New administrators prepare for new school year at Hopi Jr./Sr. High School

Hopi Jr./Sr. High School Superintendent Gregory Sackos, Hopi Junior High Principal Dauri Furgerson and Hopi High Principal Charles Gover take a break from their preparations for the new school year.  Photo/Stan Bindell

Hopi Jr./Sr. High School Superintendent Gregory Sackos, Hopi Junior High Principal Dauri Furgerson and Hopi High Principal Charles Gover take a break from their preparations for the new school year.  Photo/Stan Bindell

POLACCA, Ariz. - Hopi Jr./Sr. High School is starting off the school year with three new administrators.

Dr. Gregory Sackos will serve as superintendent, Charles Gover takes charge as the new high school principal and Dauri Furgerson will lead the junior high.

Sackos has been an educator 28 years. His main goal is meeting the goals of the Hopi Jr./Sr. High AdvancEd team. He wants to implement an effective, fair, transparent and research-proven teacher evaluation system. He said this is the system used throughout American schools.

Sackos said in the past, personnel were evaluated one time at the end of the year, but it's more productive to have an ongoing formative process giving staff a chance to grow during the school year.

Sackos said his second goal is to make sure the staff uses the data they have to help students improve. He said Hopi Jr./Sr. High School has a lot of data, including test scores, on students but hasn't collectively used that data to help meet student goals.

His third goal is to create relationships with the staff, students and community.

Sackos is concerned about test scores and expects improvement.

"I expect that all students will grow at least one grade level each year," he said.

He expects teachers to be committed to improvement in their academic area. He wants teachers to use technology in an assertive way that helps students.

Sackos said he would be careful about making any significant changes until he researches the issues. Some of the issues that he anticipates addressing are bullying, drugs and alcohol, and commitment to academics.

"I would like to see our teachers, parents and community come together and identify what they want to see," he said. "I'll be accessible. I like meeting new people. I've got a lot to learn about this community and area. I need to make that connection."

Sackos has worked as a coach, teacher and administrator. He was involved with implementing educational reform when he worked for the Maricopa County Education Service Agency.

His last job was principal of Canyon State Academy, a youth residential facility. He also served as principal and site administrator for Scottsdale Unified School District. He earned his BA in physical education with a minor in math from Southern Utah State, his MA in education administration from Northern Arizona University and doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Arizona State University.

Hopi High School Principal Charles Gover hopes to turn the school into a model school within the Bureau of Indian Education.

Gover's top goal is to make Hopi High School an inviting environment for learning. He said changes at the outset would be subtle because it will take awhile for staff to get to know him.

"I want to improve academic content to promote learning for students," he said. "We need to raise the level of expectations."

Gover said data shows it takes three to five years to make significant academic improvements.

"We need to see what we can do effectively for the students," he said.

He added every administration is concerned about test scores because that's how they are judged.

"We won't see dramatic improvements in one year, but we will come up with strategies to improve test scores," he said.

Gover, who is Pawnee, said Hopis are welcoming people who have come to know him through his basketball coaching.

"I was here 20 years ago to tour the building and I've been here many times as a coach. Hopi is a great environment. I've never seen anybody act out during the games at Hopi. People also became familiar with me. I have no pretense. I'm right up front: what you see is what you get," he said. "I'm open. I won't hide anything. I want to communicate that this is a learning environment."

Gover said when dealing with discipline issues school administrators would look to see if there are any underlying issues, which are causing a student to act like that.

"We won't roll over, but we'll try to modify the behavior in a positive fashion," he said. "We want a safe positive learning environment."

Gover noted this is the only Hopi High School. In the old days, students had to go off to boarding school so the parents appreciate that they can have their children educated here.

"We have to teach kids with a positive learning experience," he said.

Gover has been in education 22 years as a principal, teacher, coach, assistant principal, department chair and athletic director. His last job was serving as athletic director at Chinle High School, but he has worked for Winslow High School, Tuba City High School, Coconino High School and Holbrook High School. He has six years of administrative experience.

He has a BA in secondary education and physical education from Prescott College and his MA is in educational leadership and special education from the University of Northern Colorado.

Hopi Junior High Principal Dauri Furgerson's top goal is to improve student achievement.

"I want to instill in all students the desire to become lifelong learners, and I want to help teachers make it happen by together increasing student achievement with teacher collaboration teams and data-driven, evidence-based decision making," she said.

Furgerson said she plans to make every day significant. On one day, she reconfigured the junior high classrooms so that content classrooms are together. The seventh grade math is across from the eighth grade class. The same applies for English and other content areas.

"I want to give teachers the opportunity to co-develop lesson plans so they can cross teach," she said. "This way we can expose students to two highly qualified teachers for one subject."

Furgerson helped two of the junior high teachers enroll in a Northern Arizona University program that will prepare them to become principals.

"I told them that I would mentor them and in four years they will be certified to become principals," she said.

Furgerson's second goal is professional development for teachers. Three staff members, including herself, will attend the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Conference in Phoenix in February and will come back to teach their colleagues about PLC.

Her third goal is increasing rigor, relationships and relevance. Rigor refers to the level of expectations. She said research shows that when students are held to higher standards they rise to that level. Relationships means that she wants to build trust, motivation and confidence in students.

"I want to make sure that every student has the opportunity for education," she said.

Relevance is about making sure that students relate to the classes and that the classes relate to the students' culture.

"Reading programs should inspire kids," she said.

Furgerson pointed to a Montana program that focuses on Native American literature.

"We need that book list," she said. "Hopi language is important. Culture is part of who they are. It's important to preserve their heritage."

On discipline issues, Furgerson said she would look to Assistant Principal Harvey Honyouti for direction. She said it is a strength that he knows all the students and their families. She said she will be in the classroom half of every day, Academic Counselor Joni Sherman will be in the classroom 40 percent of every day and Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor Preston Clocksin will also be in the classroom often.

"Our presence impacts kids and lets them know how important they are to us," she said.

Furgerson feels the junior high is a model school, but lacks higher standardized test scores. She said Hopi Junior High has dedicated teachers, many with master's degrees. She said the junior high teachers are willing to work above and beyond to get their jobs done to improve student achievement.

"They work well as a team. We just need to put our focus on student achievement," she said.

Her goals for student achievement are to raise the level to the point that the students have 80 percent mastery of all content areas.

Furgerson earned her BA in pre-med and psychology and her MA in special education from Eckerd College in Florida. She is working toward her doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. She has worked as an administrator for Mesa School District and for reservation schools. Both of her parents retired from Mesa School District. She has worked as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines.

"I bring a focus on college and career readiness for all students, according to the Common Core Standards," she said.

One issue she feels she has in common with Hopis is getting up early to do something productive.

"Since I was four years old, I got up at 4 a.m. to play the piano, just like Hopis get up early to run," she said.

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