The foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains

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The latest news from Catalina Foothills School District

CFHS Counselor

In the final weeks of the school year, it's natural for students to want to relax and get ready for summer.  KOLD's Valerie Cavazos speaks to Catalina Foothills High School counselor Michael Bryan on what parents can do to help their children stay focused and finish the year strong. "We want the expectation set by parents is that students finish strong right up until the last period of the last day," says Mr. Bryan. 
See more of Mr. Bryan's helpful tips here.

CFSD Counselor

As we approach the end of the school year, students are preparing for standardized testing. Sometimes test anxiety can kick in for students. In a recent Raising the Bar segment, 13News’ Valerie Cavazos spoke with Britney Griffith, a school counselor in the Catalina Foothills School District, about how parents can help their kids lower their stress levels.
"Just really keep it positive, keep it light," says Ms. Griffith. "Keep your expectations of, ‘I love you no matter how you do on this test." See more of Ms. Griffith's helpful tips here.

STEM integration specialist Kelly Taylor

Manzanita Elementary School hosted an evening full of sports-themed science at its recent STEM night.  Teachers and parents helped students participate in fun, hands-on learning activities with golf, basketball, football, and more. “It allows them (students) to see how science applies to all kinds of fun stuff that we are doing on a regular basis,” says STEM integration specialist Kelly Taylor. View the video here.

CFHS Engineering student

Through this Career & Technical Education (CTE) pathway at Catalina Foothills High School, students are introduced to the scope, rigor, and discipline of engineering. In the most advanced course in the series, Engineering Design & Development (University of Arizona Engineering 102), students can earn the Autodesk CAD Industry certification and college credit. View the full story here.

Students Help NASA Research

Sixth graders in Ms. Smith’s class are helping advance NASA research on growing plants in space. Growing Beyond Earth® allows them to learn and work with a Fairchild-designed plant habitat similar to the Vegetable Production System (Veggie) on the International Space Station. "I think the reason it's cool, is because you get to help with something that big," Isaac Jorquera explained. "You are helping NASA growing plants in space."

On November 28, the CFSD Governing Board approved the appointment of Dr. Denise Bartlett as CFSD's next superintendent.  Dr. Bartlett will officially assume the role on July 1, 2024, and will continue to serve as associate superintendent until that time. “Denise Bartlett is a shining example of commitment and dedication to public education,” says Ms. Jackson, CFSD Governing Board President. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Denise Bartlett as CFSD’s next superintendent! View video here.

In 7th and 8th grade social studies, students analyze personal finance principles, including the relationship between interest rates, savings, credit, investments, and return. Bringing this learning to life is Ms. Dawn Willman's personal finance case study, where students act as financial advisors to clients in a mock setting.  Students examine the factors that influence spending decisions, then present a proposed budget and a detailed set of recommendations to their classmates. View video here.


Once again, all seven schools in the Catalina Foothills School District received A’s in the Arizona Department of Education release of this year's A-F Letter Grades, which are given to all public schools statewide.
To receive an A grade (Excellent) schools must demonstrate distinguished performance on statewide assessments, significant student growth, students on track to proficiency, and overall performance that is significantly higher than the state's average.
"We believe that our CFSD schools are performing well because we have highly capable people working with our students in a culture of high expectations," says Mary Kamerzell, CFSD Superintendent. "We credit highly competent & caring teachers, strong school principals, and partnerships with parents as the keys to our success." Read more here.

CFHS Theatre Students

In their first year of the Theatre Arts track, students get the opportunity to learn both parts of stagecraft: acting and theatre tech.  View full story here.

SDES Entrance

The U.S. Department of Education named Sunrise Drive Elementary a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School, defined as one of the state's highest-performing schools as measured by state assessments. Principal Andrea Davidson says the school’s driving force is a belief in the power of quality teaching and learning, as well as the school’s sense of belonging. Inclusive, shared experiences create deep and lasting bonds.

“The words, ‘it’s good to be at Sunrise,’ are said and heard often,” Davidson explains. “Our attention is on students, no matter what program they are in, what their abilities are, or where they live." View full story here.

Founding fathers skit

To observe Constitution Week, longtime CFSD family members Ted and Matt Schmidt delivered a presentation on America's beginnings dressed as two of our founding fathers. As Thomas Jefferson began to read the Declaration of Independence, Manzanita fifth graders joined in--reciting it entirely from memory!
View full story here.

Sports Medicine Students

In Sports Medicine, students gain a greater understanding of science and the structure and function of the human body as it relates to injury and illness. Students integrate physical skills, clinical experience, and career readiness skills. They learn about the recognition and prevention of injury, treatment, injury assessment, evaluation of injury, rehabilitation, emergency care, nutrition, first aid, and CPR. Internship and observation opportunities are part of this series, too. View full story here.


“Being a Foothills grad definitely influenced how I teach. When I was at Foothills, I always felt like it was a welcoming and inclusive community,” Manzanita first grade teacher Melissa Landau said. View full story here.


KGUN 9 sat down with longtime principal, Mary Setliff, about the new school year and what she wants parents to know about CFSD.
“Students are the center of our world. We are absolutely laser-focused on our students, their well-being and their achievements," said Ms. Setliff, principal of Esperero Canyon Middle School. “Parents are our best partners— reach out, parents! If you need anything from us, no question is irrelevant." View full story here.

EAs Are Key Players

Recently KGUN anchor Heidi Alagha decided to visit Esperero Canyon Middle School to try her hand as an education assistant (EA). She found that EAs play a key role in delivering quality education at our schools.   Read the complete story here. Do you have what it takes for this fast-paced and purposeful position?  We're hiring!  On our website, go to Human Resources > Employment Opportunities.

Falcon Fly Out

Catalina Foothills High School’s Class of 2023 'flew out' to their elementary and middle schools to reflect on how far they’ve come during their years in CFSD and to share their experiences with our younger students.  Seniors spoke at school-wide assemblies, accepted congratulatory notes, played games with students during recess, walked through a 'parade route' on campus, and visited with their former teachers. The Falcon Fly-Out ties directly to our shared core values of belonging, commitment, and compassion. 
View the video here.

This year marked the return of Manzanita's Family Evening of Arts and Culture after 4 years. Teachers Devon Inglee, Graciela Kumar, Monica Cortez, and dozens of Mustang parent volunteers put hours of work into planning this beautiful and enriching event. The art show filled the entire MPR up to the ceiling. There were brief performances from the Manzanita band, orchestra, and choir, as well as guest performances from Falcon Steel and a local folklorico group. New this year, Manzanita brought in a variety of Spanish cultural activities. Spanish teachers collaborated with several heritage families to create authentic Mexican celebratory experiences, like paletas, chalk drawings, and flower-making crafts.

CFHS Students

All CFSD schools received A’s in the Arizona Department of Education release of the 2021-2022 A-F Letter Grades, which are given to all public schools statewide.

“We believe that our CFSD schools are performing well because we have highly capable people working with our students in a culture of high expectations,” says Mary Kamerzell, Superintendent. “Highly competent, caring teachers supported by strong school principals in partnership with parents is a winning combination.”

The A-F Letter Grade Accountability System, adopted by the State Board of Education, uses a range of metrics to measure student learning with a focus on proficiency and growth, students’ readiness to succeed in a career or postsecondary enrollment, and graduation rate. To receive an A grade (Excellent) schools must demonstrate distinguished performance on statewide assessments, significant student growth, students on track to proficiency, and overall performance that is significantly higher than the state's average. 

First Pioneer Robotics Students

Female students from Pioneer Robotics, the FIRST Tech Challenge team from Catalina Foothills High School, decided to take action on the lack of female involvement in STEM fields with a diversity initiative, Girls FIRST.

"I kind of just teach them not to doubt their abilities because all of the girls here know what they're doing," said Sara Nielson.
Learn more here.

Math Project Dishes Out Extra Helping of Fun

Canyon View third grade teachers Mandy Campbell and Mary Clark designed a learning project where students developed plans to open their own food truck companies.  Tasks included writing business plans, researching logos, picking menu items, and calculating quantities to determine servings and prices.  On the project’s final day, at the high-energy Food Truck Festival, they practiced customer service skills as they sold "treats" out of the colorful food trucks that they constructed.

What does it look like to gamify a complex classroom project? In this alternative energy simulation in Physics and Honors Physics, high school students are advisors on the energy council for a country.  Their teams represent the interests of one of seven different alternative energy industries all vying to have their industry be the next big thing. They must balance budgets, diplomacy, pollution, and the special interests of others to come out on top in this interconnected game designed by teacher Kevin Duong.

We asked the students from our Spanish immersion program how it has impacted their lives now that they are in high school.  They all said that becoming bilingual improved their communication and teamwork skills. For many, they discovered a lifelong love of language as they progressed through K-12. Other benefits from early language instruction may include improved overall school performance, superior problem-solving skills, and more flexible thinking. 

Does art have to be about something? Can art be about how it makes you feel? Ms. Fouts gives us an inside look at her class' creative process, and how it fits beautifully with the skills of kindergarteners.

International Mission Seniors

CFHS Students Put Global Citizenship Lessons into Practice

"I feel so lucky to be able to see the world and how people live outside of the U.S.," says CFHS senior Ava Leon. "Ghana was absolutely incredible, from the welcoming and beautiful, smiling faces of the children all the way to the productivity in the hospital. It's an experience that has had the greatest impact on my life and I will be forever grateful to of been able to go with my mom and my best friend beside me!" Click here to see the full story.

FH Theatre

Theatre Arts Teaches Real World Skills

Catalina Foothills Theatre Arts program teaches skills that reach beyond the stage. “A lot of them (students) come in and their goals are to time manage and to learn how to be more confident in public speaking,” says teacher Amy Byroad. See more here.

Pay It Forward Kindness Challenge

We love our CFSD community!  The seed of an idea that started with a class project at Orange Grove spread ripples of kindness to students at Manzanita...and beyond. Check out this story (you might want to have some tissues ready.)

Students Exiting Bus

CFSD Tops 2023 AZ District Rankings

Of the 131 Arizona school systems that were evaluated in Niche’s 2023 Best Districts rankings, CFSD was awarded the #1 spot.  According to Niche, their rankings differ from others that rely almost exclusively on test scores and academic performance in that they also include input from students, alumni, and parents, as well as quantitative data to evaluate teachers, resources, and facilities. See the complete list of Arizona school district rankings here.

Students Have Fun, Learn Skills through Community Schools

Our Community Schools program helps students express creativity, develop new skills, and improve problem-solving abilities with activities ranging from cake decorating to photography and yoga. If you are in need of/interested in childcare and/or enrichment classes for your child(ren), please visit our website to register at:


Canyon View Student Honored With Ben's Bell

Congratulations to Canyon View rising fifth grader Cadence Moore! She received a Ben’s Bell for making a difference in our community through kindness. Cadence was a founding member of a new student group, the Silhouettes, at Canyon View Elementary School. The students' main task was to come up with ways to celebrate Black History Month. In addition to starting this group, Cadence also had the idea of starting a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Walk. At the inaugural gathering, over 200 people across the district met at Canyon View to honor Dr. King through song and a walk through Sabino Canyon. Read more about Cadence's recognition here.

Spanish Immersion

The Spanish Immersion program in CFSD started in the 2009-2010 school year with 20 kindergarten students. Fast forward to present day, Ventana Vista Elementary School now boasts more than 450 immersion students. Not only does our program continue to grow, but we know that it is working. The students from that first class of immersion students from Ventana Vista are graduating from high school this year. Each of these students who took the Arizona Seal of Biliteracy assessment received the highest level of recognition and received the CFSD GOLD Seal.


17th Flinn Scholar Selected From Catalina Foothills High School

Noah Wellman was selected as the 17th Flinn Scholar in the history of Catalina Foothills High School. Flinn Scholars are asked to recognize a special teacher who helped them along the way, and Noah chose CFHS math teacher Alyssa Keri as his distinguished educator on the Flinn application. Wellman said Ms. Keri guided him through math understanding, not just for himself, but also “learning how to communicate and share that understanding with others.” Wellman also highlighted English teacher Brian Bindschadler from Orange Grove Middle School, who helped build a strong foundation in writing that carried him through his high school years and definitely helped with the Flinn application process. 

“I’m really grateful for all the opportunities. I enjoyed not just the science side of things, but I also got to participate in the band as a drum major. We got to do arranging and orchestrating in a small ensemble class,” Wellman said. “That helped make it a really fulfilling high school experience.” 

Bio Science Pathway

The CFSD Bioscience Pathway is layered with opportunities for students to pursue answers to their own questions, solve highly complex problems and challenges, and interact with the scientific community on work that has a direct impact on the real world. Engagement is sparked through hands-on work, inquiry-based curricula, and high-quality teaching. As one student puts it: “It (Biotech) helps us understand the world that hopefully will be introduced to us in our future.”

Odyssey of the Mind

Odyssey of the Mind Program

Catalina Foothills Odyssey of the Mind program focuses on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills through original creative performances. By winning the Arizona championship, the Esperero Canyon Middle School team has qualified for world competition. In it, the ECMS team will perform a skit that is focused on preserving our fragile desert biome. “We have a lot of kids on this team that are passionate about nature and protecting the environment,” says Coach Tiffanie Bialis. "The kids are given a budget for each problem and then they have to come up with everything they need within that budget to create and produce their 8-minute solution.” Read more about the team's focus here.


Falcon 1 Launch

Astronomy Students Explore Near Space

The CFHS Sub-Orbital Balloon Team (SOBT) is a curriculum extension project offered to Mr. Michael Winters’ Astronomy students where they design, build, launch, and recover a small spacecraft equipped with a variety of scientific instruments. This year the Falcon-4 held a new and more advanced flight computer, which records 10 channels of data.  Another improvement included a dual-camera system that showed a nearly 360-degree panoramic view from onboard the spacecraft. Launched by a balloon, the Falcon-4 sent back data on temperature, atmospheric pressure, and video from near space, about 32 kilometers above Earth's surface. The spacecraft landed near Benson, AZ, where the students located and recovered the equipment using a GPS tracker. Watch the video here.

District 16 Report Card: Candidates Lining Up for Another Competitive CFSD School Board Race
The DesertLeaf, July/August, 2024

District 16 Report Card: Superintendent's Final Budget Keeps Student Programs and Raises Salaries
The DesertLeaf, June, 2024

From the Super: Budget Planning Is a Challenge
The DesertLeaf, May, 2024

District 16 Report Card: CFHS Graduates This Month Include Two Flinn Scholars
The DesertLeaf, May, 2024

District 16 Report Card: CFSD Updates Technology Policy
The DesertLeaf, April, 2024

District 16 Report Card: CFHS Principal Jody Brase Retires; Assistant Moves Up
The DesertLeaf, March, 2024

District 16 Report Card: Denise Bartlett Prepares to Take Reins as CFSD Superintendent
The DesertLeaf, February, 2024

From the Super: Jumpstarting Careers in Early Childhood Education
The DesertLeaf, January, 2024

District 16 Report Card: After 28 Years as CFSD Superintendent, Dr. Mary Kamerzell to Leave in June
The DesertLeaf, January, 2024

District 16 Report Card: Pima College Course to Start on Foothills High School Campus.
The DesertLeaf, December, 2023

District 16 Report Card: Sunrise Drive Elementary Is a National Blue Ribbon School
The DesertLeaf, November, 2023

District 16 Report Card: CFSD Rolling Out New Program to Achieve Student Success.
The DesertLeaf, October, 2023

From the Super: 3D Science Standards and Other Innovations Scale Up Students' Skills
The DesertLeaf, September, 2023

District 16 Report Card: Foothills Opens School Year With Nearly Full Staff of Teachers
The DesertLeaf, September, 2023

District 16 Report Card: $10 M in Construction Underway Across Catalina Foothills School District
The DesertLeaf, July/August, 2023

District 16 Report Card: CFSD Raises Base Salary to $50,000 for First-Year Teachers
The DesertLeaf, June, 2023

From the Super: Assessment Process Goal Is to Improve Student Achievement
The DesertLeaf, May, 2023

District 16 Report Card: Students From Across Tucson and Beyond Are Part of CFSD's Success
The DesertLeaf, May, 2023

District 16 Report Card: CFSD Foundation to Honor Teachers of the Year
The DesertLeaf, April, 2023

District 16 Report Card: As Clock Ticks, CFSD Seeks All of $4.5M of Grant Funds
The DesertLeaf, March, 2023

District 16 Report Card: Students' Needs Are Driving Changes to CFHS Courses
The DesertLeaf, February, 2023

From the Super: CFSD Approves Curriculum Revisions
The DesertLeaf, January, 2023

District 16 Report Card: CFSD Schools Receive A's on New State Report Cards
The DesertLeaf, January, 2023

District 16 Report Card: Carole Siegler Ends Record 26 Years on CFSD Board
The DesertLeaf, December, 2022

District 16 Report Card: Honors, Enrollment, Policies, and Vacancies at CFSD
The DesertLeaf, November, 2022

District 16 Report Card: Catalina Foothills School Board Race Headed for Home Stretch
The DesertLeaf, October, 2022

From the Super: Three Questions on Upcoming Ballot
The DesertLeaf, September, 2022

District 16 Report Card: Something Different: A School Board Election in Catalina Foothills
The DesertLeaf, September, 2022

District 16 Report Card: Getting Ready for School Year Makes for Busy Summertime
The DesertLeaf, July/August, 2022