Roosevelt officials changing view on state solutions teams
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 18, 2004 12:00 AM
Betty Reid

State solutions teams, which are sent in to help improve underperforming schools, should be treated as a friend not foe, Roosevelt School District officials now say.

Leaders in the south Phoenix district urged its school communities to work with the solutions team dispatched by the Arizona Department of Education.

"I think the solutions team offers us an opportunity for two things," said Ben Miranda, a Roosevelt School Board member. "One is for us to evaluate ourselves, in terms of what we are and where we are going.

"From an outside perspective, it also is my hope that the solutions team will also lead to resources being delivered to the district from the state level."

That is a different tone taken by the leadership since January when the team, put together by the state to help four Roosevelt schools rid themselves of underperforming labels, came under fire after it paid a visit to Brooks Academy.

Several Brooks employees believed the team focused too much on students trying to learn English. School Board members accused state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne of using the visit as a veiled attempt to rid classrooms of the Spanish language.

Since then, Horne has met with two School Board members to talk about how to improve academics at four of 20 district schools. Those four schools were given underperforming labels two years in a row. The labels are largely based on students' standardized test score.

If one of the four campuses receives an underperforming label in October, it will face consequences like a state takeover or a forced conversion to a charter school.

Miranda said officials discussed the use of Spanish in classrooms given that Proposition 203 mandated the elimination of the bilingual education program. They agreed that the proposition and language usage is a different issue from what the solutions team was sent to address, he said.

"I think we cleared up some misunderstandings," he said "The misunderstanding was we thought 203 was the integral part of the visits by the solutions team, and of course, it wasn't."

Some school issues that need to be ironed out in Roosevelt include teachers not keeping kids on task and principals not monitoring teachers to keep them on task, Horne said.

Horne said he met individually with Miranda and Carlos Avelar, another board  member. He said he plans to invite other board members, Betty Thompson, Betty Ware and Norma Munoz, to meet with him.

"I will be meeting (with board members) one at a time, that's the best communication," Horne said. "Just to get ourselves working together to improve the academic performance of the students."

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