Welcome to Paradise!
By Marty Macurak
Paradise Valley Unified School District
MISSION The mission of the Paradise Valley Unified School District is to cultivate, lead and inspire world-class innovative thinkers and expert communicators through a focus on the relationship between educator and student built around challenging, meaningful and engaging curriculum.
VISION The Paradise Valley Unified School District will be the national leader in setting high standards for student achievement in a college-ready environment that instills a sense of community. All students will acquire a thirst for learning through challenging and engaging content that is individually crafted to propel them into the 21st century confident, poised and prepared with skills that will endure the test of time and ensure individual success.
Members of the Desert Ridge Community have the good fortune to be in the Paradise Valley Unified School District – PV Schools for short – one of the state’s largest and most respected public K-12 districts.
PV Schools offers individualized instruction, challenging coursework, and a wide array of academic and extracurricular programs for parents and students. Students have the option to open-enroll in the school that best suits their learning style, academic interests and priorities. Pre-K programs introduce the littlest learners to language, math and science with a hands-on, experiential approach. The district has 30 elementary schools offering free, full-day kindergarten and an extended school day for grade 1-6. Eight middle schools host grades 7 and 8, and six high schools serve grades 9 through 12. The schools in the immediate area of Desert Ridge are Fireside, Desert Trails and Wildfire elementary, Explorer Middle School, and Pinnacle High school.
“The Desert Ridge community is ideally situated to access almost all of our schools,” says district administrator Marty Macurak. “Every school has a unique academic approach, leadership style and culture – and for parent and student our customers, it’s all about choice.” The district is an Arizona Online Instruction provider with pvOnline, offering even more learn-as-you-go flexibility for busy K-12 students. Many students use a combination of in-school and online coursework to pick up knowledge in special areas or to graduate early.
Education programs and choices in the district include K-12 International Baccalaureate; Core Knowledge®; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; a wide variety of Gifted models, including Gifted pre-K, Gifted digital learning centers and early graduation options; and special education services, fine arts focused programs, career and technical education, before- after-school enrichment, and AIA athletics and extracurricular activities. Special Education programs serve students with a variety of physical and intellectual abilities.
“We also have some new public charter schools,” says Macurak, “including Fireside Elementary in the Desert Ridge community, which houses a Gifted Education preschool and K-6 program.” Fireside also has the distinction of being the district’s newest school, with sustainable energy return systems that are incorporated into the school’s science instruction programs. The two-story, 88,664-square-foot building uses reclaimed water for irrigation among other features, and harvests nearly as much energy and water as it consumes.
As a district charter school, Fireside maintains all the programs and benefits of participation in the PV Schools district while receiving additional funding to support its specialty programs.
School leadership — the key to success
Ask any parent or professional educator, and they’ll agree: school leadership is a critical component of school and student success. (The other big piece is, you guessed it, parent participation). For the 2013-14 school year beginning August 8, the PV schools in the Desert Ridge area feature a mix of district veteran principal-achievers and lauded newcomers.
Desert Trails Elementary
Sheri Duggan brings to Desert Trails administrative experience in a preK-8th grade setting and many different classroom experiences both in Arizona and for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools overseas. Her instructional experience includes pre-K through elementary, and as a Reading Specialist and Gifted Specialist (Honors).
Dr. Drew Davis continues to lead the Fireside school community following the 2012 opening of the district’s newest school. Davis has a reputation for enthusiasm and positive support for students and staff.
Sherry Stillman began her tenure at Wildfire Elementary last year, after Dr. Troy Bales moved to Pinnacle High School. Stillman’s focus is parent involvement in support of academic achievement, and she brings a solid understanding of the new Common Core curriculum to the students at Wildfire.
Explorer Middle School
Barbara Newman is new to Explorer Middle School and the district this year, bringing unique skills in instructional strategies to a school that’s known for innovative use of technology. Newman returns to the Desert Ridge area professionally after having lived in the community before becoming an administrator of a K-8 school in central Phoenix.
Pinnacle High School
Dr. Troy Bales is a district veteran, most recently winning the respect of students and parents for leading academic excellence at Wildfire Elementary School. Bales’ accomplishments in his inaugural year at Pinnacle include an innovative use of instructional resources and the continuance of the schools “Best of” ranking by Newsweek and US News and World Reports’ annual school ranking issues.
The technology district – 21st century skills
PV Schools has a statewide reputation for excellence in the use of instructional technology, including an IT director who sits on the governor’s school technology advisory panel. Among its unique and innovative programs, the district uses WebEx technology to allow a group of National Honor Society high school students to tutor and mentor peers and younger students online at home. Students use online audio/video and content sharing applications to communicate and share documents.
PV Schools was the first K-12 in the country to join the high-tech National Lambda Rail and has established partnerships with universities for staff professional development, instructional content development, and instructional activities for students. National Lambda Rail is the ultra high-performance test-bed for advanced research at more than 280 universities nationwide.
Four Paradise Valley students (elementary, middle and high school) were invited to present to an Arizona statewide consortium of chief technology officers and educational technology leaders about the district’s pilot of Google Chromebooks. PV Schools was one of the first districts in the country to adopt cloud-based Google Apps for Education. Students work on the same systems being used by ASU, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University.
The district is also one of five national Premier Education Customers of Cisco. In this partnership, Cisco provides engineering support and cutting-edge network gear.
School starts August 8
Whether it’s one of the five great “home” schools in the Desert Ridge community or another district school nearby, PV Schools welcomes and encourages parents to investigate to find the best fit for your unique child. Visit pvschools.net for more information or call 602-449-2000 to learn more about the options.
One more reason that Welcome to Desert Ridge means Welcome to Paradise.