January 9, 2019

School Profiles of the Month – January – Alta Vista High School and Ajo Unified School District

Alta Vista High School is an alternative public charter school in Tucson. The school’s mission is to provide students a diverse education in an environment that ultimately promotes respect, self-discipline, creativity, academic excellence and service to the community.

Opened in 2003, the high school offers 480 students a quality education focusing on math, language arts, science and social studies with a unique block scheduling and evening classes to provide flexibility for a diverse group of scheduling needs for students.

“We have a lot of families that come to our doors and now, in our 15th year, I am getting students whose parents graduated from here,” said Alicia Alvarez, founding Principal at Alta Vista High School.

When you walk through the campus at Alta Vista, one feels the culture, community, and shared vision of all staff members.

Alvarez stressed the importance of students striving with structure and a safe learning environment at her campus as well as not losing sight of why the school exists, which is the focus of respect, responsibility, and preparing students to be successful.

Due to their exceptional results, the school has been awarded Results-Based Funding for the past two years.

Results-Based Funding provides additional dollars to Arizona’s best schools, with an emphasis on the top schools serving high poverty students. The policy incentivizes public schools – traditional district, magnet, and charter – to grow their impact and serve more students.

Results-Based Funding provides a boost to high achieving schools, with an additional $400 per pupil going to public schools with more than 60 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

Alta Vista used the funding to add five additional classrooms and reward teachers, said Alvarez.

Prior to the results-funding, students were bused to the local YMCA for art and physical education courses. With the results-funding, Alta Vista renovated a building next to the campus, adding a dance studio, art room, a weights and conditioning room, a dedicated room for English Language Learners, and a digital design class.

“It feels great to be recognized for the great work we are doing,” she said. “I know that my teachers are going to appreciate that as well.”

Alta Vista High School continues to prepare its students with educational opportunities to ultimately become successful and contributing residents in their community.

 

Nestled at the base of the Little Ajo Mountains is the town of Ajo and it’s two-school district, Ajo Unified School District. The Pima County town is home to less than 4,000 residents, but the rural district also serves dynamic communities including Ajo, Why, Lukeville, and the western regions of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The district has around 450 students in preschool to 12th-grade. Ajo was once a thriving mining town, but its population declined after the New Cornelia Mine closed in 1985. No matter the population size, Ajo Unified School District has shown continuous improvement while also preparing their students for success whether they choose college or career after graduation.

Ajo Unified School District offers students a balanced curriculum of academic and extracurricular activities. The district’s purpose is to prepare students to be successful in life, be active participants in a democratic society, rise to or exceed the next entry level of their education system, as well as maintaining and increasing their awareness of their cultural heritage and differences.

“For the last few years, we have been working with social/emotional learning and working on restorative practices,” said Lauren Carriere, Principal of Ajo High School and Ajo Elementary School.

The shift has allowed greater school connectedness, empathy and inclusivity, which Carriere described as a “game changer.”

Carriere said the Ajo community has also been very supportive of the school.

The district partnered with Desert Senita Community Health Center for four years to provide a school counselor for students two-days a week. Through budget increases, the district can now afford its own school counselor, but the “restorative practices” introduced by the Health Center’s counselor are still embraced by the district.

Ajo High School has also partnered with Pima Community College last year to implement Dual Enrollment classes to provide students the ability to earn college credit.

With a thriving school community and a focus on the whole child, the rural Ajo school district is one to watch!

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