Data and individual performance will steer academic improvement under Scott Jacobson, Clarkdale-Jerome School's new principal.
"It's really important in this day and age to create a database and continue it every single year so you can track the school and individual kids as well," Jacobson said.
He's made this his first, main priority since taking over half of a position that Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor formerly occupied. Many schools don't have the resources to pursue performance data at an individual level, he said.
Overall data is available from the Arizona Department of Education, and entering individual scores will help teachers see specific areas for improvement.
"That's important because a student may do well, but there may be that one area that they need some work on," Jacobson said. "Keeping track of that over time would just be great."
Clarkdale-Jerome has received a fairly consistent B ranking from the ADE.
"I would love to get us up to an A," he said. "That's an ultimate goal."
He's planning to use this first year as principal to learn as much as possible about the school's strengths and weaknesses before working with teachers to "fine-tune" programs.
"I'm going into a very good, stable situation in Clarkdale," he said.
Jacobson earned his biology degree from the University of Wyoming. Teaching graduate biology labs got him interested in becoming an educator. After moving back home and getting married, he began taking courses at George Mason University.
The Fairfax County public school system hired him as an IT professional and keyboarding teacher. Three years later, he was teaching biology to middle schoolers.
He moved to Payson and taught math to junior high students at Pine Strawberry Elementary for six years.
"Two years into Pine Strawberry, my principal-superintendent came up to me and asked if I wanted to be an administrator," Jacobson said. "I'd kind of reached the point where I thought, 'let's give that a try.'"
He went to the University of Phoenix to earn both his administrative degree and superintendent certification, and became assistant principal to Pine Strawberry's 128 students for a year and a half.
"Everyone would chip in and it was a great experience because I've been exposed to a lot of different roles," Jacobson said. "The schools I was teaching at in Virginia were about 1,200, so I've had experience at both extremes."
Jacobson moved to Cottonwood with his wife, Mary, and 6-year-old son, Aztlan, who is enrolled as a first grader at Clarkdale-Jerome School.
"I've had to go through it and do the paperwork for my son, so it's kind of a new process for me," he said.
He also packed up a hobby of 20 fish tanks that hold hundreds of freshwater tropical fish. When he's not at school, he fills his time with trips to South America, memberships in national conservation groups and, now, fishing the Verde River.
"You have to find a balance in your life, and if you don't, you're eventually going to get worn down," Jacobson said. "School is a wonderful thing but you can't eat, drink and live your work your entire life. I can go into my fish room for about 30 minutes and kind of lose myself."
Clarkdale-Jerome begins classes Aug. 7.By Yvonne Gonzalez
School starts Aug. 7 for the Clarkdale-Jerome School's 450 students.
In addition to birth certificates, immunization records and proof of residency, parents should attend the appropriate open house for their students.
Kindergarteners will have theirs Aug. 6 at 11 a.m. so students and parents alike can acquaint themselves with the school, said Principal Scott Jacobson.
His son Aztlan started kindergarten last year, and Jacobson said the open house can help parents and students ease into the process.
"Usually the kids take it a lot better than the parents," he said. "The parents are the ones in tears when they leave. You see your kid go off to school for the first time and you get all emotional."
Middle schoolers can attend their open house from 6 to 7 p.m. after their first day of classes, and first through fifth graders have theirs a week later. Families will see a PowerPoint presentation with information for the coming year, go to their students' classrooms, and visit the teachers.
"Support staff will stay behind and answer some questions," Jacobson said. "Especially with Common Core, that's going to have a great deal of questions."
A class list will be available either Aug. 1 or 2, and parents can stop in or call the school to find out what supplies their child needs.