Buckeye Elementary School

Buckeye Elementary School held a community meeting led by Principal Dina Cegelkam to discuss its “F” grade. 

Buckeye Elementary Principal Dina Cegelka called the school’s failing grade “a knife to the heart” as she provided the plan to improve.

Buckeye Elementary held a community meeting Wednesday, Jan. 22, to discuss its plan to improve a failing grade.  The Arizona Board of Education gave the school an “F” grade as a result of getting a “D” grade three years in a row.

“This was definitely a little bit of a knife to all of our hearts because we know how deeply we care about our school and how much we were working toward the betterment of Buckeye Elementary,” Cegelka said.

She stressed the school is “a wonderful place for our students to grow,” but some Buckeye Elementary parents expressed concerns.

Gloria Heuser, who has two sons enrolled in Buckeye Elementary, said she is disappointed with the school.

 “I’ll be moving my youngest to a different school next year,” Heuser said. “I feel like there is no communication and I have no idea what’s happening.”

Heuser also expressed concern for the behavior of some of the school’s students, but she said nothing has been resolved.

 “A lot of the kids’ behavior and the things they say really concern me,” Heuser said. “I brought it up last year and the same child is speaking the same exact way today as if he’s an adult.”

Buckeye Elementary has 860 students enrolled, Cegelka said.

She stressed the school was on the verge of a better grade. 

“We were at 57th (percentile), so we were so close to a ‘C.’ So, it brought a lot of conversations about what we can do to push us over the next step and what can we do to get us over this proficiency hump and get more students passing,” Cegelka said.

Cegelka said the school focused on the Comprehensive Needs Assessment, which showcases students’ growth and gives teachers a comprehensive look at a student’s journey.

“We know all children come with different levels of learning and we want to see if every child is growing and learning on our campus,” Cegelka said. 

“One area we are working on is empowering our school communities,” Cegelka said. “One of our strategic plan goals is how can we make sure our community inside Buckeye, feels connected in our culture.”

To begin supporting a sense of community, the elementary school has implemented “houses,” in which each student is assigned. This has helped foster relationships between eighth-grade students and younger grades, Cegelka said.

Cegelka said the purpose of the meeting was to tell parents what Buckeye Elementary is doing to better its institution.

“We want to continue this upward trajectory and we would love to see us out of this “D” to “F” range,” Cegelka said. “But more importantly, I never want to lose sight of every student coming happily to school.”

Cegelka said the school is working with a consultant. 

“She (consultant) has done some stress management sessions of our teachers but she latched on this idea with habits of success,” Cegelka said. “She has been working with me on how we can embed these into our lessons.”

“I think we have been fighting the same battle many schools across Arizona are fighting and it’s how do we get our students meeting the proficiency mark,” Cegelka said. “For the past few years, we’ve really been looking hard at what practices we are doing and what we can do to continue to grow.” 

Heuser said she understands the staff works very hard, but she doesn’t understand why the school keeps failing. 

“I could never be a teacher,” Heuser said. “It takes so much patience and love and caring for you to be here. They’re (staff) nice and a lot of them are great. I just wish I got more communication from them.”

Despite all of this, Heuser said she believes Buckeye Elementary has the potential to break through its challenges and achieve its goal. Although she liked some of the points Cegelka spoke about during the presentation, she remains unconvinced..

“I really appreciate the effort, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” Heuser said.