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DPD hosts bicycle helmet event

The Douglas Police Department in conjunction with the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, conducted a bicycle helmet event on Saturday March 30, at the DPD.

According to Sgt. Jose Duarte, the DPD had been granted funding back in October 2018, which was for the purchase of helmets and overtime pay for education, safety and enforcement of bicyclists in the community.

“Today, Douglas police officers were accompanied by the Miss Douglas organization participants,” Sgt. Duarte said. “They helped in passing out and fitting more than 20 helmets to both youth and adults. Douglas police officers on scene conducted safety checks of bicycles that were brought to the event.”

Sgt. Duarte said the DPD’s plan is to make sure that the community becomes more compliant with using helmets while riding their bicycles in Douglas.

“During the last two months, Douglas police officers conducted special details, where they met with bicyclist in order to inform them of the laws regarding bicycles on city streets,” Sgt. Duarte said. “Douglas police officers also stopped several vehicles and informed them of their responsibilities to provide space for bicyclists and rules of the road around bicyclist. We hope that these helmets will help protect our bicycling community in the event of a fall or accident.”

Last year, Sgt. Duarte reported, Douglas had one bicycle accident, none in 2017, and one in 2016. So far this quarter there has already been one bicycle accident.

Sgt. Duarte reports the DPD will have another bicycle safety event sometime in May followed by a third event in July or August, before schools begins.


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Plans for Douglas Days underway

Final preparations are being made for the Sixth Annual Douglas Days that will take place Friday and Saturday, May 17-18 at the 10th Street Park.

Jennifer Smith, Leisure Services Manager for Douglas, hosted a meeting with various community members on Friday, March 29 at City Hall going over details for this year’s event.

The event will kick off Friday, May 17 with opening ceremonies at the stage at the 10th Street Park. There will be live music and a variety of vendors afterwards. The new Miss Douglas Days queen will also be formally introduced that evening. The Miss Douglas Days pageant is set Saturday, April 13 at 7 p.m. at the Ray Borane Middle School Auditorium. Tickets are $10 and available at the door.

On Saturday, May 18 the Douglas Days parade will take place up G Avenue. That will be followed by the Bed Races. There will also be tours provided to Slaughter’s Ranch as well as more local entertainment performing.

The Douglas Williams House, located across the street from the 10th Street Park, will be debuting a new show that same weekend which features Mrs. A.Y. Smith who lived here one time. She’s becoming known as Arizona’s first nationally known artist.

“We have a lot of people that are really excited about this event,” Smith said. “We’ve actually been getting calls from people outside of Douglas wanting to come in and take part in Douglas Days this year.”

Smith said one of the goals this year for her committee is to get more people to dance.

“We always have some great music and we have people sit and watch the band while some people move in their seat,” she said. “We want to make sure we have a good event for the community that will showcase Douglas’ talents.”

Smith said a schedule of the Douglas Days events will be released in the coming weeks.

The Cochise County Fairgrounds will also be having two days of horse racing that weekend starting on Saturday, May 18 and concluding on Sunday, May 19.

Anyone wanting to get involved with Douglas Days or perform at the event may contact Smith or her staff at (520) 417-7340.


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Changes coming to DUSD

Proposed changes to the A-F grading rubric for public schools in Arizona are “scary”, Andrea Overman, principal of Douglas High School, told the school board at a special meeting on Wednesday, March 27.

The State of Arizona is required to comply with the federally mandated, Every Student Succeeds Act. The state legislature settled on the A-F grading system which measures quantitative data on students’ performance in areas such as subject matter proficiency, English learners, college and career readiness as well as other criteria. The data collected and on which the grading system is applied, is largely taken from the AzMERIT tests. One of the most important standards is “growth”. In the three new grading models proposed by the state for grades 9-12 in the 2019/2020 school year, growth has been eliminated and the percentage points it is currently awarded are spread between extant or new categories.

Growth can be loosely defined as the distance a student moves academically throughout the year. For example, Sebastien starts 10th grade reading at a seventh-grade level, but by the end of the year he is reading at a ninth-grade level. He has effectively closed a two-year gap in one year. Sebastien may not test as well as a student reading at grade level on the AzMERIT exam, but he’s achieved quite a bit, as have his teachers.

School board member Mario Ramos asked, “What is the benefit to the students with all these changes?” Overman responded, “None of this. These changes are scary. It is already difficult to convince students that the AzMERIT exams are intrinsic to the success of the school. Students don’t take it seriously, they are not extrinsically motivated to do their best.”

A poor school grade impacts enrollment, the financial health of the school and can bring in state oversight. Moreover, these new rubrics may not accurately grade rural and border community schools; as school board member Dr. Ed Gomez observed, “These changes favor schools with (consistently) high performing students.” In truth, some students just don’t test well. It is not the sole indicator of knowledge acquisition and its application; there is no test to monitor growth. Ana Samaniego, superintendent of DUSD, concluded, “At this point we don’t know what’s going to happen, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Denise Cox, Curriculum and Federal Programs Director came to the podium with a request to expand the Language Arts Core Knowledge Curriculum from K-3 to K-5. She explained that Core Knowledge is an integrated learning system that begins with a rigorous foundation in reading, writing and vocabulary but provides room to incorporate science and social studies. “This is important,” she said, “because, we don’t always have time to teach science and social studies because of the blocks of time we set aside for ELL.” It is an holistic approach to teaching and learning that has been well received by teachers, students and parents of K-3 students since its implementation in Douglas’ elementary schools in August of 2016.

Last year, she noted, “We were able to download the curriculum for free, but we had to make hundreds of thousands of copies to accommodate all the classes with the necessary materials. This put a strain on the print shop, the teachers, who had to collate the materials, and has its own implicit costs. “The answer,” Cox continued, “...is to buy the books.” While she acknowledged that the $250,000 price tag is steep, Cox maintained that it is a worthy investment. K-3 teachers have seen test scores improve but more importantly, have seen avid student engagement and heard from parents who are delighted by their children’s confidence and new vocabulary. When queried by School Board President Ray Borane regarding her colleagues’ support for the program, Cox answered affirmatively citing a 90 percent approval from K-5 educators. “We have to make this happen.” Samaniego added from the dais.

Ramos asked for feedback from other teachers present, all of whom gave glowing reviews of the program. Jessica Calas, a Kindergarten teacher exclaimed, “My kids were reading in December.” Cinthya Alyas a teacher at Stevenson, expressed her excitement about the curriculum, “ I have the freedom to plan my lesson rather than spend time looking around for resources and materials.” She also spoke to the extra challenges ELL might have with this curriculum, “We must not expect less from them, low expectations produce low returns.” Maria Castillo, a first-grade teacher at Faras who has taught ELL for 25 years concurred, “They can tackle it.”

Lisa Holland’s presentations on building a private day school for emotionally disturbed students and whether to award a diploma or certificate to academically challenged students can be accessed on youtube.com.

Cesar Soto, chief financial officer, was asked to re-crunch the numbers for the 2019/2020 school year and to give a full reporting at next week’s regular board meeting.

Editor’s note: Teachers Talk will resume next week, April 10, 2019, with Nathan Darus, band teacher for both Ray Borane and Paul Huber Middle Schools.