Esperanza Elementary Principal Cheryl Greene, whose school received an A+ School of Excellence designation, last year introduced a new “faculty” member – a trained assistance dog.

Ahwatukee public schools have come up golden.

Three Ahwatukee schools are among the five in Kyrene School District that have been awarded A+ School of Excellence designations by the Arizona Education Foundation, while Mountain Pointe High was the only Tempe Union High School District school to get it.

In Kyrene, Colina, Esperanza and Sierra were named last week, as were Manitas in Tempe and Paloma in Chandler.

Kyrene was one of the few districts to have more than one school receive the designation last week and is one of the few districts to get so many designations in a single year in the foundation’s history. In all, 44 schools across the state received the A+ designation this year.

“We are very excited to receive the news that we are being recognized as an A+ School of Excellence,” said Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper.

“This only happens when staff, students, families and the community work together to assure that all students have the opportunity to receive a first-class education. Our goal is to assure all students are prepared for college, career and life. This recognition confirms we are on the right track,” he added, thanking students’ families for their support.

Cheryl Greene, principal of Esperanza, called this year’s designation a three-peat because it also received an A+ award in 1999 and 2012.

“My heartfelt thank you to our teachers, staff, students, parents, and community members for their support in helping us earn this important distinction,” Greene said.

At her own expense last year, Greene attended a two-week training in California to bring a highly trained assistance dog, named Bolt, to become a “facility dog” on her campus.

The dog, provided free of charge by an organization called Canine Companions for Independence.

“We thought that a facility dog can reach students in a unique and special way – helping children with emotional, social and behavioral challenges,” Greene told AFN last year. “Facility dogs by their mere presence help children stay on difficult tasks and increases their motivation to achieve.”

Kelley Bruner is principal of Colina. Sierra is led by Principal Lisa Connor.

“The A+ School of Excellence program celebrates outstanding schools throughout Arizona, calling attention to the positive stories and successes occurring in public schools,” said AEF Executive Director Bobbie O’Boyle.

“The application and evaluation process for this program is comprehensive and rigorous. We applaud these schools for exceeding expectations to meet their students’ needs and for achieving overall success despite the many challenges that face the education community statewide,” she added.

Schools are evaluated in the areas of student focus and support, school culture, active teaching and learning, curriculum, leadership, community and parent involvement and assessment data.

The evaluation includes an exhaustive visited by a team of trained judges and requires input from students, school and district personnel and community members.

Schools receive $500 and a banner designating them as an A+ School of Excellence winner.

All staff and their family members at the award-winning schools are eligible for partial scholarships from Argosy University Phoenix.

O’Boyle said the A+ recognition helps “increase confidence in Arizona’s public schools and create greater parent and community support.”

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