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FLORENCE — San Tan Heights K-8 and Florence Unified School District are partnering with the nonprofit Great Minds to further the district’s goal of high-quality curriculum and instruction for the entire district.

Steven Shadel with Great Minds told the school board April 13 it will be “like a lab for other schools to learn from and bring to life the (FUSD) strategic plan as fast as possible.”

Assistant Superintendent Adam Leckie agreed, “we really felt like this was a great match with our current strategic plan.

“… These materials and curriculum resources were things that we had already employed in our district. So this is enhancing our plan, this is not supplanting or replacing things that we had identified as strategic initiatives for us,” Leckie told the board. “But we are leveraging this unique partnership to build additional resources and support, not only for San Tan Heights but for the rest of our school district.”

The program includes short- and long-term curriculum guides, professional development plans and ongoing instructional coaching, Shadel said. Events will promote Great Minds programming and provide opportunities for parental involvement.

“We’re honored to become a Great Minds national showcase school,” San Tan Heights Principal Henry Saylor-Scheetz told the board. “Teachers are excited about the resources.” Teachers will go through extensive training in June and have other professional development opportunities throughout the year. The school will also integrate Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) into all curricular areas, the principal said.

Leckie said, “While what you’re hearing tonight is a lot of investment in San Tan Heights, the ultimate goal is to use that school in a partnership to then prove how we can improve student achievement at other schools.”

Board member Steve Johnson commented, “I think it sounds wonderful. This is definitely district by design, not by chance, and I’m looking forward to this program.”

Shadel said he used to be a high school and middle school math teacher. When his district had a vision of where it wanted to go, it went from 20% of students meeting or exceeding expectations in math to more than 70%. “The only way that’s done is through complete buy-in towards that vision,” he said.

“We have a solid vision for teaching and learning. All the resources you need to implement that plan are in place. And we’re here to support you as we go down that path,” Shadel said.

According to

“It’s all about building knowledge — not just skills. Building deep, lasting understanding rather than just memorizing. … Knowledge in the context of the real world, rather than hypothetical scenarios. Knowledge through consistent core skill development, rather than reinventing the wheel with each lesson. And knowledge that builds upon itself for stronger connections throughout the learning process. Every child has unlimited potential and is capable of greatness.”

Great Minds’ mission statement says: “We know every child is capable of greatness. We are here to improve Pre-K through 12 grade education by supporting teachers with best-in-class curriculum materials and implementation products and services in math, English, science, history and other subjects.

“Best-in-class curriculum is knowledge-driven, coherent, (and) uses research-based instructional methods that are proven to work for all learners, including but not limited to striving readers, students with dyslexia and English language learners.”


Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at