Coronado High School: Defining “Success”

by John Washington on August 8, 2018

Former Scottsdale Unified School District superintendent Denise Birdwell, who recently departed under a cloud of controversy and criminal activity, instituted the “Coronado Success Initiative” last year with much fanfare. School district governing board members Kim Hartmann, Pam Kirby, board president Barbara Perleberg, and others brayed about the good things to come.

Meanwhile, Birdwell undertook a not-so-quiet terror campaign to run off experienced administrators and teachers at Coronado (approximately 60%!), so that she could eliminate dissension in the ranks, and so that she could refill those positions with friends and allies, including (now ex-) principal Amy Fuller. As many as 19 of the the experienced teachers were replaced by interns and student teachers!

As recently as a couple of months ago, Hartmann and Birdwell cartel members Chris Schild, Nancy Cantor, Ed Richard, Jose Velarde, and Stuart Rhoden were bragging about achievements at Coronado, and using completely made-up metrics, like the numbers of seniors who filled out college applications.

To document some of those bragging points, I’ve reproduced below an article from the Scottsdale Independent.

I actually copied the article from the Scottsdale Charro’s website…they are/were one of the sponsors of CSI, apparently recruited into the situation via the “Business United for Scottsdale Schools” scam put together by the campaign finance law-violating Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kim Hartmann apparently also serves on the Charro Foundation board, the philanthropic arm of the Scottsdale Charros [who restrict their actual membership to only men, and who derive most of their funding from no-bid city contracts]. So, it’s a nice little closed loop. But I digress…

Over the course of the past few days, I have been involved in a rather public discussion with Stuart Rhoden. That chat escalated to an implied threat which I documented in my article yesterday. But based on a tidbit I learned this morning, one of Stuart’s tangential comments jumped back out at me.

Rhoden said,

“The CSI isn’t a one-off where you can simply assert they won the chip in a year. If it is to mean anything, it has to be longitudinal and sustainable.

“In other words the jury is still out. I don’t expect you to understand the challenges because yours and others have never had to worry about theirs being a “first gen,” or coming up with the enrichment and preparation it takes to go to college.”

Momentarily disregarding Rhoden’s class-baiting and sweeping generalization, this is a significant step back from the earlier, highly-premature, and (in my opinion) fraudulent proclamation of success of the CSI issued by Rhoden and Friends.

Rhoden’s change in tone about success struck me as off-key when I first read it. But I allowed myself to actually take the bait, and thereafter I focused more on Rhoden’s tactics and his self-serving political ambitions.

However, this morning, the Arizona Republic (heaven help them, they actually do still put out some news) published an article on AZ Merit test scores. Those scores are used to assess student performance relative to their peers, and to compare performance of schools relative to other schools in the state.

Coronado results? A big flat tire. With no spare in the trunk. And, I’m guessing, some of the Board members (Perleberg) have been feeding this information to Stuart, et. al, in advance of the public release, so they can diffuse criticism of their earlier bragging.

18% of students passed the math portion, up one point from last year. But only 15% passed reading, down one point from last year.

And this is in spite of district administration efforts last year to push out English language learner (ELL) students; efforts which I will be documenting in an future ScottsdaleCitizen article.

So, I wonder how many of the 100% of Coronado seniors who filled out a college application fall into the 85% of students who can’t pass the reading portion of the AZMerit test. It makes me sick that the administration–instead of TEACHING the kids–bullied them into wasting their time filling out applications, and wasted the students’ time in class…not to mention wasting OUR money.

Stuart Rhoden is all butt-hurt and wants everyone to think he got gang-jumped by a bunch of middle-class, silver spoon-sucking soccer dads. No Stuart, the reason you got called out is because you are a liar, and your efforts to undermine reform have fundamentally hurt a lot of kids who can’t ask for a do-over. Why would we even want you in the conversation, let alone representing Scottsdale taxpayers and families on the district’s governing board?

Ditto Kim Hartmann.

The deadline for filing to run for board re-election is today. Pam Ducey-Kirby already issued a mamby-pamby (you see what I did there?) statement whining about why she’s going to “hand off the [presumably pink, sparkly] baton” and not run for re-election.

Thankfully, Stuart did something smart last week and bowed out with his own, equally-sad and meaningless soliloquy. He wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in Scottsdale of winning because he’s an over-educated moron, but he would have been damned annoying in the campaigning.

Maybe Kim will do the right thing for once, as well.


Coronado Success Initiative begins to bear fruit at Scottsdale Schools

The school year is nearing its halfway point and Coronado High School’s students and faculty members appear to be adjusting to the number of changes that have come with the Coronado Success Initiative.

During a Tuesday, Dec. 12 [2017] Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meeting district officials presented an update on the school-wide initiative that overhauled the campus at 7501 E. Virginia Ave.

Last spring information presented by district leadership and Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell pointed to an under-performing school with few college-or career-ready students.

Principal Christopher Gilmore says his students aren’t just meeting their new expectations, but exceeding them.

“You raise the bar for the students, or you put that challenge in front of students, and they’re going to take it,” Mr. Gilmore said in a Dec. 13 phone interview. “You give them that opportunity, that time, that mentorship and that guidance.”

The school has two-thirds new staff — about 40 of 60 people — including a new principal at the helm.

Mr. Gilmore hit the ground running at Coronado, beginning work months before the school year began. The hard work is paying off, school officials content.

Just weeks before winter break begins, all 228 seniors have filled out at least one college application, Dr. Amy Fuller told the Governing Board on Dec. 12. More Coronado seniors are applying to the three big in-state universities this year, also, Mr. Gilmore pointed out.

Numbers provided by the principal show that 93 students have applied to ASU, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona as of Dec. 1, compared to 57 at the same time last year.

Additionally, the school has set a new district record notching the most graduates, 91, from Arizona State University’s American Dream Academy. The academy is a parent-centered, eight-week program offered through ASU at various schools throughout the Valley.

Overall, the focus at Coronado is personal and academic growth for its students, Dr. Fuller noted.

When the CSI [Coronado Success Initiative] started last spring, community partnerships between SUSD and the Scottsdale Charros, Scottsdale Community College, ASU and others, were the bedrock of the overhaul. The program now has 17 partners, Dr. Fuller said.

The partnerships with different entities around town have allowed the school to bring in speakers, professional development experts, community engagement and kick-off a mentor program.

On Nov. 1, the school hosted a college and career day where each grade level participated in their own activity. East Valley Institute of Technology, SCC and ASU representatives were all on campus that day, Dr. Fuller noted.

On Sept. 26 and Nov. 7, the school hosted FAFSA nights where 25-30 families filled out the financial aid paperwork. Another FAFSA night will be held at Coronado on Jan. 25.
Biology students hosted a genetic disease science fair on Dec. 14 at Coronado High School.

The school has also set a goal to lower the ratio of students per teacher. They are attempting to achieve this by utilizing ASU’s iTeach program with student teachers.

“The goal for CSI on ASU iTeach was to lower the ratio of students per teacher,” Dr. Fuller explained. “We have 19 interns or student teachers. On some days of the week our ratio goes down to 13 students per one teacher.”

Speakers that have been booked at the school include Scottsdale Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Jim Ford, Andre Watkins, research supervisor with Mayo Clinic, and the Women’s Leadership Speakers Panel.

Mr. Gilmore says the biggest challenge is having such a majority of new staff.

“I guess the challenge is we have a new staff. We are getting to know each other and we’re getting to know the students — that’s the most important thing,” he explained. “Everyone is kind of learning together. No one is afraid to not ask a question because everyone is new pretty much, but those that are here have really been helpful.”

After returning from winter break in January, the students and faculty will continue to focus on their English, math and science departments, Mr. Gilmore says.

“We’re working with our English, math and science departments right now to do more strategic interventions after school,” he said. “Our goal is to target the student’s weakness strategically, that’s why we call it strategic intervention, and get the students back up on par so they can be on grade level by doing that after-school tutoring.”

Mr. Gilmore says a Tonalea [former elementary school] Night, an AP [Advanced Placement] Night, a CTE [Career and Technical Education?] Night and the ACT [college placement] test are all on the docket for next spring. The school is looking at a adding a number of career and technical education programs in the future, he explained.

“That’s coming out of the gates in January and February [2018] for us right now,” Mr. Gilmore said.

“We also have in February, all of the students at Coronado are going to be taking the ACT test. That’s really exciting for us.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Edmond Richard August 8, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Ah, Mr. Washington, you are a very creative fellow. I keep watching you throw my name into some gathering of people I know. Why are we a cartel? I find it interesting you use that word, as I am so tempted to find that meme about your improper use of it, but I am going to be nice.

So can you answer the question – why am I part of a cartel? I didn’t follow the hate train of Mr. Norton’s ROSS page? I didn’t protest the documents that were shared with whom? What exactly as a private citizen did I do to become part of a cartel? Can you answer that Mr. Washington or will you ignore me like you have others? I have not been rude, so can you give me that equal respect back?

I am the father of six children. Now only one is left to go to Coronado; my two daughters are there now. Two of my sons graduated from there and one left because of reasons caused by the lack of proper well just about everything at Coronado HS. I ask questions, and I have asked many tough ones that get no answers. I find your tone somewhat limited and your facts quite sparse. I thought you of all people would get the whole picture, but you are more reactionary than ever. Why are you doing that?

Of all the people who I thought could think clearly and try to convey issues, I never saw you as one that will follow the crowd. Well if you have any questions of me ask. I am just a citizen; I have no exclusive access to anything. So how about you give me a call or email first. I am not part of a cartel, but another parent was trying to fight for their children’s education.

Edmond M Richard

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John Washington August 8, 2018 at 2:11 pm

“So how about you give me a call or email first.”

I know all I need to know about you, Ed; from your own words and from the company you keep.

“I am not part of a cartel, but another parent was trying to fight for their children’s education.”

Fighting for your own children is fine. But it doesn’t justify obstructing those who are fighting for ALL the children (and the taxpayers).

“I find your tone somewhat limited and your facts quite sparse.”

How many more facts do you need in order to know that the “success” of the Coronado “Success” Initiative was a lie?

“I never saw you as one that will follow the crowd.”

Funny that you accuse me of being “reactionary” and of “following the crowd,” and yet your main objection to what I wrote is that I’m labeling you as part of a group?

FYI, I developed my own information for this post, and consulted no one other than sources cited as I wrote it.

I communicated the Coronado AZMerit scores TO a small number of people this morning at 0658, long before anyone I know posted the information. So, if anything, other folks might have been following ME, or, more likely developed the information independently from the Republic article, which appears to have posted at 1138 yesterday morning.

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Mike Norton August 8, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Coronado was a mess before Birdwell. In all likelihood she made it worse. Gimmicks, clown show speakers, Kolbe certification for everyone except the janitors (maybe them too) duplicated Admin and office staff, big fat stipends to bribe anyone to come teach. Those smoke and mirrors tricks don’t produce results.

Coronado now needs more help than ever. Workout Management experts always start by firing the line staff. No. Wait. Only Birdwell thinks that’s a great idea. Never has a successful workout been accomplished by immediate firing of 2/3rds of the line staff. That idiotic move in a tight labor market won’t unwind itself for years.

In the mean time every other school had to give up funding and staff so Coronado gamesmanship could be played out. The damage to Coronado is obvious. The damage to the Tavans of the District is equally painful but unreported.

My kid’s school lost $90,000 of funding to the dog and pony show tricks at Coronado. You bet your ass I’m mad, Edmond. We are already the worst funded school in the District and the Nance/Fuller circus took 2,700 out of the budget of every classroom in our school.

If something wonderful had been accomplished I’d have a smile on my face. Coronado needed it. When the only accomplishment is a fat commission check to the Learning Tree and Kolbe sales agents, I have a right to be furious.

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Edmond Richard August 8, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Ah, Mr. Norton. What school of “yours” lost funding? Tell me. Are you trying to trot out the old Tavan got the raw deal again? If so, why? Do you think that Tavan has exclusive rights to that funding? If so show me where that is true or the law?

You being “mad” is like saying the Sun will come out today. I challenged Mr. Washington, and he responds with AzMERIT scores. Good, ONE CRITERION, and that is all he has to go from. Mr. Washington if I said your work is horrible because you don’t have the color I like, does that make your work horrible? No, it does not. Also please find where CSI was supposed to do anything in one year. I can’t see that documented, and I have asked so many times for results, but like you I get nothing.

This district just flat out is horrible at communicating. What does not need to happen is for people like Mr. Norton or yourself to continue a false narrative based on selected facts. I look forward to your expose on ELL removal and the rest of the accusations you post on ROSS and elsewhere. I am a data person, so show me that data.

Otherwise well, you don’t have the real picture do you?

Edmond M Richard

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John Washington August 8, 2018 at 3:43 pm

I’ll let Mike speak for himself on the questions you directed at him.

But to the specific reference to ELL data, I’ve been taking about that data and looking for that data since May.

I finally submitted a public records request for it over a month ago. I received a batch of data which another person cross-checked and found to be flawed.

That was confirmed by the district, and we were promised new, accurate data. But we have not received it.

And on a tangential note, a lot of funding is tied to ELL enrollment. If those data are wrong, then the funding is likely distributed improperly.

And if ELL data is wrong, what other data is wrong?

That brings us full circle to the point that CSI was a big show that hasn’t accomplished anything, meanwhile SUSD hasn’t been able to attend to basic tasks like proper distribution of funds.

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Gabriel Allon August 8, 2018 at 6:53 pm

I am just shocked that Kim Hartmann’s latest endorsement, article, and explanation of the Coronado Success was just based on nothing empirical. Oh, whoops, this is that lady who endorsed Laura Smith, hall of fame accountant to the felonious. My bad.

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