Local schools update Big Park Council
Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District Report (SOCUSD)
Mr. Randy Hawley Board President reported that the West Sedona School held its Fall Fundraising Festival October 2. They had a very good turnout with lots of games and activities and delicious authentic Mexican food. He then recognized the SOCUSD Business Office noting that they received an achievement of excellence award in financial reporting from the National Government Financial Office Association. A major focus for the schools is participation in a nationwide program (WestEd) to help improve and diversify instruction and to increase student engagement.
There is a school district “Love Our Schools” initiative on November 3rd, the purpose being to encourage the community and schools to work together on a variety of projects. Mr. Hawley noted that since the previous Superintendent Denny Dearden came into the district 5 years ago, he changed the focus, organization, and some personnel to provide greater opportunities for students.
The new Superintendent, Tom Swaninger will continue to move the district forward and Mr. Hawley is proud to be a part of these efforts. He emphasized that Arizona is 49th in the United States, in educational funding. The Budget Override vote is November 7th. Override funds are used for elementary and secondary music programs, physical education and full-day kindergarten. The school uses these funds to hire three guidance counselors for the district. A yes vote will keep override funding at 2018 levels and not increase taxes.
Verde Valley School Report (VVS)
Dr. Benjamin Lee, Head of School, noted that the VVS, established in 1948, recently celebrating their 75th anniversary. There are 116 students attending this year, 42 day and 74 boarding students including 22 exchange students from their partner school in Shanghai, China.
One of the five founding principles of VVS is service to others, and the school partnered with Manzanita Outreach to pack 1350 snack boxes for distribution to schools throughout the Verde Valley. The school’s commitment to hunger issues continues with their maintenance of the Desert Star Food Pantry and participation in the Green Bag program for families in the area. The concept of community extends beyond the school facilities to a two-acre organic farm on campus. Produce from the farm is eaten at the school and sold at farmer’s markets. A recent community event involved milling mesquite seed pods and selling jam, herbs, and other products from the gardens.
Dr. Lee emphasized the school’s focus on outdoor education and noted that during the first week of school, every student participated in camping in various places and learning something about our local flora and fauna. VVS is especially proud that for the second time in three years, one of their faculty, Caleb Kulfan, was recognized as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program Teacher of the Year. The inauguration of the student council took place at the school chapel. The school recently hosted the live stage-play “Indecent” produced by the Emerson Theatre Collaborative and is hoping to be able to host two more productions this year.
He also noted that they’ve recently partnered with Red Rock Wild Schooling, an outdoor school now hosted on the VVS campus. In athletics, the VVS Soccer team is undefeated so far this year. In conclusion, Dr. Lee encouraged people to donate to the school via the VVSTO, using the Arizona Tax Credit.