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Big Park Community School has done it again.

For the fifth year in a row, the kindergarten-through-eighth grade school has received the highest mark, the “excelling” label on its report card from the Arizona Department of Education.

 Alison Ecklund
Larson Newspapers

Big Park Community School has done it again.

For the fifth year in a row, the kindergarten-through-eighth grade school has received the highest mark, the “excelling” label on its report card from the Arizona Department of Education.

According to Big Park Principal Steve Gardner, there are many factors that make the school “excelling,” starting with the teachers.

The “excelling” label is based on improvement and the teachers work hard every year to look for ways to improve, Gardner said.

Gardner also gave credit to the student body.

“I can’t say enough about the students,” Gardner said. “They make my job easy.”

The word “community” in the school’s name seems fitting when listing reasons for Big Park’s success.

Fourth-grade teacher Diane Walter said the “excelling” label is a community effort, made up of parents and teachers working together to make the school successful.

Fellow fourth-grade teacher Ashli Endicott agreed.

“It’s definitely community involvement and caring students,” she said.

Boyd Copper, a third-grade teacher who’s been at the school for eight years gave three reasons for the school’s highest achievement. Parental involvement, high expectations and quality of staff topped his list.

“It’s a very worthwhile program because it sets the bar,” Copper said of the annual report cards the ADE gives to schools.

“The whole process makes us look at what to improve,” Copper said. “It’s really made a difference in how I teach.”

Seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher Jackie Kirkham credited the teachers for the school’s award.

“We have a combination of experienced staff and quality, new teachers that are extremely dedicated and go the extra mile to make sure our school remains ‘excelling,’” Kirkham said.

To celebrate Big Park’s fifth year of “excelling,” Gardner, who’s in his fifth year as Big Park’s principal, hosted an ice cream event at the school for all the students on Dec. 5.

As elementary students scurried from table to table loading their ice cream with mounds of toppings, Sedona-Oak Creek School Board member Carolyn Huggins joined the fun to congratulate students and staff.

As Huggins weaved between frenzied students, saying “hi” and patting the tops of little heads, she said the ice cream event was a great way to celebrate five years of “excelling.”

“Nothing is better than getting out here on campus,” she said. “The student body at all three [SOCSD] schools is great. This is a special place.”

After five years at the highest honor, Gardner now talks about maintenance.

“We try to improve each year so we can still be called an excelling school,” he said.


Alison Ecklund can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 125, or e-mail
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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