Education Champion: Mr. Yslas 

Stand for Children has now been in Arizona for 12 years. The time has flown by, and our work continues to grow and reach more parents, students, and school officials. School leaders make a big difference and can empower parents, change policy, and give students a better future. 

One leader, in particular, has stood out as a good friend and ally in championing a better education for all students. Superintendent Mark Yslas is sadly leaving Alhambra Elementary School district to become the Superintendent in the Aqua Fria High School District. His story is a great example of how working together with school leaders can make a big difference. 

Mr. Yslas has served as the Alhambra Elementary School District Superintendent since 2015. Throughout the years, his partnership with Stand has generated real changes for parents and their students. For example, he took the time and care to connect with parents one-on-one in order to understand the community’s needs. He created relationships with parents and gave them a voice at the district level. This voice led to better policies and educational programs over the years. 

Our partnership with him led to creating trust and parents feeling empowered to suggest changes. This collaborating between the parents and Mr. Yslas led to the Alhambra tutoring program. This program got high school students to tutor younger students in areas like math, English, and reading. The impact benefited hundreds of elementary school students and high school student tutors that participated in the program. 

I have been part of the Stand Arizona staff since the beginning and have worked alongside Mr. Yslas. I can tell you that our partnership made profound positive changes in the community we serve. This month I hosted a gathering to celebrate Mr. Yslas as he finishes his service at Alhambra to join the Agua Fria Union High School District as their superintendent.   

Why we work with school officials 

The role of a superintendent is so important. It includes supervising administrative staff and school principals as well as oversight and decision-making on educational programs, finances, and facilities. Parents are deeply interested in all aspects of their student’s education, and the school district is often a hub of the community. The leadership at the district matters, and parents want to be seen as partners, not burdens.  

I can’t think of a better example of meaningful community partnerships than the one Stand AZ cultivated with Mr. Yslas. His honest concern for parents and the time he spent getting to know the community was essential to his success. His leadership profoundly changed this community for the better and his partnership with Stand AZ helped many students succeed! 

Our Partnership at Alhambra School District 

Mr. Yslas truly transformed the school community in Alhambra. One great example of this was how he dealt with the concerns that parents had about their student’s transition from the lower grades at Westwood school to the higher grades at Simpson. At the time, Simpson did not have a good reputation and parents were afraid that their students were not going to have the best education at that school.  

Mr. Yslas got to work right away to transform the school. With the work of many people under his leadership, the school did a 360-degree change. Today, the school is called the Choice Learning Academy – a school that helps students overcome common classroom challenges. 

An important part of what he did was understand that parents needed to see that their voice was being heard and that things could change. Mr. Yslas proved it to the parents by being innovative and driven to take the community’s concerns to create meaningful changes. I know from speaking with them that they are very proud to call him a friend. 

The Celebration

Even though we were not able to have a big party, some students and parents came from across the district to thank and celebrate Mr. Yslas. The gathering was bittersweet as some parents thanked him and remembered how he made things happen for them. Speaking for parents at the celebration and those that could not join us, Carmen Toro made some remarks to wish him well in his new position as the Superintendent of Agua Fria. 

“On behalf of our parents and students, we wish you farewell Mr. Yslas! We are so thankful for your service as the Superintendent of our education community. There are no words to thank you for the incredible attention and dedication to bettering our children’s lives. You made a difference, and we are all going to miss you a lot. But we know that he will go on to do great things for more families like ours. Thank you!” 

Working with key leaders like Mr. Yslas has led to better outcomes for our kids. We look forward to working with him and many others like him as we continue 2021 with a focus on ensuring a quality education for all of Arizona’s students.