Helios grants add up to over $5 million for YUHSD since 2012

By Sarah Womer @YSSarahWomer | Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 9:58 pm

Helios Foundation

Antonia ‘Toni’ Badone (right), Yuma Union High School District superintendent, addresses the audience gathered in the Gila Ridge High School library in 2012 for the announcement of a $3.9 million grant from the Helios Education Foundation. With the approval of a recent $900,000 grant, the Helios Education Foundation’s investment in the Yuma Union High School District has topped $5 million.

With the approval of a recent $900,000 grant, the Helios Education Foundation’s investment in the Yuma Union High School District has increased to more than $5 million.

The dollars will go toward the district’s Ready Now Yuma initiative to fund a third-party evaluation and to continue to develop community engagement.

The district received an initial $3.9 million Ready Now Yuma Implementation grant from Helios in 2012; it was also awarded an additional $440,000 from the organization in 2013 to bolster communication and marketing projects.

Superintendent Toni Badone said that while there will be a more extensive report on the district’s specific plans for the funds at a regularly scheduled board meeting in November, it has already had an initial meeting with the American Institute of Research, whom the district will be working with to conduct the evaluation.

She noted that the distribution of the recently awarded grant funds will be an almost equal split between the evaluation and community-engagement efforts.

While the foundation has contributed millions to educational programs and initiatives in both Arizona and Florida since its inception in 2004, Badone said that YUHSD is the first school district that the organization has invested money in.

In other meeting news, the board also adopted a new performance-based compensation plan for the 2014-2015 school year.

The plan was vetted by campus staff and administration and it was approved by a total of 92.84 percent of teachers.

In order to adhere to statute, Executive Director of Human Resources Scott Sheldon said changes from last year’s plan is that 33 percent of a teacher’s performance pay will now be based on the results of a formal observation. If a teacher scores “highly effective,” “effective” or “developing,” they will automatically earn the 33 percent of their performance pay – an amount that won’t be determined until May. If teachers don’t earn the performance pay, the money goes into the performance pay fund for the following year.

At the individual school level, Cibola High School had 88.68 percent of teachers ratify the plan proposal, Gila Ridge High School had 88.57 percent, Kofa High School had 96.15 percent, San Luis High School had 97.95 percent, Vista Alternative High School had 92.3 percent, and Yuma High School had 90.16 percent.

Another addition will be that all teachers will have informal classroom walkthroughs conducted either by teams of teachers, instructional leaders, or building administrators at least once per semester.

In regards to the plan, Sheldon said, “We had real good input from the teachers. They were very vocal as far as their ideas and concerns.”

Also during the meeting, the group approved a process for appointing board members to a Yuma County Joint Technical Education District (JTED) governing board, should the initiative pass on the November ballot.

The JTED governing board would consist of two members appointed by YUHSD, two members appointed by Antelope Union High School District, and one member appointed by Yuma County Superintendent of Schools Tom Tyree.

Tyree said that the plan would begin with accepting letters of interest for the positions from Nov. 7-21 with interviews happening the first week of December.

The YUHSD board voted to hold a special board meeting on Dec. 8, pending the approval of a JTED, to make an announcement of the appointed board members, as AUHSD will also have its regular board meeting that night and anticipate announcing its board members at that time as well.

The timeline for a Yuma County JTED would include swearing in board members as early as January to begin the process of creating policy, choosing programs, hiring staff and recruiting students.

Lastly, the governing board also proclaimed Oct. 20 – 24 as School Bus Safety Week.

As part of the proclamation, Ron Schepers, director of the Yuma Schools Transportation Consortium, took a moment to remind the community of the importance of school bus safety and taking extra precautions when on the road to be aware of buses who are picking up, driving, and dropping off students.