awards in addition to fundraising to support local and national charities; a culinary program that has resulted in 18 awards leading to a $19,000 and a $32,000 scholarship presented to two students for one and two-year enrollments at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school; a theater program that continues to earn excellent ratings and Gold Honor Troupe status; and an FFA chapter that won five team awards, seven individual awards, and one state championship. At the helm of two of our CTE programs are teachers who received, this year, regional and/or state Coach of the Year or Teacher of the Year recognitions.

Our Academic Decathlon (Acadec) team, fourth in the region, made it to state—the first team ever to achieve this in their second year of existence. One Acadec student earned a $500 ASU scholarship with all seven state competitors each being awarded a $3,000 opportunity to study Eastern languages this summer and earning 10 ASU credit hours.

For the second year in a row, our Mock Trial team was one of 16 mostly college-prep or private school teams to advance to state.

Payson’s SADD chapter was awarded $1000 grant from the National Organization for Youth Safety which was used to host a memorable Project Ignition Day—despite the weather—focusing on teen driver safety.

On that same day, 59 chemistry students conducted 20 different chemistry demonstrations to 160 first graders using household items to inspire an interest in chemistry and science in young minds.

And finally, under the direction of a 2013 state award-winning music teacher - the many excellent ratings of our band and choir, not to mention their participation in the Fiesta Bowl Parade.

None of the recognition brought to Payson by our academic, sports, co-curricular, or extra-curricular programs would be possible without the dedication of their coaches, teachers, or advisors.

Not to diminish all of the good just described, perhaps the change I am most proud of is the coming together of our staff toward a common goal. We may not always agree with each other, but Payson High School teachers and staff are united around one very important objective: improving student achievement.

For the first time in the history of PUSD performance pay, PHS has established state assessment goals in reading, math and science. And we are changing the way we educate our students, with all teachers from all areas working to insure that our students think critically, write argumentatively, read closely, respond factually, problem solve logically, and read perseveringly; this means that our students read in math, write in autoshop, compute in culinary, and even focus on math practices in English.

We recognize that unlike the AIMS tests, which have students respond to questions addressing one standard at a time, real life throws problems at us that often require a dozen different skills at once. This is part of the shift to the Common Core that we have also committed to implement.

A lot has changed in education over the past twenty years, and sometimes we don’t do a very good job of explaining the work we do. If that’s ever the case, please give us a chance to help you understand. Payson has a lot to be proud of in PHS, and we appreciate your support as financial contributors, volunteers, fans, spectators, and as citizens taking an interest in our youth.

I take great pride in the work that we have done and in what we will do, together, as we educate our future.

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