My wife and I moved to Ahwatukee in 1988 because of the Kyrene School District. Our two sons are thriving as professionals in mechanical engineering and data science due to the excellent educational foundation they received in Kyrene schools. Today’s students deserve no less.
The simple answer to the question: Yes, I believe Kyrene is doing the best it can with inadequate funding and resources to prepare students for high school and adult life. The latest parent satisfaction surveys glow with support for the job being done in Kyrene.
Current Kyrene School Board members and administrators point to successes in all corners of the district: A new strategic plan, themed schools that provide parents with educational choices and even programs that help support the social and emotional wellbeing of students.
A recent board meeting had more positive news. There’s a plan to sell voter-approved bonds this fall to help with certain district expenses for the next few years. Additionally, data on teacher retention shows Kyrene faring better than average with some 86 percent of the teachers from 2017 still working today.
But, like any employee evaluation, there’s always room for improvement. Kyrene is changing and it needs to embrace and utilize its community in ways that build respect, trust and inclusion. All voices matter as we charge forward into an uncertain future.
Arizona public schools have lost $4.6 billion in funding since 2009. Kyrene is not “rich” anymore. Administrators joked about balancing the 2018-2019 budget with just $4,000 to spare. Staff has been reduced. Teachers complain about resources and class sizes even while enrollment continues to decline.
Kyrene is changing in other ways. It’s becoming more diverse. Teacher ranks are less experienced. There’s grumbling about neighborhood schools being recast as specialized academies to compete with private and charter schools. Some parents crisscross the district taking their kids and support with them.
Meanwhile, recent AzMERIT test scores run contrary to the positive parent surveys. Results for 2018 show pockets of improvement in Kyrene. But results at many schools were flat or lower than 2017, and a significant achievement gap remains for minority students.
Success dealing with such issues is more likely when an entire community unites around a we’re-all-in-this-together attitude. And building that attitude and inclusive atmosphere begins with the school board.
It should be open to new ideas about funding, teacher support and community engagement.
Those with different opinions should be respected. Board documents not covered by privacy laws should be more readily available.
All meetings should be held in rooms large enough to accommodate visitors. And some meetings should be held in schools closer to those who might want to participate.
None of this should be difficult or costly to achieve. But all of it – and more – can renew the Kyrene magic built over 130 years of community service. There are reasons we all live here. Let’s not forget the most important one: quality schools. Doing so will ensure all our students are on the right track.