Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
1022 Articles 4 COMMENTS
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.

Former MUD Business Services Director Aron Rausch


After a decade as Business Services director of Maricopa Unified School District, Aron Rausch abruptly resigned this month to go into retirement.

Rausch, who was hired by MUSD in 2008, dated his resignation Dec. 12 to go into effect Dec. 19, the day of the most recent board meeting and before the end of the semester.

MUSD spokesperson Mishell Terry said Wednesday an interim director had not yet been chosen. Rausch said he did not suggest a name for his temporary replacement.

“That’s up to the leadership that’s there,” he said.

Friday, the district posted an immediate opening for the position. The salary range is $78,750-$102,751.

Rausch said he and his wife Becky wanted to spend more time with their daughters and grandchildren, who live in the north Valley. “We had been planning this for a couple of years. I’m excited.”

In his resignation letter addressed to Board President AnnaMarie Knorr, Rausch also said he wanted more time for “woodworking, attending sporting events, hiking and volunteering, and of course maybe a little bit more time chasing the white ball around the golf course.” The two-page letter touted the long list of accomplishments of the finance department during his tenure.

Rausch is a lifetime member of Rotarians International. Thursday, he said he fully expects to continue that community service, but “we’ll see if we stay in Maricopa.”

His wife is an academic coach at Butterfield Elementary School.

Rausch’s departure was part of a personnel schedule on Wednesday’s agenda. He was not in attendance. Knorr gave the board the uncommon reminder to not speak of any listed employ by name but rather by number. Board members approved the schedule without comment.

Thursday, already out of town, Rausch said he might take part-time work in the future but described his departure from MUSD duties as “divorcing” himself from the district.

Rausch has been a chief finance officer under various titles and at various locations for 28 years. He was an auditor for nine years in Washington state. He was CFO of schools for 16 years, including the Walla Walla School District.

He left Walla Walla after not seeing eye-to-eye with a new superintendent and started as business director for MUSD in the middle of the semester. He was the district’s seventh business manager in five years.

MUSD earned awards from the Government Finance Officers Associations and Arizona Association of School Business Officials for each of the past 10 years.


Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition

Released Nov. 12, U.S. Department of Health released an updated version of its “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” It reflects the extensive amount of new knowledge gained since the first edition, released in 2008. Here are 10 areas of knowledge covered in the guidelines:

  1. Preschool-aged children (ages 3-5 years) should be physically active 3 hours throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
  2. Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should do 1 hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily: Aerobic, muscle-training or bone-strengthening.
  3. Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
  4. Adults should do at least 2.5 to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity, or 1.25 to 2.5 a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  5. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
  6. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
  7. As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
  8. Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.
  9. Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.
  10. When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

This item appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

A variety of Caterpillar equipment moves dirt on the large parcel that is planned to be Apex Motor Club.

As Apex Motor Club begins to rise out of 278 acres on the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road, Club members have specific expectations for the private racetrack.

Joe Rueda of Scottsdale drives a BMW M3 as a dedicated racecar and a Porsche as his street car.

He has been involved with Apex Motor Club since Jason Plotke, Matt Williams and Jim Beatty first started talking about the idea. Rueda became a member as soon as the club officially formed three years ago.

“We would drive on other racetracks, and it was so much fun, but it was so far away,” he said. The site in Maricopa, he said, was perfect.

“You can’t drop a racetrack in the middle of a residential area,” Rueda said, “so the land in Maricopa was perfect and the size was perfect.”

There are three fundamentals club members will expect from Apex, said Rueda, whose car enthusiasm began with his childhood Matchbox collection.

1. One is visceral connection. He bought his first car two years before he could legally drive it and learned how to maintain and fix it. The experience of driving a car, tinkering with it to improve its handling and then driving it again to see if the tinkering helped is an integral part of a private track.

2. Drivers also want a course designed for car people by car people. Apex is expected to be a place where they interact with their cars in a way they cannot on the street. Rueda said today’s sports cars far exceed what drivers can do with them on a public road. With so much automatic response now, he said, the automotive industry is taking away the driving experience in day-to-day life.

3. The most important aspect of a car club, he said, is the camaraderie with other enthusiasts and being able to compare experiences. Many of the friends he has made over the years have come through the car culture.

Rueda said the positive response the project received from City Hall and from the residents was fortifying when the legal opposition arose. “It made it easier to plow through,” he said. “If [the City] had waffled a little, I don’t know if we would have had the confidence to keep on going.”

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

“We’re not developers that are going to move on to the next city and sell this,” Plotke said. “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.”

Plotke said Apex intends to be involved in the community and involve the community in the facility, such as police training. Even beyond that, Rueda said philanthropy is important to all the members of the club. He expects that to become evident in Maricopa.

This story was published in part in the December issue of InMaricopa.

At the State of the City event in October, Mayor Christian Price announced changes in the business license process for the City of Maricopa.

That amounts to eliminating business licensing and creating instead a business registry.

Nov. 6, staff detailed how a registry would work. The process is set to go into effect Jan. 1.

“We believe that good, business-friendly regulations, while ensuring public safety and strong customer protections, just make good business sense,” Price said.

Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said the state’s transaction privilege tax process now makes city licensing redundant. The registry, she said will allow City Hall to track the types of businesses in town.

“This is a voluntary program,” she said.

The Business Registry Program will be an online process. Instead of $50 for a business license, companies can register for $10 annually. The BRP will not eliminate the necessity of permits and zoning.

Information asked on the one-page, online Business Registry Program:

New or existing business
VA or Nonprofit
Full name of business owner/representative
Primary phone
Primary email address
Business name/DBA
Physical address of business
Business sector
Description of business
Transaction Privilege Tax identification number
Acknowledge legal disclaimer

“The goal is to make conducting business in the City of Maricopa as easy and simple as possible,” Airheart said. “So the businesses and entrepreneurs of the community drive innovation, and we want to make sure their experience here is a positive experience.”

The current system captures “a ton of data,” she said. “It’s very deceiving but it’s multiple pages with multiple attachments, and it could be a little bit frustrating for individuals.”

The hope is that the new BRP will make the process as simple as possible for the business owner while still capturing key information for City Hall.

Price called it, “User-friendly, less expensive and much faster.”

Nonprofits and veteran-owned business are exempted from the $10 annual fee.

When questioned about the verification process for businesses claiming to be veteran-owned or nonprofit, City Manager Rick Horst said, “We’ll take them at their word… Frankly, if they’re not honest, it’s going to catch up with them sooner or later.”

In December, the City will notify active and inactive business license holders about the change. It will also be notifying chambers of commerce and business-resource groups.

“One of the biggest things we’ve heard from the local businesses is ‘Marketing, marketing, marketing. How can people find out about me?’” Airheart said. “This is going to be a great way. If we know about you, we can be a great tool to get your information out to the public because this is going to be accessible to everyone.”

While business licensing is no longer deemed necessary, it did provide information the city still needs, such as “accurate revenue projections for budget preparation,” Price said. The registry is expected to provide that kind of information.

He said the City should expect speed bumps with any new process and has asked staff to report back a year after launch to discuss what does and does not work.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Economist Elliott Pollack says 2019 will be a good year.

Economist Elliott Pollack is bullish on 2019.

“Enjoy yourself,” he said. “It’s going to be great year.”

The CEO of Elliott D. Pollack and Company presented his annual economic forecast to Pinal Partnership at Rawhide Friday morning.

A recession is anticipated, but Pollack said it would not happen in 2019 though it is possible later.

“Not all recessions are the same,” he said. “What you’re looking at is short and shallow.”

With home prices now back above recession levels, Arizona real estate has fully recovered, Pollack said.

Taking nearly a decade, the recovery was old but strong, he said. Consumer confidence is high, and labor is coming back. The greater Phoenix area is responsible for 88 percent of the state’s job growth.

Lack of labor is a concern nationwide, however. Pollack said there are 7 million unfilled jobs in the nation. That means companies will have to pay higher wages to fill those jobs, causing the employment-cost index to rise, which leads to higher prices.

The stock market has been a roller-coaster ride this year. Pollack said though bear markets are reason to be concerned, “the stock market is a bad predictor of recession.”

In attendance, Maricopa City Councilmember Marvin Brown said he was concerned about the national debt, which is now at $21.9 trillion. It is a problem of many nations.

“The U.S. is the prettiest house on a very ugly block,” Pollack agreed. “Ultimately some generation is going to pay for all this debt, but it’s not your generation.”

With representatives of Central Arizona Project and Global Water in the room, he also pushed back on the notion that Arizona will soon face a water shortage. He said farmers and ranchers continue to turn their homes over to development, which uses less water than agriculture.

“Water flows toward money, and money is in industry and housing,” he said. “There will not be a water shortage in the greater Phoenix area in my lifetime or the lifetime of anyone in this room.”

Pollack also said the media is making more out of a trade war than it deserves. He called it a trade skirmish that “would have a minor impact on the U.S. economy.” Further, he said, China cannot win a trade war because 20 percent of its gross domestic product comes from exports while in the United States it is less than 10 percent.

Real estate in the Valley and Pinal County is in a good situation. New home inventory is low with no signs of an oversupply of homes. Builders are battling supply-side constraints, meaning production is unable to keep pace with demand.

Pollack predicted the entire demand for new housing will be from the millennial generation. “There’s going to be a lot more of them, and a lot more of them will be buying houses.”

The impact of the Great Recession on millennials is still playing out. That generation saw greater acceptance of large amounts of student debt, delayed marriage, often moved back into the parental home to save money and became less materialistic than their parents’ generation.

A new report by Bank of America found millennials now prioritize home-ownership over marriage and starting a family. No. 1 on their list of priorities is being able to retire.

While many millennials still believe outmoded information about homeownership, probably passed down to them by their parents, their buying behavior will dictate the future economy.

Pollack told real estate agents to expect millennial homebuying to “skyrocket over the next five years.”

Photo by Dean Crandall


As Copper Sky looks for more revenue streams, a proposal to change rates and fees is before the public. Maricopa City Council approved the policy in November and is scheduled to vote on the fee changes Jan. 15.

Community Services Director Nathan Ullyot called them “significant changes.”

The shifts in the proposal are meant to herd members toward an annual membership, which will be less expensive, especially for couples. The proposal does not include monthly rates but increases the six-month membership fees for couples and families and increases for daily punch passes.

“We’re really looking to add value to your Copper Sky membership,” Ullyot said.

A point of contention has been the change for senior citizens. Under the current rates, single seniors and senior couples pay 40 percent less than the adult fees. But senior rates are excluded in the proposal. The new fee schedule puts them level with military veterans, which is a 10-percent discount.

City Councilmember Nancy Smith, expressing concern for retirees on limited incomes during the November meeting, encouraged seniors to offer feedback about the proposal. Joan Koczor of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee also reached out to constituents on her senior-activity newsletter urging seniors to get involved.

Copper Sky Resident Memberships

Monthly                              1 Adult                 2 Adults               Family
Current                                      $35                        $55                        $65
Proposed                                   N/A                       N/A                       N/A

Six months                        1 Adult                 2 Adults               Family
Current                                   $180                       $280                       $420
Proposed                                $210                       $336                        $420
($35/mo)              ($56/mo)               ($70/mo)

Yearly                                 1 Adult                 2 Adults               Family
Current                                  $338                       $540                       $676
Proposed                               $336                       $504                       $672
($28/mo)              ($42/mo)               ($56/mo)

However, unlike the current schedule, a department proposal would allow scholarships for membership fees. The scholarship is based on federal income guidelines. Those who provide proof of income at 100 percent the poverty level (one person $12,140) could get another 30-percent discount along with the standard senior discount of 10 percent. Those at 200 percent the poverty level can receive 15 percent off.

Proposed Discounts
Veterans/Seniors            10%
Youth/Students               50%
Group                                 1-10%
Corporate                          1-50%

According to city numbers, more than 1,400 of the 1,800 senior memberships are paid for through programs like Silver Sneakers, Optum and Silver and Fit. Some insurance companies are changing their funding of those programs or even switching programs.

Ullyot will discuss some of the proposed solutions for senior memberships with the Age-Friendly Committee at its Dec. 17 meeting.

The proposed fee schedule was post Oct. 31, and residents are asked to respond within 60 days of that date.

Punch Passes and Daily Rates

20 punches                        Adult     Youth   Senior
Current                                   $50        $38        $40
Proposed                                $150      $75        $120

Day Pass                              Adult     Youth   Senior
Current                                    $5           $3           $4
Proposed                                 $10         $5           $8

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

It’s not unusual for a large corporation to experience technical difficulties, but the communication issues at Maricopa Unified School District this week had a dark source.

“We noticed extreme spikes of data usage and pockets of data being dropped onto our network with traffic that was not supposed to be there,” district spokesperson Mishell Terry said.

Schools reported intermittent phone and Internet outages, and the tech department monitored network traffic to find the hack. The intrusion affected communications district-wide.

By Thursday, the Internet was running again but the district was still troubleshooting issues with the phones.

“CenturyLink teamed with our technology crew to make network changes in order to block the attack,” Terry said. “There are still some glitches in our phone lines due to the changes to our network.”

The source of the hack?

“We haven’t identified the software used for the attack.”

Linda and Rich Huggins bring Christmas into their home along with Santa and Mrs. Claus every year. Photo courtesy Random Shots

Every year, Santa and Mrs. Claus appear for a month or two at the Desert Cedars home of Rich and Linda Huggins.

Q&A with Santa & Mrs. Claus

Q: Some people leave out cookies and cocoa for Santa. What treat would you really like?
SANTA: Tacos! We don’t have tacos at the North Pole, and Santa loves tacos.

Q: How do you decide who gets on the Naughty list?
SANTA: I leave that to Mrs. Claus.

Q: How long does it take you to get dressed for your Christmas Eve journey?
SANTA: About 20 minutes. I have two elves to help.

Q: What part of your outfit takes the longest?
MRS. CLAUS: The belt. It’s very heavy and very authentic.

Q: What do the reindeer like to snack on while they are waiting for Santa?
SANTA: Apples and carrots.

Q: What is your favorite song of the season?
SANTA: “White Christmas.” I like all of them.

Q How do you stay organized and keep track of so many children?
SANTA: Mrs. Claus keeps the books, and Santa checks the books.

Q: How do you choose your elves?
MRS. CLAUS: It’s a very popular thing to be an elf. We have to rotate every week.

Q: Does Santa really give naughty children coal for Christmas?
SANTA: Mrs. Claus does.

Q: What does Santa do after Christmas?
MRS. CLAUS: We’re going on a cruise!

Usually for four weekends (this year it’s five), they welcome young visitors, listen to their Christmas wishes and send them off with a candy cane. It has come to be known as Santa’s South Pole vacation home as he prepares for the big night.

Starting the week after Thanksgiving and continuing through the weekend before Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus are available Friday and Saturday 6-9 p.m. and Sunday 6-8 p.m. at 44267 W. Cypress Lane.

“Normally, we call it the 12 days of Christmas, but this year it’s 15 days because of how the calendar falls,” Linda Huggins said.

Since moving to Maricopa in 2005, the Hugginses have presented the Claus couple. Several families have told them they are the real beginning of Maricopa’s Christmas season.

“We had 75 kids the first year,” said Linda Huggins, who chairs the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission. “Last year, we had 885. We keep track by the number of candy canes we give out.”

When it was time for Santa to get a new outfit last year, they turned to local Amanda McVay of Amanda Sews. This year, it was Mrs. Claus’ turn to get a new ensemble from Amanda Sews after dramatic weight loss over a dozen years.

Happily taking the title of “Maricopa Santa,” they are also seen at public events such as the City Hall tree lighting, Merry Copa and Shop with a Cop. But sitting down with children and even having their picture taken with them is the heart of what they do.

“We take time with every child,” said Rich Huggins, who owns Maricopa Pool & Spa.

Maricopa Santa has a website operated by Linda’s son Ken Bobertz and a Facebook page, even getting “reviewed” by visitors.

Like Beth Mundell, who shared, “They are the best and benefit the community,” and whose cheer team members from Rockstar Arizona led the parade for Santa’s arrival Nov. 23.

The event involves three houses on Cypress Lane. The Hugginses said they always register their home for the City’s Holiday Homes on Parade, not to win but to be on the map.

“We have close to 100,000 lights,” Linda Huggins said.

There is no charge to visit with Santa, but the Hugginses are asking visitors to bring unwrapped toys to benefit F.O.R. Maricopa’s annual Christmas project. Anyone who brings a toy will receive a raffle ticket. The Hugginses also sponsor a family for Christmas.

Rich and Linda said it is their way of giving back.

Linda Huggins said she was on the welfare roles 35 years ago. She and her children were fortunate enough to be sponsored for Christmas by Catholic Charities, receiving dinner and presents.

“I promised God I was going to give back,” she said.

“We have memories that will last a lifetime,” Rich Huggins said.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

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

They don’t just teach students.

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-, fourth- and fifth-grade students with 1-to-1 laptops
  • Reconfigure classes to better prepare students

Learn more about Butterfield’s turnaround in the next issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa’s A-rated elementary schools can teach other educators how to improve their schools.

Butterfield Elementary had the most dramatic improvement, moving from a C to an A. It is the first A-rating for the Maricopa Unified School District school. Butterfield was not a “bad” school a year ago. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman pointed out its 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 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. 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 through the more demanding AzMerit test. With ratings reliant on results of AzMerit, 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.”

“We prepare with our rigorous curriculum each and every day in preparation for the big event,” said fifth-grade teacher Jessica Ansley.

Lazar said a brand new language arts curriculum and a relatively new math curriculum have helped create a very comprehensive academic experience and prepare the students for AzMerit or any other test.

Pima Butte was an A-rated school before there was an A rating. The state’s first rating system gauged schools on whether they met or exceeded the standard. PBES was an “excelling” school. When the grade ratings began, eyes lit up on campus.

“We were going to get an A, I remember that,” Graham said. “That’s what was on our minds, the kids’ minds, everybody’s mind. We were going to do it. They had an A; we were going to get it.”

Ansley called it teaching vigorously bell to bell.

At Pima Butte that means “lots of repetition,” third-grade teacher Denise Palmer said. “There’s no down-time, really. Coming from second to third grade is a big transition for these kids, so from the first day in, we’re hitting the ground running.”

The students do hit the books, but they also experiment with what they’ve learned in the classroom through hands-on activities. Positive reinforcement works wonders in galvanizing students to achieve.

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.”

Meanwhile, he said, it is also important to maintain kids who are already at proficient or highly proficient.

A voter-approved override helped fund 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.

“Our whole focus last school year was just doing the best we could to prepare our third, fourth and fifth graders for AzMerit,” Lazar said. “Also what helped – AIMS Science, which is given in fourth grade, we were able to earn points for that, so that was factored in.”

There is also a lot of communication between teachers at different grade levels, Palmer said. Teachers share ideas that worked or didn’t work, they share information on the best approach for certain students, and they share ideas among campuses within the district.

Graham said she goes back to her students’ third-grade teachers to compare notes as a way to measure how students are progressing.

“And we’re very competitive, in a good way,” Graham said.

Pima Butte has approximately 465 students enrolled, about 100 of whom live outside the school’s boundaries. Because the override allowed the creation of new teaching positions, every classroom is in use.

MUSD Board Member Joshua Judd, a teacher in another district, said Pima Butte is the reason his children attend MUSD and are involved in Maricopa. “Pima Butte pulled my children into the city,” he said.

“We do what we need to do, and we do it in a fun and engaging way,” Ansley said.

There is no time for “filler.” Coloring days, extra recesses, non-curriculum videos – not at Pima Butte.

“My kids know,” Palmer said. “They will tell you, ‘Gotta do the work before we can have the fun.’ That’s the way it is. That’s how life is, isn’t it?”

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Linda and Jenny Zarogoza in their Homestead home with some of the weighted blankets have have been making for the Autism Academy. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


Jenny Zarogoza’s grandson has autism. Her sister Linda Zarogoza’s grandson was diagnosed with cancer as a baby.

The Homestead residents both understand the need for a child’s stress relief. That is the purpose of weighted blankets, which have trended upward recently after being used only as a therapy tool for many years.

What’s not stress-relieving about a weighted blanket is its cost, with prices usually ranging from $100 to $250.

The Zarogozas sew. A lot. Their Maricopa business, Mythical Gardens LLC, creates cosplay and steampunk outfits, but learning of the benefits of weighted blankets for children with autism, cancer and sleep disorders, they set their sewing skills on a new task.

They created a side interest, Mythical Children, to make weighted blankets for the students at the Autism Academy. Jenny’s grandson attends Chandler campus. There are four campuses in the Valley, each with around 200 students.

When Jenny offered to make weighted blankets for the school, administrators asked for only nine, not wanting to be a burden on the Zarogozas. Instead, they set a goal for 250.

“The beads for the weighted blankets are costly but well worth it for our children,” Jenny said. “My sister Linda is sewing up a storm and my daughter Mayling weighing all the beads out. This is a huge project and any help will be appreciated.”

They are asking for help in the form of funds (they have set up a account for the project), as well as donated blankets, fabric, thread, scissors, ribbon, quilt blocks and other necessities. That includes pellets, which are used as the weights while adding sensory texture to the blankets.

“We’re at a stand-still right now until we can get more pellets,” Jenny Zarogoza said. “Once we get more pellets, we’ve got like 60 blankets to finish up.”

Linda Zarogoza said they have also heard from therapists “who want to use them for the patients when they come in. If they just lay it on their laps, it will calm them down, so they can have a communication.”

While studies on the efficacy of weighted blankets have had mixed results, a 2014 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found children with autism favored the weighted blankets over other blankets. The weighted blankets are described by many in the field as feeling like a hug, giving a sense of security and reduction of anxiety.

Weighted blankets typically should be about 10 percent of the child’s weight. That weight, of course, changes as the child grows. Jenny Zarogoza said they are constructed as an insert that can be removed and more pellets added to increase the weight.

They have the measuring and sewing time down to two hours per blanket.

The sisters said any funds left over from the project will go directly to the children’s programs. 
Mythical Children c/o Mythical Garden
20987 N. John Wayne Parkway, B104-153
Maricopa AZ 85139


For 13 years, Community of Hope has presented its Living Nativity program, even as the church changed locations to 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave. Three years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints next door began a traditional Creche display of scores of nativity sets from around the world.

This year, the two are joining forces to present a unique and spiritual reflection on the beginnings of Christianity. Both churches will have their programs Dec. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Community of Hope Pastor Rusty Akers said both are come-and-go events, with his 14th annual living nativity cycling through several performances during the evening. Church members perform the roles in an outdoor set with narration from the New Testament.

“It’s become a Christmas tradition for many people,” Akers said. “If you’ve never been, we’d love to invite you out.”

Bishop Brian Hoffman said the Creche Festival had more than 100 nativity sets on display last year and he expects even more this year. Besides the United States, the sets come from Mexico, Israel, Europe, South America and elsewhere. The tour is self-guided and at your own pace.

“These are depictions from the life of Christ,” Hoffman said. “So, sit back and remember the purpose of the Christmas season.”

Both churches are on Honeycutt Avenue across from Maricopa High School. After visitors enjoy one program, they are invited to walk next door to experience the other. Both will have refreshments and children’s activities.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.



Both sides in a lawsuit against Pinal County over a tax to improve roads are now waiting for a judge to decide whether that tax can continue to be collected during appeals.

The Goldwater Institute’s suit against the county and the Arizona Department of Revenue remains alive after a Maricopa County Tax Court ruled against the county in the case, Harold Vangilder et al. v. Arizona Department of Revenue et al., earlier this year. The defendants are preparing to file an appeal in the Arizona Court of Appeals Division 1.

The tax-court judgment was officially filed Nov. 15.

“It’s unfortunate the county is going to waste taxpayers’ money appealing this case when they’ve already wasted taxpayer money on the issue they were warned was illegal before the election,” Goldwater attorney Timothy Sandefur said.

At the center of the argument is Prop 417, approved by county voters in 2017. It is the funding mechanism for Prop 416, which is a plan to improve several roadways in Pinal County, including State Route 347. The Goldwater Institute, a conservative thinktank that litigates public-policy issues across the country, spoke out against Prop 417 during the campaign.

Joseph Kanefield, attorney for Pinal County, asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Whitten to stay the enforcement of the tax-court ruling and allow the collected monies to continue to be put into escrow until the case is finally resolved.

Whitten took up the motion Monday.

“He’s a judge who takes his time to weigh all the consequences of his decision,” Sandefur said.

Sandefur’s stand is that Pinal County opted to ignore the appropriate method of collecting sales tax for a funding project and instead devised a “scheme” that would exclude big-ticket businesses like auto dealerships, farming equipment dealers and others selling items that would generate more than $10,000 in sales tax. Kanefield argued the proposition as voted on by the public was not in the form as presented to the tax court by the plaintiffs.

“We believe the tax court erred in his ruling in terms of what was presented to the voters versus the resolution originally proposed by the Pinal Regional Transportation Authority,” Kanefield said. “Ultimately, the way the tax was structured was within the scope of the state statute that allows the RTA to propose a tax at a variable or modified rate, which is exactly what they did.”

Kanefield said if Judge Whitten rules against his motion to stay the enforcement of the tax-court ruling, he will include that issue with his appeal to the higher court.

Collection of the tax has never been suspended.

“A general principal of tax law is you don’t enjoin or stop the collection of a tax that’s being challenged in court,” Kanefield said, “because the ramifications of that are pretty severe.”

Meanwhile, Sandefur has an appeal of his own after the court denied his motion to collect $12,000 in attorney’s fees from the defendants in the case.

Pinal County has until mid-December to file its intention to appeal. Kanefield said he may ask the appeals court for an expedited process. He estimated the briefings could be completed by spring, “unless we can get the court to act quicker.”

The Casa Grande chapter of CVMA hosts the John Wayne Poker Run. Submitted photo

A Pinal County chapter of Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association is revving motors for the second John Wayne Poker Run on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway on Saturday.

The event starts with registration at 9 a.m. at the Dunkin Donuts, 1306 E. Florence Blvd. in Casa Grande, followed by kickstands up at 10 a.m. The event is a fundraiser for homeless vets, at-risk vets and suicide prevention, CVMA member Rhiannon Williams said.

“Most of the stops will be in Maricopa,” she said. Though the chapter is based in Casa Grande, “there’s a decent group of us in Maricopa.”

CVMA, a 501(c)19 organization, expects to rally at the New HQ at around 10:45 a.m. Then it’s onto Raceway at 11:45 a.m. The itinerary brings them to Cowtown at 12:45 p.m. and then to Eva’s, 665 N. Pinal Ave. in Casa Grande around 1:45 p.m. There, they will hand out awards and hold a 50/50 raffle.

Riders draw a poker card at each location, and the one who has the best hand at the end of the run is a winner.

Cost to participate in the poker run is $15 per rider and $5 per passenger. Williams said those who are not motorcyclists are invited to participate in the raffle.

The poker run is also a way for the CVMA chapter, founded in 2017, to interact with the public and spread the word about the organization.

This year, the 12 Days of Christmas will be 15 days at the Huggins home. Photo by Kyle Norby

If You Go
What: Maricopa Santa
When: Nov. 23-Dec. 23, Friday-Saturday 6-9 p.m., Sunday 6-8 p.m.
Where: 44267 W. Cypress Lane
How much: Free (please bring an unwrapped toy)

Santa and Mrs. Claus are getting ready for the 2018 Christmas season. This Friday launches their annual 12 Days of Christmas, inviting children to “South Pole Vacation Home” in Desert Cedars.

The home of Rich and Linda Huggins at 44267 W. Cypress Lane will be open Fridays and Saturdays 6-9 p.m. and Sundays 6-8 p.m. through Dec. 23 for children to visit with Santa. This year is special as the calendar allows five weekends, or 15 Days of Christmas.

The visit with Santa is free. Those who visit are asked to bring an unwrapped toy to benefit F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank’s Christmas program.

The big opening celebration Friday will have Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving on a Maricopa Fire/Medical Department truck escorted by cheerleaders from Beth Mundell’s RockStar Arizona.

“We take time with every child,” said Rich Huggins, who owns Maricopa Pool & Spa and is known as Maricopa Santa.

Every child also receives a candy cane. All who bring a toy will receive a raffle ticket. The winning ticket for a 40-inch television will be drawn Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.

Maricopa Santa has a website operated by Linda’s son Ken Bobertz and a Facebook page.

The event involves three houses on Cypress Lane. The Hugginses said they always register their home for the City’s Holiday Homes on Parade, not to win but to be on the map.

“We have close to 100,000 lights,” Linda Huggins said.

Photo by Kye Norby

Both Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in their finest ensembles. Last year, local seamstress Amanda McVay of Amanda Sews created a new outfit for Santa as his previous clothes were getting worn out by time and the many children who have been on his knee.

This year, McVay made a whole new outfit for Mrs. Claus after having to take in the old dress a few times due to dramatic weight loss.

“It’s going to be beautiful,” Linda Huggins said.

She said many parents have told her the visit with Santa after Thanksgiving has become their families’ traditional way to start the Christmas season.

“We had 75 kids the first year,” said Linda Huggins, who chairs the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission. “Last year, we had 885. We keep track by the number of candy canes we give out.”

Rich Huggins has been Maricopa Santa since they moved to Maricopa in 2005. They opened their Desert Cedars home to visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus in 2006. After Christmas, they head off on vacation.

But even when visiting Caribbean shores in his vacation togs, there’s no mistaking Santa. Just as he does when he helps the mayor light the tree at City Hall or helps local fire and police departments with their Christmas programs, he always draws a crowd.

Learn more about the Hugginses in the December issue of InMaricopa.


Maricopa Agricultural Center hosted its annual Fun Family Farm Day on Saturday. Residents of all ages experienced old skills like pumping water and milking a cow, but also climbed on new farming equipment and learned about agricultural science. There were also live animals and a tour of MAC’s facilities.

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.