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Legacy Traditional School

Legacy Traditional School winners of the Great Communicator Lincoln Speech Contest (from left), third place Alanna Mullins, second place Filimon Kednmarey and first place Emily Enriquez.

Twelve students at Legacy Traditional School participated in the school’s Great Communicator Lincoln Speech Contest on Wednesday.

The top was “What are the Benefits and Challenges in Creating a Sustainability-Minded Global Society?”

Emily Enriquez finished first, Filimon Kednmarey was second, and Alanna Mullins was third. The three received medals and certificates. The top two qualify for regional competition.

The students were required to research and write their speeches, explaining the issues and how focusing on sustainability can affect the economy, education, the food industry, the environment, business, advertising and architectural, fashion and technology design.

Part of the cast of "Mary Poppins Jr." at Legacy Traditional School. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Chimney sweeps, penguins, bankers and a magical nanny have been seen scampering about Legacy Traditional School as the charter prepares for its big spring musical extravaganza.

This year, it’s “Mary Poppins Jr.”

The production is set for Feb. 22-23 and March 2. Musical Director Michelle Wagner has assembled more than 100 fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders into a singing and dancing troupe. Parents are also a vital link for organizing the production, which is a major fund-raiser, and getting the kids in terrific costumes.

“The cast is incredible,” Wagner said.

The production is a junior version of the 1964 Disney musical that was converted into a Broadway show in 2006, filled with familiar tunes and based on the books by P.L. Travers.

While several cast members have a few musical productions under their belts, seventh-grader Adelin Robinson is a new performer who landed the title role with her voice.

“At first I didn’t really want the role. I was so scared to do an audition in the first place,” Adelin said. “But after a while, it took a lot of confidence and I was able to try out.”

Adelin Robinson is Mary Poppins and Tanner Webster is Bert.

The story is a tale of the Banks family, which can’t seem to keep a nanny for two mischievous children, Jane and Michael. Mr. Banks has prioritized his work at the bank ahead of his family, but the arrival of a mysterious nanny sets his home life on end.

“I love coming up here and being Mary Poppins, a strict but kind nanny. It’s just amazing,” Adelin said. “I really love the songs and the music. At first, one of the songs had a note that had to be held for a really long time, but now I can hold it.”

Eighth-grader Caleb Ortiz plays George Banks. He has previously been in productions of “Aladdin,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Peter Pan.” He is also in the junior high choir and has appeared in smaller junior high musicals.

“Mr. Banks means business. He doesn’t like fooling around. He doesn’t like these kids coming in and bothering him. He’s just trying to work and do all his stuff,” Caleb said. “I don’t really like being mean so when I go to being nice it’s fun.”

Last year, eighth-grader Tanner Webster soared as Peter Pan. In “Mary Poppins,” he plays the lively role of Bert the chimney sweep.

“Bert is really fun to play,” Tanner said. “He’s super happy and he’s always very kind to other people. And at the same time, he is able to have fun, but he cares about others, and I think that’s a very good characteristic.”

The part includes a lot of action, and Tanner has been having fun with it.

“I love singing and dancing. His dancing is like really all over the place, super crazy and fun, and I really like that,” he said. “I do take inspiration from [Dick Van Dyke], but I do think it’s important when you’re playing a role to make it your own.”

Ryah Wilkinson, an eighth grader, plays Winifred, the matriarch of the Banks clan. She was previously seen in “The Little Mermaid” and “Peter Pan.” She has also performed in elementary concerts and is a member of the junior high choir.

“She’s a bit strict but she’s also nice,” she said of Mrs. Banks. “She likes to deal with things in an orderly fashion and make sure everything goes well.”


The Banks family (from left) Ryah Wilkinson, Morgan Lee, Tak Harris and Caleb Ortiz.

Fifth-grader Morgan Lee is happy to get into costume to play young Jane Banks, and she’s concentrating hard on the dance steps.

“I want to get the dancing right,” Morgan said. “All the choreography is kind of hard to memorize.”

For Takaru Harris, a fifth grader playing Michael Banks, the bed in the nursery has been more of a challenge. “The way they set up my bed is I have a pillow, and when I lay down it flies out. It’s difficult to lay down, and my back hurts because I have to stay up.”

Among others in the cast are Maya Pulliam as Katie Nanna, Logan Woods as Robertson Ay, Cydney Williford as the Bird Woman, Taylor Girard as Neleus and Diana Harris as Miss Smythe.

Showtime is 6 p.m. each night, with a 2 p.m. matinee March 2. Tickets start at $5. Contact the school at 520-423-9999.


Copper Bots from Legacy Traditional showed high skill level in the robotics competition. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa teams swept the top five spots in a robotics competition over the weekend.

Legacy Traditional School hosted a Vex IQ Challenge Saturday with 11 schools and organizations from around the state competing. Legacy itself had five teams competing and took first and second place with the Copper Bots and Cyber Cubs.

Maricopa’s Samurai Bots finished third while Rocking Robots Are Backs was fourth and the Gray Wolves from Leading Edge Academy were fifth. The Copper Bots not only had the top skills score, earning the Robot Skills Champion award, but also won the design award and the Middle School Excellence award.

Rocking Robots Are Back won the Elementary School Excellence award and the STEM Research Project award. Legacy’s Biggy Backpack Bots won a Teamwork Champion award.

The Maricopa teams of Rocking Robots Are Back, Hazard Bots, Samurai Bots and Cyber Cubs are set to compete Feb. 23 in the Arizona VEX IQ Elementary School State Championship in Goodyear.

The middle school state championships are March 9 in Chandler. Legacy’s Copper Bots, Biggy Backpack Bots and A-VEX-engers and Leading Edge’s Gray Wolves are all set to compete.

Tanner Webster, Talon Barth, Ethan Hodges and Audrey Duguay in "Peter Pan Jr." Photo by Mason Callejas

Legacy Traditional School is taking flight for their annual musical spectacular.

The charter school will present “Peter Pan” on two weekends, beginning Friday. The junior version of the musical features seventh grader Tanner Webster as the titular character, who refuses to grow up and lives in perpetual boyhood in Neverland with Lost Boys.

He is mischievous, boastful and, yes, can fly. Eventually, quite a few characters acquire the ability to fly, making this production an adventure itself.

Audrey Duguay, an eighth grader, stars as Wendy Darling, who does a good deed for Peter and ends being guided with her two younger brothers to Neverland. Fourth grader Talon Barth is Michael Darling, and Ethan Hodges, a fifth grader, plays John Darling.

Leading a gang of pirates in Neverland is the vengeful, crocodile-fearing Captain Hook, played by eighth grader Esteban Abundis. Aboard the Jolly Roger with him is boatswain Smee, played by eighth grader Jacob Snoddy.

Eighth grader Lindsey Coms narrates the story. The show is directed by Michelle Wagner.

Performances are Feb. 23-24 and March 2-3 at 6 p.m. There are also matinees on Feb. 24 and March 3 at 2 p.m.

Tickets purchased online start at $5 and go up to $20 depending on seating priority. Tickets can be purchased at https://shop.legacytraditional.org/az-maricopa/. At the door, general admission tickets will be $8.

Call 520-423-9999 for information.




Go under the sea with the "The Little Mermaid" at Legacy Traditional School Feb. 24-25. Photo by Mason Callejas

Legacy Traditional School will present its annual theatrical production Feb. 24, a junior rendition of a Disney classic — “The Little Mermaid.”

Under the guidance of Legacy Musical Director Michelle Wagner, the 120-student cast will be wrapping up rehearsals this week in anticipation for their opening night performance.

This year’s musical, Wagner said, is special not only for its imaginative nature, but also because it showcases the many facets of the human spirit.

“This one has a lot of emotional contrast,” Wagner said.  “We have the evil side of it with Ursula, and then we have the joy and the love with Prince Eric and Ariel, there is just so much character change and costume change and color change that really makes it magical for the audience to be a part of.”

Now, in the final days of production, Wagner couldn’t be more excited to see all the hard work coming together.

“We actually start preparing through the summer, so as soon as school is done we start preparations with all the adults,” she said. “We start auditions the second week of school, in August. Then, we start rehearsals a week after that and we’ve been going ever since, nonstop.”

The school changes the production each year in an effort to keep things fresh for the students who have been involved in theater for so long.

“There’s a lot of students who have been a part of it since kindergarten, so we’ve never repeated a musical, to keep them inspired and excited about musical productions,” Wagner said.

Eighth grade student Taya Johnson has been acting in Legacy School plays for five years now, but this is her first performance as a lead character — Ariel. And, as she put it, it couldn’t have been a better role.

Taya Johnson as Ariel. Photo by Mason Callejas
Taya Johnson as Ariel. Photo by Mason Callejas

“I’ve been doing these plays since fourth grade, and this year I wanted to go for, you know, the person that’s on the shirt, the Disney princess,” Johnson said as she pointed at a classmates T-shirt bearing the mermaid’s likeness. “So, I’m so excited.”

Estraya Ellyson, also an eighth grade student, is playing the role of the antagonist — Ursula — and is equally excited about the role.

“Being Ursula has probably been the highlight of my life, “ Ellyson said. “She has probably been my favorite Disney villain since I was like 6.”

Ellyson expressed her appreciation for the hard working team of actors, actresses and crew members.

“I love my cast. They’re not just cast; they’re family. They are really just the best people I could ask for,” Ellyson said. “And the director and the stage crew, they’re just amazing.”

The first of three performances will be Friday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m., with two performances happening the following day Saturday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. all in the Legacy Traditional School Auditorium.

Pre-purchased general admission tickets are $5 and can be bought through the school by calling 520-423-9999. General admission tickets purchased at the door will cost $7, while reserved seats in the front two rows will cost $10-20.

A silent message to veterans. Photo by Dean Crandall

Legacy Traditional School held a special flag-raising ceremony Thursday to celebrate Veterans Day. Community veterans attended to hear tribute speeches and special music. Maricopa High School Air Force JROTC raised the flag. Check out Dean Crandall’s photos below:

Students and staff at Legacy Traditional School gathers to welcome Maricopa Police Department and Maricopa Fire Department for a 9/11 remembrance. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Legacy Traditional School and Santa Rosa Elementary were among area school commemorating the 15th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2016, with special presentations on Friday.

Gov. Doug Ducey (center) with Legacy Traditional Schools Executive Directors Aaron Hale, Becky Hale, Laura Gregory and William Gregory in Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Legacy Traditional School in Maricopa was Gov. Doug Ducey’s first stop on his annual Back to School Tour.

The governor arrived at the campus on Tuesday morning and was guided around the campus by school administrators, including new Principal Amy Sundeen and LTS executive directors.

Students performed music for the governor and his staff, including “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Dance to the Music.”

The Maricopa campus of LTS was chosen for its “demonstrated academic excellence, exemplary teachers and school leadership.”

It is one of 12 Arizona schools in the Legacy charter organization.

Legacy Traditional School is dealing with the fallout of an alleged "kill list" found in a fifth-grade room.

Legacy Traditional School district office released a statement today regarding a so-called “kill list” found in a fifth-grade class.

Parents of children named on the list by a 10-year-old classmate dispute some of the information from LTS.

The statement from Chief Academic Officer Bill Bressler reads:

“On Thursday, March 31, 2016, students at our Legacy Traditional School – Maricopa campus reported to school administrators information related to a student who had allegedly made a threat against eight classmates. The Maricopa Police Department was immediately notified, as were the parents of the student in question and the classmates allegedly threatened.

“No charges have been filed related to this incident. The student subject to the police action was removed from campus and has not returned. Legacy Traditional School is pursuing appropriate disciplinary action, according to our written policy, and will continue to review all aspects of this incident to ensure proper procedures are and have been followed.

“Legacy Traditional School campuses are among the safest in Arizona, and the safety of our students is our first and highest priority. We will continue to take all actions necessary to ensure our students can focus on learning and their academic achievement.”

Though MPD did not pursue charges against the accused student, three families have filed charges. MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said he did not have that information yesterday when speaking about the situation.

“A juvenile long form complaint has been filed on the author of the list,” he said.

Charges include three counts of interference with or disrupting an educational institution (a Class 6 felony), three counts of threatening or intimidating, and three counts of disorderly conduct.

On learning of the charges filed, Bressler said, “Legacy Traditional School will continue to cooperate with authorities in all aspects of this investigation.”

Though parents of the listed children claim the accused student was back on campus at a concert the evening of the incident, Bressler said he had heard that rumor but did not find that to be the case. Further investigation by LTS did find the student had attended the concert in violation of a disciplinary form signed by his parents.

Parents of two of the children on the list also said they were not immediately notified by the school when the list was discovered.

“My daughter called me from the basketball coach’s phone,” one parent said. “I wasn’t called by the school. They didn’t talk to me. Not one email or call.”

“We talked to the principal [Nicole Mangum] eventually,” a parent of another child on the list said. “It seemed pretty obvious they didn’t have any protocol in place for this.”

The LTS district does have a written policy dealing with threats to students with a consequence chart.

“The court may not pick up the case, but we want to send a message,” another mother said.

A fifth grader with a so-called "kill list" at Legacy Traditional School sparked a debate about communication policy among parents.

A purported “kill list” naming eight fifth graders at Legacy Traditional School upset parents in more ways than the obvious.

The list apparently was found March 31 in the possession of a male child during class. What happened after that has been a bone of contention.

According to one of the children whose name was on the list, she was sitting near the accused boy when another child noticed the list on his desk. It named six girls and two boys.

“I think it’s pretty mean,” she said. “You don’t know what they could do.”

She said the substitute teacher scolded the child and initially threw away the paper. The students retrieved the paper, she said, and when encountering their regular classroom teacher later in the day, showed her the note.

That is when the note went to the administration and the students targeted by the list were allowed to call their parents, she said.

Other parents, however, were upset to learn about the incident “through the grapevine” instead of directly from the school.

“This is supposed to be a zero-tolerance school,” said Jay Hall, whose child attends Legacy but was not named on the list. “I shouldn’t have had to find out about it at a ballgame. We heard he was suspended, but we should know when he comes back to school.”

Hall said the accused child’s father had spoken with other parents to try to assuage fears, but he said the school itself should have been more open with parents.

The Maricopa administrators have been unable to speak about the incident to the public, citing confidentiality of students and faculty, but a district administrator is encouraging all concerned parents to give him a call.

Bill Bressler, chief academic officer for the Legacy district, said when such a threat arises on a campus, it is policy that contact is made with the child threatened and his or her guardian. As for parents of children whose names were not on the list, not informing them was “my call.”

“There was no need to disrupt the climate of a highly functioning school,” Bressler said.

Bressler said the incident happened on a Thursday, and he was informed of it the following Monday. He said the accused child faced “consequences for infractions.”

School Resource Officer Jeff Pokrant of the Maricopa Police Department met with students and their parents to investigate the situation. MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said no charges were filed and it was not a criminal case.

“The parents were contacted, and the school took disciplinary action,” he said.

The mother of one of the children on the list said she is pressing charges and said the school should have done more to inform parents.

“Why aren’t they telling anybody?” she asked. “I’m concerned we were not informed.”

Despite rumors of access to weapons, MPD determined the accused child had no way of carrying out a threat.

Still, at least one child on the list remains nervous about being in public places.

“I don’t know why he put me on the list,” she said. “I never teased him at all.”

She said she is “50-50” about forgiving her classmate. “I only want to make sure he gets help,” she said.

Parents concerned about the incident or school policy can contact Bressler at 480-270-5438.

Julia Shoemaker teaches fifth grade at Legacy Traditional School in Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Legacy Traditional School’s Julia Shoemaker has been teaching for 20  years. She shared her insights with InMaricopa News.

What is your favorite part of being an educator? Being in a position to be a positive influence in a child’s life is rewarding. I consider it an honor to be instrumental in forming the foundation for each child to develop positive self-esteem, the confidence to take academic risks and the courage to have a voice.

Why did you choose education as a career? Actually, I chose psychology first. My college/career advisor told me I would make a great teacher. I didn’t have a positive experience in school as a child and didn’t think the teaching track was for me. I was willing to try, so I took some education classes and fell in love with the children and the subject. Realizing I could be a positive influence on the life of a child and his/her experience pulled me in.

Why Maricopa? We moved from a town of 5,000 people, and my husband was transferred through State Farm. We chose Maricopa because we liked the small-town atmosphere, the people and the instant sense of community we felt while looking for a house.

What are the biggest challenges facing Maricopa students today? Today’s world is such a different place than when I was growing up. I think our students have to juggle so many demands on their time: school, church, sports, homework, technology and, most importantly, family.

What was the best advice you received about your own education? My parents were excellent role models for my education. Next to family and church, our education was the most important priority. They taught me to respect my education, respect the educators, respect the system and respect myself.

What advice do you give parents of elementary schoolchildren? Two things: Be involved in every aspect of your child’s education and “there are blessings in a skinned knee.” Be there for your child and be supportive, but allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.

What have your students taught you? In 20 years, I’ve learned many lessons – humility, determination, patience, perspective and joy. They have taught me to be humble and to learn from them. I never give up on a child; even if I don’t see the success in the current year, it will come. They have definitely taught me to take a step back and relax. A lesson on perspective comes every year with every child. Each student comes in with a different story. And finally, to laugh! A day without laughter is a day surely wasted.

Julia N. Shoemaker
Title: 5th Grade Teacher
School: Legacy Traditional School
Hometown: Eureka, Illinois
Residence: The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado
Education: BA Elementary Education from Eureka College
Family: Husband Chris, daughters Abby (freshman at Grand Canyon University) and Katie (sophomore at Mountain Pointe High School)
Years in education: 20
First year with Legacy: 2014
Teaching experience: Third grade teacher at Peoria (Ill.) Academy (eight years); seventh grade language arts teacher at Eureka (Ill.) Middle School (nine years); fourth grade teacher Legacy Traditional School (year and a half); fifth grade teacher Legacy Traditional School (half a year)
First job out of college: I substitute taught for about a year before I was hired as a teacher at Peoria Academy in Peoria, Illinois.
Hobbies: I enjoy reading, movies, horses, baking and spending time with my family.
Favorite subject when you were in elementary school? I went to school in Misawa, Japan, and I enjoyed my Japanese culture class. We learned origami, customs and language. For regular subjects, I would have to say reading was my all-time favorite.

This story appeared in the January issue of InMaricopa News.

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By Yvonne Gonzalez

The first test results under AzMERIT, the assessment that replaced AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards), have some districts and public charter schools in Maricopa looking for ways to improve come spring.

Leading Edge Academy Principal Mat Reese said with the test approved late in 2014, schools didn’t have much information on it until January. Students were taking the test three months later.

“We’ll just keep on working as hard as we possibly can and go from there,” he said. “This has been a really tough thing for everybody. We just need to keep pushing.”

The new test is intended to be taken online. Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Steve Chestnut said unlike last year when the district didn’t have enough computers to equip all the test-takers, all nine MUSD schools will give the spring assessments online thanks to additional laptop carts and wireless laptops and an enhanced network.

Results were mixed across all schools. Legacy Traditional School outscored the state average in every grade while MUSD’s junior highs and high school test-takers struggled.

At the 55-student Holsteiner Agricultural School, founder and director Tanya Graysmark wrote in an email that students taking the math test were exhausted after the test and frustrated with the on-and-off-again WiFi.

She said the math was presented differently.

“We have reviewed the data and will work with students on mastering the skills they are struggling with,” she said.

The test is intended to be comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. On NAEP and AzMERIT, “proficient” is the second-top scoring category students can achieve.

“There were a lot of variables, so hopefully we’re going to be smarter and wiser the next go around,” Reese said.

MUSD's overall student performance on the AzMERIT. See below for grade-by-grade scores: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
MUSD’s overall student performance on the AzMERIT. See below for grade-by-grade scores: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Maricopa Unified School District

The district’s superintendent says the scores on the new test were disappointing.

“We had hoped to do better,” Chestnut said.

He said there were bright spots in the data.

“We were very pleased with the results from third and fourth grade math,” he said, noting they were above the state average and “pretty good for a first time out.”

In English language arts, more of MUSD’s fourth graders scored in the proficient category or above compared to NAEP results.

By eighth grade, a disparity appears that is even below a state-level comparison. Compared to the rest of the state, fewer of the district’s 10th and 11th graders were proficient or highly proficient in English language arts.

“College readiness adds a new wrinkle to that,” Chestnut said of the higher levels of the assessment.

“One test doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about a kid’s college readiness,” he said.

Chestnut said data is still being reviewed from the new assessment and, “There’s a lot of work to do there.”

“We’re just beginning to get a plan on how we’re going to move forward on this,” he said. “We aren’t where we want to be and we think our kids can do better, and that’s what we’re working on.”

Due to the shorter length of the test, intended to limit the amount of time students spend on assessments, AzMERIT data does not break down results into the same types of strand data that AIMS did.

“Another problem is that we don’t get as much detailed information as we did on AIMS,” Chestnut said.

Interpreting the data is a step toward improving classroom instruction. Some districts find this difficult without the in-depth data.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, a score of proficient or better “indicates that a student is prepared for the next grade or course without requiring additional support. It is a far higher expectation than the previous AIMS expectation.”

Fourth grade math testing results were roughly in line with NAEP, but, again, a disparity appears by eighth grade that also exists compared to state results. In the highest-level math, Algebra II, 17 percent of Maricopa students scored in the proficient or highly proficient categories compared to 30 percent statewide.

One percent of MUSD’s geometry students tested as highly proficient, a category that 2 percent each of the district’s Algebra I and II students qualified for.

“Parents, particularly high school parents, understand there are a variety of things you have to look at to see if their kid is college ready,” he said.

Sequoia Pathway's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Sequoia Pathway’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Sequoia Pathway Academy

In English language arts, more of the Sequoia Pathway Academy’s third graders were in the highly proficient category than their statewide counterparts. They also fared better on AzMERIT’s math portion.

Fourth-grade math students scored roughly in line with their peers who took the state and national assessments. Slightly more language arts test-takers in fourth grade earned passing scores, 45 percent versus 42 percent statewide. On NAEP’s English language arts test, 35 percent of fourth graders scored in the proficient category or better.

Sequoia’s eighth graders, however, lagged behind their peers at the state and national level with 77 percent failing the AzMERIT language arts section. Statewide, 62 percent did not pass, and on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 69 percent scored in the basic category or below.

More than half of Sequoia’s 11th graders were minimally proficient, roughly in line with statewide results.

In eighth grade, however, 86 percent of Sequoia students did not pass the math portion of AzMERIT and 88 percent of algebra II test-takers fell below proficient. None of the school’s students scored highly proficient on either test level.

Algebra I students also struggled, with 21 percent earning passing scores compared to 32 percent at the state level.

School officials could not be reached for comment.

Leading Edge Academy's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Leading Edge Academy’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Leading Edge Academy

At the K-8 public charter school Leading Edge Academy, 82 percent of its third graders passed AzMERIT’s math assessment, double the state’s 41 percent.

Reese said the strong scores on AzMERIT came a year after 94 percent of the school’s third graders “exceeded” in the old assessment’s category.

Reese said interventions are in place to help students improve on areas of weakness.

More fourth graders (55 percent) passed the test compared to the statewide average (42 percent). Nationally, 39 percent of fourth graders scored proficient or better in math.

He said “things get more complicated” as the grade levels advance. Fewer of the school’s sixth graders passed the test compared to statewide numbers.

No Leading Edge eighth graders scored “highly proficient” in math, and only 15 percent passed the test, far below the statewide and national averages of 34 and 32, respectively.

The school had 75 percent of test-takers qualify as minimally proficient.

Reese said last year over two dozen students transferred from other schools into the eighth grade, setting up students at varying starting points for the academic year.

There were 8 percent more students passing the language arts assessment compared to statewide data.

Sixth graders’ scores were more in line with the rest of the state, and more students taking the seventh grade assessment passed compared to their statewide peers.

Scores lag among the school’s fifth-grade test-takers, where 81 percent did not pass. In the rest of the state, 67 percent scored below proficient.

The eighth-grade assessment showed the biggest gap, with 85 percent of Leading Edge Academy’s students not passing, compared to 65 percent statewide and 69 percent nationally.

The principal said it’s not ideal to evaluate everything that’s going on in a classroom based on what he called a “one-shot test.”

“It is raw scores, and it doesn’t tell the rest of the story,” Reese said.

Legacy's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Legacy’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Legacy Traditional School

Test takers at the K-10 Legacy Traditional School outscored their statewide peers in every grade level on both the math and English language arts portions of AzMERIT. They also outstripped NAEP scores for fourth and fifth graders.

Fifty-seven percent passed the English language arts portion compared to 35 percent statewide. Sixty percent of third graders and sixth graders scored “proficient” or higher.

In math, third, fourth and fifth grades did particularly well compared to their peers. More than 50 percent in each grade scored at least proficient.

With the state averaging 24 percent proficient in third-grade math, 46 percent of Legacy’s third graders were proficient. Another 17 percent were highly proficient.

There is more room for improvement in Algebra I. Sixty percent of the Legacy students taking that portion of AzMERIT failed to achieve proficiency. Statewide, 68 percent did not pass.

A school official could not be reached for comment.

Holsteiner Ag School's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Holsteiner Ag School’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Holsteiner Agricultural School

In math, 27 percent of the school’s students passed AzMERIT compared to 35 percent statewide.

“This was our first year taking the AzMERIT as well as taking the test in an online format,” Graysmark, the school’s owner, wrote in an email. “The students were on a learning curve for both.”

She said AzMERIT data is interpreted the same by small and big schools like.

“We work with each student on their individual score and create an action plan based on their strengths and weaknesses,” she said.

More than 40 percent of Holsteiner students who took the English language arts assessment passed it, better than the state’s 35 percent.

“We have great teachers here,” Graysmark said. “Working hard every day before school, after school, working with parents, etc. A lot of work goes into daily instruction and preparation.”

“As a school we will continue to support our students learning to the best of our ability and try our best to help them fit their (sometimes) square peg into a round hole.”

Graysmark said there weren’t enough fourth, fifth or sixth grade students for scores to be reported.

All Maricopa schools had bright spots on the AzMERIT and areas needing improvement.

“These are the highest standards we’ve ever held our kids accountable to,” Chestnut said. “There’s a lot more higher-level thinking that has to be demonstrated on both the English language arts and math assessments … those are good things we want kids to learn.”

Chestnut said students who take AzMERIT may not all be college ready, but those who take ACT tests to submit to colleges do pretty well.

This story appeared in the January issue of InMaricopa News.

Maricopans donating to MUSD give most frequently to athletics.

By Raquel Hendrickson

Fans of Maricopa High School athletics contributed nearly $21,000 to the department’s programs last year.

At elementary schools in Maricopa, both district and charter, the big draw for donations is field trip funding.

In contributions and fees for extracurricular activities, Maricopa Unified School District received $58,312. Those donations resulted in tax credits for the donors.

Districts, charters and private schools are all recipients of school tax credit donations. While school officials at most facilities in Maricopa said many people still do not understand the benefits of the program, all are grateful for the donations from those who do.

Across all schools at MUSD, athletics and intramurals were boosted with $25,425. The biggest chunk went to the high school.

“We allow the parents to use the tax credits to pay for the participation fees,” MUSD Athletic Director Mark Cisterna said. “If it’s $75 and the parent wants to pay the participation fee with tax credits, we give them a receipt and they can use it with their taxes the next year.”

At the middle school level, the tax-credit contributions are a rare source of funding for athletics. Cisterna said they used those funds to purchase new uniforms and equipment as well as pay referees.

Desert Wind Middle School received $1,660 in contributions to its athletics in 2014, while Maricopa Wells took in $474.

“That is a big boost, and we really try to encourage parents because it’s a financial burden to play sports. We try to give them as big a break as possible,” Cisterna said.

“We use it to purchase items that are going to help us run the athletic department – uniforms, batting helmets, catcher’s gear, basketballs. Everything’s tight right now. We don’t run a frivolous department, I know that. We just try to make ends meet.”

Tax-credit money is also used to pay some entrance fees to invitational tournaments, Cisterna said.

At Sequoia Pathway Academy, administrative assistant Laurel Gerla said about $14,000 came in from school supporters in 2014. A big part of that was donated for a field trip to Washington, D.C.

Other donations at SPA were marked for assorted field trips, a cooking club and a little for athletics. Gerla said some donors did not specify and let the school use the funds for “areas most needed.” Next school year, the charter school plans a trip to France, so even more tax-credit donations are expected to come through in 2015.

Donations to field trips totaled $10,709 in MUSD schools. Maricopa Elementary raked in the most in donations to field trips with $2,943. Principal Jennifer Robinson said they keep the word out about tax-credit opportunities and give forms to new parents in the school when they register their children, and the forms are left at the front desk.

“The third grade goes to the Science Center, and the first grade goes up the Botanical Gardens,” she said. “We look at field trips as the support and the real-life connection for our students.”

Without the tax credit money, Robinson said the school would look at other resources, “but I don’t think we would be able to fund it. So we’re very grateful to the community and the partners that we have.”

Nicole Mangum, principal at Legacy Traditional School, said there has been increased interest in tax-credit donations for extracurricular activities like athletics, fine arts and music, clubs and field trips. In 2014, the school took in $10,641. Nearly $3,500 went to field trips, and $2,066 went to athletics.

“There definitely has been growth now that they’re seeing where it’s going,” Mangum said. “Our musical gets bigger every year.”

Money has helped support the charter school’s Letters to Soldiers program and the full slate of sports like basketball, flag football, baseball, soccer and cross country.

In 2014, about 20 percent of school families donated to Holsteiner Agricultural School, according to Director Tanya Graysmark. A school with 68 students, it used the extracurricular funds for its afterschool programs.

2014 Tax-Credit Contributions to MUSD
Athletics: $25,425
Field Trips: $10,709
Band/Music: $10,033
Other: $12,145
Total: $58,312

By Adam Wolfe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Edge Academy begins Aug. 4.

Camino Montessori starts class on Aug. 10.

MUSD Schools:

Maricopa High School

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

Desert Wind Middle School

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

Maricopa Wells Middle School

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

Butterfield Elementary School

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

Maricopa Elementary School

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

Pima Butte Elementary School

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

Saddleback Elementary School

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

Santa Cruz Elementary School

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

Santa Rosa Elementary School

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