Sunset Vista Elementary

Posted on April 27, 2016 • Category: Education




In a MetLife Foundation survey of U.S. principals, 75 percent said the job had become too complex, and more than 50 percent said they felt great stress.

A recent “Education World” article cites a Public Agenda study indicating that “most principals are overwhelmed with the workload associated with their job. The job, it seems, has so many facets that no Superman or Wonder Woman could do all the job entails and do it well.”

A strong and steady principal is one of the keys to success at Beat the Odds schools. Today’s best principals focus on leadership and learning, in addition to traditional matters such as budgets, buildings and busses. Principals at low-income, high-minority schools have the added challenge in overcoming demography on their quest for academic achievement.

Dr. Bryan Richman

Dr. Bryan Richman, principal of Sunset Vista Elementary

When Dr. Bryan Richman became principal of Sunset Vista Elementary in the Glendale Elementary School District, he became the leader of a turn-around team.

After participation in Beat the Odds principal mentoring and training programs, school-wide collaboration efforts, hard work and determination, Sunset Vista was named a Beat the Odds School, one of only seven in the state to earn the honor in 2016. To earn the gold award, Sunset Vista met the criteria of three years in the program, formative assessment data demonstrating academic progress across the majority of grade levels and the superintendent’s recommendation.

“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is not to be the smartest person in the room,” Richman said. “We must work together as a team.”

While Sunset Vista’s benchmark test scores continue to make progress on an upward trend in Math and English, Richman constantly strives for improvement, acknowledging that his school is transitioning its curriculum toward AZ Merit, the new statewide student achievement test.

“Imagine running a 5K race. It’s a race to the finish line, but the finish keeps moving further away,” he said. Arizona’s massive talent drain doesn’t help. “We’re ‘over-kidded’ and understaffed.”

School Overview

Sunset Vista’s enrollment is 1,039 pre-school through Eighth Grade students. More than 90 percent are on free or reduced lunch. Richman happily reports that a certified staff teacher has been added to the team, bringing the number of certified staff to 51 for 915 children, not including pre-school.

Sunset Vista Elementary

Sunset Vista was named a Beat the Odds School, one of only seven in the state to earn the honor in 2016.

Of the 51 certified staff, 36 will have regular education home rooms, five will teach special education, five will teach the special area education classes, two are teacher coaches and one is a psychologist. The assistant principal and Richman are also certified staff.

Before being appointed principal four years ago, Richman, from Tucson and University of Arizona graduate, was assistant principal at Sunset Vista for two years. He began his 20-plus-year career with Teach for America in Baltimore City, Maryland, where he was for the first 11, and he returned to Arizona in 2006. He has been in the Glendale Elementary School District ever since.

Beat the Odds Experience

“When you’re school principal, you’re the only person at the school with your job title and your responsibilities,” Richman, who was mentored by Glenda Underwood, said. “What I really liked about Beat the Odds was the opportunity to be in the same room with other principals who were all in similar situations. Sometimes it was commiseration, but it was always valuable time spent.”