I went on a trip this summer to visit my dad who is 88 years old in Virginia. We drove the 2,100 miles to see him. With this trip, I took a very important tool with me, MapQuest. This tool allowed me to see where I came from, where I am and where I am going and if I turned the wrong direction, it would remind me how to get back on track. We have a tool that we use within our district that we need to know and understand and that is the Strategic Plan. Even though it doesn’t state where we have been, we need to be mindful of our past in order to continuously improve where we are at and where we need to go.
As I completed my second year as the superintendent of the Page Unified School District, there was much to reflect on. While there have been a lot of successes to celebrate, looking forward, there is still much work to be done. During my time as superintendent, we have been able to build a Strategic Plan with the input of many individuals, including community members, parents, staff and students. While it is not unusual for districts to have a vision for the future, I am happy to say that our mission statement resonated with all of us. The mission states, “Our schools are passionate about the learning-for-all mission and understand that every student matters. We are responsible and accountable for the education of every student that walks through our doors every day.” This is a work in progress and what PUSD aspires to become. Every student needs to be the focus of our work every day.
This is the foundation we need to build on because our kids do matter and our community expects this from us. We can no longer afford to make excuses for falling short for the sake of our children.
Yes, we can easily blame the Arizona budgetary process, we can blame circumstances for poverty and difficult home life, disconnected parents and we can point fingers in a number of other areas that we have very little control over, but that is not fixing the problem. We are shifting our focus to what we can control and that is what happens in our buildings and classrooms from the time the bell rings each morning through the time the bell dismisses each afternoon. We are committed to making a positive difference, which is something that we can control, as we become fully engaged with our students this year. That will be our commitment to our community. Our motto states, “Collectively Committed to Every Student, Every Day, Every Minute.” These cannot be just words jotted down on a piece of paper, they need to be etched in our hearts. When students are in our presence, we can make no excuses.
The people who work in this district are committed to making our school district better. Many are committed to our community and consider Page their home. They desire to improve our existing systems, and I believe we are making positive strides to get where we want to be. Over the last two years, we have been able to receive grants to replace roofs, lighting, fire systems and intercom systems, upgrade our mechanical systems including our HVAC units, water upgrades with the intentions of decreasing utility costs. We have software that will allow us to become proactive in our maintenance of high cost items. Our district is aging, and we can no longer continue to put bandages on the items within the district and have developed a plan and schedule to continue to upgrade our facilities to ensure that our students have a safe and healthy environment in which to learn. Even though our capital budget has been slashed by the state by 90 percent since the Great Recession, we can no longer use that as an excuse. There are other avenues of gaining revenues to address these shortfalls, and we are exploring all of them.
So as we begin this year, remember we are always about kids and we make our decisions and best intentions about the students we serve.
As we continue our PIVOT to become the best district we can possibly be, I just ask one simple question, “Are you committed to every student, every day, every moment?” We can no longer afford to make excuses of why we can’t, but look for avenues of why we can. Have a great year!
Robert B. Varner, Ed.S., superintendent