Nearly 150 attendees from students to the mayor of Scottsdale came together at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center Jan. 21 to discuss the realities Scottsdale Unified School District is facing at Coronado High School and its subsequent feeder schools.
The effort to reignite the Coronado Complex is the result of district officials engaging local nonprofit entity, the Scottsdale Charros and Arizona State University in finding a solution to the large population of non-college or career ready students graduating from CHS.
The event was planned after Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell and Dr. Cecilia Johnson announced turn-around plans at a Jan. 12 governing board study session.
According to Dr. Birdwell, statistics show very few Coronado students are taking ACT or SAT tests; or taking AP courses and AP exams.
The event was uniquely visual, according to one parent in attendance, who felt this exercise was trying to involve new blood.
“In my personal view, this whole exercise is trying to involve someone different,” said Scottsdale Schools parent, Edmond Richard in a Jan. 24 phone interview.
The Coronado Success Initiative, as it’s been coined, will be Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton College of Teachers’ first design within a new innovation engine.
From a parent
On the morning of Saturday, Jan. 21, Mr. Richard arrived at SkySong with a number of other parents, students, city council members, the mayor, district officials and community members.
Upon arrival, each guest’s photo was taken to be placed on a timeline, showing how long each person has been invested in the city.
Each person was assigned a table, according to Mr. Richard, who’s table was in the front row. The other dignitaries at his table included a Coronado High School graduate, a guidance counselor from Coronado, the vice president of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the Scottsdale Community College president, a member of the Charros, and two parents who were absent.
“ASU is trying to get additional voices that is not heard often to steer the conversation,” Mr. Richard contends.
The room was arranged so that teachers, district officials and city officials, who are often in these types of conversation were placed in the back of the room, said Mr. Richard.
“Dr. Birdwell speaks,” says Mr. Richard. “She didn’t give a boring slide show presentation, she made it very visual.”
Dr. Birdwell created a standing demonstration slowly eliminating bodies by telling them to sit back down, until only a handful of people remained standing in which she described as the problem happening at Coronado High School.
Other activities at the event led to the conclusion that there needs to be a support structure within the school, said Mr. Richard.
“That was the biggest thing I got was they saw that Coronado as it exists doesn’t give them any sort of support,” explained Mr. Richard. “Kids who were successful from ASU or what not, they all mentioned that they were mentored to be a part of a group.”
One goal identified is to try and “bridge the gap” to find solutions for students who aren’t being exposed to a mentor, said Mr. Richard.
“One thing everyone was working on was accountability,” he said.
Leaving the event, Mr. Richard says he felt quite positive, and believes this event was a great initial start.
Finding a place to start
Associate Dean of Scholarship and Professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, Punya Mishra, is charged with leading the design team working with the district.
When first meeting, Mr. Mishra says district officials expressed that college preparedness and job preparedness of the students wasn’t where they would like it to be. One district concern, he said, was how the district can make quality education more relevant to its communities.
“These problems don’t have obvious and easy solutions,” said Mr. Mishra in a Jan. 30 phone interview.
“Talking about looking outside in, whatever needs to happen at the school needs to be driven by the need, intention and urgency of all the people involved. That includes administration, teachers, students and members of the community.”
Mr. Mishra says that’s how the idea for, with funding from The Charro Foundation, a year-long project with the district and CHS in particular was developed, “to rethink what Coronado can be.”
“Now that we had this kind of highly energetic meeting on the 21st, and there’s a lot of excitement there, we’d like to build on that excitement to identify five or seven issues that we would want to work on,” said Mr. Mishra.
Mr. Mishra says members of his team identified key problems at the SkySong event to begin working on throughout the next year.
“This next year is really a process of ideas and trying out different solutions to come up with some kind of plan, which over the next couple of years the high school will benefit from,” he said. “This is not as much a facilitation as much as engaging a systematic and opened ended process.”
Areas such as school improvement or figuring out how to engage students are difficult to navigate through, said Mr. Mishra.
“That’s where I think dialogue, conversation and design thinking becomes a way of arriving at a consensus of what we need to do,” he said.
Scottsdale Schools and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College have a long standing history, said Mr. Mishra, with interns and masters students. The plan includes enrolling student teachers at Coronado High School in future years.
The Scottsdale Charros have been supporting the Scottsdale Unified School District for the past 30 years, said Charros Education Committee Chair Rick Carpinelli.
Over the last five decades, the Scottsdale Charros and The Charro Foundation have donated millions of dollars back to the community through grants and donations to local charities and schools, students and teachers in the Scottsdale Unified School District, according to the Charros’ website. In 2015 the Scottsdale Charros awarded more than $500,000 to local charities, schools and in college scholarships and fellowships.
“The Charros helped to conceptualize and organize the Coronado Success Initiative,” said Mr. Carpinelli in a Feb. 1 written response to e-mailed questions.
“We have committed to funding the initial seed money for the design being conducted by ASU and for additional training that will be needed for teaching staff prior to next school year.”
The Charros will be a support system for the needs identified during the design process, said Mr. Carpinelli. The plan is to commit manpower to mentor students and parents and find opportunities for life, skill and job training.
“Maybe most importantly, each of the Scottsdale Charros are actively involved in both civic and business matters within our city. We will provide support for the initiative and will seek and find support for the initiative as needed.”