An Update from SUSD Superintendent, Dr. Manuel Valenzuela

“As we speed toward the busy spring season, it is a good time to reflect upon the year’s progress thus far, and to look forward to the forthcoming future. If we think about where we were one year ago, there is much evidence of progress, and great hope as we look to the future. First, in the last couple of years, we launched the full time Sahuarita Digital Pathways Academy (SDPA). It was an entrepreneurial offspring of the pandemic era move to digital learning. What began as a small pilot project has grown into a fully accredited, fully online school and unique educational option for students. Just in one year, the enrollment has grown from 85 to the current 126 students. In addition, we have about 200 students from our brick-and-mortar school programs accessing our new online platform, to get ahead or take other special courses to advance individual educational goals. It is part of our mission to meet the individual needs of each student. Last year, in advancement of safety objectives, we envisioned expansion of our highly successful School Resource Officer (SRO) program to the middle schools. Just this month, our new SRO, Ofc. Pelayo, began serving the youngsters at Sahuarita Middle School, Anza Trail K-8 and Wrightson Ridge K-8 schools. This was only possible through the shared commitment, resources, and dedication of the Sahuarita Police Department and our Sahuarita School District.

This year, we have expanded dual enrollment course offerings, in partnership with Pima Community College, to thirty courses available to take with both high school and college credit options, without any extra tuition. In addition, we have worked with Pima CC, Freeport McMoRan, Pima Foundation, Sahuarita Educational Enrichment Foundation (SEEF),  and the Green Valley Masonic Lodge to build a $375,000 scholarship fund to provide two-year, full tuition scholarships, as much as possible, to our graduating seniors who are attending Pima as the first step on the postsecondary journey. This Pima First – Sahuarita WINS! Scholarship is a great, cost- effective option to cover one’s first two years of college, professional training, or skilled certification education with very little cost. It is hoped to make this a sustainable and model program of how working together can make a difference, for individuals, and for the entire community.

In November, the wonderful Sahuarita community resoundingly passed a $50,000,000 bond package. This investment will make a transformational impact upon our physical facilities, program quality, and the overall future of Sahuarita as a community. These projects were identified through a communitywide outreach effort, and include safety measures like state-of-the-art security cameras, ballistic resistant glass, technology advancement and standardization, such as 1:1 device ratios and instructional classroom technology, new regular and special education classrooms, a full remodel of the Primary School Cafeteria and gym, a new 500 seat performing arts theater, NJROTC program expansion, flooring, paint, playground equipment, new preschool classrooms, and brand new modern turf surfaces for both high school stadiums.

Similarly, we have secured about $11,000,000 in State Facility Oversight Board (SFOB) funding to help meet capacity needs, specifically at Walden Grove HS. This project will similarly expand needed classroom space, specialty space in CTE and music, in addition to new tennis courts and a new wrestling room. Our Career and Technical Education (CTE) program in construction technology and architecture is finishing a complete tiny home, fully built, from design to final nail, by our construction technology students. They will sell this home and use the proceeds to build the next one. This type of deep, applied learning represents future ready education and prepares young people with the skills to meet the demands of the complex and competitive world to which they are entering. It also helps support the meeting of high demand, high skilled workforce needs in our region. Similarly, with support of Pima Joint Technological Education District (JTED) funding and Sahuarita USD investment, we are planning to expand the automotive technology center at Sahuarita HS by adding another bay, to support program growth and meeting professional needs in this competitive and high demand field. We are also building an architecture design building space at Sahuarita HS to complement the construction technology program.

In the area of communication and outreach, this year we launched the Parent Square. This software resource provides quick, easy to use and integrated communication tools, which help advance our tireless commitment to responsive and meaningful communication about events, class operations and emergency notifications when needed. In December, all of our schools received a special gift from the Country Fair White Elephant (CFWE) to support program initiatives This year, the total investment in our schools and programs totaled about $227,000. These dollars significantly expand and enrich the learning opportunities we deliver to students, through musical instruments, field trips, books, athletic equipment, and other resources that would otherwise be available in a lesser amount.

In summary, we are experiencing a remarkably good and successful year. And, I reflect with humble appreciation and gratitude for the spirit of community which binds us together in a shared commitment to making our schools, economy, workforce, and overall quality of life the very best that they can be. I believe this shared vision and culture will continue to move us forward, to meet challenges, find solutions, and continue in commitment to our mission of working as a team to help every student succeed. And, together, we will continue to make a difference!”