Catalina Foothills Unified School District

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The student plaza at Catalina Foothills High School was inspired by the work of Michelangelo.
The student plaza at Catalina Foothills High School was inspired by Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio.

The Catalina Foothills Unified School District #16 (often referred to as the Catalina Foothills School District, CFSD or District 16) is the PreK-12 school district for the Catalina Foothills area of Tucson, Arizona. Established in 1931, it is a system of eight schools: one high school (9-12), two middle schools (6-8), four elementary schools (K-5) and one early learning center (PreK). The district educates over 5000 students who live throughout the greater Tucson metro area. Mary Kamerzell, Ph.D., has served as superintendent since 1996.

In 2014, CFSD released its strategic plan,[1] outlining its ongoing commitment to prepare students well for a 21st-century life that is increasingly complex and global. In the plan, the district outlines how it creates a learning environment in which each student achieves academic and personal excellence.

According to the Arizona Auditor General's report for fiscal year 2016, CFSD has a district-wide attendance rate of 95% and a high school graduation rate of 94% (2017). Ninety-four percent of all Catalina Foothills High School graduates go on to college. There are, on average, eighteen students per teacher and CFSD teacher experience averages 11.3 years, higher than the state average. The district scores highly in fiscal responsibility with 60.5 cents of every dollar spent on instruction or instructional support.[2] The students per teacher ratio is 17.8 and the average number of years of teacher experience is 11.3. [3]

Mission statement[edit]

Catalina Foothills School District, a caring and collaborative learning community, ensures that each student achieves intellectual and personal excellence, and is well prepared for college and career pathways.[4]

Vision Statement[edit]

Learning transfers to life beyond the Catalina Foothills School District experience, enabling each student to flourish as a responsible citizen in the global community.[5]

Student speaks to audience at graduation ceremony.
Catalina Foothills High School has a 94% graduation rate.

Testing & Test Scores[edit]

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) designated the Catalina Foothills School District (CFSD) as a top performing "A" school district for the sixth straight year in 2016.[6] Prior to that, the district was ranked as an "Excelling" district for eight consecutive years.[7]

The ADE ranked CFSD as #1 for the AP Excellence Index (percent of all 9th-12th grade students who earned a 3 or higher on any AP exam) based on data from the College Board, 2010.[8]

Of all school districts statewide, CFSD had the highest AzMERIT scores in both English Language Arts and Math. A summary of the most recent results can be found at

Awards & Recognition[edit]

Catalina Foothills School District is a nationally recognized Exemplar District, selected by P21. [9]

In 2017 and 2018, CFSD was named No. 1 Public School District in Arizona, scoring an A+ in Academics, an A in Educational Outcomes, and an A- in Teachers, according to the 2017 and 2018 Niche rankings.[10]

Orange Grove & Esperero Canyon were named among the Top Middle Schools in Arizona by Niche.[11]

Ventana Vista, Canyon View, Manzanita and Sunrise Drive were named among the Top Elementary Schools in Arizona.[12]

Valley View Early Learning Center won Governor’s Award in the Personal Learning Spaces Category.[13]

Manzanita Elementary School was honored as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.[14]

From 2015-2017, Catalina Foothills High School was identified as Arizona’s #1 non-selective high school by U.S. News & World Report.[15]

Catalina Foothills High School was named the #2 non-selective district public high school in Arizona by the Washington Post.[16]

From 2013-2016, Catalina Foothills High School was recognized as a top U.S. high school in Newsweek.[17]

State Championships[edit]

Boys Golf, Girls Softball, Chess (also National Champions), FIRST LEGO League (also won Mentor and Research Awards at Worlds and second place at North American Open), Speech and Debate, Science Olympiad, Girls Swim & Dive, Boys Swim & Dive, Cross Country, Girls Tennis, Boys Tennis, Girls Track, Marching Band (multiple awards) and Math (American Mathematics and, Football (runners-up.)

Other Student Academic Awards[edit]

National Merit Scholars, AP Scholars, Pima County Spelling Bee Champion, CIAU Chinese Immersion student trophies, Young Author’s Competition, Southern AZ Thespian Festival, Model UN, Southern Arizona Research Science & Engineering Foundation (SARSEF), State History Day, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and VEX Robotics.


Early Learning Center[edit]

Students hammering nails into wood.
During the 2015-16 expansion of Valley View, students participated in several "construction day activities" led by professional contractors.

Valley View Early Learning Center

All Valley View Early Learning Center teachers are certified teachers, which is unique for a preschool. The school fosters an inquiry-based approach to learning, with developmental areas include dramatic play, sensory activities, art, literacy, science, math, socio-emotional activities, and systems thinking. VVELC offers a PreK Spanish and Mandarin immersion program. Beginning in 2016-2017, VVELC will add one Chinese Immersion classroom. There is a summer program for children ages 2 1⁄2 - 5.

Elementary schools[edit]

Students being photographed as they demonstrate new playground.
At Manzanita Elementary School, fifth grade students designed a playground for kindergarteners.

All CFSD elementary schools offer music, visual arts, Spanish (K-5), and physical education taught by highly qualified, certified teachers. Every classroom is a technology-enhanced classroom, with access to laptops (2:1 ratio), iPads, iPods, digital cameras, student response systems, Gmail, and Google academic accounts. Each school has specialists in gifted education, counseling and special education. Extended math and reading services are available for all grades. From grades 2-5, all students participate in robotics classes as part of their educational program. There is a before and after school CARE program at each campus, along with dozens of extracurricular offerings through CFSD Community Schools.

Middle Schools[edit]

Conductor leads band students onstage
Esperero Canyon Middle School has a vibrant visual and performing arts program.

The CFSD middle school curriculum includes English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, Health & PE, World Languages learning (Spanish), performing arts, and visual arts. Each school has specialists in gifted education, counseling and special education. Every classroom is a technology-enhanced classroom, with access to laptops (2:1 ratio), iPads, iPods, digital cameras, student response systems, Gmail, and Google academic accounts. Math classes are offered at grade level and above grade level to serve differentiated student needs.

High school[edit]

Students in gymnasium holding 9/11 ceremony with flags
Every year Catalina Foothills High School students hold a 9/11 remembrance ceremony.

At Catalina Foothills High School (also known as Foothills), students are encouraged to take the highest-level courses that are appropriate for them. The high school offers 18 AP courses and an extensive array of honors classes. Career and Technical Education is composed of eight program areas: Agri-science, Audio Visual Technology, Bioscience, Engineering, Entrepreneurship Business and Marketing, Graphic Communications, Journalism and Technical Theatre-Theater Productions. Language offerings include Spanish and Chinese. Through a four-year program in engineering, Project Lead the Way, students can earn college credit at the University of Arizona. With about 250 members, the school boasts the largest high school marching band in Arizona.[18]


The Catalina Foothills School District opened its doors in 1931 with nine students and a teacher, who met in a garage. In 1939, developer John Murphey sold 2.2 acres on River Road to CFSD for the sum of ten dollars, with the stipulation that the land be used for a public school. That summer, a two-room country schoolhouse was designed by Joseph T. Joesler and built by the Works Progress Administration. Originally known as the River Road School, the building is now the Murphey Administration Center.

In 1993, the district went before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that it did not have to provide an American Sign Language interpreter to a deaf student who transferred to a private, parochial school Salpointe Catholic High School. The district argued that, while the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would normally require such services if the student attended public school, providing it for religious instruction would be unconstitutional. In Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District, the court found "that the Establishment Clause does not bar the school district from providing the requested interpreter." but also did not rule that the district is required to provide an interpreter.[19]

Notable alumni[edit]

District Boundaries[edit]

The boundaries of CFSD are: East side of First Avenue from Ina Road south to 5600 block (westward extension of Sunrise Drive); 5600 block east to a northern extension of Campbell Avenue from the intersection of Campbell Avenue and River Road; south to River Road; River Road (1900 block) east to the east edge of John W. Murphey Administration Center (2101 East River); north to 4800 block (westward extension of Snyder Road); east to 8700 block (northern extension of Camino Seco); north to Coronado National Forest; west along the south boundary of the forest; north along the west boundary of the forest to Ina Road extended east.[20]


  1. ^ Envision21: Deep Learning Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Arizona Auditor General's Report FY 2016" (PDF). 2017. 
  3. ^ "School Districts | Office of the Auditor General". Retrieved 2017-08-23. 
  4. ^ "Catalina Foothills School District". Catalina Foothills School District. 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ [Catalina Foothills School District website "Catalina Foothills School District vision"] Check |url= value (help). History and Mission. Catalina Foothills School District. 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  6. ^ "CFSD Report Card". Arizona Department of Education. 2014. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ "Arizona Department of Education: Assessments". Arizona Department of Education School Report Cards. Arizona Department of Education. 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  8. ^ "Arizona Department of Education Participation and Performance Report Advanced Placement (AP) Programs". Participation and Performance Report. Arizona Department of Education. 2010. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  9. ^ Larson, Tony. "Catalina Foothills Unified School District - P21". Retrieved 2017-08-23. 
  10. ^ "Catalina Foothills Unified School District". Niche K-12 Rankings. Niche. Retrieved 2017.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. ^ "Niche Rankings: Best Middle Schools". Niche Rankings. Niche. 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^ "Best Public Elementary Schools in Arizona". School Rankings. Niche. 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  13. ^ "Governor's Award for Personal Learning Spaces" (PDF). Governor's Awards. Arizona School Facilities Board. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  14. ^ "Manzanita Elementary Named Blue Ribbon School". Arizona Daily Star. September 16, 2012. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  15. ^ "US News and World Report High School Rankings: Catalina Foothills High School". Best High Schools: Arizona. US News & World Report. 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  16. ^ "Catalina Foothills High School". Most Challenging High Schools. The Washington Post. 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  17. ^ "Catalina Foothills honored by Newsweek magazine". Foothills News. Tucson Local Media. September 1, 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  18. ^ "Catalina Foothills High School Marching Band". Friday Football Fever. KVOA. September 18, 2015. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  19. ^ Rehnquist, William (18 June 1993). "LARRY ZOBREST, et ux., et al., PETITIONERS v. CATALINA FOOTHILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT". Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  20. ^ "District Boundaries". Catalina Foothills School District. Archived from the original on 28 December 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2016. 

External links[edit]