Coronado Success Initiative begins to bear fruit at Scottsdale Schools

A wall within Coronado High School dons secondary education and post-graduation options. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

The school year is nearing its halfway point and Coronado High School’s students and faculty members appear to be adjusting to the number of changes that have come with the Coronado Success Initiative.

During a Tuesday, Dec. 12 Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meeting district officials presented an update on the schoolwide initiative that overhauled the campus at 7501 E. Virginia Ave.

Last spring information presented by district leadership and Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell pointed to an underperforming school with few college-or career-ready students.

Principal Christopher Gilmore says his students aren’t just meeting their new expectations, but exceeding them.

“You raise the bar for the students, or you put that challenge in front of students, and they’re going to take it,” Mr. Gilmore said in a Dec. 13 phone interview. “You give them that opportunity, that time, that mentorship and that guidance.”

The school has two-thirds new staff — about 40 of 60 people — including a new principal at the helm.

Mr. Gilmore hit the ground running at Coronado, beginning work months before the school year began. The hard work is paying off, school officials content.

Just weeks before winter break begins, all 228 seniors have filled out at least one college application, Dr. Amy Fuller told the Governing Board on Dec. 12. More Coronado seniors are applying to the three big in-state universities this year, also, Mr. Gilmore pointed out.

Coronado High School Principal, Chris Gilmore. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

Numbers provided by the principal show that 93 students have applied to ASU, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona as of Dec. 1, compared to 57 at the same time last year.

Additionally, the school has set a new district record notching the most graduates, 91, from Arizona State University’s American Dream Academy. The academy is a parent-centered, eight-week program offered through ASU at various schools throughout the Valley.

Overall, the focus at Coronado is personal and academic growth for its students, Dr. Fuller noted.

When the CSI started last spring community partnerships between SUSD and the Scottsdale Charros, Scottsdale Community College, ASU and others, were the bedrock of the overhaul. The program now has 17 partners, Dr. Fuller said.

The partnerships with different entities around town have allowed the school to bring in speakers, professional development experts, community engagement and kick-off a mentor program.

On Nov. 1, the school hosted a college and career day where each grade level participated in their own activity. East Valley Institute of Technology, SCC and ASU representatives were all on campus that day, Dr. Fuller noted.

On Sept. 26 and Nov. 7, the school hosted FAFSA nights where 25-30 families filled out the financial aid paperwork. Another FAFSA night will be held at Coronado on Jan. 25.

Biology students hosted a genetic disease science fair on Dec. 14 at Coronado High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

The school has also set a goal to lower the ratio of students per teacher. They are attempting to achieve this by utilizing ASU’s iTeach program with student teachers.

“The goal for CSI on ASU iTeach was to lower the ratio of students per teacher,” Dr. Fuller explained. “We have 19 interns or student teachers. On some days of the week our ratio goes down to 13 students per one teacher.”

Speakers that have been booked at the school include Scottsdale Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Jim Ford, Andre Watkins, research supervisor with Mayo Clinic, and the Women’s Leadership Speakers Panel.

Mr. Gilmore says the biggest challenge is having such a majority of new staff.

“I guess the challenge is we have a new staff. We are getting to know each other and we’re getting to know the students — that’s the most important thing,” he explained. “Everyone is kind of learning together. No one is afraid to not ask a question because everyone is new pretty much, but those that are here have really been helpful.”

After returning from winter break in January, the students and faculty will continue to focus on their English, math and science departments, Mr. Gilmore says.

“We’re working with our English, math and science departments right now to do more strategic interventions after school,” he said. “Our goal is to target the student’s weakness strategically, that’s why we call it strategic intervention, and get the students back up on par so they can be on grade level by doing that after-school tutoring.”

Mr. Gilmore says a Tonalea Night, an AP Night, a CTE Night and the ACT test are all on the docket for next spring. The school is looking at a adding a number of career and technical education programs in the future, he explained.

“That’s coming out of the gates in January and February for us right now,” Mr. Gilmore said.

“We also have in February, all of the students at Coronado are going to be taking the ACT test. That’s really exciting for us.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.