Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week we’re going to speak with Brett Goble. He is a Founding Director of City High School in downtown Tucson. It’s been operational for almost 20 years, so we thought we’d check in and see what they’ve been up to.

Today is June 26th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

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Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from KAL, “Teachers.”


Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the old Pueblo and you’re listening to Ktdt Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour are with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored rock and roll radio station.

This week we’re going to speak with Brett Goble. He is a Founding Director of City High School in downtown Tucson. It’s been operational for almost 20 years, so we thought we’d check in and see what they’ve been up to.

Today is June 26, 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the Streetcar agent. Every Sunday are focused on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to You, Arizona, and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM. [email protected] also available on your iPhone or Android by getting our downtown Radio Tucson app. If you want to get a hold of us on the show, our email address is [email protected].

You can interact with us on Facebook, Instagram. You can check out all of our past episodes on our website, And of course, our podcast is wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Well, a feature we did a couple of years ago, I guess at this point was atherton Gallery. They had making a move probably last year, I guess they were making a move from the heart of downtown to closer to the convention center. And they have a new exhibit coming out I thought was pretty interesting. It is opening right now. They had an exhibition with the artist last night to welcome it. But the program is called J Dusard Cowboy with a Camera and it’s going to be available from basically eleven to five each Tuesday. They’re having a showing there at the Effort and Gallery, which is 340 South Convent. And this artist has won the Guggenheim fellowship and then he embarked on an epic adventure photographing the working cowboy and the women of North America. So over a period of two years, he

traveled 25 0 mile and has many of these photos in an exhibit at the Etherton Gallery. I’m going to go check that out. You may find that interesting as well. And if you want to hear our story with Terry Etherton about his impact in Tucson and the urban corps, just head over to our page, There’s a search bar put in Etherton and you will certainly find that. And our feature today also has somewhat of an artistic impact. If you’ve been on Pennington and walked by City High School, you see their windows are filled with art projects that have been done by their students. Now they do much more than just art. But we wanted to check in with one of the founding members of this. His name is Brett Gobil. He’s done many different roles, including the principal for several years. I wanted to find out why he and two of his fellow teachers decided to start City High School and kind of how that impact has been here in Tucson.

My name is Brett Global. I am a teacher and administrator at City High School. I’m moving into a more operational role for this next year. I think my title is District Leader for Academic Assurance, but they do a little bit of everything. And I’ve been played just about every role at City High School since we began in 2004. So I was principal for about five years and been a classroom teacher, and I was the business manager for a while. And just different roles, especially in the startup phase over the years.

So did I hear you correctly that’s the Director of Everything title?

Well, but definitely people are stepping up into leadership roles here in the last couple of years, and so I’m doing my best to support them to really feel confident in those roles.

Well, let’s talk a little bit about City High School for those that aren’t familiar, kind of give us the location.

Where you are and a little bit.

About the school itself.

Sure. So City High School is located on Pennington Street, right between Stone Avenue and Scott, and that’s where we’ve been since we opened in 2004. We’re actually located in the old Seal Peterson dress shop. And then the building next to us was originally the Howard and Stoft Stationery store. And then later on it was a store called Shoe City. And so those two properties right next to each other, a little bit of an alleyway that separates them. We use an outdoor learning space and garden. And we really wanted to be downtown when we opened up the school because it was directly related to our mission to get young people involved in the place where they live and to learn from issues, resources that are just right around them. And downtown we saw was the apex of a lot of cultural and government activities, arts activities, and so we really wanted to integrate youth into that and a fabric of downtown.

What age group attend the school?

So City High School is a high school, so age is about 14 to 18. We also share the building, and we’ve been in our nonprofit kind of expanded about 2014, 2015 to include two additional charter schools called Paolo Ferry Freedom Schools. And those are two small middle schools. One of them shares the building downtown at Pennington Street with City High School. They’re about 75 students, and they’re in grades six, seven, and eight. And then the high school is grades 910, 1112. The other, Paula Prairie Freedom School is over at the historic Y building on University, and they’re also about 75 students.

And then how many high school students do you have enrolled?

So we’ve got about 185. That’s about where we are, about 45 to 50 at each grade level. So about 185 students. And we’re small. We’re not intending to get any bigger. That was one of the drivers to opening the school is to have a small learning community for high school age students where students are known well, and it’s still a rigorous academic environment, kind of a college prep curriculum. So when students graduate, they have all the credits they need to go on to a four year college, but on a small scale. And we just didn’t. Back in the early two thousands, there were two other teachers and I working at a larger comprehensive high school in Tucson, and we were part of a kind of a movement or a network of small high schools. It was called the Coalition of Essential Schools. And we just wanted to be in a smaller school environment where kids were known well. And it was more personalized and it felt more like a family, less like a big institution where students get lost. And there was

nothing around at that time. And so we just started looking into the charter school laws and starting up a nonprofit organization, and one thing led to another, and we opened for that reason. So a main driver was wanting to just be a small school.

So this was Carrie Brennan and Eve Rifkin and yourself. Those are the three that you’re saying, right. Co founders of this?

Yeah. Terry Brennan, Eve Riffkin and myself. Yeah.

And you are all working together at a different school or how did you come together?

Yup. We were all working at the same school in Tucson. It was actually Catalina Foothills High School. So that’s how we got our start there.

Okay. And then I did some research, obviously, and prepping for this because I’m a professional. Right on. But a lot of this emphasis came from not just an academic, but almost like a social interaction, like you felt from reading it, that there’s sort of this disconnect between student and teacher. You were teaching a class and then you are done, and your goal here was to be much more integrated into their lives. Is that kind of absolutely true?

Absolutely. I would have and I learned a lot about teaching and grew a lot as a professional at my time at Foothills. But one of the things that aspects of teaching at a large high school that just wasn’t satisfying to me was that I would know the student in my, whatever, government or world history class or something like that. But then after that class or that kind of hour of the day, they would go off. My class would go off in 20 different directions, and I wouldn’t know their whole experience, nor did I talk to other teachers that also taught that same student. And so you don’t really understand the whole hit because the day is broken up and there’s not intentional grouping to where the teachers that teach the same group of students are talking to each other regularly.

So the outcome of this then you have a smaller group than with this 185 or so students who are in a fairly contained building, but they still go from teacher to teacher. You’re not teaching every subject, but it’s still like a high school. It’s just because it’s small enough, you can interact with them and dig more deeply.

Absolutely. I mean, there’s several ways that we do that. The teachers meet regularly a couple of times a week and they all share the same students. They’re just in a team where they just teach the same students. So anything going on with that student or going on with that family, the entire staff that interacts with that student knows about it and if needed, can develop a plan to support that student, that family more efficiently and effectively. And then we also just have the ability to get every member of the school community in a room together every week and that’s home school meeting. And so just a once a week opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, recognize students for what we call habit of heart and mind awards. We usually have an outside community guest that is talking about what they do and probably usually some kind of opportunity for students to get involved in what they do for student performances and so just things like that that make the school feel more manageable and

students feel more seen and recognized. So definitely being small is one thing, but also just having structures in place to where you just make sure that every student is not slipping through the cracks and is really recognized for who they are and what they’ve accomplished.

We are speaking with Brett Gobble. He’s one of the founding directors of City High School in Tucson, downtown Tucson specifically. After the break, we’re going to hear about a really cool project that all of their students participate in, really good accountability, and we’re also going to learn about how these students have evolved in a community environment, not just through the education within the four walls of the school. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar in Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on

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We are back. I’m going to get into the second half of an interview here with Brett Gobble from City High School. You’ll hear in this episode I ran into him and learn more about the school and a tour that I had taken and was quite surprised what I found and just get some wonderful hidden gems. So we’re going to pick it back up with the second part of our interview here with Brett Global of City High School.

So this interview is sort of a product of a tour that I was on with some members of the Downtown Tucson Partnership board. We’re exploring different neighborhoods and we got a tour of your facility. And one of the things that I remember well, there’s two things and we’ll talk about the second one, which is the amazing artwork. But the first thing I remember is we were there right at the end of the school year and there was this really large calendar on the wall that showed presentations. Was it like each senior was giving a presentation to the school?

Right, right. Yes. I’m glad you saw that. We still had that up from our last week of school, which is called Gateway Week. And at student gateway, students, before they move on to the next grade level, they’ve just finished grade level, they’re presenting what they’ve learned, some of their best work, some of the habits of heart and mind they focused on and either struggled with or made some gains in and sharing their work with others in the school community and audience. So they get some kind of public speaking practice there. Their parents come in for that and their advisor, of course, is there. So every student does that. The seniors actually present a couple of weeks before the end of the year just to sort of model how it’s done for the underclassmen. But those last four days of the school year are always Gateway week. And it’s not the traditional school schedule, it’s people attending each other’s gateways.

So every student does that.

Every student does that. Yeah.

So by the time you’re a senior, that’s why they do it first. You’ve done it just three times before. That’s some accountability to put out there what I’ve learned and gained over this year. And that’s right what I’m moving on to. That’s some pressure.

Yeah, absolutely. Some students aren’t totally ready, especially when they’re freshmen, to do the public speaking. And we just kind of make decisions on a case by case basis. Maybe some students just need a smaller audience or more closed gateway. But we really want students, and I think this goes across all of our curriculum, we want students to take risks with their learning. And that’s another reason why we want to be small and feel more like a family environment, more like a supportive environment so that students feel confident enough to take some risks, to do some things that are kind of out of their comfort zone. Because we feel like that’s when you’re learning the most, when you’ve done things you haven’t done before and you’re not so comfortable with it, but that’s a good thing. So we do definitely push students into that not so far that they’re kind of packed against the wall and they feel like they’re in a dangerous spot, but we definitely encourage risk taking.

Well, I think maybe that comes through in the amount of artwork that I saw in the halls. And if you’ve been on Pennington and walked by, you always have these elaborate displays of student work in the windows. Is that kind of a focus of the school or is that sort of a byproduct?

That’s a great question.

First of all, we definitely want to take advantage of our storefront location and exhibit student work. And oftentimes it is artwork that is like the visual stuff that gets noticed. We have a number of people sometimes come in off the street or try to come into the school and they think, well, I just want to shop in the store there. And we say, oh no, that’s not a store, it’s our art room to art studio. But that’s a good thing because people are paying attention to student work. Our art teacher Jessica Melrose is just phenomenal with helping students really see themselves as artists. So we do have an art requirement for every student to take. They can take her class studio art and she’s just taken help students that don’t see themselves as artists and they’re suddenly by the end of the year they’re producing just really amazing work. So it’s not a focus of the school, but I think it’s definitely something we want to feature and we really try to get our student work in all subjects out in

the public eye and to do more public presentations. COVID that was a rough one for us because a lot of the in person stuff that makes our school special, we really couldn’t do. So we’re trying to get back into it and get our student work out there and invite people into the school that aren’t themselves teachers and just try to build those community connections wherever we can. But definitely the artwork is I think we do attract to some degree students that are artists and want to practice their art, but it’s not a central focus of the school.

So we’re coming a little bit low on time, but I want to touch on something slightly different. Is this still happening? The Pennington days?

Oh, thank you for bringing that up. Yeah, so the Pennington Street Showcase is what it’s called and we definitely want to do those again. We had one this year, this past year. We like to do a couple during the year and to have different focus areas. So one is like arts and entertainment and the other one might be more science and math or Stem subjects that are focused on. But originally when this started, it was called the Pennington Street Block Party and we closed down Pennington just between Scott and Stone and just had exhibits in the streets and invited community organizations to set up tables and things like that and just make it a community event. The kind of work that students wanted to exhibit, we felt over the years required being more indoors and with wall space, it was really challenging to kind of set up that student expedition space in the street. And so we’ve kind of brought it indoors and we changed the name to the Pennington Street Showcase as opposed to the Block Party.

But it’s an event that’s open to all community members, and it is a great way to get students presenting their work, talking about what they’ve learned and what they know how to do. Two audiences that are outside the school, so certainly parents, but also community members, community partners. And yeah, we’re really excited about that event to invite the public in to see what our students can do.

When the next one comes around, please let me know. We’ll definitely promote that. And I have not been I’ve heard and I saw the flyers, and I would like to attend there and check it out.

I will definitely do that. The other thing, if we have a little time, I can just throw out there is every senior does a yearlong internship at City High School. And so they’re connecting with organizations, businesses that are working in fields that those students are interested in. Sometimes they realize, I thought I was interested in this field, but now I realize I’m not. And that’s good, too. But we really want to get them that kind of work exposure that’s not a classroom setting, get them connected to a mentor that is not a parent, not a teacher, but is still interested in working with youth. And so if any of your listeners are looking for a high school age, senior age, 1718 year old intern to help with their organization’s work mission, we’re happy to talk about that.

I had about 30 other questions we’re not going to get a chance to talk about because you’ve got so much going on. You’ve got the event center right next door. Can you briefly kind of touch upon that? Because that’s open to the public.

That is open to the public for community rentals. It’s 37 East Pennington Street. It’s just a beautiful open space with the kind of exposed barrel ceiling and just a great downtown space to have an event. And community organizations can rent that from us and use it for performances or meetings or anything like that.

Well, I invite people to check out your website. There’s a lot of history and there’s some great alumni profiles. By the way, almost every one of them uses the phrase community engagement, community impact. That community based education was so important to them as to where they’ve gone. But check out the City High School We’ll maybe touch back and get you back on the show. And we have a Pennington Street Showcase coming up because there’s so much more to cover with the work that you’re doing right here in the middle of downtown Tucson.

Absolutely, Tom. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Brett Gobble, one of the founding directors of the City High School here in Tucson, operationally almost 20 years at this point and doing great things within our community. Can’t wait for the Pen and the street showcase, and we’ll tell you all about that when it comes up. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on

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Hey. Episode 208 in the books. Thank you to Brett Gobble, one of the founding directors of City High School in fabulous downtown Tucson, right there on Pennington. If you ever have a guest or a topic for the show, hit us up on our email [email protected]. You can also interact with us on Facebook or Instagram. Also, as a reminder, last week’s show kind of featured us, but we have our new book out. It’s called My Life along the Streetcar collection of interviews, and it’s seven what we considered influential and informative and sort of foundation forming interviews from our first year on the air. We’re approaching your number five as our anniversary, and the book was a way to celebrate kind of how we got started. It’s available on our website also Mission Garden, Presidio Museum. And just this week, Popcycle picked us up, so we’re getting famous. Well, as we head out today, I want to leave you a little music from 2020. This is Kal, songwriter, and I think the song is very

appropriate. Teachers have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the Streetcar.

She’s up again at 05:00 in the morning and reading papers all night long she’s got a scorching headache and an aching back one kid smiles and all that’s gone little Molly needs assistance to the bathroom a little Billy needs help with the shoes the principal walks in with his chest out say your lesson plans are due to go to school calling on her cell phone talking about bills she just can’t pay but she’s overcome with joy with a smile on her face while little Bobby learned to read today teachers are the core of America without and we could never fall through there’d be no doctors, no lawyers, no scientists without you yeah, teachers are the heart of America without them, what would we do? There’d be no actors, no athletes, no entertainers without you junior highs here. Before you know it, a little Bobby started to act up in school. Mama’s real concern daddy, it’s too late to Coach King. We don’t know what to do. The next day behind Coach gave a talk. He goes home and tells Daddy, if I want

more responsibility, I need to learn to walk that walk. Coach K grow so excited, he tells us why fall about the little bob kisses her on the cheek, hugs her on the neck, says, that’s why I turn down that corporate job teachers are the core of America without a, we could never pull through there’d be no engineers, no chemists, no astronauts without you yeah, teachers are the heart of America without them, what would we do? There’d be no military, no congress, no president without you

it’s almost time for graduation. Bobby laughing at the top of his class when he gave his speech. He thanked all the teachers from the past. He went on to do well in college, just like all his teachers thought he would. The same thing in life, man, they knew that old boy was gonna do good. Now, years after, it’s the same old thing making difference in little kids lives. Bills piling up, they’ve been checked, check basically just trying to survive. More papers to pray, scratch into parents still proud and smiling. Little Bobby’s now the US. President teachers are the core of America.