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Education

Construction is continuing rapidly on the academic building at Heritage Academy. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With construction of its campus behind schedule, the new Heritage Academy will start the school year with classes off-site, according to information released to parents by Principal Kimberly Ellsworth.

The plan is to have classes at Elements Event Center, a conference facility at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. School starts July 24.

The charter school is a middle school and high school campus. Elements, a property of Ak-Chin Indian Community, has made space available for up to eight weeks if necessary.

Elements has four main rooms with a total capacity of about 395 people. The largest room can be divided into smaller spaces.

“After speaking with Elements at UltraStar, we are confident in the facilities, set up, staff support and safety of this temporary location,” Ellsworth wrote. “We are excited to work with them, and we think the scholars will enjoy the learning experience at this facility.”

Classes will be moved to the new campus as soon as it has a certificate of occupancy.

Heritage will host a Meet the Teacher Night July 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Elements, 16000 N. Maricopa Road.

The school broke ground in March. The campus is being constructed at 41001 W. Lucera Lane off Adams Way at Porter Road, not far from Saddleback Elementary and Leading Edge Academy – Maricopa to the west, Legacy Traditional School to the south and Sequoia Pathway Academy to the north.

Heritage Academy construction on June 27
Heritage Academy construction on June 11. Photo by Kyle Norby

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Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

In a March 1 Your Turn column in the Arizona Republic, Mike McClellan, a retired Mesa high school English teacher, used a football analogy to point out the weaknesses of the AzMERIT test.

A team is facing a big game. The players are apathetic when the coach gives his pre-game pep talk. Their play during the game reflects their lack of concern, and the team is severely beaten by their rival. After the loss, the players have no accountability, but the coach is fired. McClellan furthermore asks about the value of the coach reviewing game film from the loss if the only information provided by the film is the final score?

The point made by Mr. McClellan is students are not accountable for their performance on the AzMERIT, only the school and the teacher are graded. So, why should a student care about preparing for the test? Furthermore, he indicates the school’s letter grade is more about the socio-economic level of the families of the students rather than a proper assessment of the school or its teachers.

A test used to evaluate schools and faculty does not provide meaningful feedback so that school can address the needs of students who underperformed, and a student’s score provides no consequence for that student. There must be a better means of testing.

The Arizona Department of Education and state Legislature should consider using a criterion referenced test (CRT) to replace AzMERIT. A list of specific criteria is provided for each grade and subject tested, allowing schools to ensure their curriculum covers what is being tested. Students take the appropriate grade-level CRT at various points in their elementary and middle grades education.

At some point, generally tenth grade, a CRT is taken, which determines if a student receives a high school diploma. A 10th grader who fails CRT can re-take the test each year through twelfth grade. Once the student passes, the testing is complete. If a student continues to fail the test through 12th grade, that student receives a certificate of attendance, in lieu of a diploma, once he or she has completed twelfth grade.

CRT is aligned with the curriculum, and every teacher knows what must be taught. The students are aware of the consequences of failing the test and schools receive feedback since each CRT tests specific criteria. I believe those who agree this is a much better way to assess educational growth must call their state representatives and urge them to consider the value of using a CRT.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 44 years of experience teaching mathematics. He is in his fourth year as a volunteer at Butterfield Elementary School.


This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Bernadette Russoniello

Upcoming College and Career Ready Events at MHS
Dollars for Scholars Scholarship Bootcamp, May 28-29, 8 a.m.-noon at MHS Library
Standing out in the Admissions Process, June 4-5, 8 a.m.-noon at MHS Library
Events are appropriate for all high school students, grades 9-12. For more information, contact Bernadette Russoniello at brussoniello@musd20.org.

By Bernadette Russoniello

Bernadette Russoniello

Applying for scholarships could be a full-time job for high school students. Yet most students are unaware and unprepared for the work required.

Daily, I hear comments from students such as, “Miss, I spent like four hours working on applying, and I found nothing,” “It’s only a thousand dollars, it’s not worth the work” and “I wish I would’ve started sooner!”

Simply by earning all A’s and B’s, students manage to earn at least $27 for every hour they are in high school through university academic scholarships. Students need to invest time up front in building a scholarship application portfolio and a researched action plan to maximize their chances at earning monies.

What’s a scholarship portfolio? I encourage students to start a digital portfolio of all elements typically required for applications. At MHS, we use Google Apps for Education, so starting a folder in their Google Drive is the first step. Gather and develop basic elements required for most scholarships: three letters of recommendation, an updated resume, a list of awards and honors, personal statements including reflections on your career and college goals, a personal narrative describing yourself and an updated high school transcript.

Tips on letters of recommendation. Ask well before you need one. I have students asking regularly for letters the day before they are due. Ask in advance, and make sure to give a five- to 10-day window. After the first week, gentle reminders are appreciated to ensure you receive your letter on time. Additionally, providing your recommender your resume and personal narrative helps them include points about you they may not know. And most importantly, pick people who are strong writers and know you well – specific examples and personal anecdotes are what readers look for, not a regurgitation of the resume.

Standing out. Admissions and scholarship readers read literally hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. The applicant must stand out in the process, either through their voice, their story or their accomplishments. Accomplishments are the toughest; all students applying are in clubs, get great grades and serve as campus leaders. What do you do that makes you different?

Where to start? I’m a fan of Scholarships.com – but not the “Free Search” (unless you love spam and third-party emails). I show students how to use the “Directory” feature to search by category and due date. Students need to develop an action plan that allows them to list scholarships, links, application needs and due dates.


 

This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Mobile Elementary School District Superintendent Kit Wood (center) with board members Delores Brown and Patricia Blair, who volunteer at the remote, rural school known for its small class sizes. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“In the middle of nowhere” is the phrase often used to describe Mobile Elementary School District. Arizona Department of Education defines Mobile Elementary as “very small, rural.”

“We’re very small. We’re close-knit. We have high expectations, high standards that are well known.” Superintendent Kit Wood

The school has an enrollment of 29 students. Only six of those students live in district. It has three full-time teachers and two part-time teachers. The students-to-teacher ratio is 4.8: 1.

A K-8 school with no eighth graders currently enrolled, Mobile Elementary sits just north of State Route 238. Roughly 15 miles west of Maricopa and 28 miles east of Gila Bend, the school is not close to anything but its residents.

The school bears a Maricopa mailing address and the Maricopa telephone prefix of 568. Though annexed by the City of Goodyear 12 years ago in anticipation of a master-planned community that never happened, it is more than an hour’s drive from the municipality.

The biggest benefit of annexation has been having a Goodyear fire station directly across the street from the school, that street being 99th Avenue.

If House Bill 2139 becomes law, the elementary district might be consolidated with schools in Goodyear, a move it has been fighting for years. The reason? They like the tiny school exactly as it is, its small size considered an advantage for its students.

“Some of the benefits, of course, are the small class size, the personal relationship they can have with their teacher, the staff and all the students,” said Kit Wood, who has been superintendent 14 years.

Classes are divided in K-2, 3-5 and 6-8.

“Our kids don’t get lost in a classroom.” Board member Delores Brown

“They stay with the same teacher for a number of years,” Wood said. “The teacher doesn’t have to spend six to eight weeks getting to know that student’s academic level. They come in knowing their history and their family background.”

Apache Junction’s Rep. John Fillmore (R-District 16) sponsored HB 2139, which would force elementary districts and high school districts to consolidate by 2024. He points to the administrative costs of having separate districts near or overlapping each other’s boundaries.

“When people have said to me that schools need more money, I’ve always had the quick comeback they have enough money, and that what we need to do is have them spend it a little bit more wisely,” Fillmore told the Senate Appropriations Committee in April.

Most often, the smaller the school, the higher the percentage of administrative costs.

In financially auditing the district for fiscal year 2016, the Auditor General’s Office found Mobile School spending much more per pupil on administration compared to other small schools. Released in April 2018, the critical report included six recommendations, only one of which had been completely fulfilled by the time of a follow-up in December.

Total per pupil spending 2018
Mobile                 Peer                      State
$40,995               $18,597               $9,929

Auditors found that in 2016, Mobile Elementary, with its annual double-digit enrollment, had administration expenses of $17,178 per student compared to its peer group average of $2,987. The report found that was “partly because it served fewer students than peer districts, on average, and therefore, costs were spread across fewer students. However, the high costs were also the result of the District employing a full-time superintendent with a relatively high salary.”

Wood’s response was to outline a plan to phase out the superintendent position after the hiring and training of a head teacher/special education teacher.

The follow-up by Vicki Hanson, director of School Audits, indicated the crossover phase during fiscal year 2019 would “likely result in higher administrative costs” while both superintendent and head teacher are on staff.

Mobile Elementary students receive art instruction from artist Kristal Hoeh.

Mobile Elementary does not share boundaries with other schools. When its students reach high school age, or even middle school age, they can choose from various schools. Being in the city closest to Mobile despite being in another county, Maricopa schools receive some of the Mobile students. Others have gone to Mountain Pointe. Some have even attended Ira Hayes. Years ago, they were bused to Casa Grande.

The audit suggested the district pay tuition to a nearby district to educate its students. The school was called out for overpaying an hourly employee, misreporting the number of students transported and having poor oversight of its lease agreement, among other items. Implementation of changes are noted as being “in process.”

With a transient population, enrollment is now too low for the district to receive state funds (Wood estimated it would need an enrollment of 35-40 to qualify), so it relies primarily on property taxes. Enrollment is also too low for the school to be assigned a letter grade, because publicized test results could be almost matched to specific students.

However, for the second year, the school qualified for results-based funding. In FY2018, that amounted to an extra $8,100 (or $400 per student). Butterfield Elementary was the only MUSD school to do likewise.

“You don’t get that unless your students are performing well on the test,” Wood said. “So, although they can’t publish our results, we are doing well as far as the assessments.”

What’s not in the financial paperwork is the unincorporated area’s tendency to lean on the school as a center of the community. Board members feel the school and community are misunderstood.

“We’re not gun-toting hillbillies who live here,” board member Delores Brown said, adding several in the community have master’s degrees. She tutors students, touting those who have seen more success since transferring to the school, and is one of the school’s strongest volunteers.

Wood called board members the “most dedicated, committed board I’ve ever worked with.” Board President Patricia Blair has tutored younger students in the past and put her efforts into building up the district library.

“She has been, for all the years I’ve been here, a strong supporter of our library,” Wood said. “We have a really great library, especially for the size of school we are. She has organized that library, she has catalogued things. She is the heart and soul of that library.”

Blair said the wide variety of books ranges from pre-K to 12th grade.

“We’re very small. We’re close-knit,” Wood said. “We have high expectations, high standards that are well known, so we can address when things happen that are inappropriate or unacceptable, or they’re not meeting the expectations of general student behavior, take care of it quickly and then just go on.”

The superintendent said all its teachers are highly qualified with endorsements and certification in their areas. The teachers average 10-plus years of experience. Besides the three full-time classroom teachers, there are part-time teachers for art and physical education.

“We have a very lean staff. We all do multiple tasks and have multiple responsibilities,” Wood said. “We do not receive state funding. All of our funding comes from property taxes. And that’s always a challenge.”

Staffing is also difficult at the remote school. The challenge is to find someone of quality to come to Mobile and fit in, though teachers have been willing to drive long distances for the job. It is still looking for a music teacher.

Mobile’s biggest expense is staffing. It has a starting salary of $40,100. Its average teacher salary is $50,038. By comparison, the peer average is $50,510, and the state average is $48,951.

Besides the random financial audit, Mobile Elementary also undergoes the annual performance audit to which all district schools submit. The most recent report showed the administration costs were down to $12,155 per student. That is still well above the peer average of $3,064, which increased.

Mobile had only nine students per administrative position compared to 33 in peer schools and the state average of 66. The report showed no financial stresses. It was particularly low-stress in capital reserve (more than three years’ worth), operating reserve (17.2 percent and increasing), steadiness of school enrollment and meeting its budget.

A Rural Education Achievement grant gave the school the ability to purchase technology in the form of classroom and library computers. The grant is $15,000-$18,000 per year for the tech program.

There have been past efforts by Valley districts to consolidate Mobile Elementary, but the small school effectively gave them the raspberry. Until now, as Blair noted, a district did not have to be consolidated unless it wanted to.

HB2139, on the other hand, would force the issue, making independent districts a thing of the past.

“Over the past decades a variety of unification and consolidation efforts, committees and proposed legislation have been brought forward in the state of Arizona,” Wood said. “If this bill is successfully passed and signed into law, Mobile ESD would comply with the requirement for a feasibility study and then work with the Maricopa County Education Services Agency and others regarding study results and findings.

“We will await the results of this legislative session.”

But they aren’t happy about it.

“It just makes the other schools larger and classrooms bigger,” Blair said. “To me that’s not a good idea for the kids.”

“They don’t have the support because the teachers don’t have the time to give them the support,” Brown added.

“Our kids don’t get lost in a classroom.”


This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Melodee and Patrick Breazeale. Submitted photo

 

When Patrick Breazeale Jr. of Homestead received his master’s degree from Grand Canyon University April 26, he was right behind his mother.

Melodee Breazeale, too, earned her Master of Science in the same field, psychology with an emphasis on industrial and organizational psychology. A resident of Rancho El Dorado, she works from home for Chase Bank while Patrick works for the State of Arizona.

Both Breazeales graduated summa cum laude.

“Needless to say, two heads are always better than one, and both of us helped each other when we might have got stuck on any one area or class,” Melodee Braezeale said. “There were some pretty funny events in some of the classes, so this will be a memory for both of us going forward.”

Melodee Breazeale has an associate’s degree in administration of justice. She and Patrick both have bachelor’s degrees in business management. Melodee received her bachelor’s degree from GCU in 2016, and Patrick did the same in 2017.

Melodee’s employer allotted her $7,500 per year toward tuition for her graduate program. That allowed her to take four classes a year. Though she started her master’s program ahead of Patrick, he was able to take more classes at a time to finish in the same graduating class with his mother.

“I am so proud of my son to carry on and get his master’s degree, and I am still pinching myself that I got through my classes with a 4.0,” she said.

On graduation day, she was teary-eyed walking across the stage to receive her degree.

“But I had to stop when I heard, ‘and her son… Patrick Breazeale Jr,’” she said. “I stopped walking, turned around, and I got to watch my son shake hands and get his degree. I could not have been more proud of my son at that time!”

After the event sank in, Patrick called his mother later, saying, “This is not very common, right?”

Melodee’s parents are Hal and Shyrlee Cole of Province.

Submitted photo

Robot Overlords Anna Walton, 13, and Gabriel Ulibarri, 14. Photo by Jim Headley

Only 30 teams from Arizona are going to the 2019 VEX Robotics Worlds Championship, and five of them are from Maricopa.

Anna Walton, 13, and Gabriel Ulibarri, 14, both of Maricopa, have qualified for the VEX VRC World Championships in the high school division. The two are not associated with one of the large school programs, like most of the participants in the event, but rather are home schooled.

There are only seven high school teams attending the championships from Arizona.

Ulibarri is a freshman, and Walton is an eighth grader. They are coached by Gabriel’s mother, Michelle Ulibarri, and Anna’s father, Jason Walton. The two have competed together in VEX Robotics four years in the elementary and middle school divisions.

The two will begin competition next Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, and their team name is the Robot Overlords.

“There is a specific game that they are designing to play this year,” said Michelle Ulibarri. “They know what the game is, then they need to build the robot to accomplish the task. They play with a teammate and they play against teammates. They are only given the parts and the task. They have to come up with how to accomplish that on their own.”

Legacy School in Maricopa qualified two middle school and one elementary team for the VEX Robotics Championship and there is another elementary team qualified from Maricopa.

The competitive high school division of the VEX Robotics World Championship will take place at the Kentucky Exposition Center with 500 teams from around the world compete for the title, including the Robot Overlords.

The Robot Overlords will be placed into an alliance with another team at Worlds and then take on two other teams on the “field” at the same time.

The object is to see how many points can be gathered while attempting to hinder the other side from getting points. The competition is not a robot battle, though there can be some minor contact between the robots.

Teams are scored on pre-programed (autonomous mode) and live remote-controlled competitions. The participants must program the remote control to work with their robot. The students program the robot and the remote by writing computer code in C++.

The teams build their robots for the competition and most of the teams are much larger than the homeschooled Robot Overlords. Teams are usually from well-funded schools.

“There will be 500-plus high school teams from across the world competing,” Anna said. “The teams are however big you are. They can be one person. There are some teams from Arizona going that have 15 kids on one robot because they’re from a school.”

They leave Sunday evening for Kentucky as the competition starts Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday.

The two have no prediction about how well they might do at the world competition, but Gabriel did say, “better than average.”

Anna said it will be very interesting because they could be paired with a Chinese team, and they have to figure out how to communicate with each other, let alone compete in an alliance against two other teams.

“Google Translate is going to be our friend,” Anna said.

Photo by Jim Headley

Kimberly Ellsworth will be Heritage Academy's first principal in Maricopa. Photo by Jim Headley

Friday Heritage Academy officially broke ground on its new $16 million school set to open in July.

The campus in Maricopa will be the fourth Heritage Academy to open in Arizona. The company has charter schools open in Laveen, Mesa and Queen Creek.

“Heritage Academy was the fourth charter issued in the state of Arizona in the very first year,” said Jared Taylor, chairman of the Heritage board and CEO. “We were one school for many years. We had so many people asking us to build in other places, and we always said no. We were happy just being one little school in downtown Mesa.”

He said when people started standing in line at 2 a.m. to enroll their children in the charter school, the Heritage board decided to rethink the idea of opening additional locations. Heritage opened locationa in Queen Creek and Laveen five years ago.

“We are not a charter affiliate that needs to build on every corner. We want to go where there is a good fit in the community, where there is a need in the community,” he said.

Taylor said he was approached by some Maricopa parents, especially Sarah Morgan, telling him there was a need in the city as many charter schools had a long waiting list to enroll.

“They said, ‘Will you?’ and I said, ‘No.’ I don’t have any more hair to lose and I can’t go anymore gray,” Taylor joked.  “It was actually a great fit and we are excited to be here.”

Taylor said the $16 million investment in the Maricopa school will come in two phases, with $13.3 million for the opening phase in the first year followed by a $3.3 million phase a couple years after enrollment grows. A school auditorium is planned in the second phase. He said the school is expected to be completed and operational by July.

“We love the families and we’ve been doing this from the very first year of charter schools. We know what we’re doing. We don’t have to be all things to all people. We just specialize with junior high and high school. Here, we are opening grades 6 through 10 the first year. The next year we will open grade 11 and then 12,” Taylor said.

Kimberly Ellsworth will be moving to Maricopa to be the Maricopa school’s first principal. She started at Heritage Academy as a junior high English teacher in 1999. She later worked as a teacher and assistant principal with other schools in the valley and returned to Heritage Academy in 2014 as the founding principal for the Laveen campus.

“We did start the Laveen campus five years ago,” Ellsworth said. “It is quite a process. They have already replaced me in Laveen, and I started working for Maricopa as the principal in January. It is a huge project. We’re starting something new – to me that is the exciting part. We can build exactly what we want. We can train the kids from the very beginning.”

Ellsworth said the first day of school on the Maricopa campus is July 24.

“I think we can do it, maybe a month sooner,” she said. “We are still looking for students. I feel like this school is the best you will ever find.”

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price welcomed Heritage to the city.

“This school is a great addition to the community,” Price said. “Anytime we can add quality institutions of learning to our community and give people a choice, I think it’s an excellent thing. It helps us raise the bar for our attraction of businesses, headquarters and retailers that want to come to our community. We are generating the qualified workforce that needs to be here. For a wonderful A+ school to come to the community – that’s only a valuable addition.”

To find out more about Heritage Academy visit their webpage at heritageacademyaz.com.

“We still have 10 teaching positions to fill. We will probably start with 25 new jobs in the community. Many of them are local. With some of them, they live in Maricopa but working outside of Maricopa. It is fun to bring them back. If people are interested in the jobs here, go to our website to see what openings we have,” Taylor said, adding families interested in enrolling their children in the academy are welcome to tour one of their existing schools.

The Maricopa school’s website will be HAMaricopa.com.

Rachele Reese

After high school, Rachele Piñero Reese was a bit adrift.

In college, she studied for a basic general education degree in Puerto Rico “because I had no idea what I wanted to do in my life.”

She was also struggling with what she later found out was attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Severe ADHD,” she said, “so I had to learn how I could learn. They didn’t even know what ADHD was, so it’s not like I was diagnosed. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t focus. So, it took a group of people, including my parents, to keep me confident in my skills to learn.”

So, she empathizes with students with learning issues but doesn’t accept excuses. And she wants high schools to do a better job of leading students to discover where their skills can take them in the job market.

“One of the things that I have always noticed is the fact that when you finish high school, the advisor can give you a test and then say, ‘These are your skills,’” Reese said. “But there is really no real-life idea of what that job is going to look like.”

Now with a master’s degree and working as an assistant principal at Leading Edge Academy, she has been chosen to be the principal for the upcoming A+ Charter Schools for junior high and high school students. The school is being organized to emphasize project-based education, job marketability, higher education and life skills.

Reese has been involved in Maricopa education since 2000. She started as a substitute at Maricopa Unified School District for middle school and high school language arts, English Language Learners and Spanish during a tumultuous time at MUSD. While teaching, she was training as ELL coordinator for the district.

“High school is a big challenge, and I want to take that challenge,” she said.

Rebekah Krueger, the business manager of Arizona Charter Solutions, Leading Edge Academy’s management company, has known Reese 11 years and thought she was just the person to start up a charter high school.

“She’s just so enthusiastic,” Krueger said. “She’s passionate about education. She’s lived there in Maricopa many years, and her experience speaks for itself. And she’s fun to be around.”

During Reese’s third year at MUSD, the district experienced hypergrowth. She went from testing 200 students to testing 800. She had to train a group of people to help so the district could make adequate yearly progress. At the time, she worked out of the old elementary building at the Honeycutt Avenue campus.

When Santa Cruz Elementary opened in Tortosa, she went there as assistant principal, working one year with 1,000 students. When the academic coach was promoted to principal at the new Saddleback Elementary, she took Reese with her as assistant.

A year later, Maricopa Wells Middle School was having administrative issues, and Reese split her time between duties at Saddleback and doing teacher evaluations at MWMS.

“She is probably the top individual I’ve ever dealt with as far as evaluating teachers and instructing teachers,” said Mat Reese, who was an MUSD principal at the time and later married Rachele Piñero.

Maricopa Elementary was in corrective action academically and having discipline problems. When the principal was moved out, Rachele Reese went to MES as an assistant principal. Two weeks later she was the interim principal and in charge of a turnaround.

“We had a year to turn it around,” she said. “I met with staff and I made the analogy of a huge ship that needs at least 30 miles to turn around completely. We don’t have 30 miles; we have about a mile to turn it around. Typically, there are going to be casualties.”

That meant a “reduction in force” of 18 employees. That was the beginning of the end of her time at MUSD.

“I know there are people who don’t like my approach because of the turnaround aspect of it,” Reese said. “You can’t go in and pat people on the back and say, ‘You’re doing a great job,’ if they’re not.”

She said she had heard the excuse for low scores at MES centered on the high population of Native American and Hispanic students.

“I had to go in and build those kids up because those kids thought they were dumb,” she said. “I’m Hispanic myself, and I’ve always thought anybody can learn. If you just believe in yourself, you can do anything.”

Putting her hyperactivity to work, she also insisted on a better physical environment at the school, even getting out the paint roller to paint the cafeteria to be more inviting.

“What she did at Maricopa Elementary was phenomenal,” Mat Reese said. “She got that school from three points from an A. In six years they didn’t even approach a C.”

After Superintendent Jeff Kleck resigned, she said she “saw the writing on the wall” and turned in her resignation as well. She became a turnaround principal at Gila Bend. There were some improvements during her two years there but also decades of political baggage.

After taking a break, she took a part-time position helping Mat Reese create the local Leading Edge Academy charter school and began helping Laura Newcomb gain accreditation for her Autism Academy in Tempe. When Leading Edge opened, she became full-time staff. She has been with Leading Edge three years.

In 2018, Reese was named Maricopa Latin Heritage Person of the Year during the City’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.

When Newcomb and Kreuger floated the idea of another charter high school, Reese told them Maricopa would be the place to do it.

Kreuger said they felt the kind of project-based high school they were envisioning was needed, and Reese’s knowledge of the city was vital.

“She can hit the ground running.”


This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

By Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

This column is written for parents and grandparents of young girls who have shown an ability and an interest in mathematics.

For many years, females were discouraged from pursuing an interest in mathematics, but thankfully, that has changed. Yet the question might still be asked, what can a young lady do following her interest in math? To answer that question several women who were (and still are) math nerds will be highlighted.

Jelena Kovacevic grew up in Yugoslavia and states, “I’ve been a math nerd for as long as I can remember, and I’m proud of it.” She received her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Belgrade, moved to the United States when her father was the Yugoslav ambassador and obtained her Ph.D. at Columbia. She worked at Bell Laboratories and became chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. Last year, she was appointed dean of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, the first woman to do so in the school’s 164-year history.

Eleanor Baum realized early that her love of math was directing her to be an engineer, but in the 1950s females were not supposed to be engineers. One college would not admit her because they had no women’s bathroom. City College of New York admitted her, and she was the only woman in her engineering class. She earned a Ph.D. at Polytechnic Institute of New York and worked in aerospace before becoming dean of Engineering at Pratt Institute, the very first woman to be an engineering dean at an American university. She was appointed dean of Engineering at the prestigious Cooper Union and is now dean emeritus there.

Audrey Malagon grew up in rural Nebraska and was always interested in math. Fortunately, there was a summer honors program where her interest was enriched. She received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Emory University and is a professor at Virginia Wesleyan, where she shares her passion for mathematics. Her ultimate professional goal is to be a university president.

Not all females with mathematical ability become academics. Mary Barra obtained an electrical engineering degree from General Motors Institute, and, after receiving an MBA from Stanford, worked at General Motors and is currently the CEO of that corporation.

Danica McKellar had an early interest in math and received her mathematics degree from UCLA. She has written books aimed at exciting young girls about math. You know her best as Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years” television series.

Female math nerds have also become physicians, lawyers and politicians. Mathematical ability can be the key allowing a young woman to open the door to success.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 44 years of experience teaching mathematics. He is in his fourth year as a volunteer at Butterfield E.S.


This column appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa Unified School District was informed in December 11 teachers achieved National Board Certification.

Certification consists of four components

  1. An assessment of the teacher’s content knowledge.
  2. A portfolio showcasing student work samples and how the teacher provides feedback and reflects on student learning.
  3. Two videos of the teacher in the classroom, showing lessons taught and the interaction with and among students demonstrating the depth of teaching and learning.
  4. A portfolio of “reflective” work demonstrating what the teacher does outside the classroom that translates in the classroom, from collaboration to using assessments to inform instruction and learning.

Often referred to as the “gold standard” of achievement, NBCT certification asks educators to demonstrate standards-based evidence of the dynamic instruction that takes place in their classrooms. Each teacher spent time evaluating their own instructional strategies and worked purposefully to adjust their practices to better meet the needs of their students.

MUSD’s newest National Board Certified teachers are:

Butterfield Elementary School

Inez Ramirez has been an employee with the school district since 2007 and has been at Butterfield since the 2012-13 school year. She is a first-grade structured English immersion (SEI) teacher.

“Mrs. Ramirez is an amazing teacher who challenges herself, her students and others to improve and succeed. She is always looking for ways to help our school be the best it can be. She is an essential member of our Butterfield staff.” ~ Principal Janel Hildick

Maricopa Elementary School

Janet Stensgard has been in the district since 2004 and has taught at Maricopa Elementary for the past seven years. She is an instructional coach/specialist providing resources and instructional support to fellow teachers.

“Mrs. Stensgard strives to impact our school culture on a deeper level ensuring scholars and teachers are successful. Janet supports teachers by working to create professional development based on their needs and the needs of our scholars. She is an asset to our school’s growth and success as a Leader in Me Lighthouse school.” ~ Principal Jennifer Robinson

Taryn Cummings began her career with MUSD in 2011. She has taught at Maricopa Elementary School for seven years. Currently, she teaches fifth grade.

“Taryn seeks out new strategies and feedback to help support her scholars and their learning, pushing on them to provide evidence and explain their thinking. She also openly shares and collaborates with other colleagues elevating teaching and learning across our campus. She is an asset to our school’s growth and success as a Leader in Me Lighthouse school. An outside the box thinker, she challenges herself and others to be the best every day.” ~ Principal Jennifer Robinson

Maricopa High School

Aidan Balt is an eight-year veteran at Maricopa High School. This year she is teaching ninth-grade Honors English Language Arts (ELA) and Advanced Placement (AP) Literature.

“Ms. Balt is a shining example of support and collaboration and shares her expertise with her peers as a mentor and master teacher.” ~ Principal Brian Winter

“I was in Ms. Balt’s class in my freshman year. She was the best teacher I had ever had and going to her class was the highlight of my day. I learned so much from her and gained my love of language in her class. Ms. Balt completely deserves this certification and I’m not at all surprised that she got it.” ~ Student Abby Poland

Jenn Miller has been committed to the district and MHS for 16 years. This year, she is teaching English 2 Honors and is a mentor and master teacher. Mrs. Miller is also a favorite of her students, and they lined up to share what she means to them:

“The best thing that Mrs. J. Miller has done for me is that she helped me accomplish my goals of becoming a better writer and reader in my life.” ~ Alana Daniels

 “I have never had a teacher like her (in a good way) and I absolutely love being in her class. She is an amazing teacher. I learn something new every day, and not just about English. I feel privileged to be in her class.” ~ Abby Poland

“The best thing about Ms. Miller is her sole dedication to seeing every child succeed in her class. She will look over the need of the student and help them individually to make certain that they do their best.” ~ Hannah W. Paul Gindiri

“The best thing about J. Miller is that there was never a moment where I didn’t think she cared. There was never a moment that I thought I wasn’t good enough to be in her class. Even when I would get the slightest bit of doubt, she would tell me that I was enough. She never let me question myself. That’s what the best thing about J. Miller is.” ~ Hannah Bailey

Katherine Persitz has been a mainstay of Maricopa High School and the district for the past nine years. She teaches 11th and 12th grade ELA and Journalism and is an Arizona Master Teacher as well. You can tell she is making a positive impact on her students.

“Ms. Persitz impacted my education by really giving me the feeling that she cares about not only me but all of her students, and our personal lives.” ~ Bryce Wildermuth

 “The best thing about Ms. Persitz is that she is always so caring and willing to help students. I love Ms. Persitz!” ~ Chayla Holloway

Maricopa Wells Middle School

Treva Jenkins is a 12-year veteran teacher and has spent every year at Maricopa Wells.

“Ms. Jenkins is a long-time staff member at Maricopa Wells Middle School, a district mentor, and she runs our Panther Ambassador program here at Wells. Her experience and understanding of all students is a great example of how to be an excellent educator.” ~ Principal Thad Miller

Jennifer Cameron has been with MUSD for seven years and has called Maricopa Wells home for the last two.

“She is a district mentor who has an immense background in multiple areas of education. That experience and knowledge is what makes her so great for kids, while also being helpful to our entire staff here at Maricopa Wells Middle School.” ~ Principal Thad Miller

Jacqueline Hahn has been with the MUSD for six years and has been part of the Maricopa Wells team for the last two.

“Mrs. Hahn is a part of our Leadership Team here at Maricopa Wells, while still heading up our Site Council committee on campus. Her educational and real-life experience allows her to apply those concepts in everyday practice for her students.” ~ Principal Thad Miller

Pima Butte Elementary

Shelly Fisher has been an MUSD teacher 13 years and a teacher at Pima Butte for 12 years. Mrs. Fisher teaches third grade; however, she’s also taught first grade and second grade, too.

“I appreciate Mrs. Fisher’s dedication and commitment to do the best job teaching each and every day. Mrs. Fisher has high expectations for all of her students and strives to see that each student in her classroom succeeds.” – Principal Randy Lazar

Staci Oliver has been a teacher for the Maricopa Unified School District for 12 years and joined the Pima Butte family 11 years ago. Mrs. Oliver teaches third grade and previously taught fourth grade.

“Mrs. Oliver praises her students often for a job well done and encourages her students to praise each other. She ensures that her students are engaged in her lessons and when she notices that a student may need more direct guidance and support, she takes the time to get a student back on track.” – Principal Randy Lazar


This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

In October, Arizona Department of Education released school letter grades. Three Maricopa schools received the highest grade of A: Legacy Traditional, Pima Butte Elementary School and Butterfield Elementary School, the latter two being Maricopa Unified School District schools.

Butterfield reached the A grade after having been a C school last year. What does it take to obtain the A grade?

Principal Janel Hildick said there were many contributing factors, including:

– A new math curriculum

– Override funds, which reduced class size

– An advanced fifth-grade math class

– An on-site school counselor

– The implementation of the PBIS Program to reduce discipline issues and keep children in classrooms learning

With these important tools, teachers could enhance student learning in English Language Arts, math and science. The school received 49.3 out of 50 points in the student-growth evaluation.

I sought reaction from Butterfield parents and faculty. One parent replied three of her children had attended Butterfield with one currently in fourth grade.

“For the last 10 years we have had the joy of watching Butterfield grow, change and excel,” she said. “The teachers we have had along the way have such a connection and personal interest in our children. Their passion and dedication prove their desire to see the student succeed.”

One teacher, who is the parent of three Butterfield students, said, “As a parent, you want the best for your children, and Butterfield has now officially proven what we have always felt about the school, which is that it provides an outstanding education for its students. I have so much invested in this school and we as a staff have worked so hard to achieve this kind of success. I know that my children are getting the absolute best education possible at Butterfield and It is a privilege to be a teacher there.”

Another teacher, who has one son at Butterfield and another in middle school, wrote, “The staff and students at the school are some of the most incredible people in Maricopa.”

She and her husband, both actively involved at the school, are proud to be Butterfield parents. Another teacher who is the parent of a third grader and whose daughter is at the middle school, responded, “I know that my child is more than just a number on a test; he is a student that deserves every opportunity to succeed. As a parent, I can’t picture my child at a better school. I am proud of what the staff and students have accomplished.”

One more Butterfield parent said she had a daughter at Butterfield in third grade and another daughter now at middle school. She wrote, “I didn’t need a grade to know how wonderful the faculty and staff were.”

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 44 years of experience teaching mathematics. He is in his fourth year as a volunteer at Butterfield E.S.


This column appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Rachele Reese will be shifting from Leading Edge Academy to A+ Charter Schools. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa is gaining more educational opportunities this year as two new charter schools plan to open in July.

IF YOU GO
What: A+ Charter Schools Open House
When: Jan. 10, 6 p.m.
Where: Leading Edge Academy, 18700 N. Porter Road

A+ Charter Schools is set to build a facility to be open by July 24. It is enrolling high school and junior high students. An open house for residents to learn more about A+ Charter is set for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Leading Edge Academy.

“Our goal in the first three years is 300 students,” said Rachele Reese, assistant principal at Leading Edge Academy – Maricopa.

Reese has been on staff at Leading Edge full-time for three years. Next school year, however, she will be an administrator at A+ Charter Schools.

Corporate board members are Rebekah Krueger, business manager of Arizona Charter Solutions, management company of Leading Edge Academy, and Laura Newcomb, owner and president of Autism Academy for Education and Development (AAED), with three campuses in the Valley. Newcomb also built the framework for special education still in use at Leading Edge.

Reese said Newcomb approached her about creating a high school. Reese told her that would be a good idea if it was in Maricopa.

“We need options in Maricopa if nothing else,” Reese said. “We also need to try to bring back some of the kids that are going out of town.”

A+ Charter Schools incorporated as a nonprofit in 2017. The governing board includes Mat Reese, principal of Leading Edge Academy – Maricopa (and Rachele’s husband), Derrick Jamerson, principal with LEAD and AAED, and Krueger.

“We wanted to start small,” Rachele Reese said. “I want to get to know the family and the kid and then really start creating that infrastructure that you need when you start a school before building.”

The charter was approved by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools on Dec. 10. According to application materials, A+ Charter intends to start with grades seventh through 10th and then add 11th grade and 12th grade by 2021. It is intended to focus on workforce readiness.

“One of the things that I have always noticed from high schools is the fact that when you finish high school, the advisor can give you a test and then say, ‘These are your skills,’” Reese said. “But there is really no real-life idea of what that job is going to look like.”

She said she wants to take the culture and positive attitude of Leading Edge to A+ Charter Schools. Mat Reese said A+ Charter will also seek membership in the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

IF YOU GO
What: Heritage Academy Job Fair
When: Jan. 8, 5 p.m.
Where: HomeSmart Success, 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 100

During the same meeting at which A+ Charter was approved by the state board, Heritage Academy received the OK to expand to Maricopa and increase its enrollment. It, too, is targeting middle school and high school students.

Heritage Academy Inc. has been in business 23 years. The Maricopa campus is to start with sixth through 10th grade and grow to sixth-12th by 2022. It is planning for 500 students.

With a more public outreach to families, Heritage Academy compiled a list of 1,340 Maricopans interested in a charter high school, according to its application. It expects to open with a staff of 39. Heritage is hosting a job fair Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at HomeSmart Success.

School is expected to start at Heritage Academy July 22. It does not have school on Fridays and takes two-week breaks for fall, winter and spring.

Corporate Board members are Diane and Jared Taylor. Governing Board members are Raymond Jones, Travis Moore, Marie Renard, Eve Seaman and Jared Taylor.

A+ Charter may be built near Banner Health off Porter Road. Heritage Academy has a location at Adams Way and Conner Drive.

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

How did they do that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An open letter to the Maricopa community

By Judy Webster

As many of you are aware, Camino Montessori closed its doors at the end of the school day on Oct. 5. This was a gut-wrenching decision, and I am absolutely brokenhearted about it. It was my dream to bring affordable Montessori education to a community that did not have it. I have poured my heart and soul into this dream for the past nine years, and even two weeks after we closed our doors I continue to grieve over the closing. It is not something I ever dreamed would happen.

I feel terrible for the staff that gave their all to make this a successful school. I feel terrible about not being able to continue the mission of bringing Montessori education to the Maricopa community. Above all else, I feel terrible anguish for letting down the children and families that called Camino their school.
I totally understand the anger that some people have expressed about the closing and especially about the very short notice that was given. If we could have found any way to move forward without closing or if we could have found any way to keep the doors open longer (end of October, end of semester, end of the year) we would have pursued it. The fact of the matter is, we ran out of money.

Many may say that Camino must have known that there were money problems. The answer to that is yes, we knew it was going to be very tight. We lost a lot of enrollment during the second semester last year but managed to make it to the end of the school year. We were convinced that by adding enrollment over the summer, we would be able to continue to keep the doors open. During the summer we did indeed increase the enrollment to a number that would have supported the school but unfortunately on the first day of school, many of the new enrollees did not show up.

Through August and September, we looked at many options to keep the doors open including but not limited to the hiring of a management company to take over operations, combining classrooms, reducing staff, selling the property we had purchased, etc. In the end, we did not see a way to continue without building excessive debt. My husband and I have put a great deal of our own money into this school (our choice) but the well dried up, we did not have funds to meet the needs to continue the school. We seriously doubt we will ever recoup that money. We also understand that this is a risk of running a business.

There were other dynamics to the financial issues that I will not go into in this letter as we adhere to strict confidentiality when it comes to personnel, students, business and potential business partners. I will not “throw anyone under the bus.” Needless to say, all of it related to enrollment or, more fitting, lack of enrollment. The bottom line is, I was the charter holder, I was the director of the school and I accept responsibility.

It is very important for me to let everyone know that the school complied with all legal requirements for students. We alerted staff and families the day after the Board voted to close the school. Understanding that the abrupt closing was going to be difficult for the children and their families we tried to do everything we could think of to help make the change as seamless as possible. We gave families a list of charter, private and public schools along with contact information and provided a handout about home schooling. The day after we let the families know we were closing, we contacted nearly every school on that list to let them know that we were closing and got information about openings they had. We shared that information with the families as well. I offered to meet one on one with any families that wanted help finding new schools. We made copies of all student records and made them available to families on the last day so that they would have the information to give to their child’s potential new school. The staff and I did everything we could think of to make the last couple of days at Camino as positive experience as possible.

I would like to thank the Maricopa community for the incredible support you have shown for Camino Montessori. From government officials to businesses to the wonderful families and children, I will never forget you. I truly hope that someday you will find it in your heart to forgive Camino for the abrupt closing.

Very Sincerely,

Judy Webster
Camino Montessori

Deborah Kohls teaches English Language Learners in second grade at Maricopa Elementary School. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Michelle Chance


Deborah Kohls teaches second-grade English Language Learners (ELL) four hours every day at Maricopa Elementary School.

MES has four Structured English Immersion (SEI) classrooms that provide smaller class sizes and more resources for children learning a new language.

Kohls said the program is vital to the community. Kohls said she had a message to political leaders who’d like to see the tax pulled.

“One of the things that I think our country was founded on was a free, public education for everyone, and it was to make things equal for everyone. And if you’re pulling resources and money from us you’re not making that possible anymore,” Kohls said.

The majority of ELL students in Kohls’ class are Spanish speakers. The teacher instructs only in English and said children usually show immense progress by second quarter.

“When they’re amongst other kids who are growing at their same rate, their confidence is boosted,” Kohls said.

Photo by Mason Callejas
Deborah Kohls. Photo by Mason Callejas

SEI classrooms face challenges other than funding

The program at MUSD’s high school has its differences from the SEI classes at lower grade levels.

Emily Panter, fluent in English and Spanish, is the only SEI teacher at MHS and said she has trouble motivating older students to perform well on tests, adding many of them feel more comfortable with their friends in SEI and fear transitioning out.

“I really explain to them how it’s to their own benefit to put in the effort,” Panter said.

Additionally, she said the class often has an isolating effect on her students, who are separated for half the school day from mainstream classrooms.

And, though the program provides high schoolers more technology resources, Panter said the state needs to change requirements to ensure small class sizes.

“In order to have an SEI classroom, you have to have 20 students within three grade levels, which I’ve always had that, but not enough to make it two classes,” Panter said.

Of Panter’s 26 students this year, 23 are Hispanic. The biggest challenge in class, Panter said, is the majority of students speak the same native language – and continue to prefer speaking it in class over English.

Last year, the SEI class at MHS was split between ability levels, with 20 basic English learners in Panter’s morning class and six intermediate level learners later in the day.

“The afternoon class always did better because it’s easier to separate them,” Panter said. “If you’re going to have this structure, it really needs to be super small.”

Emily Panter is the only SEI teacher at MHS. Photo by Michelle Chance

How are students placed in SEI classes?

Students are required to test in instances when their registration paperwork indicates they speak a second language at home, Panter said. Other times, teachers will refer students to testing.

Based on results, students are labeled pre-emergent, basic, intermediate or proficient. The first two categories require four hours of daily SEI study; intermediate requires two.

Destiny Cruz and her classmate Graciela Brambila, 15, spend four hours every school day under Panter’s instruction. For the past four years, Panter has developed the curriculum based on state standards and what her students need to succeed.

They take lessons on writing, reading, grammar and listening and speaking in English. Panter’s instruction includes lectures and lessons through technology platforms.

“For me, it was very hard the first day. It’s difficult because I don’t understand everything,” Brambila said.

Brambila and Cruz help each other in their traditional studies, like math, outside of their SEI classroom, where teachers usually do not instruct in Spanish.

MUSD desegregation funding divisive issue



This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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Destinee Cruz and Graciela Brambila spend four hours in Structured English Immersion each day. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance


Destinee Cruz is a sophomore at Maricopa High School with a life like most teenagers. She has a large circle of friends and is dedicated to her studies.

Born in Arizona, she moved with her family to Mexico at a young age and spent the next 13 years immersed in the culture and language.

Cruz’s return to the States, her birthplace, was met with obstacles inside the classroom, like navigating favorite subjects in a different language. But the challenge doesn’t keep Cruz from working toward her goal.

“I came back to study English,” she said.

Maricopa Unified School District receives $1.29 million annually to assist English Language Learners like Cruz.

That funding recently came under fire by state politicians, arguing the tax that delivers desegregation dollars to school districts like MUSD should be killed.

The debate began as the state shifted the funding responsibility from taxpayers statewide to those in districts that receive desegregation money. The change resulted in increased secondary property taxes for Maricopans.

That tax funds the program and salaries of 25 teachers who instruct ELL students.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Senate Bill 1529, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey and passed by the Legislature in May, alleges secondary property taxes “levied pursuant to this subsection do not require voter approval.”

State Rep. Mark Finchem (R – LD 11): “This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from one funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights.”

MUSD could join in a lawsuit with Pima County and Tucson Unified that would ask a judge to rule on the legality of the state’s action to change the desegregation funding source without a vote of the people.

Pinal County and the City of Maricopa have expressed solidarity with MUSD as news of the tax source broke – going so far as to publish a seething press release in August, stating in part: “The State Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional. The City of Maricopa, the Maricopa Unified School District and Pinal County did not raise your local property taxes. The state Legislature and the Governor did.”

No matter the funding source, the program remains active. And teachers in non-SEI classrooms who have ELL students said the program is invaluable.

Desert Wind Middle School instrumental music teacher Roger Wagner criticized the view of some politicians that desegregation funding should be ousted altogether.

State Sen. Steve Smith (R – LD 11): “[Desegregation funding] is a bad tax that the local level should eliminate and get rid of it altogether.”
“Beyond it being a tax issue, I think you may also have potentially a discrimination issue,” he said.

Wagner, one of thousands of Arizona teachers to support the #RedForEd movement earlier this year, expressed frustration with the governor and the Legislature, who have touted increasing teacher salaries – while also working to shift the burden of desegregation tax to the local level.

“You can’t light a house on fire and call 9-1-1 and be the hero,” Wagner said.

The faces of MHS desegregation funding



This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

There is no question understanding and utilizing technology are vital tools for a successful career. Those considering the social sciences, the financial industry or the arts for one’s vocation must be able to function with technology, and it is helpful to have a strong background in science.

An article in the Aug. 7 edition of New York Times (page A23 “Make Your Daughter Practice Math) highlighted a researcher who is concerned about preparing young female students for a world where competence in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is a requirement.

Barbara Oakley, the author of the article, is an engineering professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and authored the book “Learning How to Learn.” Oakley is convinced research demonstrates the key to STEM success is a solid foundation in mathematics.

Parents of daughters must be concerned about their children’s mathematical development. Research results show boys and girls have similar abilities in mathematics, while girls generally outperform boys in reading and writing. Many girls believe they are better in language arts than in math and translate this into a belief that they are really not good in math. This leads to a lack of effort in math lessons. The basis for this behavior is false since girls can excel in mathematics the same as boys.

Mathematics is the language of science, engineering and technology, and as a language it is acquired using in-depth practice.

Professor Oakley writes, “Unfortunately, thinking you’re not very good at something can be a quick path to disliking and avoiding it, even if you do have natural ability. You can begin to avoid practicing it, because to your mind that practice is more painful than learning what comes more easily. Not practicing, in turn, transforms what started out as a mere aversion into a genuine lack of competence. Unfortunately, the way math is generally taught in the United States – which often downplays practice in favor of emphasizing conceptual understanding – can make this vicious circle even worse for girls.”

What is the professor’s advice for parents of girls? She emphasizes, “Do your daughter a favor – give her a little extra math practice each day, even if she finds it painful. In the long run, she’ll thank you for it. (And, by the way: the same applies to your son.)”

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 42 years of teaching experience. He is a volunteer teacher of advanced math classes at Butterfield Elementary School.


This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

The school year has started, and many 12th-grade students and their families are experiencing the college admission application process.

If a student waits until the senior year of high school, he or she has waited too long. The process should begin in elementary school where the student can develop a productive work ethic. Completing all homework assignments, studying for tests and starting early on assigned projects and reports will develop behaviors that will maximize grades in high school.

Once the student arrives in ninth grade, a folder should be maintained listing all activities (both in-school and off-campus – athletics, music, academic competitions and student government are prime examples), including a description of the efforts made by the student. A similar folder should be created for each grade level in high school. Colleges are very interested in activities as well as grades. A student who has participated in time-consuming activities and who has good grades has learned to budget time and will most likely be successful in college.

Starting in 11th grade, the student should start examining possible colleges. Some questions that should be asked about each school are:

  1. Is the school’s location what I want? Some students may wish to be close to home while others may want to be far away.
  2. What size student population is desired? Will a student be happy with a campus of 1,000 students? How about 30,000 or 50,000?
  3. Is there an academic program that covers the student’s career interests?
  4. If the student should change his or her mind about the major, are there diverse majors available?
  5. How likely is the student to receive sufficient financial aid?

There is help available, starting with the high school counselor’s office. Ultimately, the student should visit the campus of each school that appears to be a good choice. Ideally, visit the campus on Friday and attend classes. Stay over to Saturday to see what type of activities exist for those residing on campus.

It is wise to invest time in seeking financial aid. There are all types of scholarships. Students who have a parent who served on a U.S. Navy submarine are eligible for a special scholarship, as are those whose parents or grandparents worked in the shoe industry. Many church-based colleges offer financial aid to students who are active members. An excellent scholarship program is the ROTC Scholarship, which pays academic costs and provides a monthly stipend to help with room and board.

Financial-aid research is an important part of early preparations for college.

Murray Siegel has a PhD in MathEd and 42 years of teaching experience. He lives in Maricopa.


This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Bernadette Russoniello

By Bernadette Russoniello

Are you applying for post-secondary education and need Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? The process is easier than ever.

 First, visit FAFSA.gov. You must create your FSA ID. You will need to have your Social Security number (SSN), full legal name, birthdate, current address and a personal email address. It is imperative students do not use their school Gmail address as it cannot receive responses from outside the organization. The process takes 5-10 minutes. A parent must create an FSA ID for themselves to electronically sign the FAFSA.

Once you have your FSA ID, create a new application. The FAFSA application opens Oct. 1 for the 2019-20 school year. You will need your parents’ SSNs and 2017 federal tax return. The best part about the online system is that when you enter your parents’ SSNs, the FAFSA automatically links to the IRS database and imports all financial information.

Complicated family situation? For the FAFSA, the “parent” is the legal guardian, biological or adoptive. If a student is living with an alternate family member or friend, information must still be reported for the parent. If parents are divorced, the student should report the parent who either they live with most or provides the most financial support. A stepparent income must also be reported.

Even more complicated? The financial aid offices of your applicant schools will work with you to help sort out the complexities of these situations. Unfortunately, for the federal government all students are considered financial dependents of their parents until the age of 24, regardless of living arrangements and reality.

What if my parent(s) are not legal residents? As long as you are a U.S. citizen, you can qualify for FAFSA. If your parents do not have an SSN, enter all zeros for the SSN.

Parents: How can you help? File your taxes on time so your child can be eligible for maximum support.

Be prepared with your applicant schools. On the FAFSA application, you can share your financial information electronically with up to 10 schools. You want to be intentional and purposeful in this selection. Once you confirm the schools have received your info, you can change your submission to 10 other schools. However, it can take the receiving institutions up to eight weeks to process your data, so be sure to prioritize.

The anticipated aid amount for the federal Pell Grant is $6,095. Federal grants can be used for community college, trade schools and universities, public or private. Grants are renewable up to four years if you pass all your classes and maintain full-time enrollment.

Once you submit your application, you will immediately receive an email from the Department of Education. This email is not a congratulations on completing the form; it is the confirmation letter with your anticipated aid. The letter will include your expected family contribution (EFC) and your anticipated aid. The EFC indicates the amount of money you are expected to contribute toward your college education.

Maricopa High School will host a community Financial Aid night Oct. 22 for families struggling with the process or wanting additional support.

Bernadette Russoniello is the Career and College coordinator at Maricopa High School. She can be reached at BRussoniello@MUSD20.org.


This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Shianne Holman guides students through the process of reading local news and using traditional media as they learn to consume information. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

In an age dominated by digital platforms, Shianne Holman’s fourth-grade students learn hands-on, practical skills like public speaking, reading a paper map and writing checks.

But it’s the teacher, with her bubbly personality and welcoming smile, that motivates students to come to social studies class at Sequoia Pathway Academy.

“She makes me feel joyful, happy and calm,” said 9-year-old James Newman.

Shianne Holman brought a background in education – from security to secretary to paraprofessional – to her newest position as fourth-grade teacher at Sequoia Pathway Academy. Photo by Mason Callejas

A native of Hawaii, Holman is in her second year teaching.

Prior to earning her master’s degree in Elementary Education, she built her resume with wide-ranging school positions in Washington state – from security to secretary to paraprofessional.

And she covers it all in class, too.

With segments in government, economics and state history, Holman’s students are exposed to real-world applications of modern-day issues.

In September, they begin lessons on current events. The children study news of the day from magazines and newsprint collected by Holman from local outlets.

“They need to know what’s happening,” Holman said. “They need to know what’s going on.”

Technology has evolved the education system. Its effects are present in every school’s computer lab and digital smart screens. Holman’s students, likely having navigating hand-held devices since a young age, are exposed in class to the idea that tech can – and does – fail.

That’s why students receive teachings from traditional textbooks, dissect and create map legends, and use their hands to flip through the tangible pages of a news magazine.

Through those lessons, Holman’s students learn to identify the structure of informational texts and gain experience with traditional mediums still produced today.

Photo by Mason Callejas

“I hope they are able to use their experiences that they’re learning now and apply it to become better for us,” Holman said. “They’re our future. Who’s going to take care of us?”

Being informed is an important key in Holman’s teaching philosophy.

Every year her students compose a classroom constitution and submit votes to a handmade ballot box.

“I try to make everything into a real-life situation. I tell them if our parents and grandparents hadn’t gone through what they went through, we wouldn’t have the things we have now, such as technology,” Holman said.

Holman’s educational nostalgia even reaches into the scripts of penmanship – with occasional worksheets on cursive handwriting.

Her fourth-grade teaching colleagues say Holman’s love for educating is illustrated not just by her personality, but also her sundry lesson plans.

“Shianne brings such a passion to teaching, and it shows because her students are always excited to enter her class,” said social studies teacher Dillon Shosted. “Shianne is always looking for new ways to reach all of her students with instructional practices.”

Holman has lived in Maricopa since 2014 with her husband Jonathan and their three daughters Tiani, 11, Nara, 9, and 6-year-old Azaria.

The new educator said she considers former and current students family and hopes her hands-on teachings will produce future leaders.

“I feel like maybe it will inspire one of the kids,” Holman said, “and if that’s one, then that’s better than none.”


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

 

by -
Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

Sequoia Pathway has two principals, one for the elementary grades and one for the secondary grades.

Last year’s high school principal, Dr. Alfonso F. Alva, was promoted to assistant superintendent. The new secondary principal is Diane Silvia, who grew up in New York and started her career in retail management. Seeking a slower pace and better climate, she and her family moved to Arizona, where she discovered a passion for teaching. She earned a master’s in educational leadership and joined Pathway in 2009, holding various teaching and administrative positions.

Last year, Pathway piloted several new programs to enhance the quality of curriculum and instruction, such as Galileo and Alpine Data Management Systems. Silvia believes these programs will continue to improve the school’s effectiveness. When asked about the new school year, she stated, “I am excited about spearheading our mission at Pathway, which is to cultivate a community of excellence through pride and appreciation for our surroundings, education and self.”

The elementary principal is Rachael Lay, who grew up in Houston, Texas, and holds a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from NAU and a master’s in administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix. She has been in education 13 years and has been principal at Pathway for seven years.

Lay points to the introduction of the Galileo set of academic tools and assessments this year, which has enhanced the daily classroom instruction. She looks forward to the new academic year due to the departmentalization of teaching in grades four through six and the addition of intramural sports.

Mat Reese is the principal at Leading Edge Academy (LEA) and was raised in Niagara Falls, New York. He left New York to attend ASU and received his undergraduate degree there. He received a master’s degree in administration from NAU. Reese was a teacher, coach and principal in public schools for 32 years. He joined LEA as its first principal in 2008.

He points with pride to the student- and parent-friendly nature of the campus, and he has an open-door policy that allows parents to see him without an appointment. His excitement for the new school year is the same anticipation he has each new year, watching students grow academically.

At Legacy Traditional School (LTS), the principal is Amy Sundeen. She grew up in Chicago and received a B.S. from Northern Illinois University. She moved to AZ in 2006 and decided to pursue a career in education through the post-baccalaureate program at Rio Salado College and obtained a master’s degree in educational administration. Joining LTS in 2008 as a special education teacher, she became school principal in 2016.

Sundeen believes in the success of the back-to-basics curriculum which is combined with a fine arts program. She is looking forward to continued success with the new VEX Robotics program this year.


This column appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Bernadette Russoniello

By Bernadette Russoniello

‘Where are you going to college?” “What’s your major?” “Where do you want to go to school?” Unfortunately, these questions are far too common for the average teen. We place incredible pressure on students to pick their college of choice; we even measure or judge students by their college ambitions.

The focus of meaningful college and career-ready conversations needs to shift to career. What career do you want? What major will help you attain your career plans? Where do you want to work?

The entire purpose of post-secondary education is to attain specific skills, knowledge and experiences to better prepare us for a career. At the secondary level, we tend to put too much emphasis on the two to eight years of college we prepare students for, rather than the 40 to 50 years that will span their working life.

We need to shift the conversation from college and career to college FOR career.

Why the push for college? Estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate the average earnings for those with college degrees or certified credentials almost double that of a high school graduate. The same statistics show unemployment rates decrease by the same margins.

What is college? When I speak with students, I explain that college is any form of post-secondary education or training that prepares them for a career. College can take many forms apart from the four-year university, including trade schools, certification or licensure, community college, apprenticeships or the military. I challenge students to first consider what they want from life – what do they value? Is it money? Family? Lifestyle? Purpose? What do they consider a “good income”? Once these questions are prioritized, we can dive into possible directions and pathways for their consideration.

When students consider career options, they need to consider how potential careers match their income needs and how the job fits their lifestyle needs and desires.

There are many resources available online to help provide students guidance and direction in career aspirations. A good starting point is the Myers-Briggs-type indicator. Most universities have some form of an interest profiler and major match available on their websites.

Arizona State offers the Me3 assessment, an online picture-based inventory while University of Arizona offers Degree Search, a clickable interactive checklist of criteria to help match students with their best possible field.

Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish. Research and set your career goals, determine what school or program will best fit those plans, and start building relevant skills and experiences to achieve your dreams.

Bernadette Russoniello is the Career and College coordinator at Maricopa High School. She can be reached at BRussoniello@MUSD20.org.


This column appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Bernadette Russoniello

By Bernadette Russoniello

Since the early 2000s, educational policy has placed increasing expectations on accountability through testing. Conversely, our public universities in Arizona chose to make admissions tests optional. Students can gain admittance to Arizona’s big three universities without a qualifying test score. What is the significance of traditional college admissions testing and why does it matter?

Regardless of whether a university requires a test score, the answer is, “Yes,” your test scores matter, and you need to plan and prepare to do your best on these exams. The majority of scholarships students earn are based on academic merit, a combination of grades, course rigor and test scores. If you or your child want free money for college, then preparing and studying for admissions testing is a must.

The SAT, developed by the College Board, a private, nonprofit organization, originally tested a student’s aptitude for the rigors of college. The assessment helped prestigious and exclusive colleges across the United States determine if a potential applicant had the skills requisite for success. Since the 1990s, the mission of the SAT changed to promote excellence, access and equity in education, connecting students to college success and opportunity.

The suites of assessments offered by the College Board, including the PSAT and PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10, offer students the ability to predict AP potential and connect students at younger ages to universities and colleges matching their interests and abilities.

The ACT (American College Testing) originally offered a variant to the “traditional” aptitude testing of the SAT. The ACT was designed to measure what a typical high school junior should know and be able to do, across subject areas including mathematics, reading comprehension, language and scientific reasoning.

For decades, universities aligned with one test philosophy or another. The standard now is that all universities accept either test for admissions.

At Maricopa High School, we encourage students to take both exams. You never know which test you will perform better on. Many students report that the SAT feels harder than the ACT, but often students score better on the SAT than the ACT. Both exams take three hours and a Saturday morning to test. Exams are offered nearly every month at schools around the state. Registration is done entirely online, and each test costs $46. Fee waivers are available through school counselors for students qualifying for the National School Lunch Program or receiving other forms of public assistance.

Increasingly, competitive universities (schools that accept fewer than 35 percent of applicants) require SAT subject tests. The SAT subject test is a course-specific assessment that demonstrates a student’s credential within that field. SAT subject tests help competitive schools determine program readiness and course placement.

Students need to research admission requirements to their schools of interest and be ready to meet those expectations.

Bernadette Russoniello is the Career and College coordinator at Maricopa High School. She can be reached at BRussoniello@MUSD20.com.


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa Unified School District Administrative Office

After a false alarm Wednesday, the Maricopa Unified School District announced Thursday it would reopen at the end of the week.

All nine of MUSD’s school sites will resume classes May 4, according to a district statement.

“We are excited to begin the teaching and learning process again with our wonderful students,” the statement read.

Like the announcement May 2, Thursday’s statement confirmed students and staff will not need to attend additional school days to makeup for the week-long absence due to the teacher walkout.

The last day of school is May 25.


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Bernadette Russoniello

By Bernadette Russoniello

I can’t afford college.”

“I didn’t apply. I didn’t think I could afford it.”

These comments resound among students in Maricopa and present a challenge for parents and educators. News media is filled with reports on the rising costs of college and the declining worth of college degrees – and students are internalizing the message. Giving up; abandoning hope and potential without even considering the options.

However, many of our Maricopa students have plenty of affordable options; they simply do not realize it.

Maricopa Unified School District is a Title I district, indicating 50 percent or more of students qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch programs. These students are highly likely to qualify for the Federal Pell Grant – an award of up to $5,920 annually – for the pursuit of college, university or trade school programs.

Many colleges and universities provide matching funds for qualifying students. Northern Arizona University awards “University Grants” of $6,000 to students who receive Pell Grants. Arizona State University offers College Attainment grants that cover all direct costs and fees. Numerous Maricopa graduates receive more funds in grants than the actual cost of attendance.

The more competitive the school is, the greater the financial award. Competitive colleges accept fewer than 35 percent of applicants and usually have more intense requirements for college admissions. Many of these schools cover 100 percent of financial need. Consider Harvard, America’s oldest and most prestigious college. Harvard’s Financial Aid Initiative requires no contribution from families earning less than $65,000 per year. For families earning under $150,000, students will pay no more than 10 percent of their income to cover college costs, making the most coveted school’s attendance cost lower than in-state universities. The only catch? You have to be accepted.

If a student doesn’t apply for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), he or she will never know what awards they might be eligible for. The application process does not commit students or parents to accept awards; it simply informs families of what aid is available. Students can apply anytime; for rising seniors (current juniors), the application window opens Oct. 1, 2018.

If a student wants to earn these scholarships, they need to set that goal early. Before even attending high school, a student should decide to take the most rigorous classes and to earn the best grades they can. NAU offers the Lumberjack Scholarship to students who meet all university admissions requirements and maintain all A’s and B’s in core classes. Having this goal set before starting ninth grade helps students attain their best performance.

Bernadette Russoniello is the Career and College coordinator at Maricopa High School. She can be reached at BRussoniello@MUSD20.org.


This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa. 

Masters in software engineering graduate Stefano Chang poses for a portrait outside the bookstore on Tempe campus April 20. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASUNow

By Scott Seckel, ASU Now

Stefano Chang of Maricopa had a good job in his field and was one class away from a master’s degree in software engineering from Arizona State University.

Then his vision went wonky.

He saw double because of a tumor in his head. Work, school, and everything else came to a screeching halt as he went to Mayo Clinic for treatment.

While he was there he wondered if there was a way he could take his final class online. He asked Kevin Gary, the graduate program committee chair for software engineering, about it.

“I didn’t want to delay more than I already did,” said Chang, the first in his family to earn a college degree. “It was the only thing I could do in terms of moving on.”

While enduring eight-hour treatments, he hunched over his laptop, wrapping up his degree.

“It felt good,” he said.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I always knew I wanted to get into computers, and that’s what I did. I had zero programming experience coming in. I moved here when I was 15, and I didn’t know anything about this country. … My school didn’t offer anything.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: It takes a lot more effort to finish grad school, knowing that you already have a degree and might not necessarily need it. I already had a job; I was already working before I graduated. This doesn’t really give me a pay bump or anything like that. It’s a lot more than taking exams or reading books; it shows a lot of determination, that you can finish something that you started.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: My brother, my dad and I moved here (from Paraguay). I don’t think my dad finished high school. Nobody had an education, so to say, in my family. It was just me figuring it out. My high school counselor said, “Just apply.” I applied — all local colleges. I got accepted to all three major ones. I was reading the brochure for ASU in computer science. It had a bullet point list of things they specialized in. None of the other colleges had it, so I thought, “OK — I’ll go to ASU.”

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Don’t quit. You’re going to look back and you’re going to say, “I was wise about that,” once you get through it. It’s just like my treatment. I look back on it and say, “It was a piece of cake. Nothing.” But at the time…

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The Brickyard building. That’s the computer science building.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I started my LLC while I was going through treatment. I didn’t want to waste (time usually spent in school) once I graduated. I thought, “I’ll start my own business and make it work.” I took on some contract jobs. It’s a software consulting business.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I think getting autonomous cars to the point where they’re fully autonomous. I don’t think $40 million would be enough. If it’s fully autonomous it’s a lot safer.


Reprinted by permission from ASU Now. Chang is a graduate of Maricopa High School. Photo by Deanna Dent of ASU Now.

Maricopa teachers were among those marching at the capitol Thursday morning, the first day of a walkout. Photo courtesy Jennifer Miller

Maricopa educators rallied afterschool Wednesday on the eve of the statewide teacher walkout.

The demonstration at Copper Sky Recreation Center April 25 included a march around the lake and speeches by various community members.

The activism driven by the #RedForEd movement has permeated the state, driving teachers and school staff into action.

Educators dismissed Gov. Doug Ducey’s salary proposal last week and are demanding increased funding for school children and competitive pay for support staff.

And although teachers were in high spirits and proud of their efforts Wednesday, a subtle unease crept in.

“I’m really proud that after all these years teachers are finally getting together and standing up for everything,” said Maricopa High School art teacher Maria Pour.

“I’m anxious because I know what the kids are going through. I’m anxious because I know the sacrifice that the teachers are making. I’m anxious because I just want a quick resolution and the very least time away from my kids and my classroom,” Pour added.

The walkout closed schools Thursday, and classrooms will remain empty Friday. The length of the walkout is unknown.

Pour said she believes her colleagues would endure a prolonged strike.

Maricopa teachers rallied at Copper Sky Wednesday evening. Photo by Michelle Chance

“I think it would be the overwhelming majority that would be for keeping the walkout,” she said.

Amalia Clark, owner of the Our Children Matter organization, attended the event with boxed food packs for children affected by the walkout.

The Maricopa Unified School District announced it would feed students while its nine schools are closed, but Clark said her agency would step in for those who need additional help.

“I think that a lot of people use the school system not only for learning, but they also use it for nutrition, and now that it’s closed down, they’re realizing there is a big importance to our school system,” Clark said.

Educators awoke Thursday morning and commuted to downtown Phoenix instead of their school sites.

They marched in a statewide demonstration to the Arizona capitol building alongside thousands of others.

Maricopa High School Teacher Jennifer Miller said the experience was “incredibly positive.”

“Teachers from all over the state are talking to each other and encouraging each other – even teachers from rival schools are here in solidarity,” Miller said. “I’ve never seen a group of educators this unified for a cause.”


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The impending walk-out of local educators is expected to close all of Maricopa Unified School District’s nine schools Thursday and could also affect area charter schools.

Known agencies providing walk-out childcare:

Children’s Learning Adventure, 20600 N. John Wayne Parkway

520-214-5737

Registration fee will be waived, and all new families will receive their first day free.

Copper Sky, 44345 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

520-635-1511

Free childcare provided by Maricopa Springs Family Church and other local churches at Copper Sky from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. There are 500 spots available; seeking 70 childcare volunteers. Morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack provided.

Click here to register.

Rockstar Cheer, 12501 N. Murphy Road

856-624-3375

rockstararizona@gmail.com

Located at Rockstar Cheer gym from 7 a.m.–5 p.m. $25 per day, per child. Includes pizza lunch. Snacks and drinks for sale or bring your own. Ages: Kindergarten through eighth grade. 50 spots available.

Food Disbursement:

With help from Our Children Matter and Maricopa Pantry, food boxes will be dispersed at a #RedForEd teacher-led event at Copper Sky Wednesday at 5 p.m. to parents of affected students.


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Gov. Doug Ducey

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Thursday afternoon his proposal to increase teacher pay by 20 percent by fall 2020.

The announcement comes the day after a statewide teacher walk-in.

“I’ve been listening, and I’ve been impressed,” Ducey said during a press conference April 12.

The pay increase figure aligns with Arizona Educators United pay-increase demand, albeit over a period of two years. The increase includes the 1-percent increase paid to teachers in 2017.

Ducey projected the average teacher salary in two years will be $58,130.

The plan first needs to be passed in the state Legislature’s budget session, which is expected to end in the coming days.

If approved, teachers would receive a gradual pay increase:

  • 2017: 1 percent increase
  • 2018: 9 percent increase
  • 2019: 5 percent increase
  • 2020: 5 percent increase

Additionally, Ducey proposed $371 million for Arizona school districts’ “most pressing needs,” including: infrastructure, curriculum, school buses and technology.

“We can do this and do it in a responsible and sustainable way,” Ducey said. “As a result of Arizona’s thriving economy and Arizona’s record population of 7 million residents, our state revenues are on the rise. With a reduction in state government operating budgets, strategic efficiencies, case load savings and a roll-back of some of the Governor’s Office proposals of fiscal year 19 executive budget, more dollars are available to invest into two of Arizona’s most important priorities: Arizona’s teachers and Arizona’s classrooms.” 

Maricopa Unified School District teachers wore red to address the school board Wednesday night. Not all were on board with Gov. Doug Ducey’s Thursday proposal. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa Unified School District Board Member Patti Coutré called the move “a step in the right direction.”

“I just want to know more details,” Coutré added. “You know what they say, ‘the devil’s in the details.’”

Maybe I’m an optimist but I’m hopeful,” said Allie Krigbaum, a second grade teacher at Butterfield Elementary. “I feel like the #RedforEd movement made a difference and that Ducey was able to see communities come together in support of teachers and kids. I feel hopeful that he means what he says.”

Not all local teachers were convinced.

MUSD Technology Integration Specialist Christine Dickinson said she applauded the state’s decision to take action, but it failed overall to address the movement’s demands.

“I am concerned that this action puts a Band-Aid on the teacher-pay issue and opens wounds elsewhere,” Dickinson said.

Many, like Dickinson, viewed the announcement as addressing only a portion of demands from the Arizona Educators United coalition.

“It misses the point of this entire movement,” said Maricopa High School English teacher Becky Gaul. “Teacher raises were just one part of the much larger picture. Where’s the money for our support staff?”

In addition to salary increases, teachers want to see competitive pay for support professionals, permanent teacher salary structure with annual raises, a restoration of education funding to 2008 levels and no new tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average.

Janean Jump teaches fourth grade at Saddleback Elementary. She fears Ducey’s proposal could strangle AEU’s efforts to raise salaries for support staff.

“Right now, we are almost backed into a corner with this. If we stop our movement because we received the raises, we will leave out those who are in just as much need as teachers. Pushing forward with our movement after this announcement will allow us to be painted as greedy and not satisfied with our raise, when, in reality, that was only one of our five demands.”

AEU leads the #RedforEd movement, and coalition leaders announced earlier this week a possible walk-out event could be a possibility.

“I say keep fighting. We will still be behind,” said Sue Swanno, a teacher at Saddleback Elementary.


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