“As we prepare to emerge from the most disruptive and challenging school year that most of us can ever remember, I am excited about the promises that the new year brings. This entire pandemic experience has affirmed many important themes, and created an extra special gratitude for things we took for granted.
First, we must always remain flexible and adaptable. It is not only how to survive a pandemic, but it is also how to thrive and prepare our students for the complex and competitive world in which we live. This past year, we created new learning systems, and moved from online, to hybrid, to full in person learning, and back. It was not pleasant, but it was necessary. These are also 21st Century proficiencies and skills. The world is complex, changing rapidly, and integrated.
Second, we must look for new ways to do things. Almost from scratch, we built a fully online learning school, now called Sahuarita Digital Pathway Academy (SDPA). This harnesses the power of technology driven instruction, enhances our traditional programs, and provides choices for families who desire this model to meet their unique needs.
Third, in our traditional model, we enhanced the systems, abilities and tools available to provide instruction to students, from a distance. This is invaluable not only in meeting learning needs during a worldwide pandemic, but it also helps serve students when they are ill, away from campus, or otherwise unable to come to campus. Our teachers also grew in their ability to plan
and deliver such instruction, through dedicated hard work and congruent professional development.
We enhanced our level of service. In food service, for example, we reframed the system to deliver free meals to all of our students in a convenient, dynamic, and accessible manner throughout these challenging days.
Finally, we learned that, when things get really tough, it is important to keep on going, and brighter days will come. Similarly, we learned that it is important to ask for help. We all faced difficult days, personally, professionally, and in many ways. Some experienced illness, job disruptions, anxiety, and the general stress of a world transformed right before our eyes. Yet, we learned that in such times, the power of harnessing that common experience, finding common ground, and striving to take help and support each other can build strong bonds, develop relationships, and create long lasting outcomes that will make us better in the long haul, as individuals, families, and communities.
The new year shows multiple encouraging signs of promise. We’ve built a new CTE program in the health care professions, aligned with the recent opening of the new Sahuarita- Northwest Medical Center. We have added four (4) new academic dual enrollment courses, allowing high school students with opportunities to make significant progress to a college degree, while still completing high school requirements. We welcome thirty-two (32) new professional teaching team members to the SUSD family. We also continue to staff all of our schools with highly qualified professional counselors, who are ready to serve students’ academic needs and overall
well-being. This includes new programs providing students with access to mental health support and service needs. Even in the challenging days of a pandemic, our professional staff continues to earn prestigious recognition for excellence, including AZ High School Principal of the Year, and AZ Teacher of the Year Finalist. The graduating class of 2021 earned over $9,000,000 in scholarships, and again gained admission to diverse postsecondary institutions, including some of America’s most selective schools.
I am looking forward to a great year, a year that is full of ordinary, extraordinary things, the kind of things that have always defined our community, wonderful people, common ground, cross sector partnerships, high performance relationships, and student-centered focus. These are the things that got us through the pandemic, and will continue to propel us to new heights of excellence. And together, we will continue to make a difference! I look forward to seeing you around campus!”
Manuel O. Valenzuela, Ed.D.