Four schools in Ahwatukee last week received an A+ School of Excellence award, which the Arizona Educational Foundation gives annually to schools that have passed a rigorous application process touching on all facets of their operation.
Three Kyrene schools and their principals were honored and Desert Vista High School received its second A+ award, joining Mountain Pointe and McClintock as Tempe Union district schools that have been twice honored by the foundation. Christine Barela is principal of Desert Vista.
The winning Kyrene schools and principals are: Kyrene de la Estrella, Michael Lamp; Kyrene de los Cerritos, Darcy DiCosmo; and Kyrene de los Lagos Dual Language Academy, Dr. Ana Gomez del Castillo.
Schools that apply for the award are evaluated on student focus and support, school culture, active teaching and learning, curriculum, leadership, community and parent involvement and assessment data.
Schools receive $500 and a banner designating them as an A+ School of Excellence™ winner. All staff and faculty at the schools also are eligible for partial scholarships from Argosy University Phoenix. The award is valid for three and a half years.
Recognition through the A+ School of Excellence™ program can help increase confidence in Arizona’s public schools and create greater parent and community support, the foundation said.
A total of 14 of Kyrene’s 25 schools are now A+ Schools of Excellence. In Ahwatukee, the others include Akimel A-al and Altadeña middle schools as well as Esperanza, Cerritos, and Monte Vista Elementary schools.
The judges were effusive in their praise for the three Kyrene schools that won.
“The teachers were focused and set on ensuring that all students were being challenged to think and perform at high levels,” they said of Cerritos, calling it “a shining example of what happens when everyone works together to achieve their goal of making it a place where every student is a leader.”
Of Lagos, another panel said: “Principal Dr. Ana Gomez de Castillo’s passion and commitment to empower teachers, shared leadership style and willingness to do “what’s best for kids” is evident throughout campus. She has clearly built a welcoming environment with a positive culture where students, staff, parents and community members feel like family and there is a sense of pride and togetherness.”
The judges said, “The staff at Estrella is committed to providing rigorous instruction, culturally responsive teaching and authentic teacher/student relationships that support the learning potential of every student. ... Support systems were in place for all learners and were evident through classroom observations.”