Mountain Pointe High School Principal Bruce Kipper said a recent award validates the school's philosophy and efforts toward increasing student achievement.

Mountain Pointe was named as one of only four nationwide to receive the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts National Schools of Distinction in Arts Education Award for the 2010-2011 school year. The honor was given to schools with innovative art programs that have solid performance in individual areas such as theater, dance, vocal performance, drawing and painting.

The school will receive a $2,000 cash award, which Kipper said will go right back into the arts department and continue to build upon it.

"We have made a concerted effort to build these programs in a unique way," he said.

One way Mountain Pointe is doing that is through its new academies program that allows students to focus on a particular subject, whether it be business, culinary, or any of the arts, and take a progression of class levels in those subjects.

"We are trying to create smaller learning environments for the kids with more specific areas of study," Kipper said. "Whether they want to be a painter, chef or a computer person, that way we know they will be taking classes useful to them. The idea is that every kid has an individual learning plan."

Another thing the school is working on is what Kipper called "mini-classes" for freshmen who want to try a few different subjects. They can take what is proposed to be nine-week classes and switch to a different area.

Mountain Pointe won the Phoenix Mayor's Excellence in Arts Award last year, which qualified them to be in the running for the current award. Kipper said that each state put forth one or two applicants and Mountain Pointe was the only one from Arizona.

"It validates the hard work everyone has done to create these programs," Kipper said. "We look forward to bringing more options for our students."

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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