November 30, 2018

School Profiles of the Month – November – Snowflake Unified School District and Reyes Maria Ruiz Leadership Academy

Founded in 1878, Snowflake is a small town of about 5,000 residents tucked away in the White Mountains of Navajo County. Students at Snowflake Unified School District truly experience the four seasons of the year as well as an exceptional education.

Snowflake High School, now an ‘A’-rated school, opened in 1888 to provide local residents a high school education. The district eventually added an elementary school, a primary school, two intermediate schools and a junior high school. Today the district serves around 2,600 K-12 students.

With four of the six schools earning an ‘A’ letter grade this year, the school district is fulfilling its vision to provide a quality education to every student.

Staff believes every student can learn by establishing a foundation for life-long learning to benefit all, said district superintendent, Hollis Merrell. He said that its people who make the difference and that the district has been fortunate in being able to find quality people to put in their classroom to do what’s best for their students. The district has become a leader in providing excellence in the school setting along embracing the culture of their communities to ultimately prepare their students to become successful in their future endeavors.

One of the unique programs Snowflake High School provides is called “Reteach” also known as the “Modified 5-day schedule.” This allows teacher’s four days of instruction and Friday’s are used to reteach lessons for students who need additional help.

“We feel that that is one of the programs that has propelled our high school to be an ‘A’ school,” Merrell said.

Merrell said that the district is not comfortable with the status quo. Shortly after finding out the 2017-2018 letter grades, principals and staff had a training to discuss ways of improving to reach all of their students.

“You can never say that you have arrived because there is another student you can help improve,” he said.

That comment rings true to many school leaders in Arizona and Snowflake Unified School District continues to be an extraordinary school district to follow and learn from in Northern Arizona.

At Reyes Maria Ruiz Leadership Academy, the mission statement is noted throughout the campus instilling and forming intellectual, virtuous, and loving student leaders who in turn form other leaders to build spirit in their families and communities.

Reyes Maria Ruiz Leadership Academy was founded on the vision to provide the best education possible for children in low-income areas.

“You cannot achieve that dream without incredible people who run the schools, the principals, the school leaders, vice principals, assistant school leaders, teachers especially, parents, kids… they are the ones that make it happen,” said Armando Ruiz, Reyes Maria founder and Board Chair of Espiritu Community Development Corp.

The 15-acre campus serves well over 500 K-6 students.

At a recent Arizona State Board for Charter Schools meeting, Academy principal Adam Sharp, discussed the recipe of their success in South Phoenix over the past few years. He said it starts with their mission and a culture of high expectations built on trust.

The school provides a lot of coaching with their teachers and empower their teachers to lead others. Reyes Maria Ruiz soared from a ‘B’-rating to an ‘A’-rating for the 2017-2018 school year. Due to their brilliant results, the school was awarded over $212,000 in Results-Based Funding last year as well as over $40,000 in Early Literacy Grants to improve reading proficiency. Reyes Maria Ruiz Leadership Academy continues to shine in South Phoenix by providing students with a quality education.

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