Video courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In the sleepy border town of Nogales, a school district and public charter school are defying convention and working together to support students.
For the last two decades, families in Nogales have had the option to send their children to the Nogales Unified School District or Mexicayotl Academy, a dual-language public charter school.
But the leaders of the two high quality public school systems don’t see themselves as competitors, instead they work together to provide the best education possible for Nogales students, said Angel Canto, Nogales Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.
“There is no adversarial relationship. We share the same families and by high school we share the same students. It’s for everyone’s benefit that we all work together because ultimately it benefits our community,” she said. “We have really talented kids and we are fortunate to have great educators and a community that supports education. There is such high poverty, but the community supports our schools for the good of the kids.”
The school systems share in professional development for teachers and leaders. All Mexicayotl eighth-graders pass the state civics exam before entering Nogales High School. The high school also hosts Mexicayotl eighth-graders who take the AP Spanish exam.
“We are just beginning to define what we can each contribute to each other, and therefore to the students of Nogales,” said Balty Garcia, Director of Mexicayotl Academy. “There is a cultural expression that states, ‘There is enough for everyone and that one must serve others and not serve oneself.’ This partnership is an example of what can happen if this is an agreement between charter and district.”
The 22,000-person community is about 95 percent Hispanic, where “Spanish is used and valued with the same response that is exhibited for English,” said Garcia.
“We don’t see being bicultural and biliterate as a deficit. It’s an advantage that makes our students stronger. And puts kids head and shoulders above,” said Canto.
Because of their selfless agreement to put students first, A for Arizona is honoring both school systems as Trailblazers in District-Charter Collaboration.
“It takes all the right ingredients to give kids high quality education options, and these ‘A’-rated public school systems have the right combination of leadership and community support that allows students to thrive,” said Emily Anne Gullickson, A for Arizona Executive Director. “We are honored to highlight this corridor of excellence in Arizona.”
At its State of Excellence Gala on Aug. 30, A for Arizona is honoring Trailblazers across Arizona who, against all odds, are creating and growing high quality learning opportunities for students in unexpected places.