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Student recognition AASA

Perfect Score 22Each Spring, all students in Grades 3-8 participate in the statewide academic achievement test. The test, Arizona’s Academic Standards Assessment (AASA), measures a student’s mastery of the standards in two subjects: Math and English Language Arts (Reading and Writing). This year we had 67 students across the district who received a perfect score in at least one of the tested areas.

At last week’s Governing Board meeting, we recognized three students whose achievements on this test set them apart from the others: Viviana Alvarado (Grade 5) received a perfect score in both Math and ELA. Patrick Minh (Grade 8) and Emilyse Winter (Grade 8) both received a perfect score in the Math section for the last four years. All three of these students attend Vista del Sur.

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Laveen Recognizes Nine Excellence in Education Award Recipients

Each year, one teacher from each school is recognized with Laveen’s Excellence in Education Award. This award honors individuals who exemplify quality teaching and professionalism. The following teachers received this award for their performance in 2021-2022 and were recognized at the September Governing Board meeting.

  • Logan Wasie, Laveen Elementary School
  • Lindsay Delgado, Paseo Pointe School
  • Regan Cunnington, M.C. Cash Elementary School
  • Natalie Urick, Estrella Foothills Global Academy
  • Malissa Iler, Trailside Point School
  • Caitlin Seay, Rogers Ranch School
  • Charlene Saltarelli, Desert Meadows School
  • Kassey Rysdyk, Vista Del Sur Accelerated Academy
  • Julia Mister, Cheatham Elementary School
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Vista del Sur Named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School

Vista del Sur Accelerated Academy has once again been named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Secretary Miguel Cardona made the announcement on September 16, 2022. “I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award for creating vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school communities where students can learn, grow, reach their potential, and achieve their dreams. These schools show what is possible to make an enduring, positive difference in students’ lives,” Cardona said.

The National Blue Ribbon School program recognizes overall academic excellence. Blue Ribbon Schools show outstanding results for all students. The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms and validates the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for – and attaining – exemplary achievement. National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation.

Vista del Sur was one of only six schools in Arizona to join this esteemed community. They were nominated as an Exemplary High Performing School, receiving this distinction for the performance of all students on state assessments in both math and English language arts in addition to other state performance targets.

Vista principal, Jessica Epacs attributed Vista’s success to the partnership and hard work of staff, students and parents.  In addition, cooperative learning or Kagan structures are used throughout the school and in each lesson. Each Kagan structure has a purpose and guides students to work together while also holding every child individually accountable for their knowledge. For example, Rally Coaching allows students to be peer instructors to each other. “Because the student is being the instructor it requires students to be actively engaged during the lesson since they know they will need to teach another person,” explained Mrs. Epacs.

She also noted the constructivist approach that Vista teachers take. The constructivist approach means that teachers allow students to construct their own arguments and approaches to solve problems. This approach encourages students to think and process rather than memorize with drill and practice. Even within a constructivist approach, there is still room for direct instruction but the types of problems used for direct instruction are strategically selected to continue to allow students to think and use what they know to solve the problem even when learning new material.

Vista has an overarching approach to instruction, but a key strategy that Vista teachers use when lesson planning is the backwards design model.  Thinking of the end product first, helps teachers to see the path that students need to take in order to get there successfully

Vista del Sur will be recognized at an award ceremony in November in Washington, D.C. Here they will receive the coveted National Blue Ribbon flag that will fly at their school as a reminder of their exemplary teaching and learning. “All of us at Vista are honored to serve as an example of quality instruction and learning for schools across the nation,” said Principal Epacs. “This honor affirms the dedication of our students, staff, and parents in making Vista a community of excellence.”

Vista is part of the Laveen Elementary School District. As an accelerated school, students work a grade level ahead in math and English language arts. It is a school of choice and, as such, does not have attendance boundaries.

Vista was also named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. They also were recognized as a Top Elementary and Middle School by U.S. News and World Report.

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Laveen School Named a School of Distinction

Congratulations to Laveen School for being recognized as a School of Distinction by the Association for Middle Level Education.

AMLE Schools of Distinction is both a recognition and continuous improvement program. Schools are celebrated for their commitment to the middle grades best practices while also being guided through a process of self-assessment and strategic vision setting to help foster ongoing growth and success. The program aims to:

  1. Recognize and celebrate schools that are committed to implementing the essential attributes and characteristics of successful middle grades schools.
  2. Provide ALL schools that support young adolescents with the resources to support their continuous improvement journeys.
  3. Create a network of schools that can learn from and support each other.
  4. Highlight for our communities the exceptional work that takes place every day in middle level education.

In addition to Dr. Robert Caplinger and Reed Brotherton, the following teachers were instrumental in Laveen receiving this award:

  • Logan Wasie, 6th Grade
  • Alicia Wright-Harp, 7th Grade
  • Adrian Ruiz, 8th Grade
  • Andrea Smith, Art (Specials)
  • Leah Hall, Special Education
  • Laura Erke, Instructional Coach


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