Tanque Verde Schools Focus on Supporting Student Success, Increasing Access to STEAM Education

by Dr. Scott Hagerman
The Tanque Verde Voice, September/October 2018
It’s always an exciting day when students arrive to start the new school year! We enjoyed welcoming approximately 2,100 K-12 students and their families back to school for the 2018-19 school year, and we look forward to the opportunities ahead for engaging, teaching and learning with them. We will continue to place our focus on supporting student success, emphasizing individual student achievement, and increasing access to science, engineering, arts, and math education (STEAM). In addition, the emphasis on positive school climate and school safety continues with a renewed focus on community partnership development to support our students and staff and to provide resources to improve school security.
Student Achievement
At the start of the school year, school districts received the results of the 2017 AzMERIT assessments from the Arizona Dept. of Education. Overall, the assessment results in the Tanque Verde Unified School District compared well to other Pima County school districts. After closely reviewing the results to identify opportunities where improvements can be made, we are focusing on those areas where we feel the work we are doing will have the greatest impact and positive results for our students.
Where issues have been identified, school leaders are working on improvement plans, and teaching staff is working in focused professional learning communities (PLCs), which are assessing student achievement and adjusting instruction based on student performance. These teacher teams are working on identifying and addressing student learning gaps. The teams will also identify areas where students have strengths that need to be expanded and emphasized.
Focus on STEAM and Fine Arts Education
The district is also focused on incorporating more STEM / STEAM instruction while increasing students’ exposure to fine arts programs, as well as college and career readiness at the high school level. STEAM is STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics plus the Arts.
students playing violin 
Students at Tanque Verde Elementary School learn violin fundamentals
in the newly established orchestra program
New this year is the 5th and 6th-grade Elementary Orchestra Program, which is now offered at both Agua Caliente (ACES) and Tanque Verde (TVES) elementary schools. Ms. Lisa Brown is the district’s new orchestra director, and the new music teacher at ACES, where she will be piloting a 4th-grade violin class as part of the Elementary Music Program. Students at both elementary schools are very excited to be part of something new. “After just a shorttime,” Ms. Brown noted, “the 5th and 6th-grade students have started playing as an orchestra, and the quality of the sound from the groups is amazing!” Fourth-grade violin students are currently learning fundamentals and will be “sizing” for their instruments soon.
The Tanque Verde Educational Enrichment Foundation provided matching funds to help purchase the 30 violins needed for the new program.
Community partnerships support students and staff
We will continue to collaborate with our community this year, with a goal of strengthening the partnerships which support our staff and students through volunteerism, training, and resources for our schools. In recent years, we have had opportunities to work with local church leaders who have provided volunteers for tutoring programs and community service days, and whose congregations have provided supplies for families in need.
Last year, we expanded this outreach by starting a TVUSD faith-based community collaboration. With input from approximately two dozen local faith-based leaders, the group has developed projects to support our teachers and schools, including: summer back-to-school spruce-up projects, gathering items for teacher wish lists, planning for Make a Difference Day projects, student volunteer outreach projects, library book drives, instrument drives, and thoughtful gifts welcoming teachers back to their classrooms for the school year. 
volunteers carry plants on trays 

Volunteers from St. John on the Desert Presbyterian Church accompany school leaders at Agua Caliente Elementary School to deliver plants and warm greetings welcoming teachers back for the new school year.

School Safety has been the focus of additional community partnerships with our local public safety agencies. Our major emphasis on planning and training in preparation for school emergencies culminated in the selection of our district emergency response team as one of five districts in the nation awarded a grant from FEMA to attend the National School Emergency Training Center, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where team members completed a four day course in Multi-Hazard School Emergency Preparedness Planning.
The goal for the 2018-19 school year will be to incorporate the emergency management strategies learned there as we conduct our annual review of emergency response plans and procedures. In addition, school security assessments have been completed, and our priorities for safety and security improvements were included in the bond recommendations addressed by the Governing Board at the end of the 2017- 18 school year.
Finally, the District hopes to reach out to local business owners to explorehow local partnerships might be mutually beneficial. Anyone interested in participating in the development of this business-focused community partnership initiative should contact TVUSD Community Liaison, Claire Place, at cplace@tanq.org or 520-749-5751. 
On the Ballot
District residents should be aware of two items that will appear on the November 6 General Election Ballot, as local election items. Following review and evaluation of the district’s programs and facilities needs last spring, a community-based feasibility committee advised the Superintendent to recommend the Governing Board pursue two ballot measures. The items which have been called for by the Board will appear on the ballot as the following:
     • Prop 466 - Continuation of the 15% Maintenance & Operations Budget Override 
     • Prop 467 - Proposed $15 Million Bond 
TVUSD has had an M&O Budget Override in place for more than 20 years. School district budget overrides are approved for seven years and are eligible for renewal in the fifth year. Funds received from the M&O Override support the educational programs which are currently in place in the district. If the continuation of the budget override is approved, it would not impact the current tax rate. The current estimated secondary tax rate would continue at $1.00 per $100 of assessed valuation, or $366 a year for an owner of a district home valued at $365,580 - the average value of a home in the district.
The proposed $15 million bond is being requested to address school facilities issues for which the district has not had adequate funds, due to state budget cuts resulting in the loss of more than $4.4 million dollars from the district’s operating budget over the past decade. If approved, the bond funds would be utilized with oversight by a bond committee, and would be directed to the following:
  • $5.5 M Upgrading School Security and Safety
  • $4.6 M Replace Aging Portables (with brick and mortar)
  • $2.0 M Technology and Technology Infrastructure
  • $1.9 M Repairs and Renovations
  • $1.0 M Bus Purchases
According to Stifel Financial Corp., if approved, the bond would have an estimated tax rate of 67 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or $245 a year, for an owner of the average district home valued at $365,580 - the average value of a home in the district (or $67 per year, per $100,000 full assessed cash value).
District Town Hall Dates
The District is hosting two town halls to provide residents with factual information about the two ballot measures. The scheduled dates are Tuesday, August 28th at 4:00 p.m. at Tanque Verde Elementary School MPR, and Monday, September 17th at 7:00 p.m. at Emily Gray Jr. High School MPR. In addition, information is available on the district website at www. tanqueverdeschools.org  
Claire Place, TVUSD Community Liaison, contributed to this article. 

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