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Renaissance Network Welcomes Thunderbird Adventist Academy as the First Pilot School

Posted on August 8th, 2011

We at the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) are proud to announce that we will be partnering with Thunderbird Adventist Academy (TAA) in Scottsdale, Arizona, to become the first school to enter the Renaissance Network for the 2011-2012 school year.

The Renaissance Network is a program developed and funded by AAF. Its purpose is to “rebirth” Adventist secondary education into a network of schools that deliver excellence in the spiritual, academic, social, and physical development of students. The Renaissance Network will provide outside resources and management expertise to TAA, which will be utilized to facilitate school improvements. Initial funds from AAF are being released immediately for marketing and recruitment, facility upgrades and academic enhancements.

“This program has been such a long time in coming, and we are thrilled to finally be on the ground working with Thunderbird and the Arizona Conference,” said Melanie Litchfield, AAF Director. “We could not ask for a more vibrant, spiritually-minded student body and a campus rich with opportunities for growth.” Litchfield said that by working with the academy and conference, AAF hopes to create a model that can be replicated in Adventist schools across the Division.

Arizona Conference President Tony Anobile said the conference is excited to partner with AAF on a joint quest to make TAA a school of excellence. “I have sensed the Foundation’s sincere desire to work with us and to make sure that there is a solid level of comfort on our part as we move forward,” Anobile said.

AAF has appointed Wendel Tucker to lead the work of the Renaissance Network at TAA. Tucker brings to the Renaissance Network 26 years of experience in Adventist education, and 20 years in public education. Tucker and Ruben Escalante, TAA interim principal, have already created a plan for campus improvements before the start of classes this fall. Exterior painting began mid-July, and landscaping upgrades are scheduled for August. A major reorganization of classrooms and a school-wide clean-up will be completed before classes begin. Buildings, walkways and grounds will receive lighting upgrades to address safety concerns, as well.

“I like to improve curb appeal,” Tucker said. “What people see driving by will make them stop and ask questions.” He said it is the goal of the leadership team to pique the interest of community residents so that they stop-in to find out more about TAA’s renovation and academic programs. “We believe in specific markets, Adventist academies should be the Christian school of choice.”

Thunderbird Campus Tucker and Escalante want students to know that they are the number one priority. Therefore, first projects underway include renovation of the Student Center, library and cafeteria. During a campus visit, these were the areas students expressed as needing improvement. By year-end, TAA will furnish the center and cafeteria with seating donated from Fashion Square, a local high-end shopping center that is being remodeled.

TAA’s partnership with AAF will also result in immediate improvements to the academic program. TAA is strengthening its math and science curriculum, and expanding offerings for college-bound curriculum. Courses being added to the curriculum for the upcoming school year include Spanish I, Honors Physics, Honors Calculus, and technology courses. Co-curricular improvements include a reinstatement of the school’s music program; a music teacher has already been added to the staff, a touring bus is being secured and the facilities are scheduled for refurbishment.

Counseling and teacher-led advisory groups will be among the resources available to assist students in preparing them for career pathways that lead to meaningful post-secondary employment. A data analysis system will also be implemented to review student success and track progress toward achievement of the higher academic standards.

“The basic course of study for all students must demonstrate rigor and relevance necessary to gain entrance to any university in the nation,” said Tucker.

TAA teachers will benefit from Renaissance Network resources, as well. Funding for individual and group professional growth plans will be provided, and teachers will be expected to become members of the appropriate professional organization within their field of expertise. All teachers will receive training in the use of the most up-to-date and relevant instructional technology for their classrooms.

“We have the opportunity to help the faculty be the best they can be,” Tucker said. “More specifically, we are going to provide them with the skills needed and a memorandum of understanding for expectation.”

Teachers will participate in a student recruitment plan in partnership with the Renaissance Network’s leadership team. As a part of the recruitment plan, the student work program will be revitalized, offering students an opportunity to earn a portion of their academic expenses.

“The overall culture being promoted by the Renaissance Network is to deliver the greatest college-bound educational experience possible,” Litchfield said. “We are going to be very objective and realistic… but our long-range plan is to create centers of excellence.”

AAF intends to expand the program to more schools for the 2012-2013 school year. Schools accepted will establish a partnership with the Renaissance Network through a contractual agreement.

“I believe that this model will work for other schools as well,” Anobile said. “We are serious about our commitment to educate for eternity and AAF shares that goal. God will bless.”

Do you have more questions about the Renaissance Network? Read more here.

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