Changes to be implemented gradually at Coronado High School

The Coronado Success Initiative aims to resolve failing students at Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

More than 100 days after presenting the grand idea of a Coronado Success Initiative — an overhaul of Scottsdale Unified School District’s lowest performing high school — an outline of what the Dons’ future looks like is beginning to take shape.

While teams of people are working to create a new reality for Coronado High School district officials say there won’t be a lot of large changes coming to the school next year.

Changes will be within the resources available to students, SUSD’s Dr. Cecilia Johnson said, during a May 9 SUSD governing board meeting, held at Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave.

With over 900 students planning to attend Coronado next year, the clock is ticking for some parents and teachers who are anxious to see what kinds of changes will be implemented, promised by the district earlier this year.

In January, Scottsdale’s Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell presented the governing board, district personnel and the public with changes which she deemed crucial, based on low test scores and graduation rates.

Coronado’s graduate rate was 65 percent in 2016, compared to the SUSD rate of 86 percent. Additionally, of the 402 SUSD graduates to enroll at Arizona State University in fall 2016, only 12 were from Coronado.

The district found partnership in the Scottsdale Charros and Arizona State University, and put a plan in place. A large community meeting was held on Jan. 21, before teacher interviews began in January.

Through a meeting with 60 students and meeting with English and Spanish speaking parents, one goal is desired: to graduate high school.

“I was astounded — and I know I shouldn’t have been — that the most consistent message from a parent is: I want my child to graduate from high school,” Dr. Birdwell said. “When we’re missing that one-third of the students, we need to listen to the parent’s voice and find the solution.”

What’s next

At the start of the CSI, Dr. Birdwell requested all 40 Coronado teachers and staff choose between staying at the school and going through an interview process to re-evaluate their position or, taking a position elsewhere in the district.

Dr. Denise Birdwell. (photo by Josh Martinez)

Along with staying at Coronado, teachers would be embarking on a process which included additional training, more hours and a stipend of $3,500 per semester.

Of 54 Coronado teachers interviewed, 34 were reportedly offered contracts. Six employees reportedly transferred from other schools, while 29 currently work at the campus.

Unfilled full time positions at Coronado are: one guidance counselor, one math, one science and one athletic director, although there are ongoing interviews, Dr. Johnson said.

Other new staff includes new principal Dr. Chris Gilmore to be leading the school next year. Dr. Gilmore has been meeting with the community already, according to Dr. Johnson, and has a goal of students being involved in three extracurricular activities.

Dr. Johnson says she would also like to have a person on campus working with the guidance counselor and helping students fill out college applications.

“If you’ve never done it before, it is daunting and overwhelming,” Dr. Johnson said. “So to be able to have a student come in and meeting with them, talk about college, help them understand steps in the process.”

New requirements for the CSI teachers includes staff professional development in June, having a laptop and creating a website, and two Saturday trainings per quarter.

“One of the priorities was to provide specific staff professional development, and pair teachers for that time that they’re coming,” Dr. Johnson explained.

Examples of providing support to teachers included bringing in experts to help teachers on a variety of topics from students in poverty, to working with data, and enhancing student engagement.

The initiative is being rolled out slowly, Dr. Johnson said, no grand plan will be unveiled.

From left, Allyson Beckham, Kim Hartmann, Pam Kirby and Barbara Perleberg, Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board May 9. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

“There are no changes next year as far as big changes — same school day, same courses,” she said. “There won’t be any big changes except, more tutoring opportunities, more professional development opportunities for teachers, mentoring opportunities.”

Dr. Johnson says the district is collecting all the data and input received at community meetings and working with ASU to find the big themes and ideas.

The Spanish-speaking parents have been a large part of the process, Dr. Amy Fuller said, with 70 parents attending a May 3 meeting.

“There were many reasons why we met with the Spanish speaking parents,” Dr. Fuller said. “No. 1, we wanted to inform them that SUSD cares about them. It cares enough to hire a bilingual person to meet their needs and serve them better.

“The second reason, among many others, we wanted to know their perceptions. Perception for a person is their reality, we wanted to know the positive perceptions they have about Coronado and the challenges they see.”

Dr. Fuller says she is fully up to the challenge of translating for a large group of parents, because it is their dream to see their child graduate.

“I’m translating everything — fear not, I have two Master’s because they said I couldn’t,” she said. “I am very capable of doing this, and I love it.”

The Coronado Success Initiative will continue progressing, says Dr. Birdwell, as she sees the plan as a two part process.

“The first is to identify what the challenges are for the learners and the parents,” she said. “The second phase, are the teachers looking at those challenges and re-thinking how they have answered those challenges.”

Coronado’s success has continued to decline over the years, and it is time to re-evaluate how things have been done, the school leader says. Dr. Birdwell presented the question, are there better solutions to the challenges the students face?

“So those are the conversations they will be having throughout the year, and as soon as they get resolution to those I image they will be anxious to get those implemented,” Dr. Birdwell said.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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