Arizona Republic
August 22, 2007


Author: Ray Parker, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2

A new $6.7 million academy has attracted some of the best and brightest young minds in math and science from across Mesa Public Schools.

The Mesa Academy for Advanced Studies opened its doors Monday, along with the rest of the district's schools, to about 400 students in grades 4-8.

Ninth grade will be added next year.

The academy will allow students a jump-start for those up to the challenges of advanced study and for those with an aptitude for careers in science, technology and math.

Students also learn a foreign language, either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.

And the courses include another educational tool: technology. Classrooms have been equipped with laptop computers, wireless Internet and interactive whiteboards.

Principal Bob Crispin said the school would offer a middle school International Baccalaureate program, which would tie into the IB program offered at Westwood High.

"A lot of these kids are gifted, but not all. Many are highly motivated, so it's not just a gifted program," Crispin said.

Students who've gone through the academy will move onto district high schools in their sophomore year, providing a wave of bright student leaders.

The high school IB program creates a "school within a school" for students engaged in its intensive two years of course work.

To receive the IB diploma, students must test successfully at the end of their senior year in each of six subject areas: math, English, science, social studies, foreign language and an elective such as art, music or film.
With an IB diploma, many universities accept students as college sophomores.

The new academy is at 6919 E. Brown Road, near Power Road.

With demand for the academy soaring, Superintendent Debra Duvall said her team would look into building a similar advanced school on the west side of Mesa.

Students were sought for the first year through public announcements and parent meetings, and after applying on their own. Students were admitted based on their grades, teacher recommendations and state test scores.

"This is really a dream with motivated students, highly qualified teachers and state-of-the-art technology," said Crispin, previously principal at Carson Junior High.

Although the academy's primary focus will be on academic core areas, students also take courses that contribute to a well-rounded education:
technology, art, physical education and music.

The new school does not have an extensive band or orchestra program, but it does offer a Suzuki violin program and music computer lab.

CAPTION: Jill Fischbeck teaches a physical activity and wellness class during the first week.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Gilbert Republic
Page: 16