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Carrie BrennanExecutive Director Carrie Brennan and other CITY leaders share highlights of what’s happening within CITY Center for Collaborative Learning and weigh in on issues in the field of education. Sign up to receive the monthly CITY newsletter in your inbox.


Lifecycle of a PBIS Store

The Life Cycle of a PBIS Store

Positive Behavior Intervention and Support
Posted November 13, 2018 by Tim Grivois-Shah

-Tim Grivois-Shah Like many in education, I am grateful that I get to help children learn and grow. And, I’m happy knowing that I likely have many years ahead of me to collaborate with and learn from inspiring professionals who share in this great work. Sometimes, though, I’ve truthfully felt that I would be happy […]

Frank Dipietrapaul teaches students about vermicomposting.

Food Justice and Our Youth

Frank Dipietrapaul leads adult and youth learning programs at Las Milpitas Community Farm
Posted November 11, 2018 by Tim Grivois-Shah

Food justice is, at its heart, social justice. When we understand that racial and economic inequalities marginalize people and deprive them of access to healthy, sustainable and nourishing food, we recognize that our work for social justice must include striving for equitable access to good food. In many areas, limited access to whole foods make it […]

Systems, Data, and Practices Support Outcomes--PBIS

Positive Behavior Intervention and Support-About the Tickets

Making the Most of a Moment
Posted October 31, 2018 by Tim Grivois-Shah

Most schools that implementing school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) use tickets to recognize students for positive behaviors. The idea is simple—encourage students to do what is right by handing students a PBIS ticket when we see them demonstrating positive behavior. As we pay less attention to the problems our students cause, we have […]

Trauma Informed Practice

Three Commitments for Trauma Informed School Leaders

Posted October 22, 2018 by Tim Grivois-Shah

In this blog post I reflect back on my recent experience as a principal of a large urban elementary school that, over four years, embraced trauma informed practice as an essential part of good instruction. I walked into my office after morning announcements to review my plan for the day. I had appointments with three […]

Honoring our Teacher Leaders: Congrats to Patrick Kelly!

Posted October 8, 2018 by Kaylee Wong

Patrick Kelly, a humanities teacher at Paulo Freire Freedom School-Downtown, was one of nine finalists for the TVT Leaders in Education teacher awards this year! Check out the nomination letter below, written by colleague Jessica Janecek, to get a sense of the many ways that Patrick exhibits his leadership – in the classroom, in the community, […]

PBIS Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports

Positive Behavior Intervention and Support: Let’s be ready for all of our learners

Posted September 5, 2018 by Tim Grivois-Shah

Schools with strong Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) systems have a school-wide approach to teach what positive behavior looks like and to recognize children for the good that they do—practices abundantly supported in research and effective for most students most of the time. PBIS, however, is also about transforming our practice to be purposeful and […]

PLC Summer Institute 2018

A full summer of adult learning

Posted August 27, 2018 by Carrie Brennan

There were kids in and about our schools this summer, to be sure. City High School offered its annual summer school sessions and Paulo Freire Freedom School-University hosted a two-week arts camp. But predominantly, the learners on our downtown campus in June and July were adults. Six workshops took place in our new collaborative learning […]

Tim Grivois-Shah

Tim Grivois-Shah appointed Director of Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Posted June 21, 2018 by Carrie Brennan

City Center for Collaborative Learning has appointed Timothy Grivois-Shah the director of professional learning and community engagement. Grivois-Shah previously served as the principal of Grijalva Elementary School in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Before his tenure in TUSD, his education career was in the Chicago area, working as a classroom teacher, gifted education coordinator, […]

Reporting on teacher salary increases & our 2018-19 budget

Posted June 20, 2018 by Carrie Brennan

Following the late-breaking developments that took place this past spring with the historic RedforED movement and the impact it had on the Arizona state budget for the 2019 fiscal year, we got to work on revising our own budget drafts with the main priority of increasing our teacher salaries. The finance committee of the CITY […]

Demonstrations of Learning: Challenging our students to show what they know

Posted May 22, 2018 by Santo Nicotera

Units of instruction in our three schools – by design – always include student demonstrations of understanding & mastery.  But in the spring, our students share some of their most powerful learning from the school year.  In April there is the ‘Pennington St Showcase‘.  And in May students present grade level, culminating demonstrations of work […]

#REDforED sweeps AZ – districts and charters alike

Posted April 23, 2018 by Carrie Brennan

The #REDforED movement continues to gain momentum throughout Arizona. Many charter school teachers are standing alongside their district peers in weekly Wednesday walkouts and other public protests, including teachers in our three schools. At their monthly meeting on April 11, the board of directors of CITY Center for Collaborative Learning issued a resolution in support […]

Community joins us to open and celebrate new space

Posted April 1, 2018 by Carrie Brennan

On March 1, we opened the doors to our new collaborative learning center to share and celebrate the new space with the community. The renovations looked amazing: the light blue stage backdrop, stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, polished concrete floor, subtle and stylish lighting, and newly-revealed barrel vault ceiling were each competing for attention – and together they […]

PLC institute

The deep roots of SRI ‘Critical Friendship’ and our facilitator training

Posted March 29, 2018 by Santo Nicotera

It is with great excitement that we anticipate our upcoming SRI ‘Critical Friendship’ facilitator training here in Tucson, June 11-15. We call this annual training the ‘PLC Summer Institute’, however, this training experience for prospective facilitators of ‘professional learning communities’ and even our understanding of a PLC itself is very different from what has become common practice across […]

A ‘place’ where deeper learning happens

Posted March 10, 2018 by Santo Nicotera

Santo Nicotera’s Retirement Announcement: I will be retiring from the position of Director of ‘Professional Development/Outreach’ on June 30, 2018.  It has been a great honor to serve as CITY Center for Collaborative Learning’s first director of PD Outreach and to be a part of CITY Center’s emerging role as an educational leader here in […]

Using PBL to navigate screen time issues with teens and parents

Posted February 3, 2018 by Santo Nicotera

This blog by Paulo Freire Freedom School-Downtown principal JoAnn Groh was first published on the BIE website: Possibly the most common worry expressed by parents lately is their befuddlement at what supports and limitations they should be placing on their child’s screen time and use of social media. I get it. It can be truly baffling […]

A doubleheader to remember: National Philanthropy Day 2017

Posted November 27, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

CITY Center for Collaborative Learning was in the spotlight at the big National Philanthropy Day luncheon on November 17. Long-time board chair Mary Jo Ghory received the Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year award and the City High School internship program was honored with the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award. Raevyn Crews, class of 2016, and senior […]

What we do and how we do it: A spotlight on the November PBL workshop

Posted November 21, 2017 by Santo Nicotera

“CITY Center for Collaborative Learning designs, implements and advances exemplary practices in teaching and learning that transform the lives of young people and their educators.” Our mission statement encapsulates what we are about at CITY Center as we set out to: provide professional development for educators in southern Arizona and beyond, convene conversations on teaching […]

‘Dream Big’: A huge success

Posted October 31, 2017 by Santo Nicotera

Thank You First of all, I would like to thank everyone who helped make CITY Center for Collaborative Learning‘s annual Fall film screening event last Tuesday a huge success. This year we chose the 45-minute film, Dream Big: Engineering Our World so that a younger audience might join us for both the screening and the 45-minute […]

Creativity & early childhood education – keepin’ it real

Posted October 19, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

I had the good fortune recently to spend a morning in one of my favorite places in the world – a preschool. While I had never been to this school in particular, I knew right away that it ranked right up there with the effective, creative and nurturing early childhood environments I know and love. […]

Celebrating together our amazing teaching profession

Posted September 8, 2017 by Santo Nicotera

Tomorrow is 2nd Saturday Downtown Tucson – but it is not just any 2nd Saturday in the Old Pueblo!  It is the 2nd Saturday in September which means CITY Center for Collaborative Learning is also hosting Edcamp Tucson in the morning and Teacher-To-Teacher Workshops/Conversations in the afternoon.  Both events are FREE. Join with other Tucson educators and celebrate […]

Carrie Brennan

August newsletter: Back to School Inspiration

Posted August 31, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

We all remember the back-to-school fervor we experienced as kids. The antsy excitement about all that was new and unknown, combined with a bit of dread and a pair of new shoes. For educators this annual rhythm continues. Gearing up and launching the new year are high-energy times. Teachers rev up the engine that is […]

City High School graduation

July newsletter: Accolades Abound!

Posted July 22, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

The school year drew to a close with our 8th graders and 12th graders in the spotlight at three beautiful graduation ceremonies. The spotlight has also been shining on our leaders and schools. It has been a full summer season of individual and collective recognition, and we are oh so proud! The excerpt above is […]

Summer fundraising campaign – annual appeal letter from the director

Posted June 30, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

Our annual fundraising campaign kicks off each summer as we pause between school years to reflect and strategize. Thank you to our many regional and national supporters for investing in our work and mission. Donations are tax-deductible and welcome throughout the year. to Contribute online, visit the ‘Donate’ page. June 30, 2017 This summer marks […]

City High School ranks #1 in the city in Education Equality Index report

Posted June 27, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (June 27, 2017, TUCSON, AZ) City High School has been recognized as a top school by achieving the highest score in Tucson, Arizona released in the newest data from the Education Equality Index (EEI) survey on June 20, 2017. The results shared that the average EEI score in Tucson is 57.7 and […]

Leading by example: Eve Rifkin earns her doctorate!

Posted June 20, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

City High School’s Director of College Access and one of the school’s co-founders, Eve Rifkin, graduated in May with a Doctorate of Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. I interviewed Eve recently about the intense three-year program and her experiences as a student – and the insights she gained as an educator. […]

Pennington Street Showcase

Five reasons to showcase our project based learning

Innovation Spotlight
Posted June 17, 2017 by Santo Nicotera

This blog by Paulo Freire Freedom School-Downtown principal JoAnn Groh was published originally on the BIE website on June 7, 2017. One of the requisite design elements in BIE’s Gold Standard Project Based Learning is the need for projects to include a “public product.” This year our schools went all in on that element by hosting […]

place-based ed - investing city plans - photo 2

On the ground with place-based education: Investigating city plans

Innovation Spotlight
Posted May 30, 2017 by Santo Nicotera

This blog by City High School’s Annie Holub was published originally on the ‘Getting Smart’ website on March 22, 2017. It was probably the craziest field trip idea I’d ever had. I was sure my principal would say no. “Hey Brett,” I said casually, walking into his office. “This might be crazy, but I want to […]

Deeper Learning 2017 - large group

When students share and shine: the public nature of ‘deeper learning’

Posted April 28, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

Last month I had the opportunity to return to the Deeper Learning conference at High Tech High. With over 1000 educators from around the world in attendance and an engaging, jam-packed agenda, DL2017 inspired and energized. We dove head first into the topic of ‘deeper learning’ by experiencing it ourselves. Conference organizers thoughtfully crafted a 3-day […]

Annual CITYscape newsletter – welcome from the director

Posted March 20, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

Our annual CITYscape newsletter hits mailboxes this week. Below is the opening letter by Executive Director Carrie Brennan. To read the full publication, click here. To all of our old friends and new – we have so much to share with you! 2016 was a busy and exciting year and 2017 promises to be the […]

CommunityShare photo - Lancaster

CommunityShare ‘Seed Grants’ available to teachers

Innovation Spotlight
Posted March 10, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

CommunityShare Founder/Director Josh Schachter sent out the following announcement earlier this month to the Southern Arizona education community …  CommunityShare is sponsoring a spring round for its Seed Grants Program to help support innovative school and classroom projects with community partners. Grants of up to $300 will be awarded to teachers for projects taking place during the 4th quarter of this […]

City High School staff - COD Ranch

Join our team! Recruiting teachers for Fall 2017

Posted March 7, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

Join our team of dedicated and dynamic educators and teach at one of our three small secondary schools! CITY Center for Collaborative Learning is recruiting teachers and other staff for the 2017-18 school year and beyond. We seek candidates who see have experience in and are committed to our 10 core educational practices. For current postings, visit the Employment […]

Be Kind on Pennington St.

Ensuring our schools are safe spaces for all students

Posted March 1, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

March 1, 2017 Dear Students and Families, Last week the United States Departments of Justice and Education rescinded the guidance that the Obama administration issued less than a year ago advising schools districts to let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice. This recent move by the federal government has created a lot of uncertainty and […]

CITY2020 Strategic Plan

CITY 2020: Strategic plan as roadmap

Posted January 30, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

The CITY 2020 plan is an important roadmap for us during this time of exciting change and expansion within our organization. The mission and priority areas guide the ‘what’ of our work and keep us focused on ‘where’ we are headed. The vision and values light the way; they are the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of our work. Throughout […]

Maker Space - Paulo Freire Freedom School

Learning to make & making to learn

Innovation Spotlight
Posted January 10, 2017 by Carrie Brennan

Check out our latest YouTube video highlighting innovative teaching and learning! Middle schoolers from the Paulo Freire Freedom Schools dive into an intensive day of hands-on maker activities. A video production crew from City High School capture the experiences of the Maker Day and interview students and staff to capture their reflections and insights about the connections […]


Board of directors welcomes 3 new members

Posted December 20, 2016 by Carrie Brennan

The CITY Center for Collaborative Learning board of directors appointed three new members this fall. Joining the Board of Directors are Candace Feldman, Leslie Novick, and Glen Warner. Candace L. Feldman is the Director of Programming for UA Presents. Previously Feldman was the Producing Director for 651 ARTS, a non-profit arts organization based in Brooklyn, New […]

Most Likely to Succeed

Got MLTS! So what’s next?

Posted October 27, 2016 by Santo Nicotera

‘Most Likely to Succeed’ Seen by 200+ In Tucson On October 17th, Tucson-based CITY Center for Collaborative Learning and The Loft Cinema presented the documentary film, Most Likely to Succeed with support from CommunityShare, EdLeader21, Tucson Values Teachers, and the UA College of Education.  The screening was followed by a panel discussion that included Valerie Greenhill (EdLeader21 President & Co-Founder), Steve Holmes (Superintendent […]

A CITY team heads to ‘Teach to Lead’ summit in Long Beach, CA

Innovation Spotlight
Posted October 4, 2016 by Santo Nicotera

By Santo Nicotera Let me start by saying, what a great honor it was for our CITY Center team to be chosen to participate in the ‘Teach to Lead Summit’ in Long Beach, CA on Friday & Saturday, September 23-24. We sensed that our proposal was an important one, not only for advancing professional learning […]

Transformational learning and my journey as a teacher, learner, and leader

Posted September 2, 2016 by Santo Nicotera

Transformational Learning Communities “The School Reform Initiative creates transformational learning communities that are fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence” (see SRI What We Do).  The SRI Critical Friendship model for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is an integral part of the CITY Center for Collaborative Learning’s work with teachers, educational leaders, community partners, and school/district teams. (see […]

Teacher leadership and the founding of our three schools

Posted August 6, 2016 by Santo Nicotera

Over the course of a decade, starting in 2004, our founding team of public school ‘teacher leaders’ launched three schools in Tucson, Arizona to serve as innovative learning communities where best educational practices could be practiced and shared with the wider educational community.  We had over 60 years of combined experience as classroom teachers as we moved into the realm […]

Teacher voice and the search for solutions to Arizona’s teacher crisis

Posted July 15, 2016 by Carrie Brennan

The final days of the school year, once students are out of the building, is a busy time for K-12 educators. There is a special rhythm to wrapping up one year and prepping classrooms for the summer months: taking down bulletin boards, finalizing student grade reports, filing lesson plans, packing up activities, making notes for the […]

CITY Facade

Nonprofit brings together three downtown-area schools for wider impact

Posted June 29, 2016 by Carrie Brennan

June 28, 2016 – Tucson, AZ Education nonprofit brings together three Tucson downtown-area schools for wider community impact CITY Center for Collaborative Learning, an Arizona 501c(3) nonprofit corporation that supports and leads City High School, will bring two partner middle schools into the fold on July 1, 2016. Joining City High School under the nonprofit […]

Borton mural

Good schools should be happy places

Posted March 16, 2016 by Carrie Brennan

The following piece was originally published under the title “Why Good Schools Are Happy Places” in the Huffington Post on March 8, 2016. Visit my son’s elementary school at 8:00 a.m. any morning of the year and you’ll find a festive spirit in the air. In the courtyard, where the entire school gathers to start the day, there is music […]

PBL video PFFS

PBL on PBL: Student-produced video showcases (and models) a best practice

Innovation Spotlight
Posted February 25, 2016 by Carrie Brennan

A team of advanced video production high school students took on a real world project recently, working with Principal JoAnn Groh as their ‘client’ to create a short film about project based learning at her middle school. In other words, they used PBL to document PBL. The Buck Institute for Education outlines 8 key design […]

Davis School Garden

Getting our hands dirty: Farm to School programs in Tucson

Innovation Spotlight
Posted February 3, 2016 by Carrie Brennan

Whenever I head out of downtown, driving east on Broadway, I glance over at the rambling gardens surrounding Miles Exploratory Learning Center. Sometimes when picking up my son at Davis Bilingual Magnet School I have a few extra minutes to sit and linger with him in shade of the school garden nestled into the nearby neighborhood; this is one of […]

CITY Facade

CITY 2020: Dynamic plan for the future

Posted January 12, 2016 by Carrie Brennan

CITY Center for Collaborative Learning has its sights on the future – and a solid roadmap for the dynamic journey ahead. An ambitious strategic planning process took place over the past year and a half, with parents, students, staff, school founders, board members, partners, and community members involved. The voices and perspectives of many stakeholders came […]

The results are in. Now what?

Posted November 24, 2015 by Carrie Brennan

On Monday, November 30 the results of the AzMERIT test that students took last spring will be made public. They were delivered to the doorstep of every public school in Arizona last month with ‘embargo’ instructions, to not discuss school-wide results with the public, even one’s own school board, and to share only individual student scores […]