I was able to bring another program that was started by Wally Delecki to Douglas in my second year. I remember many years ago, Wally said that we always honor the athletes, but forget the students who do well in school. So he started Gilbert Golden Scholars--Academic Night. It has been a great tradition in Gilbert.
My second year we started a very similar program and named it Douglas Diamond Scholars. It is for fourth through twelfth graders who do well academically, have good behavior and good attendance. The attendance piece was important here.
One of our academic coaches coordinated this event and it has evolved into an incredibly important part of our District. We honor the fourth through eight graders at 5:30 in the James Brendan Auditorium at DHS. Then the high school Diamond Scholars are honored at 7:00. The auditorium is decorated with a "diamond" theme. The students are presented medals by members of the Governing Board.
We always have two student speakers and then one keynote speaker. The first year our keynote speaker was Dr. J.D. Rottweiler, president of Cochise College. He is a very charismatic speaker and did an excellent job.
The second year, I asked Daniel Hernandez if he would speak. I had become friends with Daniel over the first few years I was in Douglas. Daniel was the young man who was at Gabby Gifford's side when she was shot in Tucson. He was instrumental in saving her life. And Daniel is an incredible human being. His speech was also great.
The third year we had Dr. Jim Shockey, Dean of the U of A South. Dr. Shockey is an amazing administrator who understands the importance of building relationships, even at this level.
And this year our speaker was Mike Rochin. Mike graduated from DHS and has written a book about his journey in overcoming health issues because of his diabetes. He talked to the students about how they treat each other being so important.
Because of the change in the way grades are done, we didn't have as many students at the elementary level qualify as in the past. But we had standing room only for the high school students!! I believe this shows that great instruction is going on at the elementary level that might not show up immediately in test scores. However by the time the students get to high school, it does. Next year they might have to have two separate sessions for the high school. What a great problem to have!!!
Our local newspaper wrote a wonderful editorial on Diamond Scholar Night and encouraged the District to continue it after I am gone. I think that they will and I am proud to have been a part of this!!!