State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman learns about science class activities from Jacob Sandoval, 13, left, and Albert Carrillo, 13, right.

When Kathy Hoffman, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, visited the Legacy Traditional School in Avondale, she got a firsthand look at the traditional, well-rounded education for which the network of high-performing public charter schools is known.

Aaron Hale, the founder of Legacy Traditional Schools, and Legacy Avondale Principal Kristen Smith shared with Hoffman some achievements of the “A-rated” campus, which opened in 2011.

“We started with 450 kids and now we’re at 1,350. One of the things we’re extremely proud of is that we’ve been able to maintain the same structure, curriculum, instruction and culture of our school,” Smith said. “That’s, I think, remarkable; being able to keep that small-school feel.”

Smith described the culture on campus as “positive,” something she attributes to the Legacy format.

“Kids love to be here. It’s not just our academic side, but that it’s a safe place. Our parent input and students’ responses — as far as how they’re feeling on campus — they want to come to school every day,” she said.

LTS programs that promote the arts and fitness also contribute to that positive culture, Hale told Hoffman.

“We have full-size basketball courts in all of our campuses. We have music programs and PE programs. Everything. Because we’re really that whole spectrum of service for the kids,” he said.

Hoffman, who toured a handful of classes, including Heidi Decker’s third-grade Saxon math class, which is taught one full grade level above that of her students, learned about the rigorous curriculum students have access to at LTS.

“I think the rigor should always be there. I think students like to be challenged. Setting rigor high and making expectations clear — like having standards explicitly written out in every classroom and having good classroom management — are foundational components to student success,” Hoffman told the West Valley View.

Hoffman also heard about some of the extracurriculars available at Legacy Avondale, including robotics and musical theatre classes.

“It’s great to see that all students’ needs are met, while also keeping rigor and (aiming) high. As far as the extracurriculars, that’s critically important for students’ … skills. We know students are not ready to learn if those needs are not also met. It’s great to see that they have access to that here,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman, who was elected superintendent in 2018 and assumed her position in January, oversees the state of Arizona’s public school system and directs the state’s department of education.

But she told students her favorite part of her job is interacting with students and teachers from different schools.

“This is my favorite part. I love to be meeting students and meet with the teachers. That helps me figure out how I can help our schools, because I get to learn from you guys what schools need,” she told a class of first-graders.

And when a student asked Hoffman if her job is difficult, she admitted, “I have a really long day sometimes. Sometimes I travel a lot … sometimes it’s hard to be away from home.

“But it’s worth it. It’s more fun than hard.”