WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The start of the 2012/13 school year brings a slate of new administrators to Williams schools both at Williams Unified School District and at Heritage Elementary School where Kaytie Thies steps into the principal position.
Thies has been in the La Paloma Academy/Heritage Elementary School system for more than six years. Earlier this year, she was among a group of charter school teachers chosen to present an action plan for implementing new Common Core Standards for education to Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal and Arizona State Board of Education President Jaime Molera.
Originally from Tucson, Thies has lived in Williams for a year, teaching sixth and seventh grade at Heritage. She said improving the school's letter grade state ranking will be one of the school's main focuses this year.
"We are trying to implement as a team with our teachers and para-pros ways that we can do that," she said. "Interventions we can do with students."
The school will use the Galileo system to test on benchmarks throughout the year with pre-testing taking place last week. Students at both the low achieving and high achieving ends of the spectrum will be targeted for extra attention to bring students up to grade level or challenge them further.
"Ultimately, and I've told my teachers this, the Arizona state standards are what we teach to but that should be the very baseline of where kids should be," Thies said. "From there, everybody should be higher than what Arizona expects them to be. That is our goal, higher than our expectations."
Thies spent three years as registrar at the Tucson-based La Paloma Academy, also founded by Heritage Superintendent Raena Janes. After obtaining her education degree from the University of Arizona, Thies taught sixth grade for two years at La Paloma before moving to Williams. Thies is certified in elementary education with Structured English Immersion (SEI) and Middle School Language Arts endorsements. In her spare time, Thies loves to snowboard and spend time with her horse named Beta.
One hallmark of Heritage School's curriculum is an emphasis on family values and character values, something Thies hopes to refocus on this year.
"So they get the values as well as the academics," she said.
Thies explained that the school focuses on what she called the six pillars of character -trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
"We want our students to realize that every choice they make does have consequences, whether they be good or bad, and we want to implement them with the tools to understand their choices to then make the right choice to make a better life for themselves."
There are currently two schools in the Heritage district with the main campus in Glendale with approximately 800 students.
"We're a very small extension up here in northern Arizona," Thies said.
The Heritage schools are one part of a larger network of schools all founded by Superintendent Janes - three La Paloma schools in Tucson and a third district, the Liberty Traditional Charter School with schools in Phoenix and Douglas.
Heritage Elementary School-Williams provides kindergarten through seventh grade education with an emphasis on character as well as academics. Character education is presented in ways that allow students to learn responsibility and respect for self and others and that effective work yields rewards. Life skills are taught in cause-and-effect relationships.
Theis said all the school principals meet several times per year.
"We make sure we all have the same common goals," she said. "We're all striving for Raena 's vision of a school system."
Thies said charter schools are a different option for parents in a public education setting.
"We have the same accountability that all other public schools have. We have to follow the same rigor that other schools have. The only difference is we have the option to implement the character education. The family values. We can have uniforms as a requirement. We are a public school setting that has a private school feel."