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Spring 2013. Volume XIX Issue 2

“We believe that everyone will experience successful learning every day.”

Astronomy is a big draw for library nights By Melissa Holland

In the RRHS Freshman Academy, students are largely insulated from the campus world of sophomores, juniors, and seniors – and the loss of focus such a broader exposure represents – so freshmen are more likely to gain their high school footing and begin making habitual behaviors most likely to lead to success.

Freshman Academy sets students on solid path By Morgan Falkner

For a young person developing in mind and body, the late modern world can seem a chaotic, even dangerous place: a bewildering variety of paths that are open to adolescents. Not all of those paths prove


wise. “That’s the critical age where they see their future,” said Rio Rico High School Principal Shelly Vroegh. “If a 9th grade student fails a class or misses out on a meaningful connection with one of his or her teachers, that student too often feels defeated

and gives up trying. That’s a dead end for him or her personally and marks a failure for the wider community.” “The Freshman Academy is absolutely critical to our success,” Ms. Vroegh said. See ACADEMY/ Page 13

On a chilly, fall evening at Peña Blanca Elementary, more than 100 students, parents, and teachers gathered to share their love of reading and the night sky. “Astronomy Night” featured telescopic viewing, hands-on activities, and reading, all part of the school’s monthly themed library night in October. “Our goal is to get parents excited about reading and engage the community in something they have never experienced while connecting it to literature,” said Monica Torres, parent liaison at Peña Blanca. Dr. Larry Lebofsky, a planetary astronomer for 35 years before retiring from the University of Ari-

zona, made a visit to Rio Rico for Astronomy Night. Dr. Lebofsky read Mathew Gollub’s book “The Moon was at a Fiesta” on the basketball court before bringing the students over to view the moon through two high-powered telescopes. See LIBRARY/ Page 13


Peña Blanca Elementary preschooler Valeria Torres views the moon through a high-powered telescope during Peña Blanca’s Library Astronomy Night.













What creates an ‘A’ district?

By Rodney K. Rich

Superintendent of Schools By now you have heard that your school district, Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35, was awarded an “A” rating from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) for the 2011-2012 school year. This means that your district ranks in the top 10 percent of Arizona’s 240 districts.

We are proud of this accomplishment. We have worked hard to arrive at this moment. That’s why in this issue of our district newsletter we are highlighting what we call our “tried and true” programs – those that have proven over time to help our students achieve in ways others may never have thought possible. I want to stress the word “others,” because we at SCVUSD No. 35 never doubted. Let me tell you this story. In July of last year when the state’s ratings were published, I received a call from a reporter. He wanted to know how it was possible for our district to be rated so highly – to achieve an “A” rating, particularly in light of everything “we had going against us.” My initial reaction was one

of shock. Why would anyone question our accomplishments? I asked for clarification. He said, “Look at the demographics of your student population. Seventy-six percent enter kindergarten unable to speak English. Seventy-seven percent are on free-and-reduced lunch. According to the research, your students aren’t expected to succeed, much less excel. How do they do it? How do you do it?” The answers are found in this issue. Our teachers, through the assistance of our newsletter liaisons, shed light on the questions . . . how do our students do it? How do we as a district do it? How do we excel? You will read about: • Our very successful ele-

mentary reading program, Reading Street, as told by the teachers at Mountain View Elementary. • Two different types of elementary reading intervention programs: one that’s available to all students in the school, and one that is designed for those students who need extra help. Both programs excel in preparing students to read at grade level by the time they reach third grade. And, they accomplish this even when students aren’t able to speak English when they first enter school. - As for not speaking English upon entering school, you will read about Oscar Amaya, a student who recently received statewide recognition for his many achievements – the first of which was his speed and ef-

ficiency in mastering the English language. • Innovative library programs that have been refined over the years: one which regularly invites parents and family members to “themed” nights at school, and one which teaches history through theatrical performances. Both are examples of teachers working collaboratively with parents and other teachers to help our students learn. See SUP’T/ Page 13

SANTA CRUZVALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT No.35 Page 2, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

MissionStatement “We believe that everyone will experience successful learning every day.” Board members can be contacted through the district office:

or by writing to: Santa Cruz Valley Unified School


District No. 35 1374 W. Frontage Road Rio Rico, Arizona 85648




Board president



268W.View Point Drive,Nogales,Arizona85621, 520.375.5760 Fax520.761.3115 On the web:

To advertise in your school newsletter please contact:

Manuel C. Coppola Publisher & Editor

Maria or Carmen at the Nogales International: 520.375.5760





Governing Board SCVUSD No. 35 Transportation department For information or questions call: (520)761-2164 (direct line)

HistoryTheater at PB makes research fun

By Melissa Holland

When fifth-grader Maya Robles was asked what it must have been like to be the famous guide Sacajawea she answered, “Very exciting because she journeyed through a lot of U.S. territories and faced many

challenges when she was very young.” Dressed in colorful Native American clothing including a headdress and braids, Robles finished her historical character presentation during her library time at Peña Blanca Elementary. This is the first year of librarian Renee Curren’s program, “History Theater.” Due to limited time in the classrooms to teach social studies, Ms. Curren offered to utilize library resources to develop the “History Theater” educational project. Her goal is to engage students in history.

In addition to learning about important people from the past, the research projects are designed to initiate and inspire research and presentation skills that students will use for the rest of their academic lives. Fifth-graders conduct the research and present in costume to their peers, a character of their choice who has contributed historically to our world. “The characters the students have chosen to research continue to amaze me: from President Obama to Anne Frank, Helen Keller, and

Walt Disney. The students have chosen a wide variety of influential people from the past,” says Curren. Most of the work is done during their weekly library time but some students have chosen to take their character biographies home to do more in-depth research. Students are also required to present their character in costume. Second hand, found-items, or homemade items are encouraged. Creativity and authenticity (true to the character) are the expectations for the costuming. During the pre-

sentations, classmates fill out a “judge’s sheet” that provides feedback to the students. Student observers are encouraged to think deeply about the presentation and ask meaningful questions at the end of the presentation. Students must also complete a timeline about their person from history. Francisco Navarro, a fifth-grader in Mrs. Martinez’s class, chose to report on Alex Rodriguez, baseball player for the New York Yankees. Navarro wore his Yankees jersey for his presentation and said it was “cool” to teach his class-

mates about the character he selected. “He is my inspiration,” said Navarro. “He makes me want to keep going in school, play baseball, have a good career, and a better life.” What’s next for Peña Blanca’s library? “A science fair is a great way to encourage research and creativity while fostering our students’ interests,” Curren said. “I love seeing the light and pride in their eyes when they are learning and my goal is to get them excited about social studies and science during their library time.”

Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter, Page 3


Left: Vanessa Urias, left, and Lillian Valenzuela, both fifth-graders, research their historical characters for Peña Blanca’s History Theater. Middle: Luisana Puig Montijo, in character as Susan B. Anthony, gave a presentation as part of her fifth-grade history project combined with the school library’s history theater. Right: Fifth-graders from Mrs. Cerezo’s class, Jonathon Ruvalcaba, left, Aldo Gonzalez, and Jesus Duarte research their historical characters for Peña Blanca’s History Theater.

Common Core Standards on the way By Stephen Schadler

Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Page 4, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

To paraphrase a popular if not irreverent axiom: Shift Happens. This is certainly true of the newly-adopted Arizona Common Core Standards (ACCS). Understanding these shifts and what they will mean for students will be critical to helping our school district and our families transition smoothly when these new standards are fully implemented in the upcoming school year. Why the need for this shift? Because as stated in Education Week, “High school completion does not equal college readiness.” In other words, students are graduating from high schools all across America without the requisite skills necessary to be immediately successful in collegelevel classes or the workplace. Remedial coursework or addi-

tional training is often necessary which costs time and money. The ACCS seeks to fill that gap by insuring that all students who graduate high school are prepared for their next college or career step. The English Language Arts standards bring six significant “shifts” to the classroom: 1. Balancing informational and literary text, particularly at the K-5 level. 2. Knowledge through literacy in the content areas, particularly at the 6-12 level. 3. A “staircase” of complexity as students progress from grade to grade. 4. Responding to text by referencing text. 5. Enriching writing by citing sources. 6. Strengthening academic vocabulary. On their face, these shifts seem logical, so why are they considered significant? Let’s explore.

Shift 1: Elementary schools have historically flooded young readers with fiction to learn the reading process. Talking animals teach morality and social awareness while biographies, science books and periodicals are often left out. ACCS requires more of a 50/50 balance between fiction and non-fiction. Shift 2 requires that nonLanguage Arts classrooms at the secondary level (i.e. science, social studies, economics, etc.) demand the deep reading of informational texts (books, journals, newspapers) as a means of learning the content. In addition, this shift challenges the notion that “reading to learn” is only about comprehension. The demand for fluent reading continues to increase meaning that copious amounts of practice must continue across all content areas. Shift 3 is arguably the most disheartening. As a student progresses from grade to grade, the texts he or she encounters must

become increasingly more rigorous in their language. Why is this even an issue? Because in an effort to remove barriers to learning for students, “‘K-12 texts have actually trended ‘downward in difficulty’ and have become ‘less demanding’ over the past 50 years,” according to Dr. Smith of MetaMetrics in his policy brief. The unintended consequence of giving students easier material to read has been that as a nation, our students have lost the ability to access more challenging works. Shift 4 and Shift 5 both require students to reference text(s) in their oral and written responses to questions. Opinions are fine… as long as they are supported by facts and contextual evidence. Shift 6: In SCVUSD No. 35 we have known for a long time that academic vocabulary is a different level for our students in the English Language Learners (ELL) program than simple

English vocabulary. ACCS confirms that belief that in order for students to be successful in school, they have to know words such as integer, microscopic, and populace in addition to their simpler counterparts of “number,” “small,” and “people.” Where does this leave SCVUSD No. 35? Our teachers have been working diligently all year at restructuring our curriculum calendars to insure that they are aligned with the new expectations. In addition, teachers will continue to spend time “unwrapping” these standards which means taking a careful look at what precisely each standard is expecting of the students. Only in this way will the teachers fully appreciate the new, more rigorous demands and be able to shift their students into a higher gear. (Author’s note: In our next issue, we will explore the significant shifts that ACCS brings to mathematics.)

Eating more food but not more calories

Reading focus in early grades gets results

Submitted by Sodexo

Calories are more than “things” that fill you up. Calories come from three nutrients in our foods: carbohydrates, protein and fat. The amount of each in foods varies, and the type and quantity in each food determines the healthfulness of the foods we eat. For example, there are carbohydrates in wholegrain rich foods, which contain fiber and B vitamins. Then there are carbohydrates in foods that are made up of more sugar and refined white flour, such as desserts and many bread products. When comparing whole-grain-rich carbohydrate food with the one made with sugar and refined white flour, you may see they contain the same number of calories per serving. However, the whole-grain-rich carbohydrate typically contains more nutrition. This is due to the added fiber, vitamins and minerals compared to the white flour product. Even when the calories are equal, the nutrition is not. Another example includes the side foods we include with our meals. A ½ cup of a fried vegetable, for example, French fries, can have more calories and unhealthy fats compared to a 1 ½ cup side of steamed vegetables and fresh fruit. When you eat healthier calories with less added fat and sugar, you actually get to eat more food, but not necessarily more calories. This means you “fill up” your belly without added body fat.

By Debbie Condes

Above: Reading Interventionist Sarah Boswell works with a small group of students. Right: Kindergarten teacher Mindy Scanlan gives small group instruction during Reading Intervention time.

intensive the need the smaller the group,” said Ms. Ruelas. “We get to focus on each student’s personal strengths and weaknesses,” said Mrs. Martinez. “It’s working,” concluded Ms. Montenegro. They know it’s working because of the biweekly tests given to monitor students’ progress. The reading intervention program has a secondary perk. “It is almost like a training ground for future teachers for the district. In the four years of the program, three former interventionists will become certified teachers. One will be student teaching next year and two others are

taking classes to be a teacher,” Seaman explained. “The advantages are that these are people who want to learn the skills and the craft to be a teacher. This is beneficial to them and our students.” “It’s different to read from a book or hear from a professor compared to experiencing it. There are those things that no textbook will tell you. We are learning as we go,” said Sarah Boswell, reading interventionist. “I definitely feel more prepared to be a classroom teacher from the experience of these four years.”

Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter, Page 5

“The single most crucial academic skill, reading, is the foundation to lifelong learning,” writes Lynn Fielding, Nancy Kerr and Paul Rosier in their book, “Annual Growth, Catch-Up Growth.” This view is shared at San Cayetano Elementary and is the reason the reading intervention program was created four years ago. “We take very seriously the district’s goal of having all students read on grade level by third grade. We focus on that goal beginning on the first day of kindergarten,” said Principal Berenice Rodriguez. The intervention program has evolved from a separate “pull-out” program for specifically identified students to a schoolwide program available to all students. San Cayetano has six reading interventionists who work in each

classroom four days a week. “We design the program at each grade level in collaboration with the classroom teachers, so the details of the program look different from grade level to grade level. The classroom teacher is the key and we (the reading interventionists) are there to team with them and support them,” explained Judy Seaman, San Cayetano’s literacy coach. The first grade team of teachers explained the reading intervention program from their perspective. “Group sizes range from 3 to 20. The more


San Cayetano students check their class progress in the walking club. In the Feel Good Mileage Club, for each quarter mile walked, participants earn a stamp. When they earn 20 stamps they receive a chain and charm.

Page 6, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

In its 5TH year, club gets kids out walking

By Debbie Condes

“Exercise turns on your brain, makes your body fit, makes you feel good and helps burn up extra ener-

gy.” This is the message Mr. Charles Denson repeats to his students every morning at the Feel Good Mileage Club that he created at San Cayetano Elementary. The Feel Good Mileage Club meets every day before school. Students and parents participate by walking laps. Each person’s laps are logged and tallied to determine the total number of miles walked. So far from August to December of this

2012-2013 school year, participants have logged 1,540 miles! “It is intrinsically motivational even though there’s an external reward,” Mr. Denson explained. For each quarter mile walked, participants earn a stamp. When they earn 20 stamps they receive a chain and charm. The Mileage Club program has grown each year since it was started five years ago. “We have a record

number of parents this year. About eight come consistently. We’ve had a total of about 25. When the weather is warm we can have 80 students participate a day. When it’s cold, student participation drops to about 20-25 a day.” Mr. Denson shared total miles walked from previous years to demonstrate the program’s growth. In 2010-2011, a total of 1,155 miles were logged. This was exceeded in

2011-2012 with 2,690 total miles logged. The miles are tracked for the whole school, then broken down by grade level, classroom and individual student. Mileage results by class are posted in the school’s multi-purpose room for students to track their progress. “It gives students a reallife application of reading charts,” said Mr. Denson. “If you talk to a teacher, they say they can see that mileage club students are

more focused and seem more able to learn.” The message Mr. Denson wants to instill in his students is that nutritional and physical activity habits established early in life stay with you. “Premium interest is in test scores but you need health to enjoy your mind. Things need to go handin-hand,” said Mr. Denson. “What good is it if you grow up to be a rocket scientist but you have a heart attack at 30?”

Setting the bar high through music

By Tonya Latvala

What makes our students so successful? Here at Calabasas Middle School (CMS) we have some great programs helping to ensure that our students succeed both academically and within their extracurricular classes. One of the programs CMS is proud to have is the band program. Ms.

Krista Mueller is CMS’s band teacher and what she’s doing is proof that hard work and perseverance work. This is Mueller’s third year at CMS. “I have seen amazing improvement in our bands since this year's eighth graders came in as sixth graders, and that first concert included all the bands playing together,” said Mrs. Judith Hyden, an eighth grade teacher. “In addition, the Jazz Band is playing at its best ever. I am so proud of Ms. Mueller and all the bands.” “My daughter is an eighth grader this year, and when she came into middle school (at sixth grade), she wanted to quit

band,” said Lourdes Barreda, parent of band student Alexandria Beltran. “I asked her to at least try it out for a semester. She now plays three instruments and enjoys band. “My daughter has been in Jazz Band since last year, she auditioned and was chosen for the Symphonic Band, and the Honors Jazz Band last year, and this year she was one of the few students to attend ‘Festival in February’,” Barreda said. “It is amazing how much she has progressed and how not only with talent, but technique and dedication. She has accomplished so much with the help of her band director Krista Mueller.”

Ms. Mueller first taught band at Pueblo Magnet High School in Tucson before joining CMS. She was asked what she thought about moving here and what her hopes are for the program. “When I started teaching band here at Calabasas, I knew that I was taking over an excellent middle school band program. I had heard great things about the band program from everyone that I talked to,” said Ms. Mueller. “I hope that the band students learn much more from being in band than to just play their instruments. “I want my students to learn how to be responsible and respectful,” she continued. “I place a lot of importance on being on time and learning how to be responsible for your

Director Krista Mueller leads the Calabasas Middle School band in a recent concert.

own actions. I also have very high expectations for the band students. These high expectations aren’t only for the band room, but are also for their overall academic success and character. The higher the bar is set, the harder the students will work to reach it.” The band has received

many “superior” and “excellent” ratings at festivals they attend. In addition, each year about 15 students have been selected to participate in the Southern Arizona Honors Band Festival and three to six students have been selected to participate in the Arizona All-State Middle School Band.

Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter, Page 7

Learning English a critical achievement By Tonya Latvala and Megan Padilla

How do you know when a school curriculum is working? Is it that the students pass tests, or that they move up in class rank? At Calabasas Middle School (CMS) students in the English Language Learner (ELL) program are doing both! They experience great success with learning the English language and content. Oscar Amaya is an example of such success. Amaya, a former CMS student now attending Rio Rico High School, received state recognition for his accomplishment.

He was recognized as an “ELL Student Success Story” at the Office of English Language Acquisition Services Conference in Tucson. Amaya started school in the United States at the beginning of his seventhgrade year. His initial test scores showed his English language ability was classified as “pre-emergent.” While in the ELL program, he participated each day and was very motivated to learn. By April of his eighth grade year -- a year and half later -- his test scores showed he was “proficient.” Now in high school, he continues to develop his English language skills

and is academically successful as he maintains a 3.5 (out of 4.0) gradepoint average. Amaya has been selected “Student of the Month” at Rio Rico High School twice. He is also in many extracurricular clubs like the Law Enforcement Club and the cross country team, where he is one of the top five runners. “Oscar's communication skills have improved drastically since coming to CMS three year ago,” said Megan Padilla, his former English teacher at CMS. “When he started school he was relatively shy because he didn't know the language. However, now that he has learned Eng-

lish he communicates well with his teachers and coaches. I was honored to have the opportunity to present Oscar with his award at the conference.” Starting this school year, all students in the ELL program at CMS are placed in classrooms with English-speaking students. Each student has an Individual Language Learning Plan (ILLP). Teachers collaborate to ensure that students receive the proper support for their English language development, while they learn the grade-level curriculum. In recent years, the average reclassification rate for a student in the CMS

Student Oscar Amaya received state recognition for gains in learning English. He’s shown with teacher Megan Padilla at recent Office of English Language Acquisition Services Conference in Tucson.

ELL program has been well above the state average. Reclassification occurs when a student achieves a benchmark mastery level of the Eng-

lish language. The average reclassification rate for the past three years at CMS is 56 percent, whereas the state average is in the 2636 percent range.

Page 8, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

Coatimundi Cross Country undefeated inArizona

By Patrick Echlin

It is no secret that Rio Rico High School's Cross Country team has had great success, with the boys' team winning their fourth state championship in 12 years in November. What may be unknown, though, are the accomplishments of the Coatimundi Middle School Cross Country team that feeds into RRHS. Coached by Toni Schadler and Alli LaCroix, the girls’ team ran an un-

defeated season in 2012. The boys were undefeated in Arizona, falling to second place only once at the Twilight Invitational in Phoenix to a New Mexico team. The Coatimundi Cross Country team may have had a great record, but they also showed good character along the way. “They were a really nice team to coach. They thanked all the officials, and they really enjoyed each others' company. It was a pleasure to see them outside of an academic setting,” LaCroix said. Perhaps the star runner was Alexandra Schadler, who took first place in every race except the Twilight Invitational. But she wasn't the only reason for the team's success. “Everyone came together, and everyone pulled their

weight, which allowed us to win,” said Toni Schadler, Alexandra’s mother and team coach. Schadler and LaCroix cited teamwork as an important part in their team's success. In what seems like a lonely sport, Coatimundi's runners fueled each others' energy. Their friendliness and dedication helped many of them to place high enough to help their team win meets. Saturday practices didn't hurt, either. Schadler also credited her team's success with high expectations, hard work, and the groundwork that had been laid in sixth and seventh grades. “You don't cancel practice because there is a rain drop.”


Alexandra Schadler is one of the top team members. Middle school students Patrick Hays, left, and Edgar Alcaraz enjoy competing.

District’s great musicians start young

By Patrick Echlin

The Rio Rico school bands have been considered among the best for years. Let’s look at recent years. In April 2012, the Rio Rico High School Jazz Band was named “Judges' Most Outstanding Ensemble,” at the Highland Jazz Festival in Gilbert. To earn this title, RRHS Jazz had to beat 47 of the best

school jazz groups in Arizona. Earning this tremendous honor would not have been possible without a band of extremely talented people. The 2011-2012 RRHS Jazz Band had plenty of experienced talent, and perhaps even more promise, as almost half of the band was made up of freshmen. Daniela Gonzalez, who plays alto saxophone, and Cesar Manjarrez on tenor saxophone were no doubt a big part of becoming the “Most Outstanding Ensemble.” Both of these students used their talents last year to earn competitive spots as freshmen music majors at the University of Arizona. Gonzalez and Manjarrez are not the first stu-

dents from Rio Rico High School to pursue music as a career in college. Ben Iniguez (class of 2011, bass) and Christopher Ozorio (class of 2009, percussion) are also music majors at UA. Alex Brown (class of 2012, saxophone) is attending the Army School of Music at Fort Story in Virginia Beach, VA. Even if students choose to study a field other than music, they are still well prepared for a musical adult life. Recent graduates Luis De la Rosa, Nicholas Quiroz, and Raul Bravo have all continued to play in university groups. Evidence of the Rio Rico Bands' commitment to fostering musical growth continues to show this

year. RRHS senior Saul Millan has been accepted into the 2013 Arizona AllState Jazz Band. Several other high school and middle school students are attending various honor bands this year. The grades 5-12 integration of the SCVUSD bands is perhaps the most important part of producing high quality musicians. The four directors, Jeremy Wright (PB, MV, and SC), Krista Mueller (CMS), Patrick Echlin (CTMS), and Rachel Gasper (RRHS) can be found at almost every band concert, giving their time to help each other set up, share teaching ideas, and ensure vertical alignment of the curriculum. From the first noise in fifth grade, students and

directors work tirelessly to develop the young musicians' skills. By the end of sixth grade, students have already played all 12 major scales (scales are the foundation of the majority of modern music), attended a concert band festival in Tucson, and marched in at least one parade. Seventh and eighth grades are where musicianship starts to really take off. Students have the opportunity to join Jazz Band at Calabasas and Coatimundi middle schools and start learning extended scales and more difficult music. These scales, festivals, and other developments of musical abilities continue each year as the bands rack up more awards. The Coatimundi Middle

School, Calabasas Middle School, and Rio Rico High School bands have consistently earned “Excellent,” “Superior,” and “Superior with Distinction” awards at marching band, concert band, and jazz band festivals. If you are interested in hearing the award winning Rio Rico Bands, come to a concert. Concerts are free and open to the public and start at 6:30 p.m. Concert schedule: Coatimundi Middle School, February 21 and May 16 Rio Rico High School, February 22 and May 10 Calabasas Middle School, March 1 and May 17 (For more information contact Patrick Echlin at

Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter, Page 9

The RRHS Marching Band in the stands at the football stadium. Members of the Rio Rico High School 2012 Regional Honor Band gather. At the far back are Richard Rubin and Genaro Meras. Middle row, from left, are Ramiro Bravo, Saul Millan, Horacio Valencia, Cesar Manjarrez, Daniela Gonzalez, Missy Diaz, Andrea Van Duinen, Michelle Diaz and Jennifer Davidson. Front, from left, are Gabriel Paco, Steven Mabante and Stephanie Brennan. Right: Drum Majors Tyler Bauer, left, and Michelle Diaz show their many trophies from the Canyon Del Oro Marching Invitational.

A reading intervention program that works By Mark Dittmar

Page 10, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

“Non-reading children are the greatest problem in American education,” writes Glenn Dorman in his book, “How To Teach Your Baby To Read.” Teachers at Mountain View Elementary have taken steps to address these concerns. To help students who are behind in their reading skills, an intervention program has been put in place at Mountain View that has an ongoing record of proven success. This intervention is essential because it gives some students the extra help they need to be able to read onlevel before they reach Grade 4. This ability is proven to be necessary for successful reading in the

years beyond fourth grade. Mountain View’s reading intervention program, referred to as STAR (Spirited Team Accelerating Reading), has been in action for five years. The five-member team works four days a week under the direction of reading teacher Mrs. Mimi Renteria. They work with clusters of K-5 below-level readers. Each of the nine groups receives smallgroup instruction for 25 minutes. During the sessions, children are taught using a part of the “Reading Streets” curriculum designed to help readers while supporting their regular classroom teacher. Evidence shows that the program is working. This is found in the mid-year benchmark scores from

the district test that measures a child’s reading fluency and comprehension, called the DIBELS test. Mid-year scores show solid growth when compared to test results from the beginning of the year. “The most significant growth took place in grades K-3,” said Mrs. Renteria. “At the start of the school year, 29 percent of those students scored as Intensive. That means they fell far below gradelevel in reading. But now at mid-year, our results are showing that 16 percent of those Intensive students improved their scores dramatically. They have now all advanced to either Strategic (below gradelevel) or Benchmark (at grade-level).” An enthusiastic Mrs.

Renteria found additional evidence the program is working. “The number of K-3 students who are now reading at grade-level has shot up 11 percent since the beginning of the year, and gains have been made in the students’ DIBLES scores across the grades. The students’ hard work is paying off!” she beamed. STAR teachers also provide after-school tutoring during Mountain View’s federally-funded 21st Century Learning Program, and regularly work alongside classroom teachers instructing small groups during the campus’ one-hour reading block. Serious about education, Mrs. Maribel McIlrath took the “If You Can Read This Thank a Teacher” bumper sticker

Mountain View Kindergartener Jasmin Anguiano improves her reading skills with interventionist Mrs. Mimi Renteria.

to heart. Upon exiting a STAR Parent Class where she learned strategies for reading with her children at home, she said, “Thanks so much for all you do for the children.”

She and others in the school community are grateful that Dorman’s “nonreader” problem is falling far-below at Mountain View.

Reading skills grow each year through program By Mark Dittmar

Mary Lucker Mountain View second grader Airyle McIlrath sharpens her reading skills using “Reading Street.”

“In second grade our data shows an increase in student performance on the program’s tests, and the state-approved DIBLES test,” she said crediting the program’s differentiated instruction, intervention, and fluency components. DIBLES is a test that measures a child’s reading fluency and comprehension. Third-grade teacher Mrs. Michele Titcomb thought

consistency was the program’s strength as “Reading Street” is used by every reading teacher in grades K-5. To help students who might otherwise fall through the cracks, the school also runs its STAR (Spirited Team Accelerated Reading) reading intervention program four days a week and has added a one-hour reading block to its daily schedule.

Thanks to the NOGALES INTERNATIONAL and advertisers for their support. This newsletter is published at no cost to taxpayers.

By Mayra M. Rodriguez

Second grade teacher My first memory of Mary Lucker was her bright smile as she walked the aisles of Mountain View Elementary School where she taught computer technology. She was friendly, warm and certainly patient with staff members who lacked computer skills. She was always willing to lend a helping hand. Over the years, as I got to know Mary I admired her dedication to teaching. Even when her health started to fail, she seldom missed work. This demonstrated Mary’s commitment to her profession. She was very aware of the importance of teaching computer skills to the next generation of students, and she excelled at this. She had a positive impact on the staff and students, inspiring staff members to go back to school to further their education. Mary’s warm smile will be missed but not forgotten. Rest in peace. (Note: Mary Lucker passed away in January 2013. She taught computer technology at Mountain View, San Cayetano and Peña Blanca Elementary schools.)

Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter, Page 11

In an educational environment known for replacing what works with what might work better, Mountain View Elementary teachers have found a program that does work better and they have data to back their claims. When over 70 percent of a school’s incoming kindergarteners test a year (or more) behind in skills necessary for reading, it becomes essential to implement a program that enables students to catch up quickly and prepare them to read on level by the end of third grade. The reasons are twofold. One is to prevent third grade students from being marked for mandatory retention (a state policy to take effect during the 2013-2014 school year). The more important reason is the sobering discovery of educational researchers: students who do not read on grade level by the end of third grade are unlikely to read on level after that. In 2009 Mountain View faced that challenge by implementing “Reading Street,” a language arts curriculum aligned with Arizona State Standards to educate its K-5 population.

“Reading Street has interesting fiction and non-fiction stories for below-level, onlevel, and above-level readers,” said Mrs. Carol Braun, the school’s Title 1 Coordinator. “There is an ESL (English as Second Language) section and a re-teach section. It teaches fluency; comprehension; phonics; and the six traits of writing, spelling and grammar. Many of the stories have social studies and science themes. It’s all inclusive and our teachers are seeing its benefits.” “Since we started using ‘Reading Street’ three years ago I’ve noticed a big improvement in the children’s reading skills,” said veteran kindergarten teacher Ms. Marie Cassidy, “One of the strengths of this program is its emphasis on phonics, something boys and girls really need in kindergarten.” The skills taught in kindergarten are then built upon in each successive grade. “It’s a structured program that works well with first graders because of its emphasis on phonics, comprehension, and fluency,” said Mr. Len Johnson, first-grade teacher. Mrs. Laree Plascencia, second-grade teacher, agreed.

A tribute to Mary Lucker

International partnership enriches lives

Page 12, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

By Morgan Falkner

As the 15th anniversary of the Rio Rico High School German-American Partnership Program nears, memories stir for program founder and guiding force Rene Ramirez. He’s seen bonds form as teenagers from two corners of the world share experiences and world views – what makes them different, yet what also forms the basis of their shared humanity. “When you see simple things like German parents and students waving American flags at you and your students as you hop off the train with all of your heavy luggage … you appreciate the golden opportunities the German exchange offers,” said Mr. Ramirez, who teaches German at RRHS. And at the other end of the visit comes the sad parting. “The students and their host parents have to say goodbye, and some instinctively know it might be the last time they see each other for years or ever again. So it's no small wonder there are so many tears and hugs and exchanges of gifts, flowers and laughs before everyone returns to their homeland.” The program “is one of our priceless things at RRHS,” said school Prin-

cipal Shelly Vroegh. “It’s incredible to be able to give kids that kind of experience.” The powerful emotions attached to this annual ritual – alternating between German students coming to Rio Rico and then, the following year, Mr. Ramirez’s students trekking to Germany – originated not here but rather in New Mexico. “I took an interest in GAPP back when I taught German at Oñate High School in Las Cruces, in 1990,” Mr. Ramirez recalled. “Because of the strong student, administration, and parental support … on both sides of the ocean, I thought I would start it here at Rio Rico High School in 1998.” Thus arguably the school district’s showcase example of institutionalized cross-cultural borrowing began here. It continues to thrive. “I truly love our RRHS GAPP, for it offers the students, school staff, and community a golden opportunity to get to know not only German students, but German colleagues, parents, and German community members from our partner schools,” Mr. Ramirez said. “So many people from Rio Rico have made

friends with so many German students, parents and colleagues over the span of 14 years time. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing students interact with their German host students, parents, teachers and all involved in the exchange as they use the German language to communicate in and outside of school and with their German families in their homes. The same holds true for the Germans. In fact, the Germans get a taste of two cultures and languages when they come to Rio Rico, especially since we are so close to the border.” The way the program works, travelling German and American students are hosted by counterpart students and their families for two weeks. During that time, visiting students attend classes with their hosts and are treated to a variety of get-togethers. Featured are off-campus sight-seeing at places such as Kartchner Caverns and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and University of Arizona sporting events. They also visit natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park – even Rocky Point in Mexico. RRHS students, too, have profited from the

At the Roemer Courthouse in Frankfurt am Main, Germany in the summer of 2012 are, from the top, left to right, Carolina Ley, Lourdes Suarez, Regina Soto, Jocelyn Muñoz, Selene Tofani, Liz Morales, Daniella Frownfelter, Manny Carillo, Ashlee Meder, Nicole Vega, Tyler Bauer, and David Weatherbie. In the middle row are Marley Henson, left, and Lena Laguna. On the bottom row are, left to right, Angelica Moreno, Maria Quintero, Alexa Tarriba, Manny Valdez, Jose Ramos, Kristen Ibarra, and Emilio Atondo.

tourism opportunities afforded by Europe. “We have taken special trips to Berlin, Salzburg, Austria, and this past summer we even spent three days in Paris,” he said. Mr. Ramirez was quick to extend thanks to others locally for making the program so successful. “My students and I are very grateful for all that teachers and staff have done to make the exchange richer. Without our teacher, staff, and administrative sup-

port, the exchange wouldn't be as successful as it has been over the years. “Please also hold in mind that our kindness and generosity is reciprocated in Germany. We, too, have been invited to school concerts by the principal and school band leaders in Germany, ones that are very memorable and ones in which we, too, were recognized as special guests.” For all of the excitement that accompanies

our students’ trips to Germany, Mr. Ramirez pointed out perhaps the greatest virtue lies beyond the moment itself. “Best of all, they (RRHS students) are no longer afraid to travel to foreign countries and jump the foreign-language hurdles that used to be such insurmountable obstacles to meeting new people, making new friends, and understanding one another.”

SUP’T ContinuedfromPage2

• Teacher and student collaborations across continents and cultures through international travel. • A program designed to break through barriers that oftentimes prevent

LIBRARY ContinuedfromPage1

Children of all ages enjoyed the delightful tale about why the moon is sometimes visible during the day. After the colorful story, they were thrilled to see the moon in a way they’ve never seen before. “It was the first time many of the kids had ever looked through a telescope. They were mesmerized by what they saw and were able to make a connection to the

talented youth from grabbing all that is available to them in their high school career: Freshman Academy. • Achievements of our students that continue to bring statewide recognition to our schools and to your community: Rio Rico Bands and Cross Country athletic teams.

book,” said Torres. To culminate the evening, students were treated to two activities: making a moon pie and an astrological calendar. “Library nights are really fun,” said Sabrina Soto, third-grader at Peña Blanca. “During Astronomy Night, we read a story about the moon and then we got to see all the parts of the moon up close through the telescope.” Monthly library night has become a tradition at Peña Blanca. Its popularity has increased immensely this

• The Mileage Club – an elementary school program that may have started as a means to harness the unbridled energy of five to 9-year-olds while they waited idly for the start of the school day, but has now blossomed into an amazing fitness program for students, family and friends.

Finally, we invite you to visit our new website: We have a new look. We have easier access for you to reach us, and for us to reach you. We will continue to tell our story of how, with your support, we accomplish what we do.


Peña Blanca students and parents enjoy listening to Dr. Larry Lebofsky, former University of Arizona astronomer, read “The Moon was at a Fiesta,” part of Peña Blanca’s Library Astronomy Night.


“Lots of research shows that freshman academies work.” The RRHS Freshman Academy serves the role of orienting district teenagers toward a road that, at its end, culminates in graduation caps being tossed skyward into a cool May evening and, beyond that, a life that is meaningful in career and capacity; that is, a life well-lived. Buttressing the philosophical case behind high school freshman academies like RRHS’s is national data indicating unambiguously that ninth-graders who are able to serve that first year of high school in the insulated and nurtured environment stand a better chance of navigating the dangers of the modern world. Their odds of graduation improve; the possibility of dropping out declines. Perhaps the key to this kind of success rests on a support system that’s worthy of the name: teachers working with one another and with Freshman Coordinator Angela Mongiello, counselor Lillian Bernal (the only one of RRHS’s counselors dedicated exclusively to a specific group of students), and parents. The way the academy works, students take the same core classes (math, English, biology, and world history) in one of two self-enclosed, adjacent areas on one side of campus. Their core teachers, in turn, teach only freshmen. This, according to academy philosophy, creates an intimate, shared environment that holds the potential for adults (including, again, the program coordinator and counselor) to share lesson plans as well as information on at-risk students. And because these students are largely insulated from the campus world of sophomores, juniors, and seniors – and the loss of focus such a broader exposure represents – freshmen are more likely to gain their high school footing and begin making habitual that set of behaviors most likely to lead to success. Even before arriving to the academy in late July or early August, the program reaches out to the incoming pupils to ease them into their year of transition. For example, prospective freshmen are afforded the opportunity to attend a summer math academy to prepare them for the challenges of their prealgebra class. Even before that, there are periodic information meetings in the months during their eighth-grade year. In addition, there are weekly meetings among academy teachers, and even dialogue between them and their counterparts at Calabasas and Coatimundi middle schools. No rock is left unturned. But just to be sure, beginning this year RRHS freshmen are being partnered with upperclassmen peer role models. “Students actually feel a part of something,” Ms. Vroegh said. That something, she added, “is a community.”

Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter, Page 13

year. September’s “Cats” and November’s “Thanksgiving” events brought out about 60 people and Torres hopes the event will continue to grow. Dinosaurs and flash mobs are two themes Torres is planning for the rest of the year. “It’s fun to see the kids get so excited for the activities that are connected to the story. It really brings reading to life,” said Cecilia Reyes, five-year parent volunteer and current parent booster president. “It takes weeks of planning to organize the event but everyone helps, especially the library staff. It’s a great opportunity to bring the community together and encourage the importance of reading.” For more information about Peña Blanca’s library nights, contact Monica Torres at 375-8506 or


Page 14, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter, Page 15

Page 16, Santa Cruz Valley District No. 35 Spring 2013 Newsletter

Rio Rico Schools Newsletter  

SANTA CRUZVALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT No.35 “We believe that everyone will experiencesuccessful learning every day.”

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