The Prescott Schools are up and running! Like all of us, this has been a summer to remember. It was a hot and hard summer, where much of what we knew and relied upon was stalled out; dead on the ground. Getting these systems rolling again was no easy task. Leaders and teachers spent days and nights recreating, reinventing, problem solving and finding several paths on the road to reopening our schools.
Thank goodness the fall has brought great relief. What a lovely time of year in Prescott. The most lovely part for me was to get Prescott Schools off the ground again. After that long hard summer, one of the greatest days of my career was Tuesday September 8, when our schools were filled with kids again (at least half the kids at a time, that is.) The smiles on kids’ faces and the relief in the eyes of the teachers shined right through and around those mandated masks. What a great step toward the normalcy that we all need.
The journey came in stages for us this year as we pushed through the pandemic of our lifetime. Our teachers arrived back in their buildings in early August, and on the calendared first day of school, August 7, school began via distance learning online. This was a newly built curriculum based on thousands of hours of collaboration to make the best of what was possible. When “hybrid learning” began on September 8, terms of teaching and learning echoed down our PUSD hallways like no other first day of school. After a month of distance learning, our eager students and teachers were thrilled to see each other, but already deep into the educational process. They had hit the ground running.
Now, as we hit our stride with hybrid learning, we watch every moment of statistics waiting for the state metrics to get to an agreed upon mark to allow what we are calling “full in-person” learning to occur. We have been hoping that we would be able to do so after our first quarter has ended, but are struggling with one metric that requires 10 COVID cases per 100,000. If you are interested in the many intricacies of the metrics and the work we have done to reopen school safely, please check out our website at www.prescottschools.com. It is loaded with information on these topics.
PUSD has been clear since the beginning of this pandemic that we believe that in-person learning is the best way to teach and learn. We continue to be somewhat obsessed with and very eager to return. But we also will continue the balancing act of doing so safely, and meeting the needs of a community that is in great fear of the pandemic, as well as people who are frustrated with the health and safety mandates and the fact that we have not yet been able to return. We understand that there are a lot of strong feelings, and our job continues to be to meet the needs of all types of people. Public schools are about “Every Child, Every Day.”
Of course the generosity and support of our Prescott community has and will continue to get us all through the challenges of this pandemic. Frontier Rotary still stepped up with a successful (but different) summer school after doing so for over 30 years. The PUSD Education Foundation donated over $30,000 to internet “hotspots” to keep families connected to school during distance learning. We heard from hundreds of our Prescottonians simply saying, how can we help? We continue to hear that call and like never before, we could not do it without you.
Prescott Arizona understands, now more than ever, that strong schools make strong communities. And strong schools do not just happen. They must be a priority of their community. Creating and maintaining strong schools takes the work of all of us. Education is everyone’s responsibility. Thank you Prescottonians. We are celebrating over 150 years of educating our children in this fine community.
This discussion of educational support now brings me to the override question that the PUSD Governing Board has placed on the ballot. In Arizona, where we are continually placed in the bottom four of the nation for per pupil funding (for well over twenty years,) school districts that provide even near to adequate conditions for teachers and students must rely on their local communities for funding. PUSD is asking voters to continue the 4.66% override overwhelmingly approved in 2015 and bump that up slightly to 8%. The current 4.66% has PUSD teachers paid at approximately $6,000 below the Arizona state average. If the override is approved by voters this November, it would bring PUSD teachers closer to the state average, approximately $3,000 below that average. If the measure fails, PUSD will lose around $1 million from the yearly budget.
Override monies from 2015 have a proven and transparent track record of only being spent on teacher and staff salaries. They have also generated statistics that show a clear improvement in teacher retention. The 8% proposed override would be the same, spent only on teacher and staff salaries.
What is the cost to an average Prescott residence for the total 8% override? Including the 4.66% that you are already paying, an average residence in Prescott would be approximately $53.91 for the year… or $4.49 per month… or $0.15 a day.
Education is everyone’s responsibility. What is your role for “Every Child, Every Day” in Prescott, Arizona?