Each year, over the summer, I reflect upon the successes of the previous year, and also the next steps in our journey forward to excellence. This past year has provided us with significant examples from which our community can be very proud. We successfully opened our ninth school, Wrightson Ridge K-8 School, in January. Last November, the voters in Sahuarita USD passed the renewal of the Maintenance & Operations (M&O) override by the largest margin in recent history. These local dollars support specific programs that directly enrich the education of our students, and I am so grateful. These programs include band, orchestra, choral music, dance, drama, athletics, physical education, professional guidance counselors, and NJROTC leadership programs. Our 464 high school graduates from the Class of 2019 at Sahuarita HS and Walden Grove HS earned about $8.5 million in merit scholarships for higher education and professional training. They were accepted to over forty (40) postsecondary institutions. We launched a brand new mathematics adoption, focused upon instruction at a deeper level of mathematical understanding and application, aligned with 21st Century proficiencies and readiness. The preliminary indication is that our District Assessment Plan (DAP) suggests a fourteen percent (14%) increase in the number of students meeting and exceeding math standards. This adoption was made possible by the support of the District Additional Assistance (DAA) override.
Our students earned State and National recognition for excellence, including State championships in wrestling, drama, NJROTC, dance, and student council, to name a few. And, we all remember with great pride watching the Sahuarita community shine brightly on national TV last fall, when our own PAC Dance Team achieved excellence by making it to the semifinals of the NBC talent show, Americas Got Talent, and performed on Good Morning America. Our staff likewise shined brightly in excellence, earning State recognition, including honors like AZ School Counselor of the Year (Candice Alvarez), and Top 10 Semifinalist for AZ Teacher of the Year (Ben Lebovitz).
In my mind, our secret to success has a three-prong recipe. First, we strive to hire and keep the best people possible. This means folks who are high-quality professionals at what they do, but also people who have a tireless commitment to continuous growth and serving our students with excellence. Second, we value the spirit of community, common ground, and development of cross-sector collaboration that makes the entire community better in every way. Finally, we are relentlessly committed to the belief that public education is about meeting the individualized needs of each student through instructional expertise, program structure, and professional development.
This new school year is already bringing great promise for continued excellence and student success. First, after a year-long program adoption process, we will be launching a brand new program adoption in social studies for grades 6-12. Second, in partnership with Pima JTED and Pima Community College, we’re expanding dual enrollment offerings in career and technical education (CTE), and starting a new program in heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), leading to industry level certifications and entry-level employability. There will be a new high school CTE program in biotechnology. We’ll be expanding our internship program, in partnership with the Jim Click Automotive Group, which is hiring four more of our students in automotive technology through Jobs For Progress. Finally, I’m proud to share that our partnership with the University of Arizona College of Education, through the iCats and Sahuarita Teaching Fellows (STF), has yielded signs of mutually beneficial outcomes. This teacher professional training program has supported the hiring of six (6) new members of Team SUSD!
In summary, we continue to see, all around us, tangible signs of forward motion in our critical mission of student success. The common element is the spirit of community, shared sacrifice, and cross-sector commitment to make our part of the world the absolute best that it can be. This special attribute is powerful, and provides us much reason to be thankful for the past, and even more excited about the promise of the future. Together, we will continue to make a difference!
Manuel O. Valenzuela, Ed.D.