Education Executive - Fall 2011 - (Page 172)
LAKE HAVASU UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT #1
An Evolution of Excellence
This Arizona school district is rising to the challenge of improving instruction and preparing its students for the future.
ail Malay said she’s learned some incredible lessons over the last seven years – one of the most valuable being progress is possible, even in the face of challenge. All it takes is collaboration, dedication and a little bit of passion. That’s exactly what this superintendent is demonstrating at Lake Havasu
Unified School District #1.
finished yet. That’s because education isn’t about reaching an ending; it’s about fostering an evolution of life-long learning.” Indeed, an evolution has been taking place at Lake Havasu Unified School District since Malay assumed her role at the district, comprising eight schools and 5,848 students, in 2004. Upon her arrival to the district, Malay faced two of its most disconcerting challenges head on: its declining budget and hesitation to align its literacy instruction to meet Arizona’s standards. According to Malay, the financial piece was especially challenging due to the economically diverse nature of the district’s Lake Havasu community. “Approximately 56% of our students participate in our free and reduced lunch program,” she said. “There is no middle class anymore, so it seems; our district is a mixture of the rich and the poor. So our students needs are varied while our financial resources remain limited.” Despite those obstacles, the district successfully passed an override that alleviated some of its financial burdens in 2005. At the same time, Malay and the district devised a plan to improve its literacy program. It wasn’t an easy task to take on, but by encouraging collaboration and sticking to her bottomline approach, a path for progress within the district soon began to take shape. “The most important thing to establish is a clear dialogue and focus around what you’re trying to accomplish,” Malay added. “After asking my principals to attend a leadership training session sponsored by the state, one of them came back with a bulleted list of what we needed to do to get our literacy program on track. We used that list as our guide and the incentive to initiate those changes.”
“We have been working diligently to improve instruction here at Lake Havasu,” said Malay. “It hasn’t been an easy, but we’ve made some real and valuable progress. Of course, we aren’t
Reading and results
Some of those bulleted initiatives included implementing a 90minute reading block, creating a three-tier intervention process, and integrating more effective instructional resources into the process. Malay and the district steadily worked together to put those pieces in place for students, yielding some impressive results in the process.
172 | Education-Executive.com FALL 2011
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