POV: you attend an A+ school


Photo courtesy of DVUSD

OHS staff represents O’Conner well at the district office, accepting the A+ award.

Victoria Kirova, Copy Chief

Engaged students, exemplary test scores, and a pristine campus filled with dedicated minds; all of which are the characteristics that make OHS a two-time recipient of the A+ certification. 

This honor recognizes schools that go above and beyond the traditional standards of education, creating an atmosphere that develops essential skills for learners. 

“At the state level you can only have the normal letter grades, no pluses or minuses, but the AEF [Arizona Education Foundation] has set up the A+ program to show parents and the communities the schools that are well beyond the A,” said Scott Meigh, history teacher. 

This strive for excellence is showcased through the culture at OHS, a claim that became apparent as the facts were examined. 

“What was really neat is that when you looked at the data and you looked at our programs compared to a lot of the other schools around us, we at O’Connor lead. We take risks, we lead, and our scores were by and large better than most,” Meigh said.

Staff took it upon themselves to powerfully represent their school through this certification. This success did not come easy though as the multi-step process took over a year to plan. 

“There’s 50 pages that are in our application and you go through and answer the questions. If the writing and everything is good enough, then [the Arizona Education Foundation] grant[s] you a visit…They come and make sure that what you put in that application is what you said,” said Dr. Lynn Miller, principal. 

For the final step of the journey, certified judges visited the school, ensuring the accuracy of the statements written in the application. 

“They want us to have business partners and parents come in so I had to start finding 15-16 different ones…They had us make about 25 student passes that we give to the judges and then they get to go hand them out,” Miller said. 

Prior to this two-day visit, tensions were high, primarily those surrounding some of the key participants of this process. However, these individuals were able to recognize that their hard work would eventually yield favorable results.

“Nerve-wracking and stressful, but I was very confident…I’m like anybody else, I’ll second guess myself if we’re prepared enough or if we have what they’re looking for, but I knew in my heart that we did,” Meigh said. 

This sense of confidence also resulted from the positive feedback students gave, as they strived to alleviate the stressful situation. 

“It was awesome… I remember students met in the career center and [a student] came out and said ‘We did it Dr. Miller, we made you so proud,’” Miller said. 

The requirement for randomized tickets allowed for more student participation. This engagement allowed passionate individuals to explain their perspective on their second home. 

“I got selected in STUGO, which to me is the biggest thing. Out of a group of 40 leaders on campus, I stood out to the people that walked in and they gave me the ticket. I felt honored honestly,” said Tala Shammas, junior. 

The judges proceeded to question these selected students on the daily routines and potential improvements of the school. Receiving a variety of responses from different students, the interviewers had a lot to analyze. 

“The questions were broad, so it’s just depending on where you come from. If you come from PA [performing arts], or you come from sports, or if you come from academics, you answer completely different than the person next to you,” Shammas said. 

With such an extensive task, it was essential for everyone to play a significant role. Thankfully, people were more than willing to ensure this positive recognition was earned.

“Dr. Miller certainly was behind all of it. Our department chairs did so much for contributing to it, our staff members did so much. I was more of a project lead, so that meant I got to piece it together and ask people if they would help with a section, and Mrs. Garraway was our author,” Meigh said. 

After a continuous process fueled by passion and determination, it was truly rewarding to hear the supportive commentary from the evaluators. The school received feedback that recognized the excellency of OHS’s students. 

“She [the judge] goes ‘I don’t know how you did it but you trained your kids… to be so nice and kind, open the doors, and be polite and all that,’ and I said ‘Ma’am I can’t train them, that’s who they are,’” Miller said.