Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
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Raquel, a.k.a. Rocky, is a sixth-generation Arizonan who spent her formative years in the Missouri Ozarks. After attending Temple University in Philadelphia, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and has been in the newspaper business since 1990. She has been a sports editor, general-assignment reporter, business editor, arts & entertainment editor, education reporter, government reporter and managing editor. After 16 years in the Verde Valley-Sedona, she moved to Maricopa in 2014. She loves the outdoors, the arts, great books and all kinds of animals.

Butterfield Elementary showed off its new banner designating it as an A-rated school. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

How did they do that?

Butterfield Elementary’s successful strategy to rise from a C to an A school:
*  Revamp the master schedule
*  Use data results to set grade-level and school-wide goals
*  Use results-based funding to equip third through fifth grade students with 1-to-1 laptops
*  Reconfigure classes to better prepare students

Arizona Department of Education announced school letter grades during Fall Break at Maricopa Unified School District. For at least two campuses, that resulted in a buzz of emails, texts and phone calls to make sure everyone heard the news they had achieved the top rating.

Pima Butte and Butterfield elementary schools were given A ratings. Wednesday, the district and governing board formally recognized their achievement during a board meeting.

Butterfield Elementary had the most dramatic improvement, moving from a C to an A. It is the first A-rating for the school. To be sure, Butterfield was not a “bad” school a year ago. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman pointed out its previous C rating was just five points away from a B.

Similarly, other elementary schools in the district were only a few percentage points from the next grade up this year.

Maricopa Elementary, which achieved Lighthouse status, was 0.5 from an A. Santa Rosa Elementary 0.89 away from an A. Santa Cruz Elementary was 1.88 away from an A. The only MUSD elementary with a C, Saddleback Elementary was less than 3 points from a B.

“I think the district as a whole is really doing well,” said Betty Graham, who teaches fourth grade at Pima Butte Elementary. “They’re working wonders, going up and up and up.”

Pima Butte, like the high achieving charter school Legacy Traditional, is more old-hat at receiving A ratings, but it had to rise above a B last year after missing an A by just 4 percentage points. With ratings reliant on results of the AzMerit testing, there was a lot of pressure on third, fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers.

“That A rating didn’t come easy,” PBES Principal Randy Lazar said. “It was a lot of hard work on behalf of our teaching team as well as the assistants with our students and also the support of our parents. It was a collective effort by our entire team.”

Lazar said his main advice for other Arizona elementary schools trying to rise to a higher grade is to focus on student growth.

“We get our test results from the spring and then look to see how did each student perform,” he said. “If we have students that scored minimally proficient, that’s the group you want to put a lot of attention on the next school year. The way the state calculates the letter grade is when you have kids grow. It’s a growth model as far as earning the points.”

Butterfield Principal Janel Hildick expressed a similar sentiment for Wednesday’s honor.

“It’s not just about how many students are passing but how effective we are as teachers, how our students are growing. This year we scored 49.3 out of 50 possible points for growing our students.”

Teachers credited improvements to the voter-approved override, which allowed for more technology and more teachers to reduce class sizes. Funds helped buy carts of technology in Netbooks and Chromebooks. The new equipment allowed the students to get more practice in the basic use of a computer. Lazar said that is key when taking the online-based AzMerit, which is the state standard.

The district’s high school and two middle schools received C ratings.

Learn more about Pima Butte Elementary’s success strategy in the upcoming December issue of InMaricopa.

Pima Butte Elementary is again an A-rated school. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Peed property was once envisioned as a site for City Hall. Now it sits without infrastructure and is used to store asphalt. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


From State Route 238 to Stanfield, the City of Maricopa owns a wide array of land parcels. Since 2004, the City has acquired about $143 million in property.

While there are parks, public buildings, streets, rights of way and other uses on much of the property, City Hall has some parcels listed simply as “miscellaneous,” and there are still undeveloped acres. The City has plans for some parcels, but others will sit empty for the foreseeable future.

“We are doing the city an injustice by not developing these properties,” Councilwoman Julia Gusse said. “Our predecessors did a great job of securing these properties for future development and growth; it’s time we put them to good use.”

One of the longest-held properties has been the most divisive and the least likely to be developed any time soon.


Called the Peed property and noted as miscellaneous, the 11-acre parcel on SR 238 cost the city $1.2 million in 2006.

“It has no water; it has no utilities,” Councilmember Marvin Brown said. “The city bought it because a former council member pushed the former council to do so.”

The property initially was brought to the council as 150 acres for a possible location of a city hall. At the time, the council was set to spend $14.6 million for it. Steve Baker, then-councilmember, was a real estate agent representing property owner Dennis Peed. While Baker recused himself from votes on the matter, it was a relationship that vexed residents and other Realtors.

After months of debate in 2006, the City ended up buying only the southern portion of the property abutting SR 238. Its continued lack of infrastructure keeps it on a backburner, but some current councilmembers have ideas.

Councilmember Nancy Smith said her vision of the SR 238 corridor is “something similar to the Price Road Corridor in Chandler. Basically, it would include light industrial businesses with high paying jobs.”

Vice Mayor Peg Chapados, who is leaving city council in December, said she, too, sees a major transportation corridor, “a development with elements that complement surrounding growth and that offers the benefits and accessibility of being on SR 238.”

Though there has been little recent city discussion about the Peed property, Councilmember Vincent Manfredi sees it being part of a thriving business park, though it is used as asphalt storage now. There are caveats.

“The city only owns a tiny portion of the surrounding area,” Manfredi said. “Much of the development of the Peed properly rests on the shoulders of surrounding development. Before anything can really be accomplished with the Peed property, there are some flood-zone limitations that must be corrected.


City Center as space for commercial and residential. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


In 2008, Maricopa acquired 129 acres off White and Parker Road for City Hall and a city center at a cost of $3 million. Five years later, the City Hall building ($14.5 million) and police station ($3.9 million) were completed, but there remain wide open spaces for development. What kind of development has been an ongoing discussion this year. Its full cash value now is $12.6 million.

Smith said her vision for city center correlates with an open house held earlier this year for public feedback. “It would include civic buildings, small businesses, diverse housing and restaurants,” she said. “It would be walkable, have open space and be a place to meet up with family and friends.”

Chapados said it should be an area “where people come to live, work, play, learn, socialize and recreate.” Manfredi said it could be something “similar to the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix.”

Copper Sky is more than just a park but is intended for commercial development, including a hotel. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


In 2010, the City acquired part of Bowlin Plaza property that was to become Copper Sky and the police substation at Copper Sky. The cost of the five acres for the substation and 118.5 acres for the park was $6.8 million. Another $15.9 million was invested in the recreation center and aquatic center in 2014.

From the beginning, Copper Sky was seen as more than a park. A recent contract with Commercial Properties Inc. aims at commercial development on city land between the park and John Wayne Parkway, to be anchored by a hotel.

Chapados wants the area to create the “sense of place” developers have long talked about for Maricopa. “A robust combination of retail, a hotel or two, and possibly residential units that complement Copper Sky as an active, vibrant recreation and aquatic destination to be enjoyed year-round.”

Cecil Yates, property management director for CPI, told the Maricopa City Council he already had three hotel users interested. “They want to stick shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” Yates said.

“I think you’ll find that at the end of the day the City will sell that land, but it will be to restaurateurs, hoteliers, residential units, shops, all those type of things,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “The public benefit will come in a lot of forms, to include the revenues needed to support Parks and Rec and Public Safety, but also lifestyle.”

Estrella Gin Business Park. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


Maricopa purchased the Estrella Gin property for $3.1 million in 2011. It has been intended for a light industrial business park. Manfredi also imagines a container park.

“This property has a lot of potential, if we can find the right developer to work with us as a city,” he said.

But it has been a struggle to bring in companies. The City ended its agreement with The Boyer Company, which produced no tenants or buildings in four years, and Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said the city may have a new developer on board soon.

“My experience tells me the market gets it right about 85 percent of the time, and government gets it right about 30 percent of the time, so we have to create partnerships,” Horst said. “There’ll come a time when we don’t have to do that anymore because the market will take over.”

Chapados said she would like the business park to complement “Maricopa’s Heritage District and rich history through design function, and tenancy.” She added it “is poised to be Maricopa’s first job-center/business-park destination that also offers a place to house historically significant components, like a museum. It’s easily accessible with room to grow and lots to offer.”

Maricopa is also heavily invested in the under-construction overpass that will re-create midtown. Smith sees an interesting future coming to the Heritage District that involves Estrella Gin property.

“It would be great to have a nice, historical-looking building that serves as a train depot, café and historical museum by the railroad tracks,” she said. “Close to this building is the pedestrian overpass that allows both communities north and south of the tracks to safely cross the railroad tracks, especially for the high school students who currently cross there.”


  • The area now called Pacana Park was acquired in 2006 for $1.8 million. It was 18 acres. In 2008, the City acquired 10 acres for $700,000 to expand Pacana Park to the south.
  • In 2007, the City – with its municipal fire department taking over for the Maricopa Volunteer Fire Department – purchased scattered pieces of property of 1-3 acres each for future fire stations. The stations have been built on Porter Road, Edison Road, Bowlin Road and Alterra Parkway. There remains one parcel lying well outside the city boundaries but in the middle of Maricopa’s future planning area. What is listed as the Stanfield Site is a one-acre, vacant lot on Pepper Place in Hidden Valley Estates. It was acquired for $10,000 on a quitclaim deed, costing the city nothing, and the council has started discussions of disposing of it.
  • The city acquired the building for the current Maricopa Public Library in 2009 with a sale price of $1.9 million, according to county records.
  • In 2010, Maricopa paid $3 million for a strip of land along the Santa Rosa Wash east of White and Parker Road and south of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Vincent Manfredi is a minority owner in InMaricopa.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

The City of Maricopa helped Apex Motor Club break ground at 22408 N. Ralston Road. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


Three years ago, Jason Plotke and Matt Williams came to Maricopa to look at land for a potential private racetrack.

Thursday, they broke ground on the $33 million project.

“We stood out here three years ago and saw some farmland, and here we are today building a racetrack,” Plotke said. “That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me.”

Two years ago, as Private Motorsports Group, they publicly announced their plans to build Apex Motor Club on 278 acres they purchased as Enterprise 238 LLC. On the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road, the property was envisioned as a racetrack, clubhouse, garage condominium and karting complex at a cost of $33 million.

A year ago, Private Motorsports Group had a city use permit but was also battling two anti-Apex entities in the courts. One lawsuit reached the state Supreme Court, where it was denied. The second has had a petition pending before the Supreme Court since August.

The legal battle took a toll and was something “we weren’t sure we’d ever recover from,” Plotke said. “We weren’t sure if we’d be standing here.”

He and Williams were pleasantly surprised by the positive response they received from City Hall for the project from its conception.

“I think it was three years ago Jason and Matt came and sat down with me,” Mayor Christian Price said. “They said, ‘We have this idea and we want to talk to you about it. What do you think?’ And I kind of remember the cringing look on their faces as though they were going to get this, ‘I don’t think we want you here.’ I don’t know if I surprised them or not, but I said, ‘That’s a great idea. When are you starting? We can do that tomorrow.’ I think they laughed at me.”

Making clear he had no hand in bringing Apex to Maricopa, new City Manager Rick Horst said his staff would stay a step ahead of the developers to make sure all permitting is correct.

“I feel like this is a catalytic project,” Horst said. “I feel the need for speed.”

Plotke, who is president of Private Motorsports Group, said the plan is to open Apex “early next year.”

“It almost brings me tears to stand here with all of you and share this moment with all this going on,” Plotke said Thursday morning, gesturing at active dirt-moving equipment on the Apex site. “We’re not developers that are going to move on to the next city and sell this. We want to have our kids and their kids work here and have something that a lot of people can enjoy for a long period of time.

“We want to be a vibrant part of the community.”

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Theatre Company launched “Peter Pan” Thursday night for its weekend production. Starring Taryn Story as Peter and Antonio Gonzales as Hook, the play puts its actors and stage crew to the test with very fun results. The well-known story follows the Darling children as they take up with an ageless boy for a bit of adventure. Using a bit of fairy dust, they fly to Neverland and have a jolly old time with its inhabitants of Lost Boys, warriors and pirates. While there are plenty of opportunities to ham it up for the high-energy cast, there are moments of genuine pathos with the worried Mrs. Darling (Kjirsten Lemon) and the core yearning of the Lost Boys for a mother.

This is Story’s first time in a starring role for the company, and she excels as the petulant, boasting, lonesome child that is Peter. As Hook, Gonzales is a preening, scene-stealing pirate captain, a role that is a near opposite of his previous lead role in last spring’s musical “The Baker’s Wife.” Tots in the opening-night crowd loved him, which is high praise. The Darlings getting to fly with Peter Pan are Genevieve Burno as Wendy, Simon Ty and John and Taya Johnson and Michael, and all are just as they should be. The play is full of action and colorful characters, and the cast goes at it with enthusiasm.

The play is directed by Alexandra Stahl, who draws from her cast a high level of performance that is now expected of MHS Theatre Company. Technical Director Kevin Piquette and his crew put together complicated set pieces that sometimes upstaged the actors with their cleverness. Sound and lighting were near perfect. “Peter Pan” continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and there is also a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Senior Jake Meyer (75) celebrates a touchdown by senior Isaiah Crawford (1) in the first round of the state playoffs, a 42-7 loss. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team wound up its season with a loss in the first round of the 5A state playoffs Friday.

The Rams (seeded 15th) lost at second-ranked Williams Field, 42-7, the second time this year they fell to the Black Hawks. But it was a different Maricopa team, missing its starting quarterback and go-to receiver. Sensing the vulnerabilities, Williams Field clamped down on other key players and limited the Rams’ effectiveness.

Junior Daxton Redfern stepped in as quarterback as senior Jordan Huddleston was still not cleared to play after a concussion last week. Senior Jacob Cowing left the game with an injury of his own after grabbing a 38-yard pass on the game’s second play from scrimmage. The Rams could never quite regroup.

“Dax played hard tonight, made some good plays and made mistakes that a lot of young quarterbacks make without a lot of experience,” head coach Brandon Harris said.

Maricopa’s bursts of momentum were often stymied by penalties or turnovers.

The Black Hawks (10-1) scored on each of their three possessions in the first quarter to jump out to 21-0 lead.

The Maricopa offensive and defensive lines showed cracks throughout the first half as Williams Field led 28-0 at the break. That became 35-0 as the Black Hawks scored on their first possession of the third quarter.

The Rams’ only score came on an eight-play drive that started on the 12 yard line in the third quarter and ended in a seven-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Crawford at the beginning of the fourth.

After the game, Harris pulled aside the senior players, who comprised more than half the team. He told the remaining underclassmen to ask themselves who was going to step up next season to fill the vacancies.

“I’m going to work with the guys who are there,” said Harris, who was ending his first season as the Rams head coach. “I’m not going to shake trees or go around neighborhoods and trying to get kids. Whoever shows up is who we get. We’re going to work with who we got and make it work for the best.”

Maricopa ended the season 5-6 overall.

Weather for enjoying the outdoors is predicted this weekend.

A fine weekend is in store, according to the National Weather Service, and that may be welcome news to participants in Saturday’s Relay for Life and the Maricopa Mud Run.

Today, the high is 76 degrees F under sunny skies. Tonight also is set to be clear with a low around 50.

Friday is expected to be sunny with a high near 81 and mild breezes. The overnight low will probably be around 53 while the skies are mostly clear.

Saturday‘s forecast is for a sunny day and a high near 82. The night is expected to turn partly cloudy with a low around 52.

Sunday is likely to be partly sunny with a high near 81. The nightime low may be around 54.

Next week so far looks to be a mostly sunny affair with highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 50s.

Antonio Gonzales is Hook and Taryn Story is Peter Pan in the play to be presented by MHS Theatre Company Nov. 8-10.

One of the first curiosities Alexandra Stahl noticed on becoming the theater teacher at Maricopa High School this year is the affinity the MHS Theatre Company had with Peter Pan without producing the play.

Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up
When: Nov. 8-9 at 7 p.m., Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Where: Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $5
Who: Taryn Story (Peter Pan), Genevieve Burno (Wendy), Antonio Gonzales (Hook), Simon Ty (John), Derek Blakely (Smee), Aidyn Curtis (Princess Tiger Lilly), Taya Johnson (Michael), Kjirsten Lemon (Mrs. Darling), Douglas Moulton (Mr. Darling), Brandon Korittky (Curly), Chief Great Big Little Panther (Nicholas Perez), Emma Schrader (Nana), Alexia Esquivel (Liza), Jae Luna (Slightly), Cannon Jones (Tootles), Julianna Goodrum (Nibs), Zephanie Coleman (Omnes), Hannah Panter (first twin), Alex Hurley (second twin), Kade Cruse (Gentleman Starkey), Tommy Dryden (Cecco), Miles Starks (Bill Jukes), Matthew Ferguson (Noodles), John Jackson (Cookson), Francis Trast (Skylights), Alex-Ann Velasco (Mullens), more than 50 others.

In past performances, company members have performed pieces from musical off-shoots of the J.M. Barrie story like Finding Neverland and Peter and the Starcatcher.

“They just seemed destined to do it,” Stahl said.

The troupe performs the play Nov. 8-10 as its fall production. It is not a musical but the play that originated in 1904.

Though it is her fifth year teaching (she was previously at Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley), this is Stahl’s first with MHS Theatre Company. She worked to get familiar with the program and the students during spring semester.

“Casting was a real process. These kids are insanely talented,” Stahl said. “I’ve never been so proud of a cast.”

Senior Taryn Story plays the title character.

“I really like how it’s written,” she said. “It’s written for kids, but there’s a lot that adults can take out of it.”

Aidyn Curtis is Princess Tiger Lily. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Junior Genevieve Burno, who just finished a production of Cabaret with Maricopa Community Theatre, plays Wendy, the eldest daughter in the Darling household.

“It’s timeless,” she said. “So much can be taken from it.”

Theater tech teacher Kevin Piquette brought in ZFX Flying Effects to mount rigging and teach four of the cast members how to “fly” and the tech crew how to fly them. All had to sign letters of indemnity.

“Logistically, it’s a nightmare,” Piquette said of soaring students, “but I don’t think you can do Peter Pan without it.”

The cave of the Lost Boys is part of the complicated tech for Peter Pan.


Theater teacher Alexandra Stahl talks to the cast during rehearsals. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.


The first Peter Pan, in 1904, was Nina Boucicault.

Nina Boucicault (1904)
Maude Adams (1905)
Zena Dare (1914)
Jean Forbes-Robertson (1927)
Eva LeGallienne (1928)
Mary Martin (1954)
Sandy Duncan (1980)
Cathy Rigby (1990)

Genevieve Burno goes up as flying director Wesley Miller of ZFX Flying Effects provides guidance during rehearsals for “Peter Pan.”

Maricopa High School had a very physical game against Williams Field Oct. 5 and will play them again Nov. 2 in the state playoffs.

Maricopa High School’s football team has been pushed up to a 15th-place ranking in today’s state playoff bracket announcements. The Rams will play No. 2 Williams Field at 7 p.m. Nov. 2.

MHS previously lost to Williams Field, 34-21, on Oct. 5. Rams head coach Brandon Harris said he thought his team was a better team than Williams Field but had been outplayed in that game.

“We had a couple of guys stick around after that game,” he said. “They were like, ‘We know you guys lost the game, but we’ve never seen a team beat up our guys the way you beat us up that night.’”

Maricopa is coming off a 34-27 win over a 4-6 Gilbert High School team. The Rams finished the regular season 5-5. Friday’s game will be at Williams Field.
The top 16 teams in 5A will compete in the state bracket. Defending champion Centennial is the top seed.

A final game, Senior Night victory cemented Maricopa High School football’s place in the playoffs Friday. The Rams find out Saturday their bracket placement, but for now they are relishing the 34-27 win over Gilbert.

It was Maricopa’s only win in the tough 5A San Tan region. The Rams are 5-5 (1-4).

“We’re a better football team than our record indicates,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “Our kids are so good now they know our system. I can literally just call stuff, and they know where to go now. So we’re starting to put this thing all together.”

Senior quarterback Jordan Huddleston was hurt in the first quarter. Though he returned to the game, Gilbert took aim for him, sensing a vulnerability, and were even called for targeting him. Harris eventually pulled him for senior wide receiver Jacob Cowing.

“Jacob is Jacob. He’s a great football player and he carried us a lot. I thought he threw a great pass to Crawford early.”

That would be senior Isaiah Crawford, who scored Maricopa’s first touchdown of the night on a 47-yard reception. But that was after the Tigers had already scored and completed a two-point conversion pass. Gilbert’s Jayden Duran then kicked a field goal to put the Tigers ahead of Maricopa 11-7.

Cowing ran 16 yards for a touchdown to put the Rams in the lead. Maricopa never trailed again. Cowing later scored on a 61-yard run in the fourth.

Sophomore running back Mister Chavis, who was out of last week’s game due to injury, returned Friday and had more and more of an impact as the game progressed.

He scored from the 39 in the second quarter and then scored again in the fourth from the 26.

With seniors Tylen Coleman and Logan Taylor keeping pressure on Gilbert quarterback Will Plummer all night, the Maricopa defense kept the Tigers at bay. The Rams forced two fumbles, and senior Stefon Nelson intercepted a pass as part of a heady night.

“Our defense is spectacular. They got some takeaways,” Harris said. “Our kids are learning a different style of football, more traditional in terms of how to manage the clock and run the clock and get first downs and things. In this generation of spread football everywhere and rush, rush, rush, rush, I’m more pragmatic. I’m aggressive too, but we got to get more first downs on offense. We put our defense in some bad spots a couple of times, but I thought our defense played very, very well, and we’re proud of them.”

Unless the Rams move up in the rankings, Maricopa could end up facing undefeated Centennial in the first game of the playoffs on Nov. 2. Harris said Huddleston may be fit enough to return by them.

Drivers on SR 347 are cautioned to drive carefully.

Maricopa is under a dust storm warning and dust advisory after winds kicked up a wall of dust on the east side and west side of Pinal County, according to the National Weather Service.

The warning is in place until 4:30 p.m. At 3:39 p.m., a wall of dust was along a line extending from near Maricopa to 14 miles southeast of Freeman, moving west at 25 mph. The dust was already limiting visibility on State Route 347.

Visibility is some areas is less than a quarter-mile, creating dangerous driving conditions. The dust is particularly impacting SR 347 between mileposts 161 and 170.

Also impacted are SR 238 between mileposts 10 and 18 and Interstate 8 between mileposts 128 and 170.

The dust advisory is from a wall of dust form near Florence Junction to 10 miles west of Casa Grande. Visibility was less than three miles.

Doppler radar is also tracking a strong thunderstorm over Arizona City moving north at 20 mph. The storm has the potential for nickel-sized hail and winds over 40 mph.

Sequoia Pathway students Alissandra Juarez (left) and Dana Couts rehearse "A Matter of Husbands" for the showcase "Absurdity."


Ask kids to delve into the “weird and absurd,” and you never know what you’re going to get.

In his second year of teaching at Sequoia Pathway Academy and his first year of teaching acting, Christopher Goodrum is getting his students to do just that in a collection of one-act plays to be performed Nov. 2-3 at 7 p.m.

The show is called “Absurdity.”

Goodrum, often seen with Maricopa Community Theatre, said he wanted to give Maricopans “a taste of what we can do.”

What they will do is an adaptation of Goodrum’s own published work, “Two Souls, One Door.” Two individuals are trapped together playing cards for an eon in an unending room, waiting for the door that can take only one of them. “I love the confusion and wondering,” said Camryn Janssen, who plays Bilbee. “There are so many questions. It’s keeping me intrigued.

Another two-person one-act is “A Matter of Husbands.” It takes place in the dressing room of a famous actress when she is confronted by a woman who suspects her husband is having an affair with the actress. “I love the twist at the end,” said sophomore Dana Couts, who plays the actress.

“The Mad Tea Party” is taken from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Sixth grader Kayla Sherman plays the dormouse in the four-person play full of illogical madness. “I think I fit the part because I’m small and because of my voice,” she said.

Chris Goodrum

Carter Johnson takes the lead in “The Actor’s Nightmare” as an apparent accountant who is mistaken for an understudy and forced on stage without knowing any lines or even the plot as it shifts from play to play. “He thinks he’s in a nightmare,” Carter said.

“Treat or Treat” will be performed by the sixth grade-students. “I had been searching for a Halloween story for years,” Goodrum said. Trick-or-treaters are led to a haunted house. Among them is Elise Densmore, who said she is the twist in the story.

Goodrum said the production is a jumping-off point to build a thriving theater environment at SPA.


“Absurdity: A Series of One-Acts”

Cast List

Two Souls, One Door
Joe – Emily Chranowski
Bilbee – Camryn Janssen

A Matter of Husbands
Famous Actress – Dana Couts
Earnest Young Woman – Alissandra Juarez

The Mad Tea Party
Alice – Leah Heieie
Mad Hatter – Anne Monson
March Hare – Amarion Burno
Dormouse – Kayla Sherman

The Actor’s Nightmare
George – Carter Johnson
Meg – Grace Goodrum
Sarah – Brianna Huffaker
Henry – David Velarde
Ellen – Abigail Whiting

Treat or Treat
Ryder – Maegan McCormac
Jodi – Emily Coon
Tyler – Kiana Matsunaga
Ali – Jalisa Gant
Monster – Elise Densmore

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.


Maricopa State of the City Address | October 4, 2017 | Photographer Jonathan Williams


What: State of the City
When: Oct. 24, 6 p.m.
Who: Mayor Christian Price
Where: Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza
How much: Free

Bragging points and hopeful predictions always comprise the annual State of the City address. All that changes, sometimes only slightly, are the topics.

Mayor Christian Price is prepared to deliver the goods again at this week’s address, set for Wednesday at City Hall, but with the entertainment value for which his particular presentations have become known. The address is part speech, part PowerPoint and part video, with help from councilmembers and staff.

“Every year, it’s like, how are we going to top last year?” Price said.

Last year’s zipline entrance followed the previous year’s pseudo-skydiving entry and theme. This time, in the middle of increased pressure to improve State Route 347, the presentation is taking the famous last words from the movie “Back to the Future”: “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

Transportation will be a topic, of course, both in what has happened during the past year (voter approval for a county transportation improvement plan) and what may happen in the future (a funding mechanism for the county transportation improvement plan). The city also continued to evolve its transit system, including the installation of six bus shelters.

Big on the list of accomplishments was the beginning of construction on the SR 347 overpass at the Union Pacific tracks.

“That’s a $55 million project that’s literally being built before our eyes,” Price said. “Two years ago, people were still saying it was not going to happen.

“It doesn’t happen until it happens.”

The mayor said he will also be talking about everything from planned pickleball courts to infrastructure and the fire administration building. He will also focus on-behind-the-scenes activity at City Hall that is effecting change without being obvious to the outside.

“It doesn’t mean things aren’t moving underneath.”

The State of the Union starts at 6 p.m. It is free, but registration is requested as seating is limited.


Mayor Christian Price (center) along with city and college personnel cut a ribbon at the COMET bus shelter at CAC. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With five bus shelters in place, another being finished and six more planned, the City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) system is in a new phase.

Mayor Christian Price cut the ribbon on a bus stop at the Central Arizona College campus Wednesday morning.

“It’s really a great opportunity to find new ways to move people around the city,” Price said, “especially as we move into our retail areas.” He touted the wide array of residents who use the transit system, from students to seniors.

Bus shelters are also at Legacy Traditional School, which is across Regent Drive from the college, Fry’s Marketplace, Pacana Park and Copper Sky. The shelters serve the “route deviation” service of COMET, which is a specific route around the city. COMET also runs a demand response, dial-a-ride service, which picks up riders wherever they are located and takes them to wherever they need to go. There are also shuttles that take riders to Chandler and Casa Grande.

Rebekka Harris, a CAC student living in The Villages at Rancho El Dorado, said she has used COMET at times when her sister needed her car. It was not only convenient, she said, but also a chance to have a captive audience and chat someone’s ear off, “because that’s my brand.”

Though the COMET has served the CAC campus for a while, the bus stop was just a post. Now it is at the main entry with seating and shelter.

“I like the fact that there’s a bus stop here, because before I was like, ‘Where do I stand? Do I stand in the cactus; do I stand up there?'” Harris said. “So I like having this here.”

The City operates COMET under the auspices of TotalRide, so drivers like Helena Dobers are employed by both. She drove a school bus, including the summer Copper Sky route, for three years before coming on board COMET full time this year. “And it’s been beautiful,” she said.

City Transit Planner David Maestas (center) and TotalRide General Manager Chris Hager talk with COMET driver Helena Dobers.

Submitted photo

By Ivan Pour
Music Director/Fine Arts Department Chair

Oct. 8-11, the Maricopa High School Marching Rams held its first-ever Fall Band Camp. Using feedback from the Sept. 22 AzMBA performance, in 29 hours over four days we went in depth on improving music and marching technique, re-worked drill for about half of the show, added multiple new visual body movements, and incorporated moving props into our performance. Our students were awesome all week and created a professional rehearsal climate that allowed for creative collaboration and some really amazing adjustments to our field program – “Spirits of the Nile.”

On Saturday, Oct. 13, the Marching Rams braved the wet weather to show off our work at the AzMBA – University of Arizona Band Day. The band came in fourth place in the 3A class out of a crowded field of nine bands. The band overall improved almost 11 points from their previous score from Sept. 22. The band saw big increases in every caption area, topped their high score from 2017 AzMBA Championships and came in second place in the General Effect Caption – the result of our work on changing drill and added visuals. Our color guard also earned praise in their caption as well as the Visual General Effect Caption for marked improvement from their previous performance, with a big score gain of 15 points in the “excellence” sub-caption.

A big thank you to Assistant Director Roger Wagner, who came up with many of our new visuals, and guard Instructor Eliana Araiza for helping teach band visuals in addition to her awesome work with the guard. A shout-out to percussion Caption Head David Hales and Front Ensemble Instructor Stuart Delaney for their work with our percussion section where we have also seen significant growth this season.

We also want to thank our amazing band parents who constructed the awesome pyramid props to add another layer to our show.

In addition to our performance in Arizona Stadium, band students had the opportunity to interact with members of the University of Arizona “Pride of Arizona” Marching Band, and see and hear an awesome, albeit damp, performance by the UA Band prior to the awards ceremony.

The Marching Rams will be performing at the following events:

– Home Football game against Casteel on Oct. 19.
– Corona Del Sol  “Crown of the Sun” Invitational on Oct. 20 at 6 p.m.
– Senior Night football game against Gilbert on Oct. 26.
– Ironwood Ridge Invitational on Oct. 27.
– ABODA State Marching Festival at Hamilton High School on Nov. 3.
– AzMBA Championships at Perry High School on Nov. 10.

If we are fortunate enough to be in the top 8 in our ABODA division, we will also perform Nov. 17 at ABODA Championships at Sun Devil Stadium.

As always, we will be having our “Pass in Review” Fall Concert at 7 p.m. in the MHS Performing Arts Center on Dec. 4. Admission is free.

Thank you for your support of the MHS Marching Rams and the arts in MUSD.

Submitted photo

Sally Henry and Alison Porter debate Prop 305.

Among five issues to be decided in November’s General Election is Arizona Prop 305, which expands the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program.

The original ESA program allowed students with disabilities to opt out of the public school system and instead receive an ESA that could be spent on private education, homeschooling or other non-public education. An ESA is funded at 90 percent of what the state would have paid for the student in a district or charter school. A “yes” vote would uphold Senate Bill 1431, making all students eligible for an ESA, phased in over four years.

Arizonans for and against the proposition debated at the General Election Town Hall Oct. 6.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

In a drizzle that turned into a lengthy downpour, Maricopa Mud Run got in two rounds, including the competitive race that saw Steve Campbell winning for the second straight year and Shell Abbott leading the women’s division.

Competitors who signed up for later rounds have the option of returning to the course Nov. 3, race organizer Matthew Reiter said.

While the obstacles at Copper Sky were built to be challenging, the weather conditions made the mud around the obstacles dangerously slick.

The first round with the top competitors had the best weather of the day, allowing Campbell to repeat last year’s feat. H said he runs the race to be part of the community. A teacher at Leading Edge Academy, Campbell moved to last year just before the Mud Run.

“It’s just meeting people and getting to know them,” he said. “These kids have come in second, and we’ve become good friends.”

This story has been updated to reflect a new date for the remainder of the Mud Run.







Robert Andrews (center) as The Emcee in the Maricopa Community Theatre production of "Cabaret," which continues through Saturday at Leading Edge Academy.

Maricopa Community Theatre debuted its production of “Cabaret” at Leading Edge Academy on Wednesday. Performances continue nightly at 7 p.m. through Saturday. There is also a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee of the hit Broadway musical. Memorable performances by Robert Andrews as The Emcee and Teresa Sanchez as Sally Bowles lead the cast of familiar faces. The edgy work, so connected to Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli, is set in a German nightclub in the early 1930s as the Nazi party is starting to have an impact within the decadent culture, though many continue to turn a blind eye to the danger. MCT Artistic Director Carrie Vargas directs the show, with Stephen Shackelford as musical director and Kimi Cunningham-Shackelford as choreographer. Vargas and Cunningham-Shackelford are also in the cast with Michael Samuel, Bernadette Russoniello, David Vargas, Dylan Jacques and Chris Goodrum.

Clouds anticipate a bit of rain in Maricopa this weekend.

A wet weekend is predicted for Maricopa, according to the National Weather Service.

Today, there is a 20-percent chance of showers with a high of 82 degrees F and winds of 10-15 mph gusting to 20 mph. Tonight is expected to be mostly cloudy with a low around 62.

Friday, the forecast calls for a 30-percent chance of rain mainly after 11 a.m. The high will be near 80 while the wind increases from 5 to 15 mph and gusts to 20 mph. The overnight low will be around 61 with a return of a 30-percent chance of rain after 11 p.m.

Saturday, the chance of precipitation is 30 percent after 11 a.m. The day should be partly sunny with a high near 70. The possibility of rain increases overnight to 40 percent and the low is expected to be around 59.

Sunday, expect more rain, with a 30 percent chance during the day, when there is a high temperature of 78, and a 20-percent chance in the evening, when the low is around 58 and the skies are partly cloudy.

That takes Maricopa into a week where a slight chance of rain lingers daily and temperatures continue to decline.

By Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith (submitted photo)

Please join me in supporting my friend Bret Roberts for Arizona House of Representatives in District 11.

As a member of the City of Maricopa’s City Council I know, first hand, that our city is desperate for a representative who understands the needs of cities and counties as they set their legislation and budget at the state level. Bret Roberts has taken the time to speak to me and ask me about those needs. No other candidate has shown this same level of interest.

Over the last 18 months, Bret Roberts has also spent significant time understanding the main issues at the state level. Bret has served the public very well in his current position as Constable and I believe he has the skills and passion to continue fighting for Maricopa voters especially as it relates to his commitment to secure our border, support law enforcement, promote economic opportunity and invest in education.

I encourage you to strongly consider supporting a candidate who understands the needs of Maricopa as well as the rest of District 11. Support Bret Roberts for Arizona House of Representatives in District 11.


Nancy Smith is a City of Maricopa Council Member


“We are going to run into some problems in the future.”

Maricopa Development Services Director Martin Scribner was talking to the Planning & Zoning Commission last month after a presentation on development patterns. The report by planner Ryan Wozniak, “Maricopa: The Living Experiment,” red-flagged problems in land-use productivity and heavy reliance on vehicles.

“Residents spend 61 percent on housing and transportation,” Wozniak said. “That’s higher than the rest of the county.”

He said explosive growth comes with explosive cost. “There is nothing magical about infrastructure.”

With streets currently “too wide” to create pedestrian-friendly business areas and ongoing development sprawl across several acres, Maricopa may need course correction, Wozniak said. “The more you accommodate vehicles, the more you spread out,” Wozniak said. “The less you accommodate, the more people are accepting.”

Without a lot of Arizona examples to help guide Maricopa’s development plan, “We’re trying to identify the crack when it’s been broken,” he said.

In a later interview, City Manager Rick Horst gave an example. “A developer comes in, he builds a new subdivision, he turns over roads to us. In governmental accounting, we call that an asset. Anywhere else it would be called a liability because it just has future dollars tied to it. But we have to have roads. The question is, ‘How do we best utilize our assets, our infrastructure, to capitalize and serve the people the best?’”

Commissioner Michael Sharpe said that was one of the frustrations of Maricopa’s current development model. “We’re just a bedroom community designed around the automobile. It’s going to be tough to course-correct aggressively.”

Horst had encouraged Wozniak’s initiative in gathering the information and asked him to present the information to city departments.

The report showed potential property tax per acre on the same size property developed differently.

1-story residential $4,007
2-story mixed use $32,542
3-story mixed use $44,775

“For instance,” Horst said, “you can have a mile of road that services 100,000 square feet of retail, which brings in a lot of revenue to the city to support Public Safety, Parks & Rec and all those things. Or it can support 100 acres of forest that’s in a nonprofit reserve, for which you get nothing. Is a road too wide when it should be more narrow? Is it a road to nowhere? We have to begin to think about that.”

The research also highlighted long-term development successes in other cities in other areas, from Louisiana to Italy. Wozniak said their experience showed “small interventions add up to different results.”

Horst said current housing stock does not meet the circle-of-life needs of everyone in the city. “We kind of have one level of housing stock. What about the seniors when the kids leave home and they’re empty nesters? What about when one spouse passes? We don’t have apartments; we don’t have more affordable work-force housing, which is our school teachers, the police officers, the firefighters. Those are all the things we need to think about to be a well-rounded, purposeful city.”

The decision to change course or not could have “political ramifications long-term for some,” Scribner said, indicating a future impact on the city council and P&Z.

“It will take an attitude shift across the board.”

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Jacob Cowing brings down a 25-yard pass near the end zone.

Laboring through what is arguably 5A’s toughest region, Maricopa High School’s football team fell at Williams Field, 34-21, despite an energetic effort Friday night.

“I’m real proud of them,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “That game could have gone either way.”

Williams Field came into the game with a 6-1 record and scored first. Maricopa tied the score 7-7 after a five-yard run by senior Jacob Cowing. However, the Black Hawks scored 11 seconds later on a 65-yard run.

The Rams then embarked on a 15-play, penalty-free drive that culminated in a five-yard run by senior quarterback Jordan Huddleston. Roberto Esqueda’s second of three successful PAT kicks tied the game again at 14-14.

Williams Field scored quickly in the third quarter, but the PAT bounced off the uprights. After picking off a Huddleston pass, the Black Hawks put together another scoring drive to go up 27-14. They added to the lead with a 23-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter and began pulling starters.

Harris said instead of hanging their heads as in earlier games, the Rams kept trying to score. The result was a fumble recovery Maricopa turned into an unlikely, sack-filled possession that included the conversion of a fourth-and-13 situation.

Finally down to the 15 yard line and with Huddleston continuing to play escape artist, the Rams capped off the game with a wild scramble of slipped tackles that ended in Huddleston connecting with senior Kaireem Moreira, who scored with 23 seconds left.

“If you quit a game on a Friday night, you’ll quit in life,” Harris said. “This is nothing compared to what life gives you sometimes, so you’ve got to keep battling and fighting and keep playing until there’s zeros on the clock. That’s how I coach.”

Maricopa had 333 total yards in the game. Huddleston threw for 112 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 91 yards. Cowing had 56 yards rushing and 56 yards receiving.

The Rams’ record fell to 4-4 overall, 0-3 in 5A San Tan region competition. Williams Field rose to the top of San Tan.

Maricopa stays home Friday, Oct. 19, hosting Casteel (6-2) at 7 p.m.

Photo courtesy Ak-Chin Southern Dunes


Large portions of the golf course are under water, but Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is not completely shut down.

Arroyo Grill and the pro shop are still open with regular business hours, though the course probably won’t see golfers again until November. Blame it on the rain.

“There’s been nothing like this since I’ve been here,” General Manager Brady Wilson said.

Last week’s flooding of Vekol Wash was particularly hard on the Dunes. Wilson said the course received 3.9 inches of rain and then the flash flood waters from the south. It is still too early to assess damage.

The #miniDunes and first fairway were under water. A vast section of desert from hole 13 to hole 16 was full of water. Water was flowing over State Route 238 east and west of the course entrance, and the parking lot was flooded. Wilson was among employees stranded by the water and rescued by Ak-Chin Fire Department personnel.

Besides pumping out water, the restoration of the course will take a lot of hand work, but Wilson expects it to be back on schedule Nov. 3.

“And that’s only because of the commitment from our team,” Wilson said. “They are the most dedicated employees around.”

While there has been a lot of outreach from the community, vendors and friends volunteering to help, Wilson said the best way to help is to support Arroyo Grill.

“They were open for lunch for today. We still have one of the best restaurants in Maricopa,” Wilson said. “The Arroyo Grill is 100 percent operative.”

A wine dinner is scheduled for Oct. 27.

Though the flooding has been called catastrophic, the timing was not terrible. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes had been scheduled to close for overseeding Oct. 14 and reopen Nov. 3. Now, staff will be in a cleanup phase before the overseeding with the expectation of still re-opening Nov. 3.

Though the course is dealing with the biggest water hazards in its history, the greens are in good shape. As for the rest, the staff will have to wait until the water is gone.

The turf is muddy, and Wilson said the irony is there is no way to clean the turf except with more water. The National Weather Service is predicting more rain by Sunday.

“We don’t know at this point how impactful that will be,” Wilson said.

The proposed Vista Village property (star) is almost six acres.

A developer wants to build a 100-unit apartment complex in Maricopa, and a vote by Maricopa City Council on Tuesday may spur the project.

As proposed by Englewood Group, Vista Village will be constructed on a triangular, six-acre lot north of Walmart and south of Banner Health on Porter Road. The multi-building development would include two-story and three-story buildings with a pool, laundry, fitness center and playground.

The city council approved the re-zoning of the property from light industry to general mixed use. It was not an approval of the project but allowed Englewood Group to start the development process. It would be the first apartment complex in the city.

No member of the public or city council spoke against the re-zoning at the Tuesday hearing. Planner Rodolfo Lopez said the Development Services department did not receive any public comment, either.

The rezoning was previously recommended by city staff and by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Development Services commissioned a study last year on housing needs in Maricopa. The idea of an apartment complex has been controversial in the past, with opponents saying rentals bring crime, but it has gained interest in the past year.

The Housing Needs Assessment Report from July 2017 noted that 97 percent of Maricopa’s housing is single-family homes, far above the Arizona average of 64 percent. It found a lack of “work force” housing for teachers, police, etc.

“For single people who wish to live alone, there are no housing options other than living alone in a large home,” the report stated.

The result is two or more families renting one “single-family” home.

Englewood, which has 74 properties in Arizona, Indiana and Illinois, has been eyeing Maricopa for more than a year.

Photo by Jewel Leonard

While a fatal house fire continues to be investigated in Tortosa, Maricopa Fire Department will host an “After the Fire” program Wednesday at City Hall.

What: After the Fire
When: Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa City Hall
Who: Maricopa Fire Department
Info:, 520-510-5585

Fire Marshal Eddie Rodriguez said information is still being gathered by MFD and Maricopa Police Department about the Sept. 26 fire on Nina Street, and the cause is unknown. Angel Coffman, 19, suffered fatal injuries. Two other adults and a toddler were rescued.

“What we do know is the area of origin occurred at the first floor of the two-story,” Rodriguez said. “Pinal County Animal Control recovered and removed four deceased pet animals from the home. The Red Cross did assist the family to temporary housing at a nearby motel.”

Wednesday’s program starts at 6:30 p.m. It will emphasize fire prevention, safety and fire department operations related to the Nina Street fire. The public is encouraged to attend and ask questions.

MFD administrators and crews will be on hand to provide insight into fire prevention and what residents can do to reduce the chance of fire. Residents are specifically asked to check their smoke detectors and replace old batteries, have and practice an emergency evacuation plan and identify a meeting-reunification area.

Kaden Rogers started doing magic tricks when he was 4. Photo by Mason Callejas

Magic or movie magic, imagining or engineering, Kaden Cruz Rogers has a side business as an entertainer, even a stage name, and a fledgling career in filmmaking.

“I think the reason I like magic and filmmaking so much is because they both bring wonder.” — Kaden Rogers

He’s also a high school freshman who turned 15 in July.

As Kaden Cruz, he performs close-up magic shows for private, public and corporate gatherings. He received audition call-backs from “America’s Got Talent” and was a hair’s breadth from appearing on the show a season ago.

As Kaden Rogers, he is director in a young crew of moviemakers with a film about to screen at the inaugural Show Low International Film Festival. He is also president of the new film club at Maricopa High School. And he’s in band. And has been part of prize-winning Future City teams.

His mother calls him “crazy creative.”

“I think the reason I like magic and filmmaking so much is because they both bring wonder,” Kaden said. “They take people out of their everyday life and put them momentarily into some different reality.”

He and his family have lived in The Villages for 12 years. The family consists of parents, Charlie and Amy Rogers, who own a karate business, and two younger siblings, Gracie and Mason. Kaden’s education has come through Butterfield Elementary and Maricopa Wells Middle School.

“From a young child he loved to just take things apart and look at all the pieces inside,” Amy Rogers said. “He’s always had that engineering kind of mind. I guess we never expected it to take this film course. We really thought he’s just going down this engineer kind of path.”

“Everything that I like has to do with creating something and then showing it,” he said.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Kaden discovered his knack for creating magic after a trip to a magic shop at Disneyland when he was 4 years old. For the next four or five years, he asked for magic kits at every Christmas and birthday. The interest lapsed for a couple of years but reignited when he was 11.

“I think a 15-year-old wearing a cape and a hat doing all these hocus-pocus things is just cheesy.” — Kaden Rogers

He was on a birthday trip with his grandmother to Lake Tahoe when they stopped off in Las Vegas. They caught a magic show by Alex Ramon and bought his CD of magic tricks. For the rest of the trip, Kaden was locked into learning the new tricks and even uploaded a phone app that taught more tricks.

“And that’s all I was doing,” Kaden said. “Here’s this beautiful lake outside, and I’m inside the hotel watching magic tricks.”

Soon he was not just “doing tricks” but forming an act. He even performed for a non-family audience for the first time during that trip when his uncle, then an activities coordinator at a Lake Tahoe dude ranch, convinced him to do a magic show for the guests.

“I remember this guy in the audience,” Kaden said. “I did this rubber-band thing where the rubber band jumps on my fingers. He flipped out, like ‘Oh my gosh.’ That’s where my love of performing came, making people smile and putting them in that place of wonder.”

He’s been building the act ever since and makes a point of making it fit his personality.

“When you think of a magic trick or a magician or anything magical, you think of a top hat and a rabbit and a guy in a cape dancing around on a stage,” Kaden said. “I think a 15-year-old wearing a cape and a hat doing all these hocus-pocus things is just cheesy. Any other teenager wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t go up on a stage and act like that. So, I do it more to my age.”

Photo by Mason Callejas

Amy Rogers said a lot of the tricks he uses have come from antique magic books, tricks he has adapted with a new spin.

“When I read a magic book, I open it up to a random page, I find a random thing on the page and I start reading it. And then I learn that little technique,” Kaden said. “And then I throw away all of the things that they’re telling me to do, and I just learn the technique that I need to know. And then I build by own thing out of that.”

That is the case with the trick he auditioned with for “America’s Got Talent.”

After seeing a series of AGT magicians doing card tricks he already knew, including season 9 winner Mat Franco, Kaden began to think he could do the same. What he thought was an off-hand comment at dinner – “Why don’t we just sign up for the show” – turned into his mother signing him up to audition in Vegas.

That was at the beginning of his eighth-grade year at Maricopa Wells Middle School. With just a few weeks to come up with a big trick for television producers, he studied what had been done before. He worked out a routine that incorporated photos of all previous contestants and the judges on a deck of cards. The center of the trick is a missing piece that ends up somewhere unexpected. His goal, he said, wasn’t to get on the show but to be able to say he tried out.

Submitted photo

He practiced the trick relentlessly, performed for customers at a Wendy’s on the way to Vegas. He met the comic magician Piff the Magic Dragon, a previous AGT contestant, after being called out of the audience to participate in Piff’s show at the Rio. Afterward Piff took Kaden and Amy to his dressing room and told him to show him the trick.

“The whole thing was just like shock. I don’t remember half of it, I was so amped up on adrenalin.” — Kaden Rogers

“So, I did the trick for him,” Kaden said. “He said ‘Wow, that’s really cool.’ Told me some tips, like just be yourself. It was one of the highlights of the whole trip.”

To audition, the Rogers family was in line at 5 a.m. at the Rio. When they finally got inside, they found a giant holding room with random acts waiting “just like the TV show.” They waited about four hours before Kaden’s group number was called. With only one parent allowed going forward, Amy accompanied him to another holding room to wait another hour.

Then Kaden was ushered into a room where an AGT producer sat with a camera and camera operator behind them.

“He said, ‘Stand on the X, and you have 90 seconds and good luck.’” The producer showed little reaction during the course of Kaden’s trick.

“I finished the trick, and he just looked at me and said, ‘That was amazing. You just showed me the last 12 years of my life in a card trick.’ That, to me, was just really cool. He said, ‘Can you show it to my other producers?’”

After another hour in another holding room, and filling out more paperwork, he was asked to have his picture taken in case he was cast.

“And I said, ‘Wait, there’s a small chance you would cast me?’ The whole thing was just like shock. I don’t remember half of it, I was so amped up on adrenalin. This time there’s like five producers in a row. I did the trick for them, and they pretty much had the same reaction as the guy before: ‘Wow, this is really good. We are considering you.’”

Photo by Mason Callejas

Weeks and months went by. After the holidays, Amy Rogers was shopping when she received a call from casting producer Renee Massie. AGT wanted videos of Kaden performing and wanted him to develop bigger tricks for a large stage. He worked late to put together a documented video presentation to send in. That project kept him up until 3 a.m., and he had to get up at 5 a.m. to go to the regional Future City competition.

“I like the part of making it my own – the creative part that no one else knows about except for me.” — Kaden Rogers

Then AGT added Phoenix as a last-minute audition location. Massie called Amy at 10 a.m. the morning of those auditions and asked if Kaden could come in that afternoon to see more producers. Despite not having perfected his new tricks, he decided to give it a shot.

They were told to bypass the long line and go straight to the doors, where a man greeted them with “Are you Kaden Cruz?” Five minutes later they were standing in front of producers. Kaden said he nailed the first trick but “messed up a little bit” on the second. Though he didn’t think the producers noticed, it affected the confidence of his performance.

One of the producers told him she liked the act, but it was obvious he had been rushed in creating his tricks. She said there were five spots left and they were still “on the fence” about him. In the end, he was not selected.

“I was still really amazed that I auditioned twice in Vegas and then they called me back in Arizona,” Kaden said. “Even though I didn’t make it on the show the whole experience was crazy.”

He is considering trying out again. In the meantime, word of mouth has become Facebook bookings for schools, libraries and businesses.

“My goal isn’t to become a performer in Vegas and make millions of dollars,” he said. “My goal is to make people happy and to take people out of the world they’re sitting in.

“I like the part of making it my own – the creative part that no one else knows about except for me. All they see is this finished product, but they don’t know how many other tiny things go into it. I think that’s what I like, coming up with this crazy plan and hiding it. That’s also like directing. There’s a ton of stuff going on that you don’t see, and then you end up seeing just this flat screen. But there’s people with boom mics and lights and all this stuff happening in the background.”

Submitted photo

Kaden wasn’t exactly smitten with making videos from start. His first experience was a “silly” project in Kristin McMullin’s fifth-grade class when students had to improvise a play in front of the room and make a movie trailer on iMovie.

“I thought it was a lot of fun making it but didn’t realize what the actual outcome was,” he said.

“That is when I first saw his passion for film-making grow.” — Joe Szoltysik

In the blended learning program at MWMS called MUSD 20+1, teacher Joe Szoltysik gave Kaden and his classmates video assignments.

“What’s interesting about Kaden’s evolution into film is at the beginning of seventh grade he ‘hated making videos,’” Szoltysik said. “I distinctly remember a Language Arts assignment I assigned at the beginning of his seventh-grade year in which students made informational videos. Kaden and the Abel twins [Joseph and Thomas] worked together and produced a video that was not technically sound, and I was certainly critical of it. That is when Kaden revealed his disdain for making videos.”

The disdain did not survive long, as a later video project, The Fault, was among student projects screened at the inaugural Copa Shorts Film Fest.

“I hadn’t before that even thought about making movies at all,” Kaden said. “And we just made one in school. It didn’t compete in Copa Shorts, but they showed the movies that everyone made in the class at the film festival and when we went there, I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Keep doing this.’”

He analyzed the experience and worked out improvements in the whole process of making a successful movie. No one had real role assignments and ‘everyone was doing everything.’ He realized he did not like acting at all and wanted to just be behind the scenes and direct. For their next movie, Kaden was just the director.

“I remember him telling me ‘I think we can do a lot better next time,’ and that is when I first saw his passion for film-making grow,” Szoltysik said. “That passion grew throughout his eighth-grade year; his second film, The Inverted, was shot in various locations in Arizona, and won the student category of the 2018 Copa Shorts Film Fest. That’s when Kaden exploded onto the scene.”

Movie still from “Kindness Equals Calm”: (from left) front row – Joe Szoltysik, Aubrey Pick, Kaden Rogers and Rori Gosiak; back row – Thomas Abel, Zoie Zimpleman and Joseph Abel. (Submitted)

For the third time, Kaden and the Abel brothers collaborated on a film with classmates after the film class was able to acquire better equipment. The production of Kindness Equals Calm extended well after they finished eighth grade. The full-length film is a comedy about a group of young people on a weekend trip to Camp Shinebright. That cast includes Szoltysik and Butterfield teacher Liz Zimpleman.

“I believe these students are going to be doing some really cool things here in Maricopa, and for the rest of their lives.” — Reid Martin

“One word to describe Kaden as a young director would be ‘precise,’” Szoltysik said. “I’ve worked as an actor on Kaden’s latest feature film, and I will tell you, on set he is in charge; respectful of course, but in charge. He has the precision it takes to be a young director and make a name in a very difficult but lucrative field. Most of all, he has the work ethic it takes to be a director.  Kaden will spend hours a day working on his craft, but he is humble enough to understand that there is still much to learn.”

Kindness Equals Calm will appear multiple times in the Show Low Film Fest Oct. 11-14.

Kaden and the Abels came to MHS with the assumption there was a film club. They found that not only was there no club but there was no longer a class or program of study for video. “So, we’re like, ‘Looks like we’re going to have to make one ourselves,’” Kaden said.

He composed a lengthy email about the need for and opportunities that could arise from having a film club and sent it to all MHS staff. He received only one response, and that was from a staff member who said he couldn’t help. At that point, the boys were prepared to start a private club. But Administrative Assistant Danielle Byers spoke to Amy Rogers about the situation and was insistent on making the club happen.

Byers gave Amy a list of staff possibilities, and they decided Reid Martin was the guy. Martin, a RAM Academy teacher, emailed them back and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

The club currently has 17 members, most of them freshmen who had been involved in the 20+1 filmmaking projects at MWMS and Desert Wind Middle School.

“I have been teaching and involved in HS culture for 17 years and never seen a club so focused, energetic and excited about what they are doing,” Martin said. “Primarily freshmen, I believe these students are going to be doing some really cool things here in Maricopa, and for the rest of their lives.”

Kaden and the Abels envisioned a club that could bring together skills and talents from all other campus programs – theater and theater tech, design, computer graphics, music, even culinary. To achieve that goal, they created an ad video based on “Guardians of the Galaxy” to be played in all home rooms in hopes of recruiting more potential filmmakers.

“When he first started talking about this, he was so excited to think about all the different interests he could draw into this club and really pull a little community together to make something big,” Amy Rogers said.

At the first meeting, seven friends elected Kaden president with Joseph Abel vice president and Thomas Abel secretary.

“Kaden is doing an amazing job leading the club, learning what that role means, and is excellent at directing some really cool experiences for his peers,” Martin said.

Whether Kaden Rogers or Kaden Cruz, he continues to evolve his magic and balance his other activities and schooling while educating himself on the business end of the film festival circuit and moviemaking.

“Through these filmmaking experiences, Kaden has not only developed a passion for the filmmaking process,” Szoltysik said. “From lighting, camera angles, and editing, it’s the process that he loves and wants to share with others.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Rick Horst began his new job as Maricopa city manager over the summer. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

During his first 100 days as Maricopa’s city manager, Rick Horst has worked to make City Hall more results-oriented and streamlined. There have already been changes, including a new department. Horst sat down with InMaricopa to talk about the first three months of his three-year contract.

InMaricopa: So, you’re still in the honeymoon phase.

Horst: I tell people it’s three months going on three years. As the old saying goes, drinking out of a firehose. But that’s what I enjoy. It’s been fun. It’s been educational. We’ve been able to set some things in motion. We have a lot of things on our list yet to set into motion. It’s why I’m here; it’s why I wanted to be here.

InMaricopa: As a leader, what kind of imprinting did you want to have on your employees?

Horst: I’ve never been one for silos. I think we’re all one team. I kind of use the football analogy that, yes, a football team has offense and defense and special teams, but they all wear the same uniform, and at the end of the day they have the same goal. That’s to win. I find sometimes that we need to make sure that our main objective is to meet the goals that we’ve made. I’ve always felt that government is really good at process, but we should be good at results. I really want our employees to feel empowered to make decisions at the lowest level possible. I want us to streamline. I want us to make things more simple. I want us to spend time in achieving goals, not figuring out the process of how to get there.

InMaricopa: How did you go about learning the institutional culture?

Horst: Well, you learn pretty quickly, right? I’ve invested myself in a lot of the meetings. I don’t believe in micromanaging, but at the same time, what I knew I had to invest myself in the system to learn what is going on and what they’re trying to do, what processes they have. I think sometimes we work so hard to create the momentum, the process, the program, and we work so hard we don’t want to let it go. We do things right, but we don’t always do the right thing.

InMaricopa: What are some key areas you’re focusing on?

Horst: We’re hoping to deregulate, not only internally but externally, to make it easier for those whom we’re here to serve. We’re hoping to streamline our processes. I use the term, sometimes we spend a dollar to save a nickel, and I want to be careful that we don’t do that. There’s two structures within government – there’s the structure that supports the services we provide, IT, Finance, HR. The other is there to serve the customer, which is the people who provide the operations and services of the City, which is Public Safety, Parks and Recreation, Streets, etc. Our job is to make sure we can internally support those purposes by streamlining how quick they can get personnel hired, how quick they can get resources, materials, the things they need to do their job, and to make sure we don’t get bogged down in process so we can kick out the product at the end of the day.

InMaricopa: So, the process is something governments get bogged down in?

Horst: I think we do… The real mission, from my perspective, of the city besides public safety, which is foremost, is to create an environment where the community can be successful. Whether that is a single parent raising their children, whether that’s a nonprofit, or whether that’s a small business or a big business or a school, or whatever those things are, to allow them to be successful. We don’t have to control everything. We just have to control those things that are the core mission of the City. A lot of cities like to get into ventures that the private sector can supply. We want the community to not be without, so we want to create the opportunity to get the private sector to fill in some of those gaps rather than try to fill them ourselves.

InMaricopa: What are some of the clear-cut strategies you’ve given your team?

Horst: Well, I’m trying to empower them. For instance, we’ve merged all our support services together to a new department called Administrative Services. So, our IT, Finance, HR and those type of things are now under one leader, which is Jennifer Brown as our department head. Therefore, she can cross-utilize those resources. As an example, HR today has to know it’s very involved with financial numbers, and vice versa. Current costs, future costs, benefit costs, all those type of things, so everything can’t be done in a vacuum. It has to be done more holistically as we approach these issues. I sometimes find a department can create a great idea and implement it but didn’t realize it created some unforeseen consequences for another department or action. So, we want to come together and resolve those issues and be collective in our focus. We really have a great team, and they’re accepting these changes and welcoming these changes. To some degree, they’ve taken the handcuffs off so they can be more effective in what they’re doing. Every one of our employees has something significant to offer. We just need to be patient enough to hear them out… So, I’m encouraging people to talk back to the boss, so to speak. Just be polite about it. (Laughs)

InMaricopa: What did you consider City Hall’s strengths when you took the job?

Horst: We have great people. We have talented people. Most of them are not here for a paycheck; they really want to make a difference. And they really work hard to make a difference. They go the extra mile. And I consider them public servants, not employees. Most people won’t ever understand all the things they do to benefit the community. A lot of them do things in their spare time after hours. They participate in other community events, charities, programs, all because they care about this community. They are well invested both personally and professionally.

InMaricopa: Where did you find City Hall lacking?

Horst: If we do something in 15 steps, we could probably do it in 10. Or if it’s in 10, we can do it in five. We’re looking at our processes and we’re saying, “Did it outlive its usefulness? Is there a way to do it better? Are we still doing it because we worked so hard to put it in place?” Sometimes you’ve got to give it up and move onto something new. The city’s changing every day.

InMaricopa: In your short time here, are there areas you’ve already shifted the City?

Horst: We had a centralized purchasing program, and we’re going to decentralize that, and we’re going to be presenting that to the City Council. What that will do is eliminate the bureaucratic process. As an example, if the Street Department needs to order a particular asphalt material to pave roads, that goes up to a Purchasing Department that then prepares the specs and bids. They’re not the experts on that, and it adds another layer. So, if we could have the ability to have these department reach out and do this on their own because it’s their area of expertise – and by the way, department heads are charged with the protection of their budgets – it’s putting the authority and ability to do it back into the departments rather than at centralized purchasing. That will save both time and money. That’s not to say it was broken; it’s a good, better, best thing. We can do better.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School varsity football team lost its second league competition, a road game at Campo Verde.

The Rams held off the Coyotes for more than a quarter but lost 38-12.

“They’re a physical team and they’ve got a big quarterback and they run hard,” MHS head coach Brandon Harris. “But that doesn’t say much about what we did offensively. Our job is to move the football, and we didn’t. That’s on me and our offensive coaches.”

The Rams scored on their first drive, taking advantage of a Coyote fourth-down mistake in fouling punter Roberto Esqueda (not for the last time)and giving Maricopa a fresh set of downs. Four plays later, quarterback Jordan Huddleston passed 45 yards to Jacob Cowing for the touchdown.

Campo Verde didn’t score until there was 7:53 left in the second quarter, a 52-yard run.. A following 13-play drive by Maricopa, again extended by Esqueda getting roughed up, proved fruitless. Coyote kicker Jackson Passey nailed a 52-yard field goal to give Campo Verde the 10-6 lead at halftime.

“It seems to be the same old thing that’ biting us in the heel,” Harris said. “We have this great opening drive or opening series and then just have a stalemate or something So got to figure that out, and we will.”

Campo Verde scored twice in the third quarter while shutting down Maricopa. The Coyotes were credited with six sacks.

“They were doing some things to us on defense, and I didn’t feel like our sideline communication was where it should be,” Harris said.

The Coyotes scored twice more before Maricopa could get back on the board. It was another half-field pass to Cowing with 3:53 remaining in the game.

Maricopa’s record fell to 4-3 overall and 0-2 in San Tan play. The Rams next play at Williams Field on Friday at 7 p.m.

The MUSD Governing Board examined the duties and proposed salary of the new position of facilities/operations director in what ended up a split decision.

Setting salaries for newly created positions has been difficult for Maricopa Unified School District.

Torri Anderson

The district had posted a job opening for a “Coordinator of Communications and Social Media,” and then had to increase the compensation to get more qualified candidates. Tuesday, the issue was a revisit of the proposed pay for a “Director of Facilities & Operations.”

Board member Torri Anderson was emphatic that the base salary range of $76,650-$89,051 was too high. The full compensation package would cost the district $95,800-$111,400.

“We need to prove to the public that we need this position,” she said. “To start out at the top is concerning me.”

MUSD had a facilities director before the recession and budget cuts. Anderson said the facilities/operations director position should be re-created, but the board should come back later and adjust the salary as they did for the communications coordinator.

“I could swallow $65,000-$75,000 as the range,” Anderson said.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said he compared all the salaries for facilities directors in the range of school districts with 5,000 to 10,000 students. He said the 2016 number showed the median starting salary of $67,000. But, he said, MUSD is competing for employees with districts that can pay over $80,000.

“I’m fairly confident that you all, just like I do, want to see the very, very best candidate,” he said. “To get that, we have some serious things that we need to be addressing at this point in time, and we need somebody who’s going to hit the ground running.”

Saying she had already received many phone calls about the salary, Anderson said she feared it would impact the yearly Auditor General’s report, saying MUSD overpays its administrators. “I don’t need that headache at the grocery store.”

Board member Joshua Judd said he, too, had received “a lot of push-back” from community members and staff over the proposed salary. He also said he was concerned about the broadness of the job description.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the job does entail a lot. The director would be in charge of maintenance, custodial, grounds and safety such as installing appropriate locks and cameras.

“We’re positioning this to get some experience so that we are not starting at the entry level,” Lopeman said.

Board member Patti Coutré said she agreed with Beckett and Lopeman. “We have to put forth that investment to get a quality person.” She likened the position to putting in future infrastructure.

Joshua Judd

“Things are starting to fail on our new buildings that aren’t new anymore,” Coutré said. “

MUSD’s high school has already approached capacity. That and other growth indicators are signs the district may need new buildings in the next 5-10 years.

“I believe we are positioned right now with potentially coming to our voters asking for a bond issue for facilities,” Beckett said in making his case for hiring an experience facilities director.

Board members agreed the position is necessary.

“It’s definitely needed,” Board member Gary Miller said. “It’s definitely important to invest in the front end.”

Ultimately, Anderson and Judd were not convinced. They voted against the personnel line item in the 5-3 board approval.

A wife and mother, 19-year-old Angel Coffman passed away Wednesday. (GoFundMe)

Angel Coffman did not survive her injuries in a house fire Wednesday, and her family is concentrating on the well-being of her young son, who was also injured, and her husband, also named Angel, who is stationed at Fort Bliss.

“We still don’t know who was brave and went in the house to get her son out, but he’s a hero,” her aunt, Marisol Reyes, said. “We will still have a little something of her here on earth. His name is Christopher Angel Diaz. He will be so loved.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the family.

The oldest of four children, Angel Coffman, 19, was born in Mesa and grew up mostly in Queen Creek and Stanfield before the family moved to Maricopa in 2007. She met her future husband at Sequoia Pathway Academy while they were still students.

“Angel was a smart, energetic, fun-loving person,” Reyes said. “She had a contagious laugh and beautiful smile.”

She graduated a year early to get married and have her son Christopher, who will turn 2 on Oct. 15. Angel would have been 20 in November. Her husband was setting up a home for them at Fort Bliss while Angel stayed in the Tortosa home of her parents, Lupe and Brandon Coffman. Reyes said she was very supportive of her husband’s dream to be in the U.S. Army.

“This weekend, she was going to pack all her belongings and move to Fort Bliss, where they had stationed her husband,” Reyes said. “She was excited to have her perfect little family.”

The house fire was reported on Nina Street at around 10:10 a.m. Wednesday. Neighbors apparently rescued two teens and Christopher from the inferno by the time fire units arrived. Firefighters brought Angel out of the house, reporting she had critical injuries from the fire.

“We don’t know what happened exactly, and it hurts that we won’t ever possibly, but we do know she put up a fight,” Reyes said.

Community outreach has been swift. It is not the first time the Coffman family has received such support from Maricopa in terrible circumstances. Her father was paralyzed three years ago in a motorcycle accident.

Besides taking a precious life, Wednesday’s fire also destroyed most of the family’s belongings, including Brandon’s medical supplies.

The Hohokam canals carried water for people and crops.

Kyle Woodson, Ph.D., will present “Hohokam Canal Irrigation and Landscape Change on Santa Cruz Island in the Middle Gila Valley” at a meeting of the Maricopa Historical Society.

What: Maricopa Historical Society Presentation
When: Oct. 1, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road
How much: Free

Woodson works for Gila River Indian Community’s Cultural Resource Management program. MHS meets Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library.

“Archaeological excavations conducted on the Gila River Indian Community in 2005 for the Santa Fe Pacific Pipeline’s (SFPP) East Line Expansion Project (ELX) resulted in the discovery of 38 prehistoric Hohokam canals,” Woodson explained in his abstract. “The canals were documented at three sites along the left bank of the Gila River. The canals occur on the Holocene terrace between Pima Butte and the confluence of the Santa Cruz and Gila rivers in an area of the middle Gila Valley known as ‘Santa Cruz Island.'”

The complex of canals, named the Riverbend canal system, was used 550-1,250 years ago. Woodson called the discovery “a major finding” in understanding the Hohokam canal system.

A study of the canal system reveals more information about the Hohokam and its use of the Santa Cruz Island.

“First, the ELX results suggest that this area primarily was used on a seasonal basis by people whose primary residence was across the Gila River at Hidden Ruin,” Woodson said. “Second, it appears that a segment of the canal system and its fields may have been abandoned at the end of the Colonial period as a result of salinization of agricultural soils. Third, evidence suggests that irrigators had to deal with increased flooding after the late Sedentary period, which may been a result of the downcutting and widening of the Gila River.”

The Hohokam are credited with the most extensive irrigation system in North America in the Classic period and were able to maintain crops in the same area for hundreds of years. Their farming culture disappeared for mysterious reasons, but their descendants include the Tohono O’odham and Pima.

“The responses of the Hohokam to these landscape changes is a testament to their resiliency,” Woodson said, “or their ability to adapt to potentially deleterious ecological conditions.”

This is the first in a monthly series of presentations for the Maricopa Historical Society. Upcoming presentations:

Nov. 5: The 1857 Battle on the Gila
Dec. 3: The Apache Wars
Jan. 7: The ’49ers Meet the Maricopa and Akimel
Feb. 4: Arizona Kicks on Route 66
March 4: The National Monument Next Door
April 1: Family History Tourism