How concerned community members can impact a school

Can a group of concerned citizens make a difference in a neighborhood high school? That’s the question that Social Venture Partners (SVP) asked in 2009. A network of local philanthropists, SVP wanted to pool their resources to aid students in an inner-city high school. They wondered: Could whatever they did be helpful? And could it be sustained and replicated?

Read full article >>

“… I learned what a difference a truly engaged, inventive and industrious principal can make on students that typically get the short end of the stick in our public educational system.”

– Park Howell



read full article

US News and World Report

High School Rankings 2017

read full article

New public school to prepare students for high-paying tech jobs

by Tanya Mendis
November 23, 2015

“The Valley is one of the fastest growing areas of the country for coding, programming and STEM jobs. But when it comes to preparedness for those jobs, Arizona is one of the worst. Now a new public school in Phoenix is planning to graduate students who are ready to take some of the highest-paying, most in-demand jobs. . . .”

read full article 3TV | Phoenix Breaking News, Weather, Sport

photo by Rick Prange/12 News

Q&A with Phoenix Union’s interim superintendent

by James Bunting
The Arizona Republic
September 11, 2015

“The Phoenix Union Governing Board selected Chad Gestson as the district’s interim superintendent Aug. 18. Gestson was named after the previous superintendent, Kent P. Scribner, became the sole finalist for the superintendent’s job at the Fort Worth Independent School District in Texas . . .”

read full article

Gestson Named Interim Superintendent of Phoenix Union

Arizona Education News Service
August 19, 2015

“The Phoenix Union Governing Board unanimously named Dr. Chad Gestson Interim Superintendent to replace Dr. Kent P. Scribner, who is the sole finalist for the Fort Worth, TX Independent School District superintendent…”

read full article

related stories:

Phoenix Union school chief selected for Fort Worth post

photo by Rick Prange/12 News


photo by Rick Prange/12 News


Four Phoenix Union students win Gates Millennium Scholarships

Arizona Education News Service
May 14, 2015

“Isis Comma not only is graduating in three years, but she has the distinction of being the first graduate of the Camelback Montessori Preparatory High School program. She is at the top of her junior class.”

read full article


Want to improve schools? Look to Camelback H.S.

by Bruce Hilby
Camelback High School Community Network Communicator
submitted by West Valley View
May 12, 2015

For communities such as Avondale that are looking for ways to improve their local schools, the renaissance at Camelback High School in Phoenix over the past several years may provide some suggestions.

Here is a quick summary of what has transpired:

read full article

photo by Rick Prange/12 News


Camelback HS senior beats the odds to graduate in Phoenix

by Rich Prange
12 News
May 12, 2015

To some the American dream is work hard and you’ll find success.

Those words ring very true for graduating senior Lal Len Mawi. The Camelback High School senior can’t wait for graduation next week.

“My parents never graduated from high school. So I will be the first to graduate from high school,” Mawi said.

read full article


Season for Sharing raises $2.6 million, inspires gratitude

by Parker Leavitt
The Republic |
March 26, 2015

A very nice story about a Camelback student and Elevate Phoenix.

read full article


Camelback Students Surprised with Super Bowl Tickets

Caitlin Bohrer
Arizona Education News Service
February 23, 2015

When Camelback High School applied for a grant to participate in Verizon’s Innovation through Design Thinking (iDT) Program, the school had no idea that being a grant recipient would provide one of the biggest opportunities of a lifetime: Super Bowl tickets.

read full article

AIMS: Why this principal deserves an A

Joe Dana
12 News
August 4, 2014

Each year when Arizona’s school grades are released, I look up Camelback High School first. I’m rooting for the school because I have this idealized belief that one principal really can transform an entire student body.

At just 31, Dr. Chad Gestson became principal at Camelback High School in 2009. I met him in 2012 at the urging of west Phoenix business leaders. I would be inspired, they said.

They were right.

read full article

Avondale comes together to talk education

Guest Commentary by Kenneth Weise
Avondale Mayor
West Valley View, Avondale, Arizona
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“… Participants also heard from Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner and Camelback High School Principal Chad Gestson. Both reaffirmed Gorke’s assertion that people, not programs make the difference. Such was the case in transforming an underperforming school into an outstanding center for academic excellence. Instead of focusing on test scores, Camelback High School focused on changing the culture within its gates, creating a safe, welcoming environment where virtually all students reported they looked forward to going to school; knew there was an adult on campus who cared about them; believed that teachers care how much they learn; felt that teachers go out of their way to help students; and thought that it was “cool” to be smart. The results were improved test scores, a significant decrease in dropout rates and an increase in graduation rates as well as an increase of over 300 percent in scholarship awards for students seeking post-secondary education. …”

Paradise Valley district to move, merge alternative schools

Amy B Wang, The Republic
April 9, 2014

Paradise Valley Unified School District is moving its alternative schools — Prospect Middle School and Polaris High School — to the former Village Vista Elementary campus, which closed last year.

The district governing board approved the relocation at its meeting April 3. The move would be the first step toward eventually merging Prospect and Polaris into “one 6-12 entity” and likely renaming it, said Patrick Sweeney, the district’s assistant superintendent for instructional support.

read full article


Success is Mandatory: The Peer Tutoring Program that Saved Camelback High School

Peer Tutoring Resource Center
March 10, 2014

Today, we bring you the story of a school that has successfully employed peer tutoring strategies in transforming from a failing school into a promising and inspiring educational institution worthy of emulation.

Read full article.


America and the great stagnation

By Fareed Zakaria
January 28, 2014

USA Today has a new poll out that shows that the American public is increasingly concerned about inequality and wants the government to do something about it. So what to do?

There’s little doubt that inequality has risen dramatically. The most eye catching number might be this one – the world’s 85 richest people own as much as do the poorest 3.5 billion put together. If you put this in American terms alone, the six heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune have a net worth that is larger than the poorest 48.8 million American families put together. These are staggering numbers and it does make for some envy. But envy is not a good basis for public policy.

As I have argued before, inequality is made up of three different factors: the rise of the super rich, the rise of a larger group of poor people, and the stagnation of the great middle class.

We’re actually beginning to see a healthy discussion about the first two factors, especially about the poor. This is the area where we could make the biggest difference relatively easily. Smart government policies could easily and effectively reduce poverty in most countries. The Earned Income Tax Credit should be expanded, we should fund more early education and day care, and provide more and better nutrition for poor kids. Investing in poor children’s health and education will give them a better chance of escaping poverty. (emphasis added)

Read the full article.


Opinion: Why growing income inequality matters

By Jared Bernstein
January 21, 2014

The concern about growing income inequality is not about begrudging the wealthy their success, says economist Jared Bernstein. The worry is that it is curbing everyone else’s economic potential.

Read the full article.

Peer Power boosts students’ success, leadership

by Erinn Figg
The Daily News
January 17, 2014

Imagine it: Memphis students helping their fellow students make better grades and, in the process, substantially boosting standardized test scores and overall academic performance – a feat school officials have been trying to accomplish for years.

Thanks to a fresh student-to-student tutoring approach spearheaded by the Memphis-based Peer Power Foundation, that’s exactly what’s happening at eight schools throughout the Mid-South and Mississippi. And if the foundation’s leadership team has its way, that level of success will one day shape more schools across the state and eventually even the nation.

Read full article.


Arizona law firm makes involvement in the community a priority

By Georgann Yara
Special for The Republic |
Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:20 PM

An evening news program and a bagel run proved to have a powerful influence on litigation specialist Paul Roshka and the Phoenix law firm he co-founded in 1995, Roshka DeWulf and Patten …

… For John DeWulf, who co-founded the firm with Roshka, community involvement has also been a part of his life. DeWulf is a board member and education committee chair of Social Venture Partners, a network of philanthropists that supports non-profits and their efforts

Read the full article 

The real 21st-century problem in public education

By Valerie Strauss
The Washington Post

There are plenty of problems in public education, but here’s the biggest, from Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, a project of the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute that recognizes the impact of social and economic disadvantage on many schools and students, and works to better the conditions that limit many children’s readiness to learn.

Read the full article by Elaine Weiss.

Camelback High spurs new view of public education


June 12, 2013
Terrance Thornton
Independent Newsmedia

A foundation of stewardship, honor, intelligence, ethics, leadership and discipline is building a model for a new kind of urban high school in central Phoenix.

In the last four years Camelback High School has seen a steady improvement to its graduation rates and standardized tests meant to be the yardstick of academic competency and success in Arizona…

Read the full article

How an inner city school re-engaged our son creating a vastly more productive student


June 2, 2011
Park Howell

Park Howell blogs about moving his underperforming student son to an underperforming inner city high school … to help him improve his grades.

Read the full post

Phoenix: Smart City or Wild West?

Tom Vander Ark
April 22, 2013

“Openness to new ideas, smart impact investors, new school models, and a few high capacity districts suggests that Phoenix may be on the rise.”

Read the full article

The new kind of culture at Camelback High School is one based on student participation. Students are required to join an on-campus club or attend at least 20 school events.

– Terrance Thornton, Independent Newsmedia

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: