Balsz School District Initiatives

2011-2014 Social Venture Partners initiatives with Orangedale & the Balsz School District

Social Venture Partners, Becky Wolf, Nancy Anderson and Dominic Wycklendt worked with Dr. Michael Halpert and Assistant Principal Devon Shehan at Orangedale Prepatory Middle School for the 2011-2013 school years.

During the 2013-2014 & 2014-2015 school years, Social Venture Partners expanded services to the other Balsz schools.

Other Social Venture Partners that provided assistance included Carol Cox, Kay Pulatie, Jill Goldsmith and Park Howell.

The five main initiatives were:

  1. a math tutoring program with Camelback high school students,
  2. leverage the Junior Achievement program,
  3. introduction of Camelback students to the Balsz students,
  4. teacher & staff appreciation activities, and
  5. a head lice treatment and awareness program.

Math tutoring program with Camelback high school students

We proposed to bus Orangedale 7th and 8th grade students to Camelback High School for math tutoring. This accomplished two objectives. One was high school readiness. On the first day the Orangedale students went on a tour of the Camelback campus, received a “Future Spartans” tee shirt, and worked with the Camelback students who tutored them in math. The Orangedale students respond well working with their high school tutors. As it turned out, the math tutoring became an enrichment program as the better math students attended the program. Their math scores went up one whole grade point during the 2-day/week 6 week program. In return, the Camelback students received community service hours for their tutoring.

The second semester that the program was held, there were not buses available for the middle school students, so we bused the Camelback students to Orangedale Prepatory middle school. This worked, but not as well as it had the first semester.

Leverage the Junior Achievement program

Nancy Anderson and Becky Wolf taught the Junior Achievement Entrepreneur program during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. The 7th and 8th grade students that attended were the top learners at the school, who would not have been playing any sports. As an enrichment program, this worked out very well, as it was taught after school, one day a week, for a 6 week period.
The students designed their own business cards for Junior Achievement to advertise the program. The students received free business cards and gave them out to other students to increase awareness and enrollment in the program.

After teaching the Entrepreneur program, Nancy Anderson and Becky Wolf worked with the students to start up a tee shirt business. The students met with vendors to learn about their costs and mark-up and explain how the students could make money from selling tee shirts. Nancy & Becky held a design contest for the student body and picked a winning design. Tee shirts printed by a local vendor and were sold at lunch and before and after school. The profit went to the Student Body for dances.

Introduction of Camelback students to Balsz students

To help prepare middle school students to the high school environment, several lunches were held at the Balsz middle schools and some at local restaurants to introduce Camelback students. Nancy & Becky coordinated the lunches and prepared both groups of students prior to serving the pizza. The high school students explained what the 7th & 8th grade students could expect in high school. The middle school students came prepared to ask questions about life on the campus of a high school. Both groups of students found the lunches informative and enjoyable.

Teacher & staff appreciation

Nancy Anderson and Becky Wolf started up a teacher/staff appreciation lunch and breakfast schedule for Orangedale. Every other month they delivered muffins, breakfasts that they made, or lunches from Duck and Decanter (a local restaurant) or Subway. Nancy & Becky visited with the teachers for the two hour lunch period and asked what they could do to help them. The teachers and staff got to know Nancy & Becky well and knew they cared about them. Nancy & Becky got to know several teachers and counselors very well. The camaraderie between Nancy & Becky and the teachers and staff helped to improve morale at the schools.

Head Lice Treatment and Awareness Program

During the 2013-2014 school year, Crockett Elementary school in the Balsz district had a severe head lice problem. Many students did not have access or could not afford the proper medication. The Principal at Crockett identified a medication that treated head lice more effectively and quickly. Social Venture Partners organized a fund raiser that provided enough medication to treat the district students. Having the medication available at the school facilitated the distribution and helped get the students back in school sooner. In the past treatment could take in excess of a week and many students fell behind in their studies and had a difficult time catching up.

Balsz Community Education Foundation

The Balsz Community Education Foundation was established to improve the quality of education and lives of the students and families in the Balsz school district. The main initiatives of the Foundation have been the Kids Read program, the On Semiconductor mini-grant program, coffee clotch and the teacher/staff appreciation program.

The Kids Read Program

The Balsz Community Education Foundation launched KidsRead at Griffith Elementary School in December, 2010. In February 2012, Balsz Elementary joined, and in December 2012 Crockett began to participate. Third-graders attend monthly Book Breakfasts, and parents were invited to join them. After a special guest read the monthly book selection, all students received their own copy.

On Semiconductor mini grants program

ON Semiconductor and the Balsz Community Education Foundation are partnering to provide mini-grants to the Balsz School District/Educare Arizona Community. These grants are designed to provide teacher and students with up to $500 to implement creative instructional projects for students. There are two mini-grant program cycles, in the fall and spring school semesters.

Teacher and Staff appreciation

The Balsz Community Education Foundation teacher and staff appreciation program dovetailed with the Social Venture Partners program. Becky Wolf from Social Venture Partners is also a Board Member on the BCEF and coordinated the program for both organizations. The Foundation’s involvement helps provide water and coffee to teachers and staff. The program was believed to have improved teacher morale.

The Balsz Community Education Foundation provides a conduit for Social Venture Partners to make charitable donations because of its 501c3 status.

The Balsz Community Education Foundation major fund raising event is the annual golf outing which has resulted in a net deposit of $30,000 in 2013.

Join the Conversation

This website is a case study of a school transformation experience. The conclusion so far is that schools can benefit greatly from the time, talent and treasure of those in the local community.

Can the student outcome improvements generated at Camelback High School can be sustained and replicated? Or were the improvements only due to a unique synergy among this particular group of highly-motivated students, teachers, community leaders and an uninhibited principal?

Let's discuss.

Social Venture Partners Arizona


For inquiries about the Success is Mandatory program case study, Camelback High School or the Phoenix District, please email Kellie Burris: