What better way to say thank you to public school employees than with the ultimate classroom prize?
“It’s a good old fashioned pizza party,” said Leah Noreng, executive director of the Amphi Foundation, which provided lunch to every educator in Amphitheater Public Schools this week.
The more than $8,000 gesture of gratitude came a little over a month after the district reopened its campuses to hybrid, in-person instruction — the latest sweeping change for school employees who have already endured almost constant upheaval since the coronavirus pandemic sent students home in mid-March.
“Our teachers — everybody is exhausted,” said Noreng, a Tucson native whose three kids all go to Amphi schools. “We just need to show them some love.”
The first batch of pizzas and salads were delivered to about half of the district’s 21 schools on Monday. Staff members at the remaining Amphi schools got their pizza party on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s deliveries are slated to go out to the district’s support staff, administrative offices and transportation department.
Amphitheater High School assistant principal Glenda Arffa helped deliver 16 extra-large cheese pizzas and six family-sized salads to her staff of roughly 150 people on Monday.
She said the special lunch gave faculty members a welcome chance to eat together and socialize — outdoors and properly distanced, of course — at a time when coronavirus concerns have forced the cancellation of staff meetings and all other large, in-person gatherings.
The timing couldn’t have been better, Arffa said.
“It’s the week of Thanksgiving, when we reflect on the good things in our lives, even in a less than ideal situation,” she said.
The Amphi Foundation was founded in 1983 to help students and teachers with school supplies, classroom equipment, grants for training and extracurricular activities and other financial assistance aimed at improving educational opportunities in the district.
The pizza thing was sort of a last-minute decision, Noreng said.
Arffa, who also serves on the foundation board, said the idea was inspired by a recent Zoom meeting with Amphitheater Superintendent Todd Jaeger, who got emotional when he told the foundation how grateful he was for the way district employees have risen to the challenges posed by the past nine months.
After hearing that, foundation members decided they had to do something right away to say thank you to each and every one of the district’s 1,955 employees.
So they partnered with Mama’s Pizza — a local chain owned by a family filled with Amphi schools graduates turned Amphi parents — to quickly assemble a giant, multiday pizza party to show their appreciation.
The final tally: 200 pizzas and about 80 trays of salad. As far as Noreng is concerned, it’s the least they could do for such a dedicated group of employees.
“They’re all working really hard to keep our schools open and keep our kids safe this year,” she said.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 520-573 4283. On Twitter: @RefriedBrean.