State axing principal at Craycroft

By Alexis Huicochea


Craycroft Elementary School will be required by the state to replace its principal as part of an intense intervention plan, Arizona and district officials said Saturday.
The action is being taken because Craycroft, in the Sunnyside Unified School District, has shown no improvement in student performance, said Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction.
The school, with about 550 students, was one of two in the Tucson area labeled last year as "failing to meet academic standards" by the state. That label came after the schools were categorized as "underpeforming" three years in a row.
Van Buskirk Elementary School in TUSD was the other local school listed as failing.
Craycroft, which is near East Valencia Road and Interstate 10, becomes the first school in the Tucson area to have to undergo the most intense level of state intervention since the labeling system began in 2002. On Tuesday, the school was notified by the state that it would have to remove principal Hans Schot and replace him with a "turnaround principal" by next school year.
The new principal will be required to remain at the school for at least three years and will have the power to replace teachers and make other changes. The time requirement is based on Horne's philosophy that the state should be able to see results in students' performance in three years.
Test scores help determine whether a school is labeled as "excelling," "highly performing," "performing," "underperforming" or "failing." Other factors are academic progress and attendance.
Out of 81 underperforming schools in Arizona, 70 were able to rise to the performing level, Horne said. Craycroft was one of the 11 that were not able to increase test scores.
"Test scores at Craycroft were low to begin with and they were only getting lower," Horne said.
He cited last year's fifth-grade reading results, which showed 43 percent of students at or above proficiency compared with 57 percent for the state. This year's results showed 28 percent of students at or above proficiency at Craycroft compared with 52 percent for the state.
Craycroft is not the only school in Arizona that will be receiving a turnaround principal, Horne said. He could not say how many schools are now at this level of intervention.
He did say that of the 11 schools listed as failing, there will be some that will not be required to change principals.
Van Buskirk will not be receiving a turnaround principal, said Estella Zavala, a Tucson Unified School District spokeswoman.
Horne and Sunnyside officials said replacing Craycroft's principal should not be seen as a state takeover of the school.
"Other states at this stage have just taken over schools," Horne said. "I am taking a collaborative approach to involve the school in the decision-making process."
The turnaround principal will be selected by the Sunnyside district governing board, but the candidates who are interviewed will be chosen by the state.
Sunnyside Superintendent Raul Bejarano estimates the list of candidates will be provided by the end of the month.
It will be possible to hire a principal from within the district, as long as the state believes that he or she is the right person to get the school back on track, Horne said.
In addition to the principal, the state is requesting that a three-member administrative team at the school be replaced.
Those positions include the facilitator, who trains teachers, the reading coach and the school's prevention specialist, who deals with disciplinary issues and works closely with the principal.
The Sunnyside governing board will be traveling to Phoenix on Tuesday to see if those in the three positions could remain at the school because they are not administrators. They are actually on teaching contracts, said Eva Carillo Dong, the governing board president.
The Craycroft staff was notified Wednesday afternoon, and a parent-teacher meeting was held that night to announce the latest intervention. Letters about the upcoming administrative changes were sent out with students Thursday.
"Parents were dismayed and voiced their support for our principal," said Monique Soria, a spokeswoman for the district.
Schot, who has been the principal for three years, said he will take on an administrative or an instructional role next year.
"I will complete the school year," he said. "I am still here, and I will put my full heart and soul into this school.
"Personally, it is frustrating because I feel we needed more time to show improvement and we have been doing a lot of things to improve. This is something I have no control over, but I will support the school in whatever it needs to do to help the students."
Carillo Dong, the governing board president, said the school has been very cooperative in taking suggestions from the state and implementing programs. "When the school was first labeled underperforming we tried to turn it around," Carillo Dong said.
Some of those efforts include changing the school's reading program to the Voyager Reading Program, which is state funded and took Schot hundreds of hours to train for. The state also recommended a principal "mentor" be placed at the school three weeks ago, and the school complied.
● Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 629-9412 or