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Gavilan Peak and Canyon Springs named A+ Schools of Excellence


Elizabeth Medora

ANTHEM – Gavilan Peak School and Canyon Springs STEM Academy have been named A+ Schools of Excellence by the Arizona Educational Foundation. All the Deer Valley Unified School District K-8 schools in Anthem have now received this designation.

Through the A+ School of Excellence program, the Arizona Educational Foundation recognizes outstanding schools throughout the state. Schools applying for the designation must complete a comprehensive application on school programs, achievements, and practices, as well as documentation of parental and community involvement. The award selection panel reviews the school’s application and will visit the school campus and personally meet with students, staff, and parents to determine which schools earn the A+ School of Excellence label.

Gavilan Peak Assistant Principal Aimee Fleming noted that the Anthem-area schools work closely together, which has helped them attain high achievement levels.

“Our school administrators and teachers collaborate often and support each other through teaching and learning,” Fleming said, noting that the DVUSD creates a culture of high expectations and collaboration. “Through the process of working collaboratively and the expectation of ‘extraordinary’, we are able to see our staff and students excel!”

“The fact that all DVUSD K-8 Schools in Anthem are A+ Schools of Excellence speaks volumes to the rigor and high quality of education we provide our students,” said Canyon Springs STEM Academy Principal Tricia Graham. “We meet the varied needs of all learners, from students with special needs to the profoundly gifted students in our Renaissance and gifted programs. Collectively, we are able to offer specialized programs that meet the varied interests of our students which include foreign languages like Mandarin and Spanish, as well as highly sought after STEM programs and instruction with technology integration. We are truly preparing our students for worldly experiences as well as 21st century jobs in engineering, computer science, and many more careers that do not yet exist!”

Fleming noted that Gavilan Peak decided as a team that this year was a great year to apply for the A+ distinction, particularly since the school has been making great strides academically.

“As a team, we decided that our school has made such great leaps and bounds the past few years and our AZMerit scores came out as one of the top in the region and top 5 in the district, so we thought this was our year to showcase our amazing students and staff!” Fleming said.

The application process is comprehensive; each school offered over 40 pages of data, utilizing information from students, staff, parents, and community partners.

“Canyon Springs decided to apply to be an A+ School of Excellence in August,” said Graham. “Our team spent a lot of time gathering data and information and reflecting upon areas of strength and where we can improve.” Graham credited teachers Christen Franklin, Angela Grimm, Stephanie Stephens, and Britnee Abrams for putting many hours of work into the application process and creating an excellent application, which resulted in a school visit from four judges who were or are currently principals of A+ School of Excellence schools, and ultimately, the school receiving the A+ designation.

For the Canyon Springs and Gavilan Peak staff and students, the A+ award confirms what they already know – their schools are exceptional.

“I am incredibly proud of where we have come from and where we are today,” Graham said. “We are a leader in STEM education with a true focus on 21st century learning. I think we have built an amazing culture where all voices are heard, innovation, meeting the needs of all learners, and high expectations are key...and a place where change is good when needed, and all decisions are made based on what is best for students.”

“Our staff is one that sticks together and supports each other and our community without question,” Fleming said. “If they know there is a family in need, they pull together and raise funds, food, or any support that family needs. If we are short staffed for a day or something out of the ordinary happens and we need help.....there are numerous staff members that jump in to help without being even being asked. This staff is the type that sees a problem and works together to solve it. There is a strong family feel here! Our students are the other part that makes this campus exceptional. Our students are compassionate, hardworking, and natural leaders.”

In their A+ School of Excellence application, Gavilan Peak quoted students who described some of the things Gavilan Peak has helped them learn.

“I have learned a lot at Gavilan Peak. They have helped me learn about outreach and giving back to others through National Elementary Honor Society,” said 5th grader Cassidy.

Ava, another student, said she had learned “to be a better leader and to be respectful to others” at Gavilan Peak.

Canyon Springs’ application also included testimonials from parents and students at the school.

“The culture promotes students to be proud of their school and it’s truly like a community as my kids report their daily interactions with other students, teachers and staff,” reported G. Kaye, Canyon Springs parent.

“We love our STEM program and half day investigations. We have fun while still learning,” said students Marissa, Faith, and Kaely.

“It is always my goal to have the staff LOVE to come to work,” Graham said of the caring atmosphere at Canyon Springs. “When that happens, our students will LOVE to come to school and our parents will LOVE that their children love school at Canyon Springs.”

“With our school motto as ‘Learn, Lead, Create’, our students demonstrate this daily with their community service projects, school culture, and innovative thinking,” Fleming said of Gavilan Peak. “Our students thrive to do their best and come to school ready to learn and make a difference every day.”

Canyon Springs celebrated their award last week. Gavilan Peak will hold a celebration on Tuesday, May 17, 9:30 a.m., and the community is invited to attend.