Grand Canyon School welcomes new administration
The News discusses the school year with new Grand Canyon School District administrators, Superintendent Shonny Bria, Principal Steven Landes and Administrator Javier Abrego
Principal Steven Landes
Tell us a little bit about your background.
Last year I was the superintendent intern at Higley Unified School District in the Valley. Before that I was an assistant principal at Florence Unified School District. Before that, I spent 15 years in Mesa as a junior high and high school teacher and an elementary, junior high and high school counselor. I have the K through 12 experience pretty much right across the board.
Are you originally from Arizona?
Yes, Arizona born and bred. Born in Phoenix and raised in Flagstaff. Spent a year overseas in Japan working for a Department of Defense school as a counselor, and a few years working at Disney World.
What are some first impressions of your new home?
You know, I get the same first impression every time I get to the rim. I did my first hike at the Grand Canyon when I was 11 years old. Since then I've hiked almost 500 miles of the trails, pretty much every trail there is. Every single time I get the same impression, and that's what drew me back to the Canyon, the splendor, and the friendliness of the people, the openness. It feels like home. It always has.
How do you compare Grand Canyon School with other schools you've worked at?
It's a small, rural school and it poses some unique challenges, but it also offers the same opportunities that you'll find in the larger schools. We have about 300 students here. I've worked at a school as a counselor that's had 3,000 and many of the programs we have here are comparable. We're offering some incredible opportunities to our students here.
What are some of your primary goals as principal?
Our priority, first off, is to continue to the traditions that we have that are worth celebrating. We have a depth of history that is amazing. We're the inheritors of almost a century of legacy. I think that's really important to keep in mind. There are photos here in the Grand Canyon archives that show our school from 1916. That's humbling to realize that we're the inheritors of a legacy that's so powerful and enduring.
Also, to make sure that our students have the same opportunities as their peers at the large schools in Phoenix and Tucson, and making sure we grow on that. We're expanding on some of our programs, our AP offerings, our online access, our partnerships with the universities and the business community. We're looking to possibly develop a hotel and restaurant management program, which would be the first of its kind in Arizona. That's incredible, because we have such a unique and generous community that wants to partner with us. We're anxious to build on those relationships.
Administrator Javier Abrego
Tell us little about your background in education.
I've been in education for 40 years. I spent 30 years in Indiana with the School City of Chicago and the School City of Hammond. I've been an elementary, middle school and high school principal. I've been the director of education and assistant superintendent. After 30 years, it's pretty cold in Chicago so I came to Arizona for the weather. The last few years I've been in Arizona, primarily as a superintendent working in different districts.
My goal was to put 40 years into education, I did that, so I came to the Grand Canyon to enjoy and do whatever is needed.
Shonny (Bria) and I both competed for the job as superintendent. She came in first and I came second. When I called to congratulate her, she said, "We have openings, would you want to come over?" So of course I did. This is a beautiful place to live and work.
Right now, my passion is curriculum instruction, so I'm working on setting up things for the curriculum. We're a good team and I will help wherever is needed.
What's your goal for the district?
Our goal is just to improve academics and everything for the students. Wherever I go, I like to go into districts that hopefully need a little bit of help. At Grand Canyon we have an A school. Our elementary school is a "C," and I promised the superintendent an "A" school in one year. We're going to try really hard and I think we can do it.
Coming into this position, what do you think of the school's current curriculum?
I think we have a very good curriculum. The only thing would say would be if we could add a block called "reteach and enrich" where the student doesn't master a standard during the day, they could get help at the end of the day. If we could get that block going, I think we're going to do great.
Superintendent Shonny Bria
Tell us a little about your background?
I consider myself an Arizona girl, but in 1998 I accepted a position in the state of Washington. I was the superintendent in Arizona, and before that I did curriculum, gifted, special education, you name it, I've done it. I think I've been in education for 40 years too, like Javier. I spent 15 years at Battleground School District and then I came back to Arizona and wanted very much to have another superintendent job. I specifically looked for small school districts. I've been in middle sized, large and this is the most wonderful gift I've ever had working in this district.
What are your goals for the district?
I have several goals for this district. Goal number one: I would really like to see this district an "A" district. I see no reason why it shouldn't be. Everyone I've met and work with are top quality. Goal number two: After we become "A," I would like to see the board named Arizona Board of the Year. I have worked with a board in Washington that became Board of the Year, and my true ambition is to feel that wonderful feeling of watching the board go up and receive recognition for being the very best.