In 2009 a Phoenix businessman, Rick West, was determined to see if he could do something to improve student outcomes at Phoenix’s local high schools, many of which were failing. Rick was introduced by Pearl Chang Esau, who was then Executive Director of Teach For America (TFA) in Phoenix, to Dr. Chad Gestson, a former TFA corps member, who was then a principal at a middle school within the Isaac School District. Pearl subsequently became the President & CEO of Expect More Arizona, a post she held until 2017. Rick’s initial meeting with Dr. Gestson was serendipitously interrupted by a call from Dr. Kent Scribner, the Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, who was calling to offer Dr. Gestson the job as principal of Camelback High School, the lowest performing school in his district. Rick suggested that, if Dr. Gestson would accept that job, Rick would back him and they could see what might be done to turn things around at that school. Rick then rounded up a group of local Phoenix business and professional people with whom he was associated through Social Venture Partners of Arizona (SVPAZ) and they formed the SVPAZ Education Affinity Group. It appears that the resulting “micro public private partnership” may have provided Camelback High School with the edge Dr. Gestson needed to turn his school around because, by every measure, Camelback High School is now improved beyond anyone’s initial expectations.


Camelback: A Model for Transformative Partnership

Social Venture Partners AZ asked Dr. Joseph Silver to confirm the data that were indicating the successful transformation at Camelback High School and to determine which of the many programs initiated at the school had been the most vital. Presented by Silver and Associates in June 2013, this report chronicles the success to date of the change initiative at Camelback High School and makes recommendations going forward.

“Focus on what interests the individual student, and the grades will take care of themselves.”

Dr. Chad Gestson, Former Principal, Camelback High School