Now that families and students are starting to settle into the new school year, Launch Flagstaff is hoping to start an in-depth discussion with parents, the public, businesses, government officials, students and educators on the future of education in Flagstaff with a series of three free documentaries on the U.S. education system in September.

The films start at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8, 15 and 20 in the McGee Auditorium at Flagstaff Medical Center. The films are free but attendees must reserve tickets because of limited seating. Tickets can be found at After each film, there will be a panel discussion and question and answer session for the public.

The first film in the series, “Beyond Measure,” is set to run Sept. 8. The 2014 film follows a group of teachers and educators as they try to change how students are taught by using research in child development, cognitive skills and neuroscience.

The second film, “Paper Tigers,” details a year at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington. The school principal uses research to change the way the school disciplines students. That film is set to run on Sept. 15.

The last film, “Rise Above the Mark,” talks about how politics has seeped into the school system and how schools and students are struggling to meet regulations and demands set by legislators.

The organization is also holding community town halls, with the help of Arizona Town Hall, for the public on funding pre-K through 12th grade education on Oct. 1 at Coconino Community College’s Lone Tree Campus and a similar town hall with high school students on Sept. 26 at CCC.

The film series is designed to be a jumping off point for a public discussion about creating a world class education community in Flagstaff, said Paul Kulpinski, Launch Flagstaff’s partnership director. Kulpinski is a former Flagstaff Unified School District board member.

Launch Flagstaff is the brainchild of former Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Robert Kelty, the Coconino County Education Service Agency and United Way of Northern Arizona. LAUNCH stands for Learn, Advocate, Unite, Network, Contribute, Help. Kelty came up with the idea after getting the results of the first Coconino County Education Report in 2013. The study, which was sponsored by the Coconino County Education Service Agency and United Way of Northern Arizona, showed that Flagstaff has a number of good educational programs and organizations but very few of those programs work with each other or talk to each other.

In order to create a world class education system from “cradle to career” for Flagstaff students, CCESA and United Way created the Flagstaff Commission on Excellence in Education. The commission was made up of members from various local businesses, government officials, the public, educators and nonprofit organizations. In 2016, the group rebranded itself Launch Flagstaff and released five goals it wanted to see for education in Flagstaff.

Those goals included: making sure that students are ready for kindergarten, reading proficiently at the third grade and proficient in math at the eighth grade, increasing the graduation rate and increasing enrollment in colleges or technical training.

Launch isn’t designed to be another organization leading the charge for better education, Kulpinski said. It’s designed to bring community stakeholders to the table to discuss solutions and what each of them can do to help improve education for Flagstaff students. Those stakeholders include Northern Arizona University, W.L. Gore, Coconino County Supervisors, APS, Flagstaff Arts Council, the city of Flagstaff, Flagstaff Unified School Districts, charter schools and the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce.

Education is more than just something that schools do, Kulpinski said. It’s a community endeavor that needs input from business, government, the public and the students, as well as educators. Each entity brings something different to the table, a different view that can provide a possible solution. Education is a community effort that benefits the entire community.

Some of the solutions that come out of Launch may be able to be implemented immediately, he said. Others could take years to create, grow and see results from, but education doesn’t really stop with the end of formal schooling, Kulpinski said. The world and technology is constantly changing. In order to keep up with trends and see if solutions are working, future studies are planned.

The group hopes to have ideas for kindergarten readiness and postsecondary enrollment by the end of 2017.

The reporter can be reached at or (928)556-2253.


Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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