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Charter school is city’s best of 2008

Citizen Staff Writer



Hermosa Montessori School doesn’t seek out awards.

But the far-Northeast Side charter school seems to attract accolades and consistently has high test scores anyway.

The most recent honor is “Best of Tucson 2008″ in the private and parochial schools category from the U.S. Local Business Association.

The association gives out “best of local business” awards throughout the country to honor entities that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

“We didn’t apply for the award. In fact we didn’t even know we were being considered,” said Development Director Randy Brauer.

But he thinks the school’s “long string of excelling school labels” and the fact that its students routinely score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests had something to do with it.

It does this by integrating lessons across subjects and in a hands-on way that engages students and makes them want to learn, said Principal Sheila Stolov.

An example is last week’s Chinese New Year parade in which students immersed themselves in a different culture.

This is Hermosa’s seventh year of excelling status, he said.

And since 1988, Hermosa students have raised $70,000 for various charities or needy individuals and have collected more than 17 tons of food for the Community Food Bank, he said.

“They have raised money for kids with cancer, kids who didn’t have enough to eat, kids who needed housing,” he said.

On Friday, the annual Chinese New Year parade was a culmination of weeks of work.

You could see China in the classrooms, where youngsters encircled a large Asian platter with tiny plates of colored balls of fuzz and tried to pick them up with chopsticks. In another area, students wrote Chinese letters.

Outside, a patio was filled with paper the students had made and then drawn dragons on. They were accompanied by student-written poems.

But the big event was the parade of 200 preschool pupils through sixth-graders, some dressed in Chinese attire, all carrying elaborate, handmade masks, winding their way around the school at 12051 E. Fort Lowell Road.

The 34 seventh- and eighth-graders and more than 100 parents watched and cheered.

Stolov said the fact the Chinese theme permeated the preschool through eighth-grade school is consistent with the Montessori method. “We teach from a global perspective, which is the most positive way for kids to grow up and think about global issues.”

Parental participation is huge, said Brauer, the father of two who attend Hermosa. And the more exposed the adults are at the school, the more peaceful their households can become, he said.

And the more colorful.

He said masks made through the years by daughter Angela, 9, and son Adam, 6, – bedazzled with feathers, and sparkles and fancy abstract-painted paper – are prominently “displayed in grandma’s china cabinet.”

The art project is important to students.

“It takes a couple of weeks,” said Dahlia Kopycienski, 8, who said they glue a paper plate on a shoe box and then paste on sheets of tissue paper. They do abstract painting onto large sheets of paper and then cut it to look like scales. “And we trace our hands for dragon paws,” added Angela.

After the parade, Bryan Wright, 10, showed off the blue dragon he painted on paper the students made.

“We got pulp really wet and then put it in a frame and squeezed all the water out – and then that’s paper, basically,” he said. All the dragon drawings included a poem the students had written.

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