Hartford Elementary gets A+ designation - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Hartford Elementary gets A+ designation

March 3rd, 2022 development
Hartford Elementary gets A+ designation

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School Principal Heather Anguiano says you know you’ve done something special when even a kindergarten student realizes it’s a big day.

“I was at lunch duty … and a little kindergartener came up to me and he said, ‘I can just imagine how you felt yesterday because it was the best day of my life.”

The Chandler school was recognized the day before as one of only 21 in Arizona to receive an A+ grade by the Arizona Education Foundation.

“Just that a kindergartener realizes that A+ is a great big deal, and he’s so proud to be at an A+ school,” Anguiano said. “We really try to make it about the kids.”

To qualify for the A+ grade, a school must have a letter grade of B or better from the state Department of Education and have had the same principal for at least three years.

Any pre-K-12 school can apply if they meet those conditions.

Then, the real work starts.

“It’s a ton of work,” Anguiano said. “It’s a grueling process. And this year, they changed the deadlines.”

Typically, the applications are due in January, but because of staffing issues the AEF moved it up to August. That’s also when schools were busy preparing to reopen and dealing with new COVID protocols.

The school’s officials must fill out the application and then AEF officials go through it. For the schools that they think might receive an A+ grade, the foundation sends between four and six inspectors to spend two days making sure everything in the application is accurate.

AEF started its A+ program in 1983. Hartford received its first A+ grade in 2017. It is the only CUSD school to earn the honor this year. The awards are made every four years, so Hartford will be able to hang that A+ banner through at least 2025.

Anguiano anticipates reapplying for the designation then.

“I feel like I owe it to my school community and my students to apply every four years, just because we truly are an A+ school and we do great things,” Anguiano said. “I truly feel like I owe it to my students, my staff, my families, to continue to reapply and hopefully we’ll continue to get it.”

She said one thing that may keep some schools from applying is the fear of not getting it. Anguiano said it’s no secret when you apply, people hear about it. So, if you apply and don’t get it, that can have a negative effect.

“I would never want to go for A+ and put ourselves out there if the staff didn’t feel we were A+,” she said.

Hartford is a Title I school, which means it receives federal funding because it at least 40 percent of its student enrollment is considered below federal poverty thresholds.

“I am really proud that we’re a Title I school, and that we received an A+, because there are so many misconceptions out there about Title schools and Title populations,” Anguiano said.

As for any advice she would give to other principals who want to earn an A+ in the future, she offered some suggestions.

“Surround yourself with great people, be transparent, build those relationships, determine what your leadership style is, and really stick to that,” Anguiano said. “Every single decision we make, better be about kids.”