Seeing is Bee-lieving in Pendergast Elementary schools

Guest Opinion//January 27, 2017

Seeing is Bee-lieving in Pendergast Elementary schools

Guest Opinion//January 27, 2017


I proudly wear the symbol of the bee, wherever I go, to symbolize to others and myself that I am a “Bee”-liever. My journey to being a bee-liever began decades ago from the lessons I learned from my students as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and now superintendent of the Pendergast Elementary School District in the West Valley.

My leadership motto is, “All decisions will be made in the best interests of students.” On my signature is a bee. I have adopted this as my theme because aerodynamically the bee should not be able to fly but it does. I “BEE”-lieve in the potential of education to change the lives of children and I am excited to work with a staff, students, families, communities and a school board that supports moving the school district to the next level of student achievement.

There is much talk about the politics of education that face our state and our nation. We question the commitment of our legislators and government officials to see and meet our needs. Whenever I am out in the community, I always invite people to witness what we are doing to change the face of education in the district. We only need to pick up a newspaper or listen to the news to hear the statistics on how our schools are failing our children. I certainly beg to differ.

We know that in order for students to succeed, we must teach differently and reach every student regardless of how they learn or the circumstances or zip code they come from. We must engage our learners through individualized attention and programs to meet the needs of each student.

In 2015, we began the process of creating a strategic plan to guide the district for the next five years. It involved over 150 stakeholders to create the blueprint of a mission, vision, beliefs and goals to provide the best educational experience for our 10,000 plus students in kindergarten through eighth grades on our 12 campuses. As we annually revisit our plan, our communities witness the progress on these goals and share our bottom line, “We have High Expectations for all.”

As part of our change process, we initiated Academies at our campuses and now offer Dual Language in kindergarten and first grade in Spanish and English at two campuses, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Academies that provide a rigorous, project-based approach to learning for students to be challenged and focused on college and career readiness opportunities. We have been amazed at the success of the Academies and the fact that many are unique to the elementary level. Students are flocking to learn more when it is relevant to them and we are fortunate to be able to collaborate with GCON for our Design and Build Academy and Maricopa Integrated Health Systems for our Medical Academy, Orcutt-Winslow Architects for our Architecture Academy, and One Sports Nation for our Athletics Academy.  Additionally, we have a Water Investigation Academy in partnership with the University of Arizona, an Aerospace Academy, in partnership with Horace Mann Insurance, an Author’s Academy, and an Apple Connect Ed Grant utilizing 21st century technology.

We know that our beliefs coupled with our partnerships are enabling us to move ahead with new designs for teaching and learning. We are focused on solutions to our most challenging educational forces. With a severe teacher shortage, we have hired staff from the Philippines and Puerto Rico who willingly want to teach for us. What we have also noticed that doing business differently means creating possibilities for our staff and students that are unprecedented. Regardless of the political situations we face as educators, we will prioritize our culture of believing in order to realistically meet our goals and look toward a bright future for our students, staff, families and the communities we serve.

— Lily Matos DeBlieux is superintendent of the Pendergast Elementary School District. Reach her at [email protected]