Tempe Union High School District administrators continue to explore the possibility of bringing a Montessori high school to the district. If their plans are eventually realized down the road, it would be the first such high school in Arizona.

At the district's governing board meeting on Jan. 11, Superintendent Kenneth Baca and a team of six administrators will present their observations from a recent trip to Ohio, where they toured and spoke with employees of a Montessori high school.

The goal of the trip, Baca said, was to look at several key components that would ultimately make a Montessori high school in TUHSD successful - components such as the collaboration with feeder middle schools that would allow for a seamless transition.

"Misconceptions were cleared (on the trip), questions were answered, and new questions have arisen," Baca said. "We went there wondering how exactly expanding the scope of a Montessori education into adolescence was done."

Now, Baca and the district want to investigate what it would take to make the school a truly community-based experience. He spoke of a possible partnership with Arizona State University and others to deliver a comprehensive Montessori education.

"There needs to be a partnership with ASU," he said. "More than that, it expands out to a partnership with the city and with different cultural centers."

A Montessori education differs from traditional schooling in that it encourages independency and entwines with a child's natural psychological development. At the early stages, such as in preschool and kindergarten, learning activities are hands-on and students learn intuitive problem-solving techniques.

Baca, in his first year as superintendent, comes from Phoenix Elementary, which had a Montessori school. He said that the interest level in such a school is what is motivating him to explore the option of adding a Montessori high school to TUHSD.

"I think our families have many choices, and I think that is part of our responsibility to provide options for them," he said. "There is the idea of filling a void within the community and it is an idea that is worth exploring. It is an opportunity to make our students more productive members of a global community."

Baca attributed that to the fact that a Montessori education is internationally known and that there are many international corporations right in TUHSD's backyard - Intel, Honeywell, and more.

"I also see it in terms of economic development because Montessori is internationally known," he said. "Companies and corporations in the East Valley, when they are looking to expand work force, it could wind up being a benefit if they are familiar with it."

The public is invited to attend the 6 p.m. governing board meeting on Wednesday to hear Baca and the rest of the administrators' findings from their trip. It will take place at the Tempe Union High School District Office, 500 W. Guadalupe Road.

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

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