Future Head of School shares his vision and why he is excited to join Summit School of Ahwatukee

Written by By Joyce Coronel and published by the Wrangler News, November 20, 2015

Summit School of Ahwatukee will have a new leader for the 2016-17 school year, and he’s fired up about challenging students to learn in innovative ways. Mark Bistricky, who has led private schools in Arizona and California, becomes head of school for Summit, effective June 30.

Mark_Bistricky_Future Head of SchoolWith an undergraduate degree in history and master’s degrees in history and education administration, Bistricky comes to his new role eager to prepare students for the future.

“I think it’s critical for schools like Summit to connect innovation with education and to be forward-looking (and) entrepreneurial,” Bistricky said.

“Business and non-profit leaders say they need workers who can think outside the box, who can create, who can apply imagination, who combine facts and figures and source material from different areas in new ways,” he said.

What’s more, Bistricky notes, the traditional model of education, which consists of digesting information presented and then spitting it back on standardized tests, isn’t going to cut it.

“The problem is that there’s a very low level of learning that takes place in that model. They’re not being challenged to develop the kind of critical-thinking skills (or) the creative skills, the ability to apply what they’ve learned,” Bistricky said.

“I think that Summit already does a tremendous job of equipping the students with those kinds of 21st century skills, and I hope to be able to continue to develop those kinds of programs at the school.”

When asked about the specifics on how innovative learning could best take place, Bistricky gave a description of how students could learn about the desegregation of schools during the 1950s.

In Bistricky’s model, rather than hearing a lecture and receiving work sheets that provided a narrative describing the benchmark case of Brown versus Board of Education, students could learn at a deeper level by taking on the roles of make-believe members of the school board and of parents upset about desegregation and its related issues.

They’d be busy doing research about their character, engaging in dialogue, finding primary sources and sifting through period literature.

There could also be an artistic component where students create a picture or a portrait that symbolizes emotions or feelings or symbols of a particular period in history. They would have an opportunity to stand up in front of the class to make an argument or have the poise to answer questions from other characters in the play.

Bistricky also sees students going beyond classroom walls to learn.

“I think it’s really important for us to be a community school, one that is very connected, and that we’re inviting people in,” Bistricky said. “We want to create a learning community in which all want the same thing: for the child to be challenged.”

The pre-K through eighth-grade independent school boasts low student-teacher ratios and an extensive liberal arts curriculum.

“Independent schools can do innovative things with multi-disciplinary, project-based learning, where students are not just learning material but they’re actually putting it into practice in a real world setting,” Bistricky said.

So how did he catch this innovation bug?

“I first started teaching and ultimately became an administrator when I was living in San Jose, in Silicon Valley, during the technology boom in the early 2000s. So that experience and seeing the innovation and the creativity and the applied learning that was present with all of the technology companies and start-ups, it was a very exciting time for ideas and putting those ideas into action.

“And so I think that helped to form (who) I’ve become,” Bistricky said.

“I want to be an innovative educational leader who’s helping to pioneer new models that will serve our students more effectively in preparing them for a future that doesn’t exist and we can’t entirely predict.”

All this excellence and innovation doesn’t come cheap.

However, through a blend of tuition tax credits, corporate scholarships and financial aid scholarships, “It’s more accessible than you might think,” Bistricky said.

Summit School of Ahwatukee Thanksgiving Food Basket Community Outreach Project ~ October 28 – November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving project_turkey imageWHAT? Thanksgiving basket food collection for Homeward Bound

WHEN? Collect food donations beginning Wednesday, October 28, through Friday, November 20, 2015

WHY? To provide a family in need with a complete, nutritious holiday meal

WHERE? Please return items for the basket to your classroom teacher by Friday, November 20, 2015

HOW? Select a feather from the turkey representing a food item needed to complete a family basket. Purchase the chosen item and return it to your classroom.

QUESTIONS? Contact any member of the Summit Student Council or Mrs. France

Thank you for sharing with others this Thanksgiving season!

Summit School of Ahwatukee Selects Next Dynamic Head of School

Summit School of Ahwatukee is proud to announce that Mark Bistricky has been appointed as the next Head of School, effective June 30, 2016. Summit is a private, independent school of approximately 350 preschool through 8th-grade students in Phoenix, Arizona, that is committed to promoting academic excellence and developing in its students a love of learning through an innovative, thematic curriculum.

The search process for a new head was initiated last year due to the planned retirement of Pat O’Brien, who has led Summit for the past eight years through a period of growth in enrollment, academic programs, and extracurricular offerings, as well as the attainment of accreditation. Mr. Bistricky was hired through a rigorous, multistage, international search. Corey Saba Basha, Chair of the Summit Board of Trustees, led the search efforts in conjunction with a Head of School Search Committee comprising five trustees and assistance from the national search firm Triangle Associates/Heads Up Educational Consulting.

The Board of Trustees unanimously agreed that Mr. Bistricky has the ideal experience, skills, and personal traits to lead Summit School of Ahwatukee in accordance with its mission. Describing his enthusiasm for this position, Mr. Bistricky noted, “In addition to the excellent faculty and staff, what attracted me to Summit is its commitment to research-based and innovative education. Many schools teach students facts. Facts are important, but they are not enough. The world’s need for individuals who can synthesize and apply knowledge imaginatively to solve problems will keep growing. Summit School is perfectly poised to meet this critical need and to expand its reputation as a leader in education.”

Mr. Bistricky was raised in Phoenix. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Whittier College (magna cum laude), he holds two Master of Arts degrees: one in History from University of Arizona, and the other in Education Administration from Santa Clara University. He has over seven years of experience as head of school/principal, including positions in both private and parochial schools. Mr. Bistricky is currently Head of School at Tesseract School in Phoenix. Prior to this position, he had served as Head of School at Valley Christian High School in Chandler, Arizona, and as Principal at Holy Spirit School in San Jose, California.

Mr. Bistricky is a dynamic professional who will bring creativity, passion, and strategic vision to guide the school in the spirit of a liberal arts approach that fosters development of students’ academic, social, creative, and physical skills. Regarding desired qualities for the Summit Head of School, Corey Saba Basha noted, “I envision a person who will teach our children to manage in the world we live in today and also in a world we have yet to encounter, who can manage in chaos, who is willing to roll up their sleeves and show leadership in all domains at Summit, and who is willing to teach shoulder to shoulder and lead by example. Mark Bistricky, our new Head of School, has demonstrated the ability to do just that.”

2015 Let’s Move! Active Schools NATIONAL AWARD: Summit School of Ahwatukee ~ the top physical activity and physical education distinction for K-12 schools

Let’s Move! Active Schools, a sub-initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign announced its 2015 National Award honorees.

Summit School of Ahwatukee was one of 15 schools in Arizona and five hundred and twenty-five U.S schools representing 37 states, recognized for their outstanding efforts in creating an Active School environment and increasing physical activity and physical education opportunities for students.

The Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award is the top physical activity and physical education distinction for K-12 schools. The award celebrates a school’s commitment to integrating at least 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after the school day.

“These schools are raising the bar by creating Active School environments where students are happier, healthier, and higher-performing.  I am thrilled with their success through Let’s Move! Active Schools – they’re helping to create a new norm where physical activity is a fundamental aspect of a young person’s success both in the classroom and in life,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

Letter from Michelle Obama to Summit School of Ahwatukee ~ National PE award 2015

This is the second time Summit School of Ahwatukee has earned received this national honor.  “We owe so much to our physical education teacher, Kathy Dean, who has worked tirelessly to help create a culture of health and wellness at Summit,” Head of School Patrick O’Brien proudly shares.

Studies show that Active Kids Do Better. Physical activity not only helps kids stay healthy and strong, but it can also lead to higher test scores, improved attendance, better behavior in class, and enhanced leadership and interpersonal skills.

“The Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award is the nation’s top physical activity and physical education distinction for K-12 schools,” said Charlene Burgeson, Let’s Move! Active Schools Executive Director. “We commend Summit School of Ahwatukee’s exemplary work and commitment to active learning environments. Summit’s faculty, staff and students are paving the way to a healthier, higher-performing and more successful generation of youth.”

To earn a Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award, a school must have met significant benchmarks in five areas: physical education; physical activity before and after school; physical activity during school; staff involvement; and family & community engagement.

Summit School of Ahwatukee’s programs exceed in all these areas, in large part thanks to PE teacher Kathy Dean, who was instrumental in developing Summit’s physical education curriculum focusing on physical and nutritional health. She also initiated the middle school sports program, and created a before school running club at which 50 or more students and parents voluntarily run or walk on the school’s field twice each week.

Dean began and continues to organize the annual family turkey trot, and the school’s field day, which also focuses on developing leadership in middle school students who help run the event. Last year she held a successful pedometer challenge for the school’s teachers and staff, encouraging healthy goals for daily steps.

Students benefit academically from Dean’s initiatives as she provides training to staff, sharing “brain break” activities teachers successfully use in the classroom to help young minds stay fresh and engaged.

However, from the student’s perspective the most important and best loved initiate of Dean’s is the daily morning recess / snack break enjoyed by kindergarten through eighth grade students. In addition to lunch recess, students thank her in spirit each day as they enjoy ten minutes on the playground tire jumper, shooting hoops, running on the field, or simply chatting with classmates as they enjoy a healthy snack. “We all need a break to stay fresh and motivated,” explains Dean.

Why does she do it? “The biggest reward for me is the tremendous buy in from the entire school community: teachers, staff, parents and kids, to lead healthy, active lives,” says Dean with visible warmth.  “It is true that active kids are more successful academically, but they are also happier. You can actually feel the joy of students, teachers and parents on Summit’s campus. It is wonderful to experience.”

Honorees are provided with a banner, certificate and congratulatory letter from the First Lady. Recognition packages were generously sponsored by BOKS, Build Our Kids’ Success, a free before- and during-school physical activity program aimed at getting kids’ bodies moving and their brains ready to learn.

Summit School of Ahwatukee Mathematics inspires deep understanding, critical thinking and confidence in Preschool through Eighth Grade

Summit School of Ahwatukee mathematics curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students who have varying backgrounds, knowledge and skills.  The three main goals of the program are to develop mathematical skills, to foster an attitude toward mathematics that encourages subsequent learning and application of mathematical concepts and skills, and to prepare students for high school, college and careers that will require a strong mathematical foundation.

Summit’s Core Standards for Mathematics are based on Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, Mathematical Practices and Math Progressions.  These standards define what is to be learned by the end of a school year or course. The math curriculum, materials and activities are developed by educators, aligned to the standards, focused on important math skills and concepts, well-articulated across all grades and intended to be responsive to the unique needs and interests of Summit School of Ahwatukee students.

Scroll below the graph to read more about the mathematics curriculum materials, student assessments, differentiation, and home learning by grade.


Math Progression_Summit School of Ahwatukee_a sequence chart


PRESCHOOL: Using research-based activities from the Erikson Institute’s Big Ideas in Early Mathematics, preschool students develop strong foundational numeracy skills that align with Summit Core Standards. Numeracy is embedded daily in all core content areas, and is also introduced through large and small group activities.

GRADES Kindergarten – 5th: Foundational skills and concepts are taught using Math Expressions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

GRADE 6: Foundational skills are extended to prepare students for success in Pre-Algebra and Algebra using Digits (Pearson).

GRADES 7 & 8: Coursework is sequenced to prepare students for success in high school mathematics using Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry texts (McDougall Littell).


At Summit School of Ahwatukee, our mathematics classes foster an environment where students are seen as mathematicians and leaders. Each class, or mathematical community, encourages mathematical discussion among the students. In our math classrooms, students communicate their thinking, analyze the suggestions of others, justify their conclusions, respectfully debate a mathematical idea and defend their reasoning. Participating in these types of discussions allows our students to further develop their mathematical language and communication skills, take ownership of mathematical ideas and gain a deeper understanding of the mathematics being discussed. Our lively and enthusiastic math classes create an environment where students understand the importance of mathematics in their life and future careers.


Throughout the school year, students at Summit are being assessed, formally and informally, to identify their mathematical strengths and areas for improvement. For example, at the beginning of each math unit, each student completes a pre-assessment that assesses the mathematical concepts for the upcoming math unit. The data from the pre-assessment enables the teacher to identify which specific skills each student has already grasped, the skills to which they need more exposure and concepts the students have not yet been introduced. Identifying the students’ prior knowledge allows each teacher to differentiate the unit’s lessons according to the students’ needs.

In addition, students are frequently informally assessed during math lessons so that the teacher can adjust future lessons according to what each student needs further practice or instruction.

Assessments are an important component of Summit’s mathematics program as the formative and summative assessments provide teachers, students and parents with feedback on each child’s mathematical progress and growth.


Another central component of Summit School of Ahwatukee’s mathematics program is differentiation. Our teachers provide learning opportunities that keep each student’s individual academic needs, interests, learning style and readiness in mind in order to ensure productive student growth.  For example, when a student needs to be challenged with a specific math concept, Summit teachers will provide enrichment activities for that student. Enrichment activities and flexible grouping strategies allow students to expand their learning by studying the particular concept in more depth, and applying the math skills to new situations. Activities that involve accelerating students into above grade level textbooks or out of grade level groups are not used in Summit’s elementary classes as students in these grades are developing a strong mathematics foundation so that they will experience success in later mathematics courses.


Summit students are given opportunities to reinforce classroom math learning at home, beginning in kindergarten.  Our home learning assignments support and enhance our academic instructional programs. Math home learning assignments typically include two components: practice and application of current math concepts being studied, and cumulative review of previously taught math concepts. The math home learning assignments are not only beneficial to the students but to parents as well. Communicating with your child as they complete their assignment, or after they complete it, gives a parent an understanding of how the child is doing mathematically.

Because we value family and leisure time, most of Summit home learning is designed to take place four nights per normal week, Monday through Thursday, and not on weekends, holidays or breaks.

Celebrating 15 Years of Excellence ~ Summit School of Ahwatukee

From the Head of School, Summit School of Ahwatukee

This year’s theme is “Celebrating 15 Years of Excellence: Summit Serves. Summit Leads. Summit Exceeds.”  Summit School of Ahwatukee was founded on January 15, 2001 as a non-profit independent school.  The founders of the school envisioned a school community where students would attain academic excellence while respecting individual achievement and diversity.

The school has flourished over the years and has gained a strong reputation as an excellent preschool through eighth grade, supported by a highly- involved parent community.

Summit’s elementary and middle school are nationally accredited through North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI). Preschool recently earned national accreditation for the third time through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  Both of these accreditations signify the completion of rigorous self-study processes, commitment to continuous improvement and critical reviews by external accreditation teams.

In addition to an exceptional academic curriculum, we are so fortunate to have the highest caliber of teachers and staff, who make a positive difference in the lives, learning and success of your children.  We are also very proud of our students who are confident, articulate, engaged and happy about learning, and respectful of each other and their teachers.

We happily welcome our new and returning families who join us this year in celebrating fifteen years of excellence.  As we face the future together, I feel very fortunate and honored to be your Head of School.  Our remarkable partnership with all of you, the strong support of our parent organization, “BEST” and the Board of Trustees, and our incredibly caring and talented staff makes Summit School of Ahwatukee a very special school community, where children fall in love with learning and are inspired to be learners and leaders for life.

Warmest regards,
Patrick O’Brien
Head of School
Summit School of Ahwatukee
4515 E. Muirwood Drive, Phoenix, Arizona 85048
Main School Phone: 480-403-9500
Fax: 480-403-9599
Toll Free: 1-866-713-8102

Developing strong reading skills in young children is a journey, not a race 

Written by: Faith Angelakis, Literacy Specialist Summit School of Ahwatukee

Faith Angelakis, the reading specialist at Summit School of Ahwatukee, has a poster hanging prominently on her office door that says: 10 Ways to Become a Better Reader: 1) Read, 2) Read….10) Read. “I often hear students chuckle as they walk by and read the poster,” says Angelakis with a smile. “It may seem simplistic, but reading to young children may be the biggest head start to building a solid literacy foundation, preparing child to read well when the time is right.” Here are just a few of the benefits that parents teach when reading aloud to children.

• Reading fluency: Hearing an adult provides an excellent example of smooth, properly phrased, and expressive oral reading. When it is time for your child to read, the lessons modeled will be remembered and emulated.

• Story language and vocabulary: When an adult reads, the child hears language and vocabulary that aren’t always used in everyday conversations. Reading builds vocabulary and your child’s ability to understand and communicate both orally and with descriptive written words.

• Directionality and 1:1 correspondence are important. Point at the words as your read to your child; this teachers that English is read from left to right, that spaces around the print indicate where a word starts and ends, and that each spoken word matches one on the page.

• Developing a love of reading may be the most important of all. Think of all the literature, textbooks, news, or professional reading we do in a lifetime. It shouldn’t be a chore. Make reading time with your child part of the daily routine. Your child will associate reading with positive experiences, developing an intrinsic motivation to continue.

• Talk about the book: Simply recounting what was read may help memory, but what does your child think about the book? What other setting could the story be in? What other choice could the characters make or what would your child do? Show how changing a word or voice can change the meaning.

Let the racers race. Making reading part of your family’s routine will do more than earning some reading “prize”; it will lay the foundation to a successful journey to reading and learning.

About the Author:


Faith Angelakis holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education, a Reading Specialist endorsement and is CLIP certified, (Collaborative Literacy Intervention Project).

Through collaborative efforts with grade level teachers, she leads the school’s preschool and elementary literacy team. Ms. Angelakis works with teachers, to help them continue to develop professionally, by modeling lessons or team-teaching units. She also helps teachers plan literacy instruction for the year, and provides professional reading materials about the most recent teaching techniques.

Additionally, Ms. Angelakis works directly with students in kindergarten through third grade classrooms, teaching reading to small groups of students, at their instructional reading level.




First and Fourth place state math honors earned by Summit School of Ahwatukee 7th and 8th graders


Algebra may be a high school level class, but middle school students at Summit School of Ahwatukee thrive in advanced coursework. This year seventh grader Emma Lee earned the highest score in the state on The Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics (AATM) annual state-wide Algebra competition.

Her Summit School of Ahwatukee classmates also excelled. Mayari Merchant tied for the fourth highest state score. Elena D’Avanzo and Eric Wilda placed in the top 10% of all Arizona students taking the exam.

Their teacher, Christy Menard is thrilled, but not surprised. This is the fifth year that Menard’s students have placed in the top ten percent, or in the top four state scores. “My students have an amazing aptitude and attitude about learning and excelling,” exudes Menard. “They are wonderful young adults who love the challenge, are respectful, and collaborate to support each other to be the best they can in and out of class. They make my job as their teacher extremely fun and rewarding.”

Merchant agrees, “My friends and I have such a healthy competition betwixt us that we push each other beyond what we think we are capable of.”

D’Avanzo credits her teacher and classmates, “I have always loved math but Mrs. Menard helped to expand my love for the subject and enrich my learning. Having a class filled with caring friends inspires me to better myself and encourage others.”

“Mrs. Menard is the best teacher, and makes math simple” agrees Wilda, “and great classmates give me the courage to excel and be the best I can be. Thank you Mrs. Menard and Summit for believing in me.”

What does Arizona’s first place recipient think? “Math class with Mrs. Menard is a place where all students can interact with each other, and get to explore new ways to get to the solution, explains Emma Lee with a warm smile. “Friends like Mayari, Elena, Eric and all my classmates at Summit will be with you all the way, until you can solve for “x.”

An excelling middle school prepares students for success in high school and college. One component: high skill levels in technology

For the past three years, Summit has had a 1:1 iPad program, asking students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades to obtain an iPad for use in classes. The goal is to expand the use of technology by students, and to provide opportunities to enhance collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creative skills.

During this time we have seen technology change rapidly.  Now tablets of all kinds are available, and families often own multiple personal computers of differing operating systems, in addition to tablets and cell phones.  Students will need to have technological skills that can translate to any platform.  Therefore, our technology model needs to shift to meet this need.

Summit School of Ahwatukee is proud to announce that beginning in 2015 – 2016, the middle school will shift its 1:1 technology model to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).  Families will now have several options when deciding what form of personal technology each student should bring.  This is manageable for us since each student will have access to Microsoft Office 365, which means that everyone – regardless of device or platform – will use Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other Microsoft products to produce work.  Cloud-based storage will provide a means for students and teachers to share work back and forth.

An Android, iOS, or Windows tablet will be acceptable, as will a Windows or Apple laptop.  Devices will need browsing capability but will not need data plan agreements as students will use our Wi-Fi connections while at school.   Students must use the network while at school to ensure compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

Cell phones will not be allowed as devices used in the classroom for educational purposes.  Use of any device is subject to the Acceptable Use Agreement and its addendums, found in our Middle School Handbook, and is also subject to the guidelines established by the school and teacher for classroom management.  Any inappropriate use will fall under the school’s discipline policy.   Similar to other personally-owned items, the school is not liable for the loss, damage, misuse or theft of personally-owned devices.  It is the responsibility of each family to provide adequate insurance for devices and to protect them with cases.  In addition, Summit cannot provide technical support or install software on personally-owned devices.

In the fall, we will offer both student and parent “boot camps” to help your family understand how this device will be used in the classroom.  Summit is excited to transition to the next stage of technology use in the middle school, and we are pleased to offer this opportunity for students to experience learning using the same devices they use to engage with their multimedia world, and to inspire learning while creating independent, critical thinkers.

Warm regards,
Patrick O’Brien, Head of School
Summit School of Ahwatukee