We moved to Arizona for health reasons, but we chose Cottonwood for the school, for the educational opportunities that we didn’t have back home.
The name of the school is American Heritage Academy. It is a charter school known for its emphasis on our nation’s founding values.
And the teachers of AHA do something else; they don’t just stress academics, but they also stress Citizenship, Leadership and Service; and they reward these values when observed in the students.
My wife and I are the parents of four of these students. Formerly we, (mainly “she”), homeschooled our little ones in Michigan before coming here. With some trepidation, we handed the job over to AHA in August of last year.
Now that the year has come to a close, we couldn’t be happier. We feel like recipients of an uncommon measure of grace. A warm and caring family atmosphere it has become .. a great fit ... more was offered that wasn’t offered in Michigan. Teachers, all dedicated, of exemplary character, friendly, the kind of people you want influencing the next generation.
But why could they do all this, and our public school in Michigan not? Not only has Arizona been at the bottom for teacher pay (like 48th in the nation), but charter schools in Arizona receive even less state monies than their public counterparts, and with no ability to bring in more revenue through local ballot resolutions.
So for funding, I suppose you could say American Heritage Academy is the bottom of the bottom. Coming from Michigan, with a state education system that is better-funded than Arizona, we asked ourselves, “How can this little school do so much more with so much less?” My answer, “I don’t know how, but they do!”
I’m writing this little piece to say two things:
First, with the recent “Red for Ed” funding push now over, let us not become complacent and fall for the fallacy that “more money in education automatically equals a better education for our kids.” Small schools often do more with less -- Case in point: AHA, a visible proof of their dedication and commitment.
In our local Michigan school district, where teachers are paid much more on average (about 38 percent), the opportunities offered us were significantly less than here in Arizona where under-funded charter schools innovate and thrive.
Even more interesting is that homeschools in many states receive ZERO public funds for education, and yet the quality of the education these schools provide, and the exemplary young citizens they produce, speaks for itself.
Second, if you live in Cottonwood, and your family is important to you, you owe it to yourself to check out this school and what it has to offer.
By doing so, you will be supporting this community gem. And perhaps in the process, you will find that academics is not king, but character is. And this is what we need.
May I close with a sincere word of thanks to two groups. First to the school and the teachers and the administration we love, “Thank you for doing such a great job. You are loved in return by this family. Thank you Mrs. Pringle, Ms. Laurie, Mr. Bazzill, and Mr. Freeman, and Miss Gressley.” You will be remembered in our prayers.
And thanks to you the taxpayers of Arizona who shoulder this burden of education, among many needs. You have given this one family and this one community of Cottonwood a great gift. Down the road may you bear a sweet harvest from this plant that grows in your back yard.