Scottsdale’s Supai, Tonalea merger to be voted on June 30

SUSD Governing Board Sign

The Governing Board Room at Coronado High School is at 7501 E. Virginia Ave. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board has agreed to move forward with the administrative recommendation to merge two of its schools together — a move officials there say will improve academics and allow room for growth.

Following a public hearing Monday, June 20 to hear statements for-and-against the closing of Supai Middle School, and creating a new kindergarten through eighth grade school, the board unanimously approved a motion to place the item on a June 30 special meeting agenda.

The public hearing, held at Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave., resulted in a mere two parents speaking to show their support in the decision to merge the two schools.

District leadership is recommending implementing the new school on the Supai campus, 6720 E. Continental Drive, under the name Tonalea K-8.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell presented to the board and the few parents in attendance two slides with the district leadership’s recommendation and proposed goals they hope to achieve over the next 12 months. Such goals included:

  • Consistency in Professional Development;
  • Academic Accountability K-12;
  • Continuity between grade level and standards;
  • All day preschool in Coronado complex;
  • Pilot 8th grade transition program at Oak;
  • Parent based programs for academic success;
  • K-12 first generation college education.

In addition, Tonalea Elementary is full to capacity right now. By combining the two schools, there is still room to grow, according to Dr. Birdwell.

“We have had two parent forums where we spoke about the academic achievement in the Coronado Complex. The need is to really create the consistency,” said Dr. Birdwell at the public hearing.

The previous parent forums, held May 25 and June 1, gave Dr. Birdwell an additional chance to reach parents and discuss the low test scores being received within the Coronado Complex for several years.

Using third, fourth and fifth grade AIMS scores from 2010-14, and the 2015 AzMERIT scores, Dr. Birdwell has evaluated how poorly the Tonalea’s students are performing. The school’s reading test scores fell below the state average all but two years.

“The continuity between grade levels and standards, which is critical particularly when you have gaps in learning,” said Dr. Birdwell at the June 20 hearing.

“You’re able to look at where the gaps are, go back and recapture and reteach some of the areas that may have been lost by the students as they’ve been coming through the system.”

Governing Board member Kim Hartmann expressed her support for the merger and the creation of a new school.

“I was at the other meetings and have talked to many parents … your goals are my goals,” said Ms. Hartmann. “It’s the reason why I’m on this school board. It’s about paying it forward.”

Ms. Hartmann applauded Dr. Birdwell for her presentation identifying seven key areas to improve upon.

“It really is about doing each of those to the best of our ability, and the results will be academic achievement,” said Ms. Hartmann. “We want success for each of our students in this district, so I’m very supportive of it.”

Governing Board President Bonnie Sneed said the low turnout of parents does not necessarily mean parents had not previously voiced their opinions.

“My perception is that few parents turned out at the meeting last night because they had already participated in two prior public meetings with Dr. Birdwell and administration,” said President Sneed in a June 21 e-mailed response to questions.

“They already been given opportunities to voice their opinions and concerns previously, either at the meetings or through email or phone calls to the interim superintendent or board members.”

The June 30 special meeting is to be 5 p.m. in the Board Room at Coronado High School, 7501  E. Virginia.

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.

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