Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald: Two Morenci schools were awarded the coveted A+ Schools of Excellence Award.
Morenci High, Fairbanks receive coveted A+ awards
By Walt Mares
Elite: being among the best of the best.
That is where two Morenci schools rank along with the rest of the very best schools in Arizona.
Fairbanks Middle School and Morenci High School are among the 44 schools in the Grand Canyon State that have received the coveted A+ Schools of Excellence Award from the Arizona Educational Foundation.
Consider the fact there are 2,430 public schools, grades K-12, in Arizona. Being among the top 44 is an incredible achievement.
The Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF) has been championing public schools with the A+ School of Excellence™ Award program since 1983. The A+ Award is a way to identify, celebrate, and recognize educational excellence in PreK-12th grade schools throughout Arizona.
“We are absolutely delighted to receive this award. It says so much for our staff and certainly parents and students,” said former MHS Principal Brian Boling. The achievements of the high school and middle school came under his watch and that of former Fairbanks Principal Ana Van Zile, respectively.
Van Zile and Boling headed their schools during the 2018-19 school year. Both have since retired. Boling went on to be appointed Greenlee County Superintendent of Schools and currently holds that position.
“An A+ designation is just really something to take a great deal of pride in,” said Morenci Schools Supt. Dr. David Woodall. “It’s the most prestigious and sought-after award in education.”
Just applying for the award is a major challenge, Woodall said. “It involves a 35-page application that is very rigorous. It deals not only with academics but the overall culture of a school The AEF evaluation team interviews parents, students, teacher,s and school staff to validate what is happening in the schools.”
He said that to apply for the A+ award a school has to consistently show total commitment by staff.
Boling said it was, “The most rigorous evaluation that I’ve been through.” Neither he nor Van Zile was allowed to participate in the AEF evaluation. He said the AEF evaluators “are very careful about what they do.”
The team takes steps in its evaluation. The first is the evaluation of the 35-page application. If the application passes muster the AEF sends different teams to the school at varying times. They speak with parents, students, and a variety of community members.
Boling’s immediate comment on the award was about the dedication of the school’s staff. “I believe Morenci High School has the best staff you could work with.”
Filling out the application submitted to the AEF was in itself “a great challenge,” said Boling. “It was not only a matter of having to fill a very detailed application but also undergo great scrutiny. It took a great deal of time and AEF members took a very close look at everything we did.”
AEF evaluators came to Morenci repeatedly to evaluate not only what our teachers were doing, but how well students were doing. They observed what was going on not only in classrooms but also spoke at length with students and parents.
“I guess you could say they left no stone unturned,” Boling said. “They really didn’t.”
Woodall said Fairbanks underwent the same rigorous examinations as did the high school. And as in the case of the high school, Van Zile first credited the Fairbanks staff.
Her colleague, Jenifer Morales, principal of Metcalf Elementary, said Van Zile was tireless in her efforts. “She was often there (at school) late at night. Sometimes as late as 9:00. She worked very, very hard in the five years she was here. She had a lot of innovative programs.”
Woodall said, “She worked very hard and just did an excellent job. She was a key player in applying for the award.”
Boling was in his 14th year as high school principal. The high school also received the A+ award in 2015.
“Bryan provided really strong leadership for the high school. No doubt about it,” Woodall said. “Bryan is a very hard worker.”
Boling said applying for the award was akin to being under a microscope and the close scrutiny is valuable in that “the AEF team not only validates what you are doing but also points to areas we can improve on.
“For that alone the evaluation is very valuable,” Boling said.
Schools receive $500 and a banner designating them as an A+ School of Excellence™ winner. The award is valid for four years. Recognition through the A+ School of Excellence™ program helps increase confidence in Arizona’s public schools and creates greater parent and community support.
In addition to showcasing outstanding public schools, the A+ program provides school teams with an extensive comprehensive framework that serves as a basis for school self-assessment and planning.
An AEF spokesperson said the A+ School of Excellence™ award is a powerful energizer for increasing public confidence in recognized schools, often resulting in greater parent and community involvement and even serves as an economic driver for some communities.
A+ Schools are celebrated and recognized as exceptional. Earning the highly prestigious and coveted A+ School of Excellence designation spotlights the positive successes happening in public schools every day.