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Camino Montessori

By Ethan McSweeney

Soon, buses will be rumbling down Maricopa street,s and students will crowd sidewalks on their way to the first day of classes for the 2016-17 school year at district and charter schools.

Here’s what to expect:Youth-Back-to-school-MUSD

Maricopa Unified School District

With school starting Aug. 8 for MUSD schools, some district-wide changes affecting students include an expansion of before and after-school programs at elementary schools and the district’s blended-learning program, Superintendent Steve Chestnut said.

MUSD school buses will transport 3,600 students to and from school each day this school year.  Keeping buses cool for the first month can be a challenge when temperatures exceed 100 degrees, particularly on the afternoon routes. All MUSD buses have air conditioning, but the air conditioning units are only designed to drop the temperature in the bus 10-15 degrees. MUSD does not provide water to students on buses. Parents are asked to provide a bottle of water for the bus ride home in the afternoons. Another option would be to provide a reusable container that students can fill with water before boarding the school bus. Parents and community members are reminded to exercise caution when driving near schools.

Blended-learning, which teaches students through a combination of laptop-based learning and traditional instruction, will expand its enrollment capacity at Maricopa High School, the middle schools and Santa Rosa Elementary School.

MUSD is expecting 6,500 students this school year. Registration information can be found on the district’s website or at each neighborhood school.

About 25 new staff members will be added across the district following voter approval of Proposition 123, which allows Arizona to tap into the State Land Trust to give K-12 schools $3.5 billion over 10 years.

Chestnut will also be continuing in his role as superintendent of the district through at least 2018. The MUSD Governing Board approved a two-year extension of his contract last year with an annual salary of $147,000.

Maricopa High School

MHS welcomes two new administrators and a few new classes. Principal Renita Myers said a new assistant principal (Stephen Ybarra) and dean of students (Brian Winter) bring years of experience with them to the high school.

A fifth college class through Central Arizona College is added with Biology 181, and each student will have advisory time. “It’s an opportunity to look at their four-year plan,” Myers said. “And it provides more opportunity for kids to connect with their advisers.”

Another new class being offering German, the first time MHS has had a foreign language other than Spanish, Myers said.

Maricopa Elementary School

Maricopa Elementary will continue to work to instill good character habits in its students this year, Principal Jennifer Robinson said. MES teaches students character traits based on the popular book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” each morning beginning with a daily reflection question, she said.

Maricopa Elementary will also be a national board development site for teachers to obtain certification and reflect on their teaching. The certification, Robinson said, is one of the highest a teacher can obtain.

Pima Butte Elementary School

At Pima Butte, Principal Randy Lazar said he’s looking forward to another year with a continued focus on science, technology and the arts. He added they are looking for volunteers to help around the school and at school events.

Pima Butte students have been focusing on developing character traits, including caring, which Lazar said he hopes to show with a food drive during Meet the Teacher Night on Aug. 4. Cans of food and non-perishable food items will be donated to the local food bank, F.O.R. Maricopa.

Saddleback Elementary School

Saddleback plans to maintain the programs it’s been implementing in the past few years, which also include a focus on character development. “We believe that good character is one of the most valuable things our students should possess,” Principal Felicia Williams said in an email. “This seamlessly ties into parental involvement.”

Williams said Saddleback will continue with its mission of exposing students to technology throughout the day in the learning environment, and implementing its 21st Century Community Learning Center program in September.

Santa Cruz Elementary School

Santa Cruz will offer after-school programs this year, including drama, choir and color guard, for its fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, said Loraine Conley, the school’s principal. “We’re really trying to beef up our after-school opportunities,” Conley said.

Conley said she hopes to improve on communication this year at the school and to make Santa Cruz a better user of its technology. She’s excited about the growth Maricopa is experiencing this year with new families coming in. The school has also added a fourth-grade classroom.

CHARTER SCHOOLSYouth-Back-to-school-camino

Camino Montessori

Camino Montessori adds fifth and sixth grades this year following approval from the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, said Judy Webster, founder and director of Camino Montessori. With the increase in enrollment, the school is also actively searching for land and financing for a new campus, Webster said.

School starts Aug. 10.

Leading Edge AcademyYouth-Back-to-school-LE

Leading Edge is finishing construction on a two-story, 18-classroom building, including a gymnasium, on its campus to accommodate its growing enrollment. Principal Mat Reese expects 700 to 725 students this year, up from 430 last year.

The growth at the K-12 charter means the school will be nearly doubling its staff, including teachers, assistants and special education employees. Leading Edge is also be adopting a new curriculum, Reese said. School starts Aug. 9.

Legacy Traditional SchoolYouth-Back-to-school-legacy

A new principal, Amy Sundeen, will be taking the reins at Legacy Traditional School for its 10th year in Maricopa. Sundeen said the new administrative team at the school has several years of experience in Maricopa, and the charter school plans to strengthen its sports programs and work to be more involved in the community.

The first day of school is Aug. 3. Back-to-School Night is Aug. 1. Legacy is also now a fixed stop on COMET, City of Maricopa Express Transit, so students that didn’t have transportation before can now use the bus, Sundeen said.

Sequoia PathwayYouth-Back-to-school-SPA

Sequoia Pathway is undergoing major changes as it restructures its administration to have principals at the elementary, junior high and high school levels as enrollment grows. Rachael Lay is the elementary principal, Diane Silvia the junior high principal, and the high school principal is Nate Lamma.

The charter school is expecting around 1,160 students this year, up from just below 1,000 last year, with students wait-listed to get enrolled. Sequoia Pathway will adopt a new math program for grades K through nine that is more aligned with AzMERIT, and it plans on increasing Advanced Placement class offerings.

On the athletic side, Sequoia Pathway will have 11-man football this year, a change from 8-man football, and the elementary school will offer intramural sports.

Its Meet the Teacher Night is scheduled for Aug. 4. School starts Aug. 8.


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Judy Webster runs Camino Montessori in Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Raquel Hendrickson

From Air Force brat to innovative educator, Judy Webster has been a life-long learner. She founded Camino Montessori in Maricopa in 2009. The school now serves pre-K through third grade.

Born in New York, Webster bounced around a bit as a child of the military. Her family moved to Arizona in 1969, and she lived in Litchfield Park until the late ‘70s when she moved to Tempe. She’s lived there ever since.

“I consider Tempe as my hometown, and Maricopa is within my circle of community,” she said.

Webster’s husband Kevin is an area manager for a local human services agency that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Their only child, Alex, works at the University of Phoenix and is engaged to a teacher, Mindy, “whom we love and adore,” Webster said.

Judy estimated she is three-quarters of the way through a master’s degree in education, with the emphasis in Montessori. She also has “countless hours of training” from workshops, seminars and coursework, including Montessori whole-school management and Common Core Standards and Arizona Career and College Ready Standards.

She said choosing education as a career “was a natural outcome of my initial experience from becoming a parent myself. I was constantly in awe and intrigue watching my son grow and thrive. Eventually, this developed into my current passion and desire to do what I can to affect positive change in the field of education. The best way to do that was to become an educator, and go from there.”

Webster saw Maricopa as a diverse community in need of a Montessori option. She said “old teaching buddy” Carol Hoover and her husband of the Legacy Montessori preschool were instrumental in her decision to establish a school in town.

Camino Montessori was incorporated in November 2009 and had its first classes in 2013. It operates as a charter and is nearing its capacity of 80 students.

Judy Webster
Executive director of Camino Montessori
Born: Glen Cove, New York
Residence: Tempe
Education: Bachelor’s in psychology, post-baccalaureate in Education, Montessori teaching certificate, working toward master’s in Education
Family: Married to Kevin for 31 years; son Alex; mother and sister live nearby
Past teaching positions: Fifth grade at Osborn School District in Phoenix, Montessori classes at Mesa Public School District, Villa Montessori Charter School, private Montessori school in Ahwatukee
Years in education: 20
First job out of college: I was a ‘live in’ group home manager for a local nonprofit agency that provides services to people with developmental disabilities. I lived with six adults who had previously spent all or most of their lives in the state institution in Coolidge.
Hobbies: I love to read and have several books going at the same time. I also love hiking, gardening, photography and hanging out with my family.
Favorite subject when you were in elementary school? I always loved math (if teachers were supportive) and really enjoyed history and social studies.
What is your favorite part of being an educator? Easy! Any and all direct contact I have with the children.
What are the biggest challenges facing Maricopa students today? Maricopa was hit hard during the economic crisis that erupted in 2009. Because of this and the fast growth over the past decade, there remains a need to continue to develop a strong infrastructure and sense of community in Maricopa. Although improving, we still have work to do.
What was the best advice you received about your own education? My grandfather told me to always follow my passion in both education and career. I think he planted the seed of a “purpose-driven” life for me.
What advice do you give parents of elementary schoolchildren? To remember that from birth through the elementary years children need to be just that, children.

By Adam Wolfe

The summer season might be at its peak, but summer vacation is coming to a close as all schools within the Maricopa Unified School District will start classes on Monday.

For some, the new school year will bring fresh starts in new schools, and for others, it will provide a much needed return to a regimented schedule. Parents may finally have time to relax and enjoy the quiet, while others may return to work. Either way, the time has come to bring back the sack lunches, replenish the notebook stash and return to school.

There have been some changes in leadership in the district. Former Desert Wind Middle School Principal Renita Myers is now principal of Maricopa High School. Former MHS Principal June Celaya takes Myers’ place at DWMS. Brand new to the district is Loraine Conley, new principal at Santa Cruz Elementary.

For families who have recently moved to the area or forgotten to register their children in classes, MUSD registration is still available.

“All Maricopa parents and guardians are invited to enroll their children in MUSD for 2015-16, and it is not too late to register,” MUSD superintendent Steve Chestnut said in a statement. “Registration forms and information can be found on the school district website at www.musd20.org.”

Parents and guardians can either go to the website and click on the “Registration” tab at the top of the page or pick up the registration forms and information from their neighborhood school.

In order to register, parents and guardians will need to provide the school with their student’s birth certificate, immunization record, picture ID of parent or guardian registering the student, proof of residency (utility bill, rental agreement, etc.), and records, transcript and withdrawal slip from the student’s previous school.

Sequoia Pathway Charter School also begins classes on Monday at 7:45 a.m.

Legacy Traditional School gets out of the chute before everyone, starting Thursday, July 30.

Leading Edge Academy begins Aug. 4.

Camino Montessori starts class on Aug. 10.

MUSD Schools:

Maricopa High School

  • Grades 9 – 12
  • 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. Maricopa, AZ 85139
  • (520) 568-8100
  • Principal: Renita Myers – rmyers@musd20.org
  • In class 7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Desert Wind Middle School

  • Grades 7 – 8
  • 35565 W. Honeycutt Road Maricopa, AZ 85138
  • (520) 568-7110
  • Principal: June Celaya – jcelaya@musd20.org
  • In class 9:10 a.m. – 4:10 p.m.

Maricopa Wells Middle School

  • Grades 7 – 8
  • 45725 W. Honeycutt Ave. Maricopa, AZ 85139
  • (521) 568-7100
  • Principal: Rick Abel – rabel@musd20.org
  • In class 9:10 a.m. – 4:10 p.m.

Butterfield Elementary School

  • Grades K – 6
  • 43800 W. Honeycutt Road Maricopa, AZ 85138
  • (520) 568-6100
  • Principal: Janel Hildick – jhildick@musd20.org
  • In class 8:35 a.m. – 3:35 p.m.

Maricopa Elementary School

  • Grades K – 6
  • 18150 N. Alterra Parkway Maricopa, AZ 85139
  • (520) 568-5160
  • Principal: Jennifer Robinson – jrobinson@musd20.org
  • In class 8:10 a.m. – 3:10 p.m.

Pima Butte Elementary School

  • Grades K – 6
  • 42202 W. Rancho El Dorado Maricopa, AZ 85138
  • (520) 568-7150
  • Principal: Randy Lazar – rlazar@musd20.org
  • In class 8:35 a.m. – 3:35 p.m.

Saddleback Elementary School

  • Grades K – 6
  • 18600 N. Porter Road Maricopa, AZ 85138
  • (520) 568-6110
  • Principal: Felicia Williams – fwilliams@musd20.org
  • In class 8:10 a.m. – 3:10 p.m.

Santa Cruz Elementary School

  • Grades K – 6
  • 19845 N. Costa Del Sol Maricopa, AZ 85238
  • (520) 568-5170
  • Principal: Loraine Conley – lconley@musd20.org
  • In class 8:35 a.m. – 3:35 p.m.

Santa Rosa Elementary School

  • Grades K – 6
  • 21400 N. Santa Rosa Dr. Maricopa, AZ 85138
  • (520) 568-6150
  • Principal: Eva Safranek – esafranek@musd20.org
  • In class 8:35 a.m. – 3:35 p.m.