Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

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Butterfield Elementary School is only five points away from being an ‘A’ school.

The school was in the spotlight Wednesday during a relatively brief meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board.

Principal Janel Hildick and members of her staff provided an update on the school’s progress while also giving props to some award winners at her campus.

Hildick said her teachers are doing everything they are supposed to be doing to become an ‘A’ school. “We just want to get there,” she said.

The students have taken a Galileo pre-test to be measured against a post-test in May. The goal is for all students in all grades to meet expected growth. In math, kindergarten classes were already at 88 percent in meeting goals, and the fifth grade was at 78. At the lower end, third grade was at 23, and second grade at 38.

In reading, kindergarten was at 80, just ahead of the fifth grade at 75. The third grade’s 43 percent was the lowest among the grades.

Noting the trailing progress of the third grade in math and reading goals, board member Gary Miller asked what the school needed to improve that result.

“We had a lot of issues testing with technology,” Hildrick said. “Not to make excuses, but we did have to reschedule our classes, and the teachers pretty much shared all the trauma they had testing.

“So if I had a magic wand all of our technology would work perfectly, and we wouldn’t have any issues with the testing. I think that really caused a major difference on the test scores.”

Butterfield’s student population is 775. Of the 34 certified teachers, 61 percent have master’s degrees.

“We practice our school vision every day at Butterfield – a community dedicated to inspiring life-long learners with positive character traits,” teacher Steve Sorenson said.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Recently, Susana Buhisan, who teaches first grade at Butterfield, was named Educator the Year by the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut recognized the food service staff of Darla Rider, Lucy Lopez and Martha Rowe as the Support Staff Members of the Year.

And Butterfield's Kathleen Kelley was named the VFW Citizenship Teacher of the Year.

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The hunt is on for Maricopa High School’s next girls’ basketball coach.

“I’m hoping that within the next two weeks we can compile a list and start interviewing not only coaching applicants but teaching applicants,” MHS Athletic Director Mark Cisterna said.

Kati Burrows, who led MHS to its first state championship, has now officially been announced as an assistant at Montana State University.

MSU women’s head basketball coach Tricia Binford said Burrows will oversee post players for the Division I Bobcats next season.

“She’s a go-getter and a grinder, and that’s big when you’re developing the players as a team,” Binford said.

The Bobcat summer camp starts next week. MSU had a .500 record last year and lost in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament.

Binford said it is a benefit that Burrows is a former Bobcat “who’s been there and set a great example.”

Cisterna said Burrows told him of her decision last week. It was not entirely a surprise. Even before the end of the school year, other high schools like Dobson and Mountain Pointe had expressed interest.

Cisterna said he and Burrows had a long talk at the end of the basketball season, when other schools were already expressing interest in the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association’s Division II Coach of the Year. He had asked her about her dream job, and Burrows had told him she was happy with her situation at MHS and was excited about the future of the program.

Cisterna said he was feeling pretty good until the end of the school year. Then a Division I university came knocking.

“She told me, ‘Remember that dream job?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And she said, ‘This is it,’” Cisterna said. “And sure enough, it was the very next week that their head coach called me. And she said they were down to two candidates for the job.”

He said he understood the draw for Burrows to her alma mater and her hometown.

“As sad as it is to lose someone of that quality – and she not only was a good coach, she was a good teacher and a great mentor to those kids, she held them accountable – you have to be happy for her just for the person she is,” he said. “She’s going on to something she wants to do, and she’ll be really good at it.”

June can be a difficult time to hire quality staff at a school. Most prospects have already landed other jobs. Cisterna put out the word as soon as the district was notified of Burrows’ resignation. Applications and other signs of interest have come forward.

Burrows was also a physical education teacher, but the coaching job is not tied to that position.

Meanwhile, the girls’ team members are in summer league play and also have camp this week. With Burrows gone, freshman coach Craig Shorey also gone (taking a head coaching job at Apache Junction), and assistant coach Melvin Mitchell out of state, the girls have had a teacher, a former assistant coach, and a player parent step in to help out.

“Minus Kati, they’re going full-speed ahead,” Cisterna said.

Cisterna sees a strong team returning for the Maricopa Rams, whoever the new coach turns out to be. Despite losing some talented seniors, there are great players who are already established starters and talent coming up from younger classes and middle school.

“The cupboard’s not bare,” he said.

***ADVERTISEMENT***A system that was built by Jenn Miller and pushed to the next level by Burrows has high expectations. Cisterna said the team fits the cliché, “We’re not rebuilding; we’re reloading.”

Burrows’ one year at MHS was her only experience as head coach. She had been an assistant at two other high schools. Binford said in talking to Burrows’ supporters, it became clear that limited experience was only lack of opportunity.

“When she had the opportunity, she showed what she can do,” Binford said.

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Coach Kati Burrows calls her team “scrappy and tenacious,” and they needed every ounce of that Tuesday.

The Maricopa Rams girls basketball team won the sectional game against Williams Field, 50-49, thanks to a second-half comeback and a last-second shot.

“Sydni Callis, our freshman forward, hit a floater from the baseline,” Burrows said. “So it was a good win for us. We needed that.”

The Rams, ranked No. 10 in Division II, came out strong, building a 15-6 first-quarter lead. But the Black Hawks stormed to a 26-23 halftime advantage.

Burrows said she told the girls at the break they needed to get back to the style of play they had exhibited all season. The Rams defeated Williams Field by 10 points in their last meeting.

“They responded really well. I think at that point we were all a little frustrated because we knew that wasn’t the way that we’d been playing,” Burrows said. “And at this time of year, everybody’s giving you their best game and we’ve got to adjust and be able to take it back at them, because this is when the games count.”

Maricopa was down by one point at the end of the third period as Williams Field continued to slow down the Rams’ fast break. Getting the ball to their scorers keyed the win.

Next up in sectionals is No. 2 Seton Catholic, a team that defeated Maricopa by six in a December contest. The game is Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at Coronado High School. The Rams are working out a game plan now.

“We’re going to pretty much stick with what has made us successful,” she said. “We’ve just got to make a few adjustments.”

That success is defined by the Rams’ 24-4 record.

***ADVERTISEMENT***“Our defensive pressure has been big for us this year,” Burrows said. “We’ve been able to create a lot of turnovers and take people out on the fast break.”

While the top-10 division ranking has been important for the team and the ranking system has been helpful during the season as a measuring stick, it doesn’t have a role in the playoffs.

“Once we get through the sectional tournament, next week it’s win or go home,” she said.

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What was your favorite subject when you were in school?

I enjoyed all academics as long as I was challenged and the topic intrigued me.  The teacher has always made the difference for me.  To this day, I still remember my favorite chemistry teacher in high school because of her passion for the subject.

What is your favorite part of being a principal?  

I love the daily interaction with our students.  It is amazing to be a part of so many students’ lives and hopefully make a difference for many of them.  Being a principal means that I never know what the day will bring.  We are dealing with lives of so many students and it is my mission to make sure that we teach and reach every student in our school.

Why did you choose education as a career?

Learning is very important part of my life.  I cannot image not learning something every day, so a career in education seemed to be the obvious option.  Learning enriches our lives.  

What were your first impressions of Maricopa, the community and the school?

We moved from central Phoenix specifically looking for a small community to raise our family.  We love Maricopa, the small town feel, the safety for our children and the peaceful environment.  When we moved to Maricopa, I started working at the middle school.  I was excited to work in a K-12 district, a district where my children would attend.  

Santa Rosa is one of the smaller elementary schools in our District.  I was excited to be part of a small school community, where I can know all of our students and be closely involved in their daily lives.

What are the biggest challenges facing Maricopa students today?

There are always challenges for our students; lack of counseling at the elementary level (emotional support), new standards, new test, budget cuts.  Unfortunately education becomes a part of the political game, it is important to remember that we are impacting human lives each and every day.  We need to do what is best for our students with every decision we make.

What was the best advice you received about your own education?

My piano teacher told me (over and over) “You work hard when you are young and enjoy when you retire.”  That work ethic has stayed with me.  Coming to the United States as an immigrant child at the age of 12 did not stop me from completing AP courses in high school or going to college.  There is always a way, but it is a personal decision to make it.

What advice would you like to give parents of elementary schoolchildren?

Be involved in your child’s education.  Our students thrive and achieve when parents are involved and communicate with the school.  Let’s us always know what we can do better.

What have your students taught you?

My students have taught me that we really “should not judge a book by its cover.”  I strive to get to know in depth as many of our students as I can.  I wish I could say that I know all of our students closely, but I do not.  I will continue to work on getting to know all of Santa Rosa’s students.  You cannot make a difference in a child’s life if you do not understand the child.  

Eva Safranek
Hometown:  Born in the Czech Republic
Education:  M.A. in Administration and Supervision and Curriculum and Instruction B.A. in Elementary Education
Family:  Husband, 6-year-old son attending Santa Rosa and a daughter who graduated from Maricopa High School
Teaching positions:  Taught fifth grade in Phoenix , sixth and seventh grade science at MWMS, MUSD Academic Coach and ELL Coordinator and 21st Century Coordinator
Years in Education:  13 years
First job out of college:  Teaching fifth grade
Hobbies:  Spending time with family, skiing, vacations on the beach
First year with MUSD:  2007

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Facing vocal backlash and a recall effort after approving an 85-cent increase in its primary tax rate, the Pinal County Community College Governing Board voted to reduce the increase at a special meeting Tuesday.

On a 3-0 vote, the board approved an increase of 39 cents instead. The primary tax rates will rise from $1.91 per $100.00 of net assessed value to $2.30.

As voted on May 19, the original rate would have increased the primary levy for Central Arizona College by more than 45 percent. CAC receives 14 percent of Pinal County tax revenues.

Board member Rick Gibson did not attend the meeting, and board member Debra Banks abstained from the vote, saying she was concerned about the impact on businesses.

CAC’s highest primary tax rate was $2.17 during the 2002-03 budget year. Its lowest was $1.38 in 2009-10.

Since 2006, CAC has seen a reduction of 80 percent in state funding and has received no capital funding since 2008. Capital funds are used for new construction and renovation of facilities.

“CAC already faces at least $43 million in deferred maintenance for its aging facilities. The College faces increased operating expenses each year,” Marketing Director Angela Askey said.

***ADVERTISEMENT***The college is evaluating the impact of the decision on its budget.

The board had a public hearing on the budget on May 19 that drew comments from 16 people. The special hearing Wednesday again drew public feedback before the vote, with nearly the same number of people opposed.

Citizens for Fair Taxation
was formed after the May 19 meeting with the primary mission of recalling four of the five board members, Gibson, Gladys Christensen, Rita Nader and Jack Yarrington because of their vote on the tax rate.

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Tuesday, 32 students at Legacy Traditional School spoke out in the Modern Woodmen Speech Competition.

This year’s winner was eighth grader Allison Voyles.

With a theme of “An Interesting Landmark,” the students spoke three to five minutes on a wide variety of sites, from a cabin in the woods to the Eifel Tower. They were judged on the content and structure of their speech as well as their delivery.

One by one, from junior high down to fifth grade, the students talked about their favorite places – some with which they had a personal experience and some they just wanted to see. The Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the Great Wall of China and the Palace of Versailles were among the sites that offered the students a chance to describe and give historical details as part of the contest.

Sixth grader Kathy Thach placed second, and fifth grader Jacob Snoddy was third.

***ADVERTISEMENT***They faced three judges, and Miss City of Maricopa Jaime Buchholz was time keeper.

The Modern Woodmen Speech Competition has been around since 1948 and is meant to help students gain public-speaking skills and self-esteem. They were required to research their own topic and write their own speech. The winners earned plaques.

Winners now move on to the district/county level. Winners of the district level advance to state.

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A draft of a salary schedule for new certified employees is up for discussion during a study session for the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board this week.

The board meets Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Base salary in the draft is $34,507. The revised schedule applies only to new certified staff – teachers, counselors and academic coaches.

In addition to base salary, teachers earn $500 per year of experience. Graduate coursework will be honored at $65 per credit hour, and $1,000 will be granted for a master’s degree and EdD or PhD. Salary and benefits are prorated based on the hire date.

Supplemental funding from the Proposition 301 classroom site fund accounts for 3.5 percent of the base salary. That is based on sales tax revenue and can fluctuate.

In a memorandum to the board, Superintendent Steve Chestnut clarified the changes to not impact current staff. Current staff members will be reimbursed equitably for work that was not factored into a previous contract. That includes the $65 per credit payment and the $1,000 for graduate degrees.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Wednesday’s agenda also includes a budget process update from Chestnut, who provided a cost worksheet on prioritized items from the Budget Committee.

Five items on top of list described as critical include an across-the-board cost-of-living raise at a cost of $261,000, hiring 15 full-time employees to shrink class sizes at a cost of $810,000, marketable gifted program at a cost of $75,000, elementary school counselors at a cost of $60,000 and increased nursing staff at a cost of $80,000.

Principal Janel Hildick is also scheduled to give an update on math/language arts at Butterfield Elementary School.

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Much-discussed salary schedules will again be on the docket tonight at the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meeting.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut will talk about the ongoing process with the board. No action will be taken.

Chestnut sent information to all staff Monday about the proposed compensation plan for certified and administrative employees. He is recommending a “stepless” salary schedule that several other Arizona districts have adopted.

The step schedule allowed employees to gain a vertical step for each time period of satisfactory work and a horizontal step for each level of education or training acquired. Chestnut said, with state cuts, most schools are unable to maintain the step schedule.

The stepless schedule would have the same base salary as is currently used. Then a formula lifted from the Mesa district will add to the base salary to compensate for experience ($500 per year) and credit hours ($65 per credit hour past a bachelor’s degree and $75 per credit hour past a master’s degree. There will be a $1,000 bonus for attaining a master’s degree and $1,000 for a doctorate.

In the example provided by MUSD, a teacher with a base salary of $34,507 and 10 years of experience might also have 45 credit hours of coursework resulting in a master’s degree. That would amount to a contract worth $43,432.

The initial plan caused some controversy because it applied only to new hires starting next school year. That opened the possibility of a new employee having a more lucrative contract than a current employee with the same education and experience.

The new proposal deals with that issue.

As worded now, if a current teacher would make more if he was a new hire, his contract is bumped up to the level of a new hire. Chestnut said that possibly could apply to 76 out of the district’s 300 certified employees. Moving them up to a “new hire” level would cost about $75,000.

Chestnut said the shifts range from $100 to $1,500.

He said the compensation plans will not result in higher salaries for administrators.

But “salary equalization” is only part of the cost of the new plan. The superintendent said they must also factor in an elementary gifted teacher, longevity bonus of all staff and a longevity bonus for certified staff whose salaries have been frozen for up to four years. The total cost is $395,000.

Chestnut will also discuss some cost-cutting measures during his presentation on the budget Wednesday.

Those cuts total $160,000. They include reductions in the health staff, replacing nurses with health assistants for a savings of $120,000. Paraprofessionals in preschool would be rearranged to cut $21,000. He said there could also be $11,000 in the Middle School Edmentum software contract savings and $8,000 in the Exceptional Student Services contracts.

He said the potential impact of the stepless salary schedule is hard to measure because the district “typically hires 50 certified employees” a year and their amount of experience and education is unknown.

The board has a list of eight employee resignations to approve at the meeting. They include Maricopa High School teachers Natasha Carr, Rachel Rubright and Pam Shuler, Santa Rosa Elementary teacher Shannon Boyland, Desert Wind Middle School teacher Binu Johnson, speech-language pathology assistant Janice Renfro, and food service workers Gina Bartlett and Delia Garcia.

***ADVERTISEMENT***New hires include food service substitutes Jerel Valenzuela, Mariah Anderson and Jackie Craig. Teaching substitute Rebecca Holub has been reclassified as an MHS teacher. Two certified renewals are Phillip Smith and Tracy Dicenzi.

Also at tonight's meeting, Maricopa Elementary School Principal Jennifer Robinson will present her school’s math and language arts progress, and the board may approve the new course catalogue for MHS.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of the district office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

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The first days of Kati Burrows at Maricopa High School were an eye-opener for the girls basketball team.

Junior Danae Ruiz, who had been a stand-out since middle school, called the first encounter with the new head coach “rough.”

“Her expectations were very high,” Ruiz said. “Everything had to be perfect. It was her way or the baseline. That was the phrase we started using.”

Her ability to convey a drive to win helped the Rams to a 29-5 record and their first-ever state championship.

It also earned her Division II Coach of the Year honors from the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association and the title of All-USA Arizona American Family Insurance High School Girls Basketball Big Schools Coach of the Year.

“It was a great honor to be voted on by my peers,” Burrows said. “It comes back to everyone being supportive. It’s not an individual award.”

Losing is not part of Burrows’ background.

“I don’t know that she lost 10 games her whole high school career,” said Rick Jordan, who coached Burrows at Bozeman High School in Montana and is now a vice principal in Nampa, Idaho. “We won state her junior and senior years, in 1998 and ’99.

“What was amazing about Kati is she played point guard as a junior and was all-conference. Then we moved her to power forward as a senior, and she was all-state.”

At the time, it had not crossed his mind that Burrows would coach one day, but he said it did not surprise him.

Jordan said she was “kind of the coach on the floor” as a point guard and continued that role the next year because of the inexperience of the new point guard.

“Kati was maybe the most competitive player I’ve ever coached,” Jordan said. “And she was a great kid off the floor, too.”

At Division I Montana State University, Burrows was part of back-to-back conference championship teams. She became the team’s fourth leading scorer in school history with more than 1,000 points and was seventh all-time in rebounds with 500.

After graduating in 2005, she spent the next three years playing professional basketball in Europe – one year in Holland and two in Germany.

“It was awesome,” she said. “Beyond basketball, it was experiencing the culture.”

She returned stateside and eventually headed to the Southwest with coaching in mind. Burrows said she had actually thought about coaching when she was in high school.

“I had high school and college coaches that are super supportive and not just about X’s and O’s,” she said.

She uses the present tense because past coaches remain in contact. It is an encouraging, enriching kind of relationship she wanted to emulate for the next generation of players. Being able to connect with kids on that same level, she said is “very satisfying.”

For three seasons, she was lead assistant coach at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix as they won two state titles. She then spent a season as assistant at Mesa Dobson before the head coach job at Maricopa opened.

It was a solid program with good players, and Burrows saw they had potential to go where no Maricopa basketball team had gone before. Right off the bat, as the Rams went into practice, they felt the demands the coach put on their shoulders.

“She made us work harder,” sophomore Tyra Williams said. “She taught us to stay together – and defense.”

That obstinate defense defined the Ram style of play this season. Rarely pretty, it was extremely effective in creating turnovers and bewildering bigger teams.

“She taught us to never give up,” senior Tiara Edmond said.

It was a lesson in “how to be relentless,” Ruiz said.

The season was also a learning experience for Burrows.

“Being a head coach is completely different,” she said. “Everything comes back on you. But I’ve had a great support system and [athletic director] Mark Cisterna has been amazing.”

Cisterna said Burrows sent the message early that she would hold players accountable.

“She’s done a great job, she really has; and she’s really opened up a lot of eyes in the state,” Cisterna said.

He said Burrows was demanding but with perspective.

“During a state playoff game, she got on a girl because she wasn’t doing something right on defense, and the little girl gave her a thumbs-up on the court,” Cisterna recalled. “It made me laugh, but I knew a young coach might take that differently. But Kati smiled.

“She’s not afraid to laugh with the girls and yet they know they have to toe the line and they know the expectations,” Cisterna said.

Edmond said the team learned what they were capable of, and not just with a basketball. “She taught us life lessons, on and off the court,” she said.

The players said they knew expectations in classroom, practice and court behavior and the penalties for not towing the line. So when one player was benched for an entire tournament, it was not a surprise later when a starter met the same fate during the state semi-final game. Cisterna said Burrows was following the same code that the program already had in place, which was in keeping with how she had been brought to the game as well.

“She sticks to her guns,” Jordan said.

Cisterna said when he went out on the floor after the state title game and looked up at the cheering fans, he saw students who were proud of their peers, their school, their teachers and their coaches.

“When I looked up and saw all the students and community members, it was just great to see,” he said. “Hopefully, it will carry over.”

However rough the championship year may have started as the Rams got to know their coach, the results were more than just accolades and trophies.

“She became my mentor,” Ruiz said. “In my family I never had anybody play at that level before.”

***ADVERTISEMENT***Now as they encounter situations, she said, the girls ask, “What would coach do?”

Though it is now the off-season for the team, Burrows is working to put together workouts and camps and looking at next year.

“We have some big shoes to fill in the seniors that are leaving,” the coach said, “but we have great girls.”

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Two months after becoming an official affiliate of USA Swimming, the Maricopa Marlins got their first taste of higher-level competition.

The city’s swim team competed at the Yuma Polar Bear Plunge Jan. 23-25. It was the beginning of their USA meets.

“Our swimmers did a great job,” coach Kristin Gromling said. “Some of our swimmers placed first overall in their age group. They swam against upwards of 39 swimmers.”

The Marlins started as recreational team in April, but even then Gromling was preparing them for a step up. She and assistant Christina Weeks went through the rigorous process of becoming USA-certified. The swimmers started serious conditioning in October.

In November came the announcement they were an official USA Competitive Youth Swim Team. At the Yuma meet, they immediately saw the difference between rec league competition and USA level.

Gromling said there are specific swimming techniques required. In competition, there was an official on almost every lane. The swimmers learned about touch pads and how heats work.

“It was a huge learning experience,” she said.

The team’s next meet is Feb. 6-8 in Glendale.

“They have been working extremely hard practicing five days a week,” Gromling said. They are building stamina through a variety of strokes in the racing lanes at the Copper Sky pool.

The Marlins are about 30 swimmers strong and made up of three age division: 6-8, 9-11 and 12-18. The youngest swimmer is only 5, the oldest 17.

Gromling and Weeks would like to grow the team to about 100 swimmers.

A college and USA swimmer herself for 18 years, Gromling approached City Hall about forming a swim team just after the groundbreaking for the Copper Sky facility and its aquatics center.

The team’s success relies on commitment from the kids and their parents, she said.

“If the kids love it, their parents are glad they’re here and getting physically active,” Gromling said.

Each age division has monthly membership dues. Those are $42 for ages 6-8, $54 for ages 9-11 and $67 for ages 12-18. There is also an annual $64 affiliation fee to compete at USA meets.

Swimmers who want to try out for the Maricopa Marlins can contact the coaches at

***ADVERTISEMENT***Maricopa Marlins Swim Club
Nicholas Allen
Grace Atwood
Olivia Byers
Isabella Clark
Kaylie Conner
Benton Cooley
Maxwell Cottam
Matilyn Davis
Savannah Ezell
Mackenzie Fair
Devin Gregg
Abigail Hicks
Katelynn James
Biersten Lauterbach
Emma Lines
Matthew Lines
Caylee Little
Hannah Little
Grace Martin
Lily Montana
Avory Oosthuizen
Lily Piper
Isabella Quintero
Marcus Quintero
Claire Scoresby
Holland Scoresby
Grace Thompson
Andrew Varga
Natalie Weeks

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Enthralling the judges and even their own competitors, one Maricopa Wells Middle School team grabbed first place in the Arizona Future City competition.

The title earned the team of Diamont de l’Arizona a spot in the national competition in Washington, D.C.

Comprised of project manager Sarah Skrnich, Joseph Rice, Emily Cordero and Elise Brown Thunder, the team also won the Popular Choice category.  All students in the competition voted for their favorite models, and Diamont won the day.

The regional Future City competition was Jan. 17 at Arizona State University.

Working off the national theme of “Feed Future Cities,” six of MWMS’s eight teams won awards at Regionals. Meanwhile, Desert Wind Middle School stacked up seven awards.

“Maricopa schools walked away with half of the awards that were given at the entire competition,” said Robyn Rice, 20+1 instructor at MWMS.

Juwel, a DWMS team of Ana Hoopes, Savannah Shelabarger, Isabel Younicutt and Riley Bell-Niver, won three awards on the day. Besides the award for Best Multimodal Transportation System, they earned the prestigious Walton Sustainable Community Award. Riley also received the Project Manager Special Award.

The MWMS Kenko Toshi group of project manager Aman Mahant, Evan Grace, Emma Lee Morano and Emma Schrader won the Award of Distinction, chosen for performing in an exemplary fashion.

DWMS won the award for Best Scale Model with the Para Dar team of Sydney McDill, Alysa Huffman, Aniya Windsor and Shane Sexton.

The Genoa team of project manager Gabriel Thornsbury, Connor Witte, Elias Brown Thunder and Nicholas Perez won the prize for Best Computer Model, scoring the highest on the SimCity model.

Kunst van de Oogst, an MWMS team comprised of Jordan McGee, Megan Hahn and the late Morgan Martin, received the award for Innovative Use of Infrastructure. During the event there was also a moment of silence for Morgan, who died Christmas Day.

The regional prize for Engineering Discipline, Involvement and Innovation went to DWMS’s Piao Yuan Gong, made up of Parker Hunsaker, Henry McCloskey, Jonah Benson and Matthew Whitely. The team also won the award for Best Narrative.

The prize for Most Innovative Structure went to Matamis of MWMS, comprised of project manager Clarissa Sauceda, Jacquelyn Bui, Daxton Redfern and Bryan Pick. They scored the highest in addressing local conditions such as earthquakes and wind.

The prize for Best Team Effort went to Ruth Sherwood, Rainie Sanders and D’Avion Cyprian, who created Alto Granja for DWMS.

***ADVERTISEMENT***“This competition is the product of our blended learning environment at DWMS and MWMS,” said Shannon Hull, 20+1 teacher at DWMS. “We utilize project-based learning that fosters the students’ intellectual creativity. The students learn the importance of teamwork and communication while using the engineering design process to create their magnificent city.”

She credited parents and the support of the Maricopa Unified School District for creating a strong teaching and learning environment.

Future City is a STEM-based program emphasizing science, technology and math. The national competition is Feb. 15-17.

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Ten Pins Down has added new leagues this year in an effort to bring bowling center customers to all of the amenities at the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.

“The leagues will tie into different areas of the building,” said Dan Terry, direction of Entertainment Operations.

The Moms and Tots League, for instance, offers mothers and their tiny ones two games of bowling every Wednesday at 10 a.m. followed by an 11 a.m. movie. The cost is $18 for registration and $15 per day through April 22. The movie screening is part of the Parent Movie Morning in which volume is reduced, lights are dimmed and baby noise and diaper-changing are not only accepted but expected.

The Couples League offers pairs two games of bowling on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. “Then if they are over 21 they can go to the Star Class to watch a movie, and it’s included in the league package,” Terry said.

Couples participants pay $22 to register and $10 per day. It is tied in with the center’s Kids Club, so the kids have something to do while parents have a night out.

Terry said there will also be a guys night out and a girls night out. Men’s leagues are every Monday through April 20 at 6:30 p.m. The registration fee is $11, and per-day fee is $10. The cost is the same for the women’s league, every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. through April 22.

Terry said those leagues are relaxed and “more on the fun side.”

The new leagues are intended to encourage customers to explore all the entertainment inside UltraStar instead just focusing on just playing, or just eating or just seeing a movie.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Ten Pins Down also has the UltraFriends League for kids with special needs. They bowl every Wednesday through April 22. Participants can register for $12 and bowl three games for $3 per day.
The regular leagues, the UltraStrikers and the Average Joes, continue as well. Terry said those leagues started six months after the bowling center opened.

Ten Pins Down is a USBC-certified center.

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A new board member will be sworn in, a coach is departing and the superintendent’s contract is on the table for the Maricopa Unified School District.

The board breaks from its usual Wednesday routine and meets on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. First, however, at 6 p.m. Rhonda Melvin, newly appointed by Pinal County Superintendent Jill Broussard, will take the oath of office from Justice of the Peace Lyle Riggs.

A two-year contract for Superintendent Steve Chestnut is on the agenda. It includes an annual salary of $137,000, health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, 24 days of personal time off, a car allowance of $650 per month, and cell phone allowance of $100 per month. The contract would run through June 30, 2017.

Before voting on the contract, the board will discuss it in executive session along with the performance pay plan.

The district is busy hiring new personnel, with nine new hires on the docket Tuesday. However, it is also saying goodbye to four employees. That includes high school girls basketball head coach Kati Burrows, who reportedly is taking an assistant coaching job at her alma mater Montana State University.

Also resigning are high school teacher Justin Mobley, mechanic Johnny Manriquez and bus driver Eddie Ware.

Newcomers are Maricopa Elementary School teacher Charline Smith, high school teachers Phylis Salsedo and Gwendolyn Platt, Butterfield Elementary teacher Cindy Rice, Santa Cruz Elementary teacher Heather Cabral, Pima Butte teacher Rachel Rubright, speech language therapy assistants Alyssa Jonas and Megan Gore and Maricopa Elementary attendance clerk Jeannette Breden.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Jeckson Quinones is being reclassified from a substitute to a teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School.

 The board will formally end its district charter school sponsorships. That means as of July 1, Butterfield, Saddleback, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Maricopa elementaries and Maricopa Wells Middle School will convert back to their original status as district schools. They had been operating as charters since 2013. The Legislature enacted Arizona Revised Statute 15-183 prohibiting districts from sponsoring charter schools.

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Steve Chestnut may have let the cat out of the bag a little early when he mentioned the departure of Kati Burrows.

At an informational meeting with parents Wednesday, the superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District said the Maricopa High School girls basketball coach was leaving to become an assistant coach at Montana State University.

MSU women’s coach Tricia Binford said the position on her staff had not even been made public yet but a hiring announcement would be made soon.

Burrows, who was unavailable for comment, submitted her resignation to MUSD this month.

Burrows guided the MHS girls team to its first state championship this year, her first season with the Rams. Maricopa finished with a 29-5 record, and Burrows was named Division II Coach of the Year by the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association and All-USA Arizona American Family Insurance High School Girls Basketball Big Schools Coach of the Year.

***ADVERTISEMENT***MSU is Burrows’ alma mater. A Bozeman, Montana, native, she was on back-to-back conference championship teams at the Division I university. She graduated in 2005, but her MSU experience was not always rosy. In 2010, in the middle of a lawsuit her former coach filed against the university after being fired, Burrows had to testify in U.S. District Court about how the head coach had maltreated the team. (MSU won the case.)

Burrows later played professional basketball in Europe before turning to coaching at the high school level. She was an assistant at St. Mary’s High School and Mesa Dobson. MHS was her first stint as a head coach.

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A Casa Grande businessman wants to stop Central Arizona College’s tax hike so much he is taking the board of governors to court.

Garland Shreves is accusing the board of violating Open Meeting law at its May 19 meeting and failing to provide the Truth in Taxation notice for its June 9 meeting. Ultimately, he wants to clear out most of the board and unseat the college president.

Through attorney Kent P. Volkmer of the Wallace, Volkmer & Weagant law practice, Shreves filed an injunction to prevent the raise in the primary tax rate from going into effect. He said all actions taken during both meetings should be nullified because the board ignored the law. It goes before a judge Aug. 10.

Shreves, chairman of the group Citizens for Fair Taxation (CFFT), said he is taking the case to court himself because he did not want to wait for the complaint process between the County Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General.

He said the college does not have a revenue problem but a spending problem and said board members “don’t have a clue” what’s in the budget. He described the board as “inept and senile” and the staff as “incompetent.”

Through public relations specialist Gordon James, President Doris Helmich said she had no idea her removal was part of the CFFT plan.

At the May 19 meeting, the board voted to raise the primary tax rate 45 percent to $2.76 per $100 of net assessed valuation. Shreves said the meeting was in a classroom on the Signal Peak campus with seating for 80 people. He said nearly half the chairs were taken by college employees and there was not room for several members of the public who wanted to attend.

In his suit, he claims the board did not follow the law regarding accommodating the public even after he brought the problem to their attention.

Shreves said when he told the board people were being turned away at the door because the room was at capacity, Board President Gladys Christensen had him escorted from the room by an armed guard. He claims Christensen told the audience they could speak in the meeting if they chose but could not remain and listen to others or the discussion of the board.

“They did not make any accommodation for the public at all,” Shreves said.

That, he said, violates Arizona State Statute 38-431.01(A), which states the public should be able to attend and listen to deliberations and proceedings of a public body. According to that law, any action taken during a meeting in violation of the statute would be “null and void.”

Shreves also said Boardmember Debra Banks afterward spoke to him and sent him an email saying she agreed with him about the alleged Open Meeting violation.

May 19 was the first time Shreves attended a CAC board meeting.

At the June 9 meeting, the board of governors voted to lower the previously approved primary tax rate from $2.76 to $2.30. By the college’s estimates, that will have a budget impact of $9.3 million. Only four board members were present, and Banks abstained from the vote.

That meeting was not agendized as a Truth in Taxation hearing. The Truth in Taxation law requires taxing bodies to provide 72-hour notice when they intend to raise the primary tax rate. Though the board used the meeting to lower the previously set rate, Shreves does not consider the previous rate decision to be finalized. In effect, the board voted to raise the rate from $1.91 to $2.30, he said, which should have required another Truth in Taxation hearing.

If a judge agrees with that interpretation and affirms the board violated the Truth in Taxation law, the college board would not be allowed to raise the rate at all this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2016.

Superior Court Judge Jason Holmberg will hear the case. The hearing to show cause is set for Aug. 10 at 9 a.m.

Ironically, that is CAC’s All College Day, when the board will hear from analyst Dan Hunting of ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy on strategic planning.

A judgment against the board could result in fines. Shreves wants a stipulation that any fines cannot be paid with tax-payer money.

Though the injunction and outlined penalties names all the members of the board, Shreves said he would ultimately like to separate Banks from the action. “I wish she had stood up,” he said, “but she apologized.”

Shreves’ definitive goal and the reason he formed CFFT was to remove the other four members of the board: Christensen, Rita Nader, Rick Gibson and Jack Yarrington. He wants to replace them with board members who are fiscally conservative.

He said he also wants the college to replace Helmich and Vice President of Finance Chris Wodka.

CFFT has approximately 180 people across the county trying to collect enough signatures to force a recall election. They have until September, but Shreves estimates they already have 45 percent of the signatures needed to recall Nader, 35 percent of the signatures needed to recall Christensen and 30 percent of the signatures needed to recall Gibson.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Maricopa is in District 4, represented by Nader, who lives in Casa Grande.

If enough signatures are gathered by the deadline, the group would have 90 days to submit a panel of candidates for the recalled positions.

“We do have people who are qualified to serve who are interested,” Shreves said.

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A new coach and the memory of a rough season could create change for the Maricopa High School softball team.

Brandi Howell has taken the reins of the Rams and is quickly learning what kind of talent she will be working with. Softball camp and an early scrimmage offered insight into a team that finished 11-16 last year.

Howell was a junior varsity and assistant varsity coach for two years in Iowa after graduating from Minnesota State Moorhead, where she played softball.

“I’m a teacher, as well, and I decided to try something different,” she said of her move to Arizona. “And I was ready for warmer weather.”

The Feb. 20 scrimmage against Northwest Christian was a chance to see how her team was meshing early on. She got a good look at pitchers Victoria Andrade (who has already signed a letter of intent to play for South Mountain Community College) and Amber Cramer. Also returning to the pitching staff is Yasmin Santa Cruz, who was 3-1 as a sophomore.

“I think pitching will be a strength this year, and hitting I think will be a strength,” Howell said. “As the season goes, I think defense will become strong.”

Defense was something she was particularly eyeing during the scrimmage as the girls prepared to start the season in the 23-team Boulder Creek Sun Blast Tournament in Anthem.

Howell had been hearing the team needed to shore up its defense, even before establishing starters. “Our middle infield is young,” she said.

The Rams have a 16-player roster, including nine juniors. Andrade is one of five seniors Howell is looking to for leadership, and she already sees that. “We have good leaders, we have strong leaders,” she said.

Claudia Portillo, Samantha Dugan, Shay Barney and Isabel McCloskey “have been leaders on and off the field,” Howell said. “They’ve been making sure the girls are there on time, and if we’re making errors they’ll stop the scrimmaging and start again.”

Though there were tryouts, no one was cut. The coach got to know not just the varsity but also the JV team through camps.

Assisting her with the varsity team are Steve Weiner and Tom Dugan. The fact the girls were already familiar with them was a benefit, Howell said. At the JV level, Roberto Muro is head coach, and Rich Vitiello is assistant.

The Rams play their first home games in the annual Krystin Diehl Tournament, which runs through March 7.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Remaining Schedule
March 5-7 Krystin Diehl Tournament
March 16 at Marcos de Niza HS
March 18 vs. Flowing Wells HS
March 19 vs. Catalina Foothills HS
March 25 at Horizon Honors
March 26 vs. Salpointe Catholic HS
March 30 vs. Seton Catholic HS
April 1 at Marana HS
April 6 vs. Coronado HS
April 8 at Casa Grande Union HS
April 10 vs. Vista Grande HS
April 13 at Williams Field HS
April 14 at Marana Mountain View HS
April 16 at Mountain Pointe HS
April 21 vs. Canyon del Oro HS
April 23 vs. Ironwood Ridge HS
April 27 at Cibola HS
April 29 at Poston Butte HS

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It’s a banner year – the kind of banner that will hang in the Maricopa High School gym to set the bar for future generations.

The girls basketball team defeated the Seton Catholic Sentinels 52-49 Monday. The Rams took the lead with 6:35 left in the first quarter and never relinquished it on their way to Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division II title.

It was the first state championship for the program.

“This is history; this is something that has never been done,” senior Ashliegh Haley said.

It was also the first time in three tries Maricopa got past the highly touted Sentinels. The game came down to the wire, and Rams coach Kati Burrows said her team’s fitness played a big role.

“Tonight when it came down to it, they knew this would be the end of their season and they definitely pushed through their tiredness,” Burrows said. “A few people were a little bit sore, but they pushed through.”

Seven unanswered points in the first quarter created the essential separation, and Seton was only able to inch its way back toward the Rams over the rest of the game.

Maricopa’s 17-10 lead after one quarter was down to five points at the half, 33-28, and four points after three, 43-39. Senior Jamila Rogers scored the first two buckets of the fourth quarter, but the Sentinels came back to crawl within two points with 35 seconds left. The only score the rest of the game, however, was a free throw from MHS freshman Sydni Callis.

“It was a lot closer than I would have liked, but they dug in and they finished it,” Burrows said.

Junior Raegene Womack led Maricopa with 17 points while her team shot 44 percent from the field against Seton’s 33 percent.

“We learned that we had to stick together,” Womack said. “There was no other choice. We needed to beat Seton because we lost to them twice. We wanted this ring and that’s what we had to do. We made history.”

Seton Catholic’s LeeAnne Wirth also scored 17 and had 12 rebounds.

“We worked hard in every game and in every practice, and we just wanted it,” said Rams senior Tiara Edmond, who scored 11 points. “It means so much to me. It means all my hard work in practice finally paid off.”

Senior Jamila Rogers had six rebounds to go with her 10 points. Junior Danae Ruiz led the game with four assists.

It was the assists and steals, part of the Maricopa game plan from Day One, which kept the Sentinels at bay during crunch time.

***ADVERTISEMENT***“My girls bought into what we were trying to teach them from the beginning – playing together, playing the Maricopa way, doing all the dirty work, getting rebounds and pushing the ball out in transition,” Burrows said. “They’re a good group of girls and they’ve represented our community and our school.”

The girls brought home the basketball trophy along with a net from the game.

“It’s going to be an amazing memory,” Haley said. “My high school years ending like this, you can’t even describe it.”

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Classes are crowded in the Maricopa Unified School District.

It is not a circumstance unique to MUSD. Arizona is ranked third in the country, behind only California and Utah, in its student-to-teacher ratio of 21.3, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Across the country in 2014, those ratios began to decline as districts found ways to hire more teachers in a recovering economy.

But at MUSD, the situation remains at a critical level. That is the analysis of the district’s internal committees.

The current district target of students-per-teacher in kindergarten and first grade is 31. At the high school, that ratio is 37-to-1.

The MUSD Budget Committee has ranked class size as a critical priority. The Meet and Confer Committee describes lowered student-teacher ratios as providing better learning environments and “a positive recruitment and retention incentive for both employees and parents.”

“The bottom line is, we have to reduce class size,” MUSD board member Torri Anderson said.

Committee recommendations are to lower the target class sizes across the board. That includes 25 students per teacher in kindergarten and first grade, 28 in second and third grade, 30 in fourth through sixth grade, 32 in seventh and eighth grade, and 34 in high school.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said the class-size issue was addressed last year. This year, the Certified Salary Committee separated seventh and eighth grades from the high school in order to look at those numbers more closely. Like the high school, the current target ratio in those grades is 1:37.

In general, it is a wish list. The new recommendations, he said, “are something we would love to see happen.”

That would mean adding an estimated 15 full-time employees.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said that would require $810,000. And that, he said, “is very much not in the cards.”

***ADVERTISEMENT***Though money could be coming into districts through the lawsuit filed against the state over inflation-adjusted funds, state cuts in other areas could negate that, he said.

Beckett said everyone understands that to have smaller classes, more teachers are necessary, and that could mean less money to adjust salaries. He said the Certified Salary Committee is making the “class size versus pay raise” discussion a particular focal point.

“There is a great desire to hire additional teachers, but it’s going to be very difficult to do,” Chestnut said. “If we could afford to hire a handful, that would be wonderful.”

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Designing, building, tearing down, redesigning – Melvin Mitchell’s students are not resting on their laurels.

In their first year competing, the robotics team at Pima Butte Elementary School received the award for best engineering design in their first Vex Robotics competition in November. They placed third overall out of 10 teams.

Even with the winning design they came up with in the event, they have been busy improving their concept under the guidance of Mitchell and parents Michael Gray and Roger Maidman.

The team qualified to compete in the state Vex Robotics contest on Feb. 28 at Arizona State University.

“They are working on the gear ratio, which will ultimately make the robot faster,” Mitchell says. “They’re changing gears, bigger to smaller, and changing wheel size.”

Maricopa Unified School District has four schools with robotics teams, including Maricopa, Pima Butte and Saddleback elementary schools and Maricopa High School. Maricopa Elementary started it with a team last year. This year, the MES robotics squad advanced to the state competition with Pima Butte.

“It’s amazingly fun,” says Charlee Hyde, one of Mitchell’s students.

Kailey Conner says she joined the team to meet new people and try something different: “I thought it would be interesting.”

Other team members, like Rylan Gray, are old hands at the basics. “I like the fun of building pieces,” Rylan says. “I’ve been doing this for three or four years.”

The idea of robots sparked the interest of many of the fourth, fifth and sixth graders. “I’ve always wanted to build robots,” Mason McCowan says.

Though joking she only joined the team because her father made her, Maliyah Mitchell conceded the science was fun.

For the first competition, “We kept it simple with the Clawbot,” Mitchell says.

***ADVERTISEMENT***While other robots in the competition were bigger or faster, they were not as steady as the winning design. Finding the balance of speed, agility and strength is the challenge.

Maricopa Robotics is a Maricopa Ak-Chin STEAM Foundation program. The foundation is sponsored by Electrical District No. 3, Harrah’s Ak-Chin and the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

The STEAM Foundation’s Science City with interactive booths and science activities will be at the Maricopa Salsa Festival on March 28. It is an Arizona SciTech event in partnership with STEAM, the City of Maricopa and MUSD.

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Before its Wednesday session, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board saw newly elected and re-elected members Dr. Gary Miller, Patti Coutre and AnnaMarie Knorr sworn in by Judge Lyle Riggs.

With her chair already stationed near the center of the dais, Coutre was elected board president for the year, with Knorr as vice president. Both votes were unanimous.

"My approach to leadership will be what it has always been on the board, to be a collaborative person," Coutre said. "We're all there for the same reason, to make this an A school. Whatever I can do to facilitate that, I will do."

In the November election, Coutre, a church secretary, was the top vote-getter among the five candidates for two four-year terms. Miller, a health information technology consultant, was very close behind her.

Knorr was an appointee to the board during the previous cycle and ran unopposed for the remaining two years of the seat.

Most of the Maricopa City Council and several other elected officials were on hand for the event.

Also at the meeting:

Saddleback Elementary Principal Felicia Williams updated the board on her school’s achievements. Saddleback’s enrollment of 671 students is pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. The student body is 38 percent Hispanic, 28 percent Caucasian, 16 percent Native American, 11 percent African-American and 3 percent Asian/Pacific Islander. Of the K-6 students, 24 percent are in special education programs.

Williams said the school set goals of 75 percent of students improving reading and math results by three points this year. In math, kindergarten and sixth grade have already exceeded that goal. In reading, kindergarten, first, second, fifth and sixth grade have met the goal.

***ADVERTISEMENT***The board approved hearing officers to oversee student expulsion and teacher termination hearings.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut updated the board on the budget committee’s priorities list. Included among items at the top were elementary school counselors, reduced class size and a cost of living raise.

The board approved several hirings, but there are still two vacant teaching positions.

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On a night that was celebratory with the swearing in of elected members, Maricopa Unified School District Curriculum Director Wade Watson was grilled by the governing board.

It was nothing personal, but it was parental concern over the Beyond Textbooks curriculum map and uncertainty about aligning standards and assessments.

The program was implemented at MUSD during the 2013-14 school year in an effort to reach an A rating. It is a replication of an instruction program at the Vail Unified School District, long held as a model of school achievement.

Beyond Textbooks Formative Assessment does have its challenges, as Watson outlined in his presentation Wednesday night. Those include the number of assessments required.

Board members Torri Anderson and AnnaMarie Knorr expressed parents’ frustration at assessments not lining up with classroom studies and test results not being sent home.

Knorr said it was difficult for a parent to gauge where a child was academically without personally seeing the test. Watson said Beyond Textbooks is proprietary and has a “test security protocol” in place.

“It is hard not to be able to send it home,” he said. Parents can go over results with teachers at school.

Unlike last year, this school year the Beyond Textbook assessments follow the Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards of the state in math and reading. The district uses the Galileo instructional system.

Anderson said a quarter of the semester final had not been covered in classroom instruction. Watson said that was one of the concerns, and there would be improved communication with teachers.

Beyond Textbooks, which cost the district $43,000 this year, was another program for teachers to adapt to in the past year and it had a challenging pace, Watson said.

But teachers also have the opportunity to add to the resources.

***ADVERTISEMENT***“It’s great when our teachers have contributed to that program,” he said.

Beyond Textbooks allows teachers to evaluate a student’s progress in the short-term and the long-term, he said. The accuracy of the program will improve with the stability of state standards and assessments, Watson said.

Anderson requested he gather feedback from teachers to learn which assessment they prefer.

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Extracting DNA, making catapults and mixing condiments, students from Butterfield Elementary School had a taste of college life.

Wednesday morning, four teams of sixth graders toured Central Arizona College with Dean Janice Pratt as professors shared their knowledge.

Master teacher Elizabeth Zimpleman, who planned the second annual outing, said the field trip was especially important for understanding the Promise for the Future, a contract signed by students in eighth grade.

“If they keep a certain grade point average, they are given two years at CAC free,” she said.

The students learned simple recipe techniques in a culinary class. The math interpretive class led to marshmallows being slung across the room from launchers they quickly assembled. In the science lab, they followed instructions for pulling DNA from a strawberry.

“It was really nice,” student Priscilla Ortega said. She was partnering with Abriel Knipmeyer, who added, “We got strawberries, so I don’t see a downside.”

The Butterfield partnership with CAC is part of the school’s STEAM charter focus.

***ADVERTISEMENT***The fourth element of the tour was learning about the contract.

“Last year, we had a few parents who were thinking about traveling outside the district for middle school and after learning about the Promise for the Future made the decision to stay in our district,” Zimpleman said.

Besides enhancing education for the students – and letting sixth graders go to college – Zimpleman said it is an outreach to Maricopa children who travel outside the district for education, bringing them back “with the promise of an excelling education and college future within their own community.”

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Youth are keeping an eye on the future in Maricopa.

Sixteen academic teams from Desert Wind and Maricopa Wells middle schools have advanced to the Arizona Future City Regional Competition.

They will compete Saturday starting at 7 a.m. at Arizona State University.

The theme for this year’s nationwide Future City competition is “Feed Future Cities,” and middle schoolers have been studying urban agriculture. The winners at the regional competition go on to nationals in Washington, D.C., in February.

Future City is a STEM-based program emphasizing science, technology and math.

The MUSD 20+1 teams earned their places in the regional competition after local judging Jan. 5-9 at MWMS.

“We are extremely proud of all of our students,” MUSD 20+1 teacher Robyn Rice said. “Although not all of the groups will continue to the Arizona competition, they all worked equally hard and learned a lot.”

The teams selected a vegetable and a protein and designed a way to grow enough of each to feed the citizens of their Future City. Their projects included a scale model of their vision of a perfect city and an explanation of the society that lives there.

Among the regional qualifiers was the team of Kunst van de Oogst, comprised of Jordan McGee, Megan Hahn, Trevor Thompson and the late Morgan Martin, who died on Christmas Day. The team kept a photo of Morgan on their display as part of their MWMS squad.

Other MWMS Future Cities teams competing will be Kenko Toshi (Emma Lee Morano, Evan Grace, Emma Schrader and Aman Mahant); Diamant de l'Arizona (Joseph Rice, Elise Brown Thunder, Emily Cordero and Sarah Skrnich);  Lake of Hope (Nikki Watson, Jordan Robertson and Jessica McGee); Nueva Era (Michael Hildick, Andres Martinez, Kassidy Rigby and Katrina Riddell); Arable (Caitlyn Goldner, Travis Daniel, Kobi Weimer and Jose Arroyo); Genoa  (Nicholas Perez, Elias Brown Thunder, Connor Witte and Gabriel Thornsbury); and Matamis (Daxton Redfern, Bryan Pick, Jacquelyn Bui and Clarissa Sauceda).

***ADVERTISEMENT***DWMS Future Cities teams are Alto Granja (Ruth Sherwood, Rainie Sanders and D'Avion Cyprian); Para Dar (Alyssa Huffman, Sydney McDill, Aniya Windsor and Shane Sexton);  Juwel (Savannah Shelabarger, Ana Hopped, Isabel Younicutt and Riley Bell-Nicer); Piao Yuan Gong (Henry McCloskey, Parker Hunsaker, Jonah Benson and Matthew Whitely); Rio Ventoso (Alex Kramarczyk, Skylar Dugan, Deborah Stenzel and David Henderson); Wai Wai Lepo (Jade McAnelly, David Luna and Brendan Collins); Ayiana (Logen Thomas, Brian Petersheim, Landen Thomas and Ryan Stuart); and Mt. Barre des Ecrins (Anthony Krella, Lyn Muriuki, Daisy Leal, Kale Norris).

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The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board may decide Wednesday whether to have a hearing officer oversee teacher termination hearings and student expulsion hearings.

The two items are up for discussion and possible action in the regular session, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

As recommended, the hearing officer for student expulsion would be chosen from a list approved by the board.

The board’s newest member Gary Miller and incumbents Patti Coutre and AnnaMarie Knorr will be sworn in immediately preceding the meeting.

The board will also elect a president and vice-president during the session.

Curriculum Director Wade Watson will give a presentation on Beyond Textbooks, which was put into place in the district last school year. Gauging its effectiveness has been difficult because of changing standards and assessments, according to Watson. He will tell the board that accurate assessment of Beyond Textbooks will rely on consistent evaluation standards.

Saddleback Elementary Principal Felicia Williams is scheduled to present her school’s math/language arts update. That will involve the school’s action plan for meeting goals of having 70 percent of grades 1-6 students improving Galileo results.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut will update the board on the budget process.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Among personnel issues seeking approval are the resignations of Maricopa Wells Middle School teacher Rosalee Gamel, Saddleback Elementary teacher Kenya Ward, lead custodian Manuela Ruiz, food services supervisor Patricia Yates, nurse Robin Rowray and ESS paraprofessionals Margarita Dominguez and Alejandra Rosales and the retirement of nurse Lynn Thomas, effective in June. 

New employees needing board approval include math teacher Andrew Cutler, ESS math teacher Krystal Hansen, high school teachers Phillip Smith, Justin Mobley and Amanda Stevens, SES teacher Paula Martin, technology specialist Carter Plante, RN substitute Liduvina Perez, library aide Misty McKenzie, substitute teacher Rebecca Holub and student workers Taylor Ireland and Destinee King. The district is also seeking to add another ESS paraprofessional position.

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In the spring, Arizona students will take a new test to assess their academic achievement. Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching (AzMerit) will begin in April.

For Maricopa Unified School District and all other public schools in the state, a new test is not a new thing. And the old test, Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS), will still be in place in some aspects.

MUSD Curriculum Director Krista Roden said the process was run by the State Board with “a committee of educators and a community member” rather than the Arizona Department of Education.

AzMerit is just the latest change in assessments and standards for Arizona students.

The AIMS test was aligned to the Arizona Academic Content Standards. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test was aligned to Common Core, which was adopted in 2010, renamed Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards and implemented in 2013.

In November, the State Board of Education approved AzMerit as the new assessment with American Institutes for Research (AIR) administering it.

Unlike PARCC, AzMerit accommodates both online and paper tests. The state window for computer-based testing is March 30-May 8 and for paper-based testing April 13-24.

Two things still being discussed by the State Board are whether third graders will get an exemption for the first year in the Move on When Reading requirement and how the AZ LEARNS letter grade will be measured.

If there is a “safe harbor” in the Move on When Reading requirement, Roden suggested MUSD administer the tests online “and see what happens.”

In previous tests, the results of the assessment led to a school rating, or A-F Letter Grade, from AZ LEARNS. (MUSD earned a B last year.) The board is determining how those grades will be calculated with AzMerit.

Surveys of teachers and technology determine if MUSD schools are “AzMerit-ready,” Roden said.

Roden presented the basics of AzMerit to the governing board at its December meeting. She said it is important that the district communicate with parents and community not only information about the test but about “the importance of raising expectations.”

“We have to reach out to the Hispanic community,” board member Patti Coutre said. Board President Torri Anderson added it might be good idea for parents to take a practice test.

The Arizona Department of Education, specifically Jennifer Johnson, deputy superintendent of Programs and Policy, sent out letters about AzMerit to parents, teachers and administrators.

She reminded parents, “High school students graduating after Dec. 31, 2016, will no longer be required to pass the AIMS test to graduate high school. Students will not be required to pass the End-of-Course tests for graduation, but they must still earn the minimum number of English and mathematics credits in order to graduate.”

Students graduating before Dec. 31, 2016, still have to pass AIMS writing, reading and mathematics.

According to Johnson, grades 3 through high school will take AzMERIT in English language arts and mathematics. Students in grades 4, 8, and high school will still take the AIMS Science test. Students in grades 3 through 8 will take AzMERIT in English language arts and mathematics at their grade level.

“Arizona will control the decision-making for all aspects of the exams including test design, test and item content, scoring, and reporting. Arizona educators will have extensive involvement,” Johnson stated.

Testing will be during seven hours over several days in April.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Because it is the first year of the test, Roden said MUSD should be prepared to see lower scores. She said the results of the first AzMerit assessments will probably be released in September.

Sample exams will be online soon.

A secure browser for the testing platform are available for download.

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The Maricopa High School boys basketball team built its record to 12-4 through the beginning of the new year by taking the consolation prize at the White Mountain Holiday Classic Tournament.

Losses to Seton Catholic Monday to start the second half of the season, followed by two more losses to McClintock and Queen Creek dropped that record to 12-7 and put them at 0-4 in section play.

“We play the toughest section in Division II,” coach Jake Neill said. “But we knew that coming into it. It can be a blessing and a curse at times. We’ve been talking about it all along, that once we’re into January, that’s where it gets tough for us.”

December, on the other hand, was pretty good for the Rams.

During regular season play leading up the White Mountain tourney, they hosted Vista Grande Dec. 10 and trounced the Spartans 52-26. Junior Johnny Johnson led the Rams scoring with 20 points and had eight rebounds and five steals. Junior Isiah Pedro scored 13 points to go with six rebounds. Senior Eric Johnson had six rebounds, and Josh Johnson had five assists.

The Rams then lost to Casa Grande 60-47 Dec. 12. Josh Johnson was the leading scorer with 17 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists. Johnny Johnson put in 13 points.

A tough game Dec. 20 against the Coolidge Bears had a tied score at the half but ended up in a 54-50 loss for the Rams at the Hoopin It Up at the Arena event at the US Airways Center. Pedro led all scorers with 19 points. Josh Johnson scored 12 and Eric Johnson eight. Johnny Johnson mustered only five points but led in assists with five.

Braving snowy climes at the 14th annual White Mountain Holiday Classic, Maricopa danced through their two Pool D opponents, Joseph City and Ganado, in Jan. 1 games.

They clobbered Joseph City 74-38 after running off with a 35-19 lead at the half. Johnny Johnson and junior Tommy Jensen both brought 17 points, Josh Johnson scored 13, and junior Jalen Lee 10. Josh also had six rebounds and six assists. Jalen had six assists and five steals.

Maricopa ran over Ganado 57-37, holding the Hornets to just two points in the first quarter. Johnny Johnson scored 22 points, while Jensen had 12. Pedro pulled down seven rebounds, and Josh Johnson had nine assists.

That win set the Rams up against Blue Ridge Jan. 2 in the main bracket. Maricopa dropped the game 63-53. Shooting 82 percent from the field, Josh Johnson scored 18 to lead the team, followed by Johnny Johnson’s 16 points.

That put Maricopa in the consolation bracket, where the boys trampled Ash Fork 80-50 with seismic shooting from Johnny Johnson and Jensen. Johnson scored 33 points, all in 3-pointers. Jenson had a 96-percent-shooting day and scored 23 points. Josh Johnson scored 10 and helped out with 11 assists.

The Rams then took down Greyhills Academy, 57-40. A strong opening half gave the Rams a 35-23 lead, and they held Greyhills to just four points in the third quarter. Johnny Johnson led the scoring with 16 points, with Josh Johnson close behind with 15, and both pulled in six rebounds. Jenson scored 13 and had five rebounds.

In the consolation finale, Maricopa defeated Walden Grove, 52-45. Josh Johnson was top scorer with 17 points, followed by Jensen’s 13. Pedro scored nine, and Johnny Johnson eight. Johnny led in rebounds with six.

Johnny and Josh Johnson were named to the All-Tournament Team.

“We had a good weekend,” Neil said. “We were 5-1 and we really played well for three days. Luckily, we were able to come home with something.”

Back in regular season play Jan. 5, the Rams dug themselves a first-quarter hole they could not get out of against a Seton Catholic squad that could not seem to miss the basket. Despite clamping down on defense and outscoring their hosts in the second half, the Rams wound up losing 70-51.

“Our guys fought hard and never quit,” Neill said. “It was probably the closest 19-point loss I’ve ever seen. We weren’t bad; they just had one of the best shooting nights I’ve seen.”

Lee led the team with 14 points. Jensen put up 11, and Johnny and Josh Johnson both scored 10.

In the 92-63 loss to McClintock Tuesday night, it was Pedro leading the way with a hot 23 points. Johnny Johnson scored 17. The Rams lost to Queen Creek 61-37 Thursday. Johnny Johnson scored 22. Josh Johnson led the team’s rebounding with six.

***ADVERTISEMENT***“We just want to be competitive night in and night out,” he said. “Our whole focus is that we can only control us and get better day by day.”

The team’s lack of size is a challenge as they struggle for defensive rebounds, but teamwork has only improved.

“That’s something the tournament helped,” Neill said. “We play together better as a team on both ends.”

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It was a rough December for the Maricopa High School boys and girls soccer teams.

The boys started with back-to-back losses and then coasted to two victories to even their record. The Dobson Classic Tournament, however, gave them only one win against two losses.

“The defense, we’ve got to get that sorted out,” coach Cortney Kellenaers.

The Rams lost at Ironwood Ridge, 5-1, to start the season, with senior Christian Ramirez scoring the only goal. They then lost a much tighter contest against Horizon Honors, 1-0, with junior Luis Elizondo in net.

Dec.  15, the boys defeated Combs 4-0. Ramirez scored two goals, and Nathaniel Faint and Benjamin Perry booted one apiece. The next night, the Rams defeated Poston Butte 4-0. Ramirez again scored two goals. Perry scored once, and Isaac Miranda scored another. Elizondo posted the shutout in both games.

At the Dobson Classic, the boys were shut out 6-0 by North Dec. 26. They squeaked out a win over the hosting team, 4-3, by scoring three goals in the second half.

“I think their attitudes are good,” Kellenaers said. “They are maintaining their focus on what they want.”

Following the holiday break, the boys returned to the regular season this week. They went scoreless against Catalina Foothills, losing 4-0. Wednesday, the Rams defeated Seton Catholic 1-0. Ramirez scored the only goal of the game, and junior Gabriel Faint had two saves in goal.

Thursday, they fell to Mountain View 4-0. That put their record at 4-5 (1-3).

The girls team posted a record of 1-5-1.

They lost to Higley, 5-0, to start the season. They played Combs to a 1-1 tie, as senior Andrea Perez scored the Rams’ only goal. They followed that with a loss to Gila Ridge, 4-1. Perez again scored the team’s lone goal.

***ADVERTISEMENT***The girls’ first win of the season was an 8-1 trouncing of Poston Butte Dec. 16. Sophomore Amanda Maciel led the way with four goals. Perez took 10 shots at the goal and booted one in.

The Rams lost to Ironwood Ridge, 5-0, in a conference game. Tuesday, they lost at Catalina Foothills 7-0. Wednesday was a 6-1 loss to Seton Catholic Prep.

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The last time the Maricopa Rams girls basketball team played Seton Catholic, coach Kati Burrows demanded of her girls in the fourth quarter, “How much do you want this?”

That game ended in a stinging loss. Monday, they have the opportunity to deliver a better answer in the most important game they’ve ever played.

The Rams play for a state championship Monday, and they could have a large cheering contingent in tow as they head to Glendale to take on Seton Catholic.

According to Superintendent Steve Chestnut, there will be up to three “rooter” buses available along with the team bus and the cheer/band bus. The number of these spirit buses, reserved for MHS students, depends on how many turn in permission slips Monday morning.

This is the first time the Rams have reached the state final. This season was also the first time they reached the semifinals, or the quarterfinals. Their record is 28-5.

Two of Maricopa’s five losses this year have come at the hands of the Sentinels. The Rams first faced Seton Catholic Dec. 11 and lost by six points, 64-58. They took them on again Feb. 14 in the sectional tournament final. The Rams led throughout the game until the Sentinels passed them in the fourth quarter to win 55-45.

Burrows said her girls stopped playing their brand of basketball in the fourth. That kind of late-game letdown has not happened since. In fact, when they are not called the Cinderella team, they are being called the comeback kids.

Seton, sporting three players over 6-foot-1, has a height advantage over Maricopa. Starting forward LeeAnn Wirth, who is a 6-foot-3 sophomore, averages more than seven rebounds and two blocks a game. The player to watch among the Sentinels is 5-foot-9 freshman Sarah Barcello, who averages 15.5 points a game and 6.5 rebounds.

Seton Catholic was a favorite in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II bracket from the start of the season. They were ranked No. 2, behind only Cienega, which was upset in the playoffs.

The Rams as a team have a higher scoring average (59 points per game) than Seton (53). Despite a record comparable to the top teams during the regular season, Maricopa was undervalued when it came time to seed the bracket. That gave them the opportunity to pull off three upsets in a row.

MHS Principal June Celaya is sending out information tonight and early tomorrow morning for signing up to ride the spirit buses to the game. A link to the field trip form is on the MHS website.

The first 50 students will receive free tickets to the game. The entry fee is $6. The signed permission slips and medical forms must be turned in before 11 a.m.

The buses leave at 11:45 a.m. for the 2 p.m. game at Gila River Arena. Buses will return by 5:30 p.m.

Celaya is reminding students they also need student ID and “most importantly,” be dressed in Ram colors, black and red.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Maricopa Girls Varsity Basketball Team
10 Raegene Womack
11 Maria Montes
12 Ashleigh Haley
21 Syndi Callis
22 Danae Ruiz
23 Tiara Edmond
24 Allyssa Haley
30 Tyra Williams
32 Kelly Paine
33 Jaleesa Rodriguez
34 Kelsee Keys
42 Ashia Lasller-Nelson
44 Jamila Rogers

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The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board received the Lou Ella Kleinz Award of Excellence from the Arizona School Boards Association.

The Award of Excellence is presented each year to a board with a proven record in leadership, initiative and action. Board members Torri Anderson, ´╗┐Scott Bartle, Leslie Carlyle-Burnett,´╗┐ Patti Coutré and AnnaMarie Knorr were on hand to accept the recognition.

“I was shocked but extremely proud because I know we’ve worked extremely hard to serve the community and the parents and mostly the students,” Anderson said. “It’s been a long few years, and I’m proud of the way we’ve all come together.”

To receive the award, the board demonstrated its progress in achieving goals, increasing parental involvement, collaborating with community groups and fostering performance and innovation. Anderson credited the board and Superintendent Steve Chestnut for working together to move the district forward with outlined goals and expectations.

“To be acknowledged for the hard work they put in is extremely rewarding,” she said.

Chestnut nominated the board for the award.

The district has SMART goals (strategic, measurable, attainable, results oriented, time bound), and the board regularly reviews progress reports with Chestnut. The superintendent’s performance pay is tied to progress on the strategic plan.

The district involved parents in developing academic focus guidelines of all nine schools. Parents are also part of the budget committee and participated in the quarterly Parent/Superintendent Coffees.

“All elementary schools and both middle schools utilize student-led conferences for the purpose of increasing parental involvement,” he stated.    

The district also touted its collaboration with the City of Maricopa, the Ak-Chin Education Office and Banner Health.

Chestnut and the board have a refresher on the board goals every year and reiterate the list of expectations for all staff. Chestnut outlined that as “safety and security,” “student academic achievement,” “100 percent effort/professional behavior,” “excellent levels of customer service” and “shared decision making.”

For the innovation criteria, the district has expanded blended learning in the past three years and also incorporated the Bring Your Own Device option this year after approving the installation of a wireless network at all nine schools last year.

Where some school districts struggle with internal and external communication, Anderson said the MUSD board worked to keep communication with the public open as much as possible. “I think we are very approachable in public,” she said.

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Bianca Arnett has a solution for the plague known as lost earrings.

At this stage, it is an idea, but it was strong enough to make her the big winner of Maricopa High School’s Shark Tank on Wednesday. Check out our gallery.

She received not only the backing of the sharks but also the People’s Choice Award.

“I’m so happy! I can’t believe it,” Bianca said.

Mike Richey of ACE Hardware, who served as one of the sharks, said her idea was “very unique, very creative.”

Bianca calls her project “Forever Earrings.” She is researching the idea of an implant in the earlobe that would secure any and all earrings. As conceived, the implant would adjust to any piece and would also be hypoallergenic.

The MHS DECA student had to come through a gauntlet of more than 25 business start-up ideas seeking attention in the Performing Arts Center. Those with enough would-be investors (in the form of play money those in attendance distributed to their favorites) joined the top five to go before the five local business sharks to hawk their ideas.

When impressed, the sharks offered financial and service support.

All five sharks came on board with Bianca’s Forever Earrings.

“I’m sure there are people out there thinking, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’” said Marla Lewis, CEO of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

The other sharks included Dan Beach, the executive director of the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship, Gaveth Kerlin, manager of the Bead and Berry Coffee House, and Scott Bartle, publisher of InMaricopa.

Besides their patronage, Bianca’s award for getting the audience vote was $350 from County Supervisor Tony Smith and Council Member Nancy Smith.

Also making the top five and going before the sharks were Valeria Ortiz and  her business Reina de Belleza, Lauryn Vela and her idea for a Virtual Professor app, Brianna Walker’s business Clean Bri’s and Terynika Williams’ idea for a roller rink.

Valeria and Brianna got the most attention, some assistance and some advice.

 Valeria’s business – presenting makeup parties to teach girls and young women how to apply and care for their own makeup – is already functioning, and she received a membership in the Chamber and advertising dollars, among other support. She said she had already learned that inexpensive makeup worked just as well as the high-end makeup; women just wanted to learn how to use it and take care of it. Her sessions offer tips on makeup hygiene and organization.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Brianna’s business, too, is operating. With prices starting at $100, she and her family will clean and prepare homes selling or renting and take care of homes for the elderly. She received gift certificates and cash.

“I was inspired by my father who just started his own business,” Brianna said. “I’m not in it for the money. I just wanted the experience of being an entrepreneur.”

The sharks also noted the impressive start-up ideas that did not make the final five. Beach encouraged all of them to use the free services of the MCE.