Reid Traditional Schools’ Painted Rock Academy
2017 Arizona Public Charter School of the Year
By Jamar Younger
Painted Rock Academy has established itself as a model of consistency since the public charter school opened its campus six years ago.
The school, operated by Reid Traditional Schools, prides itself on its traditional education model, and believes – given the right tools – all students can achieve success. Students analyze classical literature and develop a love of math, science and technology, using strong foundational skills to explore new concepts and ideas in the upper grades.
Teachers and administrators work hard to ensure that each student will receive the same education experience, regardless of which class they attend.
A stable, committed group of teachers and strong parental involvement are the hallmarks of Painted Rock’s success. Parents play a prominent role on campus: assisting in classrooms, planning school events and supporting the teachers so they can focus on academics.
This consistency and stability has helped Painted Rock cement its reputation as one of the top schools in the state, with A-ratings and AzMERIT scores that rank above the state averages.
It’s also the reason the school has been named the 2017 Arizona Public Charter School of the Year.
The School of the Year Award is latest accomplishment for Reid Traditional Schools. Painted Rock’s sister school, Valley Academy, was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014.
“One thing that we to do is spark the children’s imagination. When the kids learn science, they’re not just learning facts, they’re learning how to discover their world,” said Heidi Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer of Reid Traditional Schools. “It’s not just fun; it’s educational, too.”
The leaders of Reid Traditional Schools opened Painted Rock in response to the increasing demand at Valley Academy, one of Arizona’s first public charter schools. The schools are located about five miles from each other in north Phoenix.
“We had so many students trying to get into Valley Academy, we decided to open a second campus,” Mitchell said. “Painted Rock Academy has done a great job of carrying the traditions we started all those years ago.”
The school’s tradition is rooted in parental involvement. A group of parents founded Valley Academy in 1995 after expressing dissatisfaction with the education choices available to their children.
Those parents also insisted on the school using a traditional education model.
“The foundation of our school comes from the parents and the parent involvement has historically always been very high,” said Painted Rock Principal Josh Bauer.
The school has a dedicated room for the Painted Rock Organization of Parents, its version of a parent teacher association, which includes a play area for toddlers. This allows parents with small children who wish to volunteer at school the opportunity to do so without having to find childcare.
“The culture here is family. We all stick together and help out anytime there’s a need,” said parent Jana Neilsen, who has a third grader and preschooler attending Painted Rock.
The environment has fostered a sense of responsibility and commitment among the school’s students, such as Christin White, who began attending Painted Rock in third grade.
White, 12, is now in seventh grade with an eye already towards high school.
She says Painted Rock has already prepared her by teaching her to be bold, think critically and exceed academically.
“Be bold and speak up, so people know what kind of person I am,” she said. “I apply it for everything.”
Meet the 2017 Charter Award Winners
Reid Traditional Schools’ Painted Rock Academy is a K-8 back-to-basics charter school serving 612 students in north Phoenix. The high performing public charter school sets a high academic bar for students, and believes – given the right tools – all students can achieve success.
Sara Maline Bohn is the principal at Arizona School for the Arts, a 5-12 charter school serving 850 students in Phoenix. Through her mission driven decisions, Sara champions success and growth for all students and teachers and has earned the respect of the entire community.
Suzanne Drakes is the Assistant Executive Director at AAEC Early College High Schools, a network of six charter schools serving 1,700 students. Suzanne is often seen on school campuses, working with principals and teachers to determine the academic and building needs of each school.
Bonnie Weppner is an ELL kindergarten teacher at Pioneer Preparatory School: A Challenge Foundation Academy, a K-6 charter school serving 580 students in Phoenix. Bonnie helps scholars realize their language potential in English, while still embracing their heritage.