Four Mesa schools earn foundation’s A+ award The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Four Mesa schools earn foundation’s A+ award

Four Mesa schools earn foundation’s  A+ award
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TRIBUNE NEWS STAFF

Four more Mesa public schools last week were named A+ Schools of Excellence, bringing to 26 the number of schools in the district that have received the coveted designation since 2016.

The honors came atop the foundation’s earlier designation of two Mesa Public Schools teachers on its annual list of the 10 best teachers in Arizona.

The Arizona Educational Foundation gave the honor to Mesa High, Highland Arts Elementary and Falcon Hill Elementary. It also gave a second consecutive A+ award to Mountain View High.

Over the past four years, other schools that have earned the A+ designation are Brinton, Crismon, Emerson, Field, Irving, Ishikawa, Jefferson, Las Sendas, Lincoln, Mendoza, Pomeroy, Sirrine, Taft, Washington, Whitman and Zaharis elementary schools; Summit Academy; Shepherd, Smith and Stapley junior high schools; and Red Mountain and Westwood high schools.

They receive an A+ School of Excellence banner and a $500 award and get to brag about the designation for four years before they must decide whether to pursue a new award.

And that’s no easy task.

Schools applying for this recognition take part in a rigorous process that includes a written application, on-site visits by a team of trained judges and participation by faculty, students and families.

Schools are evaluated in areas such as school culture, curriculum, leadership, assessment data and community involvement.

The foundation gave 34 schools the designation this year.

“The A+ School of Excellence™ Award shines a spotlight on the positive stories and successes occurring in public schools,” said foundation Executive Director Kim Graham.

“The application and evaluation process for this program is comprehensive and rigorous. We applaud these schools for exceeding expectations to meet their students’ needs and for achieving overall success despite the many challenges that face the education community statewide.”

The foundation’s mission is to identify, support and celebrate excellence in Pre-K-12 public schools through business and community partnerships.

It sponsors a variety of programs for teachers, administrators and students.

Some programs shine a spotlight on excellence while others provide a steppingstone to help support schools and educators on the road to awesomeness.

In addition to the Arizona Teacher of the Year program, the foundation also coordinates the Arizona State Spelling Bee, the A+ School of Excellence Award, the Principals Leadership Academy of Arizona, teachSTEM and Take Your Legislator to School.

Ironically, two Mesa Public Schools teachers this year made the foundation’s list of the 10 best teachers in the state and one was among the five semifinalists for the Teacher of the Year award that will be given out during an Oct. 23 virtual celebration.

Taryn Tidwell, the drama, middle school choir and musical theater teacher at Shepherd Junior High made the list and was named an Arizona Ambassador for Excellence and ​Lauren Cluff, a reading interventionist for K-6 students at Hughes Elementary School was one of five semifinalists for Teacher of the Year.

Ambassadors for Excellence receive a $5,000 cash award, a scholarship to pursue National Board Certification and other professional opportunities and all 10 are honored on the field during the Fiesta Bowl and in the Fiesta Bowl Parade.

The foundation was founded in 1983 by then State Superintendent of Public Education Carolyn Warner, who felt a nonprofit needed to be established to champion public education and recognize the work of public-school educators.

“The A+ School of Excellence award is a powerful energizer for increasing public confidence in recognized schools, often resulting in greater parent and community involvement and even serves as an economic driver for some communities,” the foundation noted.

“A+ Schools are celebrated and recognized as exceptional,” it said, adding the designation “spotlights the positive successes happening in public schools every day.”

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