Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board met last night for presentations and to approve travel and the personnel schedule, but only after first graders serenaded them.

Maricopa Elementary principal Bonnie Gibson introduced first grade teacher Darlene Jenkins and her enthusiastic singers. Jenkins teaches her students songs on a regular basis, but this rendition, the “100th Day Song,” celebrated the 100th day of the school year, which was Monday. “They sing with such zest that we wanted to share it with the school board,” said Gibson.

Several other staff members shared events and celebrations at their respective schools. 

Director of Nursing Marilyn Wyant reported that she is teaching CPR at Maricopa High School through the health and physical education classes. “Our goal is that within four years every student will have CPR certification,” Wyant said.

Wednesday was “Hats for Haiti” at Butterfield Elementary. For a one-dollar donation, students were allowed to wear hats at school. Principal Ember Conley reported that $250 was raised, which will go to the American Red Cross to aid earthquake victims.

Santa Rosa Elementary Principal Rick Abel saluted his staff members for giving up their lunchtimes to tutor a new seven-year-old student, who has never been in school and knew only two letters of the alphabet. 

Curriculum Director Krista Roden presented the governing board with information on the Race to the Top initiative, a competitive federal grant, which is available to 48 states (Texas and Alaska chose not to participate). Allocated funds will be released in April and again in August. MUSD will be applying for this grant, which focuses on four areas:

· Standards and assessments to prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace
· Building data systems to measure K-12 student success in 12 key characteristics
· Recruiting, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals
· Turning around lowest achieving schools

Business Director Aron Rausch explained that, in regard to the utility tax revenue, the budget shortfall will be almost $234,000. “We’ve gone through the old way of estimating; we have the right number and the right information,” added interim superintendent Jeff Kleck.

Coupled with the utility tax shortfall, as well as state and federal cutbacks in education, the district is looking for more ways to save money.

“Energy conservation; maybe that’s a place to start,” said board member Lori Glenn, “We need to be realistic and need to look ahead, look at some possible ways to make up that shortfall.” Kleck assured her that the district would come up with some strategies.

“A lot of things are going on with the budget,” Kleck said, explaining that the district office is determining what is absolutely essential, “what do we have to have and what can we release.” Building levels and programs will go through the same process.

Board members discussed their expectations regarding presentations at their retreat on Saturday. “I think we’ve pretty much nailed this down,” said Glenn. Presentations will be included in their informational packets, so board members can submit any questions to the superintendent by Monday afternoon for staff follow up prior to the Wednesday meeting.

“I don’t think we want to limit the time,” said board member Tim White. Carrie Vargas, board member, asked that presentations be as concise as possible.

“I think it’s important for the board to ask questions, and we don’t want to eliminate that,” Kleck said.

The next regularly scheduled governing board meeting will be Feb. 10.

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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