West Point HS

From left to right, West Point High School Principal Brandi Haskins; Judith Jameson, executive assistant to the superintendent and governing board; Freddie Villallon, vice president of the governing board; Superintendent Nora Gutierrez and board member Steve Chapman sign a metal sheet before it’s tacked onto a beam. (West Valley View photo by Pablo Robles)

West Point High School Principal Brandi Haskins is looking forward to the culture and traditions the Dragons will begin on its new campus.

“A big part of high schools and building that culture is having our students connect with their mascot as (something) they all share,” Haskins told the West Valley View at a January 16 beam-signing ceremony in Avondale.

Before the traditions start, district officials, local dignitaries and others gathered at the school’s construction site on a foggy Wednesday morning to celebrate the build’s next step. 

They took part in a much older tradition: signing a metal sheet that was later tacked to a beam, commemorating the community and its support of the Tolleson Union High School District.

The ceremony also introduced the high school’s principal. Haskins, whose role was previously announced online, comes off seven years as principal of La Joya Community High School, and seven years before that as Westview High School’s principal. Haskins has spent her 28-year career solely with the district, Superintendent Nora Gutierrez noted.

“She’s no rookie,” Gutierrez said in her speech. “She’s an expert. She is a guru in the principalship, in leadership, and always students first, staff first, the district first. She’s all about Tolleson Union High School District and our students’ academic achievement. She will do everything in her power to ensure success.”

Haskins, who called her new position an honor, has big goals for students and staff – notably being a point of pride for the district.

“I’m not going to lie, we want this school to be the showplace of Arizona,” she told the West Valley View. “We want this to be a place that very quickly makes a name for itself academically, in terms of building a positive community and culture, athletically, activities, giving our students every possible opportunity to grow and shine, and whatever they’re excited about.

“I think education has changed a little bit. Our students now have so many choices when they leave high school. We want them to be prepared for all of them and to go out and then to lead in our community and to lead across the globe.”

Freddie Villalon, the district board’s vice president, called it “a school made of champions, a school built for champions, champion staff, champion children and champion parents and champion community.”

He continued, enthusiastically, “We’re going to do great things here. We’re destined for greatness. We are a school of the future. We are a school that’s going to do amazing things for our family.”

The district’s seventh high school, it commenced construction at the northwest corner of Avondale and Encanto boulevards last summer. Architected by ADM Group and contracted by Chasse Building Team, the school is estimated at 310,000 square feet on 69 acres.

Previous cost estimates from ADM Group Principal Ben Barcon were $48 million from the Arizona School Facilities Board, $7 million from adjacent ways and $53 million from a voter-approved bond, for a total guaranteed maximum price of more than $108 million.

A two-phase project, West Point is expected to serve freshman and sophomore students when it opens in July. A second phase will build out the rest of the campus, allowing juniors and seniors for the 2020-21 school year.

Gutierrez previously specified phase one would include instructional space and athletic and common areas for freshmen and sophomores, while phase two will add additional space for juniors and seniors, including varsity fields.

A banner placed front and center on the unfinished school reads: Teamwork for Tolleson Students. That was a theme of Chasse Building Team President Barry Chasse’s speech.

“What’s happened is the leadership at Tolleson (Union High) School District has really inspired us and I think ADM to do something extraordinary here on this campus, with the size of the project, the schedule of the project, all of this to happen for these kids that are coming here,” Chasse said. “The leadership inspiration came, and initially we had big glassy eyes and we’re like, ‘You want to do what, and you want it by when?’ But that motivation and inspiration has impacted ourselves, ADM Group and the entire team to really try and do something extraordinary.”

Previous estimates from the district are 1,200 students in the first year, with a design that can accommodate 3,000.

The school’s colors are red and black.

Perhaps the most exciting element for Gutierrez, however, is a partnership with Luke Air Force Base, which incorporates an academy into the school. It includes a wing pattern and an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).

“We have high standards throughout Tolleson Union High School District,” Gutierrez told the West Valley View. “Our focus is academic achievement and the highest standards we can have, and that’s Luke Air Force Base. That’s what they reflect, and that’s what we expect from our kids.”

Standards, curriculum and leadership are important, Gutierrez said, and the school-within-a-school model is inspired by University High School’s curriculum, she said. It will be “rigorous” and “challenging.”

“It’s something that I believe our students and community long for,” she said. “When I said it, they immediately embraced it – immediately – and we’ve not taken one step back. Every step has been forward ever since.”

The school will also have an innovation center with a focus on career and technical education (CTE).

West Point’s grand opening ceremony is being planned for July.

For more information, including boundaries, visit tuhsd.org/West-Point-High-School. To view a conceptual fly-thru of the school, visit youtu.be/xF47KOWRzLs.