Tags Articles tagged with "MUSD"

MUSD

Patti Coutre and Ben Owens will have seats on next year's MUSD Governing Board.

 

A longtime board member and one newcomer will fill two vacancies on the local school board, according to county documents.

Incumbent Patti Coutré and Ben Owens were elected to the Maricopa Unified School District by appointment Wednesday.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors canceled the regular general elections for certain political subdivisions, including MUSD’s, where candidates were vying for unopposed seats.

The Board approved a resolution effectively electing the candidates during a meeting Sept. 5.

It will be Coutré’s third term behind the dais. Coutré previously served three of her eight years on the board as president.

Coutré thanked the community for choosing her to represent them during her last two terms.

“My goal is, and always has been, that every student receives the best education and is fully prepared for their future whether it is college, career, military service or life,” Coutré said in a statement.

Owens, an active MUSD parent and volunteer, said he’s excited to bring a parental perspective to the board in January.

“I believe that we’ve got a great school district and I just want to help us be the best district in Arizona,” Owens said.

A North Dakota native, Owens and his family have lived in Maricopa for the past four years.

Owens will take the seat of Vice President Gary Miller, who announced he would not seek re-election earlier this year.

The MUSD Governing Board discusses desegregation funds. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

School district leaders could join a lawsuit against the state Legislature.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board discussed the possibility during a meeting Aug. 22.

The issue revolves around desegregation funding changes initiated by the state without including a vote by the people.

It resulted in increased secondary property taxes for Maricopa homeowners. Read more about that here.

MUSD, the City of Maricopa and Pinal County published a joint press release alleging the unconstitutionality of the new law.

Future action against the Legislature would likely happen in partnership with another school district.

Tucson Unified School District also receives desegregation funding. It voted unanimously last week to authorize a lawsuit.

Should the suit be filed, both plaintiff districts would face declaratory judgment action litigation, according to MUSD Board Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt.

That means a judge would determine whether the secondary property tax increase is – or is not – legal.

Board Member Torri Anderson said she’d support MUSD joining suit if Tucson files.

“On the constitutional side, me as a taxpayer, I want to pursue that,” Anderson said.

The impact to local homeowners is central to the controversy.

The desegregation tax alone would cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

However, Lowell-Britt said the overall estimated difference in the secondary property tax from last year to this year is projected to be only $0.12 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

City Manager Rick Horst, who attended the school board meeting Wednesday, said this is due to market behavior that mitigate the deseg tax.

Anderson argued the lowered projected cost figure on tax bills doesn’t lessen her belief that the law was enacted illegally.

MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the $1.29 million in desegregation funds the district receives “ensures we meet the needs of our beautiful and diverse student population.”

The district has received deseg funds since 1994 after a complaint the year prior alleging access and equality issues for limited English proficient students.

That money pays 25 teacher salaries and other programs for English Language Learners.

 

Sgt. Hal Koozer models uniform for MPD's new Community Response Team. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

A discussion that began earlier this year, after a shooter entered the halls of a Florida school and killed 17 students and staff members, evolved into possible action Wednesday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board and the Maricopa Police Department discussed installing video cameras on school campuses.

Those cameras would stream live feeds 24/7 directly to MPD’s dispatch center.

The proposal is contingent on a $300,000 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applied for in July by the police department.

Sequoia Pathway Academy is also reportedly partnering with MPD and MUSD in the quest for that money from the Department of Justice.

“Everything on that video feed is evidence – it belongs to the police department and is stored with MPD once it becomes an investigation,” Stahl said.

Fearing a “police-state” operation inside schools, MUSD board members expressed some hesitancy on the camera topic.

Stahl explained MPD does not have the resources to monitor the feeds. Live recordings would only be accessed when the dispatch center was alerted to an emergency.

Recordings would be stored in the cloud and deleted after 48 hours.

Local schools would not be alone in turning to surveillance video for safety solutions, Stahl said.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida installed additional security cameras on campus after the mass shooting.

In March, MPD and local schools hosted a school-safety forum to answer community questions. Beefing up campus safety has been discussed in meetings that have dotted the agendas of Stahl and MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman throughout the summer.

Those brainstorm sessions produced other ideas on how to spend the grant money in addition to the cameras.

The development of a cell phone app would give students the option of anonymously texting the police department in the case of suspicious activity.

Grant money would also likely fund the installation of classroom door locks, according to Lopeman and Stahl. But digital and mechanical measures weren’t the only solutions discussed.

School and police leaders will add manpower to school safety measures. Law enforcement muscle is commonly sought by districts through Student Resource Officers who provide education and protection on campus.

With city and school funding tight, there is only one SRO at MUSD – and the COPS grant does not support staffing.

“We started brainstorming a new program,” Stahl said. “It’s called the Community Response Team.”

Five officers, led by MPD Sgt. Hal Koozer, will soon cycle through neighborhoods that house schools nearby.

Stahl said the team will provide a quick response to campus emergencies. The team will also visit children at bus stops and make surprise appearances at lunchtime to encourage trust between students and officers.

Their presence around town will increase once Maricopa feels relief from summer temperatures, Stahl said.

The schools should learn whether their effort to receive grant money was successful sometime in October, Stahl said.

If MUSD is awarded the money, Lopeman said students, parents and staff will have a say within the Safety Committee, which is planned to convene in the next 90 days.

 

 

Submitted by Rep. Mark Finchem

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

On Aug. 15, a news release was circulated by the City of Maricopa that claimed, “The Arizona Legislature Increased your Taxes,” going on to say, “the Arizona Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 1529, which significantly changed school funding in selected districts across the state.” At least the press release got that part right, but a significant element of the truth was conspicuously missing.

For decades school districts have received “Desegregation supplemental funding” from both local property taxes (by way of the Primary Property Tax) and from the State General Fund. SB 1529, moved the desegregation supplemental funding from the Primary Property Tax load, to the Secondary Property Tax load, making those school districts who have been collecting Desegregation supplemental funding from the state, accountable for the use of the money to school district residents affected.

When the Legislature first began supplementing local school districts with gap-funding it was an arrangement to ease the strain on local budgets caused by the taxpayer approved 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and the arrangement was to be temporary. Over the years, the urgency to solve segregation was replaced with a sense of entitlement continuation, even though the money was intended to end segregation. In the case of MUSD, the only reason the State has funded desegregation is to address Maricopa’s property tax collection, that is over the 1 percent tax cap. Those school districts that are not over the 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and are under an OCR order to desegregate have never received money from the State, (Phoenix Union is an example). This a problem because the Pinal County and City of Maricopa governmental bodies have made it a problem with their spending habits.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, LD-11 Representatives Vince Leach and Mark Finchem asked about questions generated by the State Auditor General posed to then MUSD School Superintendent Steve Chestnut, “Where is $1,000,000 annually sent to MUSD going; what are you spending it on since after all of these years you have not achieved ‘unitary status’ (desegregation?” His response was short and illustrative of the condition of financial management in many school districts. He simply said, “I don’t know.” In fact, the Superintendent had to check with the Office of Civil Rights to find out how the money was supposed to be spent.

If desegregation has not ended, one is left to ask the tough question, why not? Is it a lack of political will? Or is it that desegregation has been achieved, but the school districts want to keep the tap open and taxpayer money flowing without accountability?

The News Release [also] claims, “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.” This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from on 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 (DOJ), Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The truth is that with SB 1529, Arizona’s poorer, rural counties are no longer be asked to pay for the inability of allegedly segregated school districts to achieve desegregation, called “unitary status’ by the DOJ, OCR. It is important to emphasize, the money has been set aside for the highly specific purpose of desegregation. And while the News Release claims, “The responsibility for this new tax lies with the State Legislature and the Governor,” the real responsibility lies with the body that spends the money, not with the one that provides the funding.

The salient question for the residents of the City of Maricopa to ask is, “Why has MUSD desegregation not been achieved, is it because of a lack of political will to make the changes needed to desegregate?” Could it be that desegregation has already been achieved and the money is now redirected to another use? Or is it just shear incompetence on behalf of those who are supposed to be stewards of the public funds?

SB 1529 has corrected an inequity, namely taxation without representation. Arizona City residents don’t want to pay MUSD taxes for desegregation when they have precious few dollars for their own children education. It is indeed curious that the Board of Supervisors should have been told by their staff that not all the Desegregation Districts have a 1-percent cap tax problem, and that no state money flows to them thru the supplement, but only to those districts that are evading the vote of the voters that came from SB 1080, a vote to limit taxation on property to 1 percent.

Might it have something to do with the county rate of 3.75 percent (among the highest in the state) and the City of Maricopa at 5 percent (very high if not the highest city rate), leaving only 1.25 percent for CAC and MUSD to fight over?  We, of course, know they don’t–so all collectively go over the 1 percent cap-leaving the shortage for the rest of the state taxpayers to make up.  And the State gets the blame because local taxing jurisdictions can’t or won’t curtail spending?

The time has come for residents of the district to hold their locally elected school board officials, City and even County elected officials accountable for what they are doing with the tax dollars that they have been entrusted with.

Additional information can be found at http://www.arizonatax.org/sites/default/files/publications/position_papers/deseg_handout_1.pdf


Mark Finchem, a Republican, represents LD 11 in the Arizona House of Representatives.

by -

 

The City of Maricopa issued a statement that lashed out against state lawmakers this week, blaming the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey for tax increases expected to show up on the next property tax bill for Maricopa homeowners.

The raise in secondary property taxes in Maricopa will cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value, according to a City Hall press release published Aug. 15.

The release was published on behalf of the City of Maricopa, Pinal County and Maricopa Unified School District, said City Manager Rick Horst.

What does the tax do?

The local tax pays for desegregation funding utilized by MUSD to hire qualified teachers, implement extra support for English Language Learners and other programming.

Nearly 20 Arizona school districts receive this money to aid in compliance with an order from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to remediate alleged or proven racial discrimination, according to statute.

MUSD has received desegregation funding since approximately the late 1990s, according to one school official.

The new law shifts the cost burden, previously assigned to taxpayers statewide, to homeowners who live in school districts that receive desegregation dollars.

It’s an issue complicated by Arizona’s complex tax system that mandates a 1 percent property tax cap. The state used to backfill those funds cut off by the cap. Now it’s up to resident homeowners.

Local pushback against the tax

The city says the shift in responsibility is unlawful because voters didn’t get a say.

Nancy Smith (City of Maricopa photo)

“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 press release stated.

Mayor Christian Price deferred comment on the subject to Councilmember Nancy Smith.

Smith said Pinal County, the City of Maricopa and Arizona school districts, including MUSD, will analyze the possibilities of legal options to appeal the tax.

Other alternative solutions include restructuring school funding and more dialogue with state legislators.

“We simply ask our state Legislature to come to the table with us to increase communication and allow us to help solve complex issues,” Smith said.

Smith has been a vocal critic of the Legislature, which, she said, often balances its budget “on the backs of towns, cities, counties,” and now school districts.

Smith said those decisions by the state force local governments to determine how to adapt increased costs passed down to them, often taking the form of tax increases.

“We believe it is disingenuous when we hear statements that indicate that our state budget has been passed without raising taxes, when in truth a portion of their budget has been passed to local governments,” Smith said.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved the tax unanimously during a special meeting Wednesday – with some reluctance. 

 “I join with my fellow electeds in the City of Maricopa and Maricopa Unified School District as far as protesting this particular new tax,” said Supervisor Anthony Smith, husband of Nancy Smith. 

State lawmakers double down on tax legality

Senate Bill 1529, signed by 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 (LD 11) maintained the tax’s legality in an opinion piece sent to InMaricopa Thursday.

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

“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,” Finchem wrote.

Desegregation funding has long been a thorn in many state lawmakers’ sides, with previous, unsuccessful efforts to alleviate the state’s funding portion in the past.

“This issue was on the table long before the now very successful 20×2020 was finalized,” said Rep. Vince Leach (LD 11) regarding Ducey’s teacher salary-raise plan included in this year’s state budget.

Leach suggested lowering local government spending and tax rates to fix the problem.

Sen. Steve Smith

State Sen. Steve Smith (LD 11) questioned how districts spend the money and whether those funds are necessary.

Smith said a solution to the tax debacle is simple: Strike out desegregation funding.

“It’s a bad tax that the local level should eliminate and get rid of it altogether,” Smith said.

MUSD: Desegregation funds crucial to success for every student

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman

District officials said the funding keeps classroom sizes manageable, provides

programming that aids in closing student achievement gaps and is necessary for teaching positions that primarily serve English Language Learners.

The district receives approximately $1.29 million annually in desegregation monies that fund the salaries of about 25 teachers throughout nine schools, according to Superintendent Tracey Lopeman.

“It would be devastating if we lost that funding,” Lopeman said.

Photos by Michelle Chance

Breakfast treats and coffee, donated by Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, greeted Maricopa High School teachers as they returned to campus July 17. New Principal Brian Winter took to the lecture hall stage early Tuesday morning to discuss school goals, including improving the culture and perception of MHS. Administration and staff are beginning a new school-year calendar, with the first day of school beginning for students July 23.

 

Most children in Maricopa schools will return to class sooner than usual this year. The Maricopa Unified School District approved a calendar change that will send students back to campus July 23.

The first day of school for charters Sequoia Pathway Academy and Legacy Traditional School will also be July 23. Leading Edge Academy begins Aug. 6.

MUSD

Along with adopting a new calendar that will give students two weeks off each in the fall, winter and spring, the district this year will also implement a new English Language Arts curriculum in each of its nine schools.

Maricopa High School

The district’s only high school welcomes 20 new teachers to campus, along with Principal Brian Winter and Assistant Principal Michelle Poppen. MHS offers three new courses: Anatomy and physiology, statistics and probability, and an intervention program for algebra 1. New Athletic Director Jake Neill, who oversees sports for the entire district, will help introduce swimming as a fall sport at MHS.

The high school’s credit recovery program, Ram Academy, begins its second year of instruction.

Maricopa Wells Middle School

Jason Szoltysik is the junior high’s new assistant principal.

“He brings many years of educational experience, and he is going to be great for our students and overall campus,” said Principal Thad Miller.

Butterfield Elementary

Four new teachers join the Bobcats this school year. The elementary is in the third year of its Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) discipline system. Principal Janel Hildick said Arizona State University will train Butterfield staff how to implement calming corners, “which help students who may be suffering from anxiety or emotional stress.”

Maricopa Elementary

Designated as a “Leader in Me” Lighthouse school this spring, MES adds four new classrooms, which is expected to decrease class sizes. The majority of teaching staff returns, and its administrators are hoping veteran educators will help newer teachers implement the “7 habits of highly effective people” and Leader in Me program in each classroom.

Pima Butte Elementary

A number of teachers got a head start this summer training on the materials for the district’s new ELA curriculum, according to Principal Randy Lazar. The school adds a new second grade teacher, a Title 1 paraprofessional and an academic coach. Pima Butte will share Teacher on Special Assignment Elizabeth Allison with Santa Rosa Elementary.

Santa Rosa Elementary

The grade school follows Butterfield’s lead in implementing the PBIS discipline program. “The goal of PBIS implementation is explicitly teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them,” said Principal Eva Safranek.

Santa Rosa welcomes back the WATCH D.O.G.S. program for the second year. The Dads of Great Students initiative provides fathers opportunities to be involved in their children’s education.

NOTE: Ram Academy, Desert Wind Middle School, Saddleback Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary did not submit school updates.

Charter Schools

Leading Edge Academy

Expected to reach full capacity, LEA and its 815 students welcome a new music teacher from Maryland, a full-time math coach and a new special education teacher. The elementary adds additional recess time for students in kindergarten through fifth grade with a new shade overhang on the playground. A supplemental K-2 math program and an expanded technology program will also be implemented.

NOTE: Sequoia Pathway Academy, Legacy Traditional School, Camino Montessori and Holsteiner Agricultural School did not submit school updates.


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Back to School

From left: June Celaya, Thad Miller and Brian Winter

By Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

This is the third in a series of columns on the school principals in Maricopa.

June Celaya, principal at Desert Wind Middle School, brings 33 years of educational experience to her job. Although she grew up in Philadelphia, she got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, respectively. She has taught multiple subjects in middle and high school and was a magnet school coordinator. Celaya was principal at Maricopa High School before moving to the principal’s office at DWMS three years ago.

She is most proud of adding a second performing arts teacher at her school, which caused the program to double in size, as well as adding another Blended Learning Program. She looks forward to implementing Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) next year. Her personal credo is that diversity brings opportunity to a school and that a teacher can inspire any student to be a successful learner.

The principal at Maricopa Wells Middle School is Thad Miller, a native Arizonan whose K-12 education was obtained in Maricopa. He is an ASU graduate and obtained a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University. Before becoming an administrator, Miller taught science in the middle grades and in high school in MUSD.

He is very pleased the goals established for MWMS year have been realized and work towards academic improvement continues with strong staff support. Miller anticipates continuing with high academic and behavioral expectations as part of the school’s goals next year.

“The new ELA adoption should be a great benefit for our kids,” he said.

He believes a positive relationship is being built between students and faculty that will lead to future success.

Brian Winter is the Maricopa High School principal for the 2018-19 school year. He was born and raised in Minnesota and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from state universities there. He has 30 years’ experience in education in various positions including administrative assignments in Oregon and Arizona.

He takes great pride in the fact MHS has tested every 11th grade student on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and all 12th graders on the ACT standardized college admissions test. This testing was done at no cost to the students due to a grant obtained by the school. His goal as the new principal is to build a connection with every student, whatever it takes.

Murray Siegel has a doctorate in Math Ed and 42 years of teaching experience.


This column appears in the July 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.

Back to school

Members of the Maricopa High School band continued to perform during the summer in preparation for an early start to the school year.

 

It will still be July when students return to class in the Maricopa Unified School District, Legacy Traditional and Sequoia Pathway this year.

In exchange for an expedited first day of school, kids will get to spend an additional week off during fall, winter and spring breaks.

The changes at MUSD come as part of a modified calendar adopted by the school Governing Board in early 2017. The district operated an additional year under its traditional calendar to give families and staff time to plan ahead. The two charter schools then chose to follow suit.

Back in 2017, parents voiced concern about childcare during the extended breaks and how the July start-date would negatively affect teen workers with summer jobs.

Others are not worried.

“As a stay-at-home mom, (the new schedule) doesn’t really affect our family,” said Karen Fortunato. “Our family is pretty excited about the changes.”

Some educators in the district are also pleased.

Kathy Fuentes, special education teacher at Saddleback Elementary School, has experience working under the modified calendar in another district.

She loved it then and is looking forward to spending more time off in the cooler weather months of October and March.

“It also gives families a week to take care of doctor appointments and other business and then a week, or so, to rest and relax,” Fuentes said.

A sixth-grade teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School, Rachael Isenberg, also likes the additional time she’ll have to schedule appointments and travel.

Isenberg was on the district calendar committee and deliberated the reasons why the district should adopt the new schedule.

“We considered things like getting kids out of the worst of the heat and continuity of curriculum and instruction,” Isenberg said.

But the committee also looked at how the extended breaks could benefit educators and families.

Isenberg said teachers often spent the one-week vacations in waiting rooms – cramming in medical appointments during break to avoid missing a day of school.

She said the extended breaks could alleviate that.

Even with its benefits, teachers said the new schedule doesn’t come without a degree of adaptation, especially with summer break.

“For me, it has already made the summer feel shorter,” said Desert Wind music teacher Roger Wagner, who said marching band camp begins one week before staff returns to school

Many educators like Alicia Chin, a science teacher a Maricopa High School, teach summer school and participate in curriculum planning well into June.

School begins July 23.

“I will only be able to take a couple weeks to myself before I need to be back to work again preparing for next year,” Chin said.

MHS Music Director Ivan Pour called the schedule changes “minimal,” although the fall break is in the middle of marching band season.

Beginning school in July means the marching band will have more time overall to rehearse, but Pour said he will have to reconfigure his spring programming because of the new schedule.

“A calendar is a calendar and it is the same number of (school) days,” Pour said, adding, “I think, ultimately, it will allow for more intentional teaching throughout the school year with less progress lost in summer. But it will take some getting used to.”


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Average teacher pay at Maricopa Unified School District according to budget numbers. Salaries actually vary widely depending on each teacher's experience and advanced education.

Teacher raises and competitive compensation plans for new employees are included in the proposed budget approved for Maricopa’s public school system Wednesday.

Maricopa Unified School District’s $54 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19 was unanimously approved June 28, but Governing Board Vice President Gary Miller questioned whether the district could realistically maintain those salary increases included in the compensation plans beyond this school year.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett argued increased enrollment growth projected in the district and commitment from the state Legislature as two funding sources.

Gov. Doug Ducey approved this year funding to Arizona school districts that would allow up to a 10-percent pay increase for teachers after educators held walk-outs in the #RedForEd movement.

Teachers are also slated to receive an additional 10-percent increase by 2020 from the state.

MUSD received more than $1 million from the state this year for teachers, but the board approved raises for administrators, classified staff, transportation and employees in health and related services at a cost to the district of about $2.6 million.

Future funding from the state will have to be approved during annual budget sessions.

“So, what I’m hearing from your prediction is that the Legislature will keep their promise and, between that and our growth projections, then this will be sustainable?” Miller asked.

Beckett said he couldn’t give that assurance but speculated that even if the state backed off from its commitment to continuously increase teacher pay, funding from the district’s swelling enrollment would likely cover the loss.

Administrative and classified employee raises this year are covered almost entirely by enrollment dollars alone, Beckett said.

Beckett predicted the new compensation plans for future employees will attract and retain teachers.

Under the proposed 2019 budget, the average salary of all teachers will be $47,748 – an increase of more than $4,000 from last year’s average.

“I think this will position us, at least for the next few years, to go to places like California, the Midwest, and be able to present a real salary that is going to be attractive to our people, especially to our teachers,” Beckett told the Board.

The budget also allows for the purchase of one regular route school bus and a special education route bus.

A public hearing will be held during the Board’s next meeting July 11 before the final budget is approved and forwarded to the Arizona Department of Education.

Photo by Michelle Chance

From Maricopa High School


Attn: Parents of Maricopa High School Students

Maricopa High School is gearing up for the 2018-2019 school year. We will be starting our modified calendar school year making our summer shorter and preparing for student arrival.

Avoid the RUSH and take advantage of registering your “new” student(s) during the week of July 2. Our registrar’s office will be available to help you with that last minute registration(s).

July 3, 7am-11am

July 5-6, noon-3pm

July 9-12,  for returning students during student check-in

July 16, and beyond during regular office hours.

Appointments can be scheduled by contacting Danielle Byers at dbyers@musd20.org.

As we do every year, we have a week of “Student Check-In”. This is the time parents and students use to pick-up schedules (already enrolled students), speak with a counselor regarding any issue with their schedule; update health records with our site nurse; get their new ID that is a requirement for students to be on campus and also pay fees that may be associated with their schedules (Elective classes have fees). Please visit our Maricopa High School website at: http://mhs.maricopausd.org/ to see what day and time each grade level should plan to attend check-in.

Parents, please note that we are only set up for payment to accept cash or check. Unfortunately, we are not able to do debit/credit.

We hope that you’re enjoying your summer and we look forward to having our students back on campus, and ready to go July 23.

Heidi Vratil, professional development coach at Maricopa Unified School District, is a National Board-certified teacher. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

Heidi Vratil began her career 22 years ago teaching in the special education department of Maricopa Unified School District’s middle and high schools.

“It wasn’t like now where we have a resource room for students with learning disabilities and a self-contained room for students with emotional disabilities,” Vratil said. “Everybody was all one.”

Vratil adapted to the district, so small at the time, and spent her career working to advance the experience of its teachers and students.

She quickly ascended to SPED director, the district’s first Human Resources director and then returned to a middle school classroom for a time before eventually taking a position in the district office as a professional development coach.

This school year, Vratil has been a Maricopa High School assistant principal. After time spent on leave, she returned with new responsibilities focusing on the school’s activities and facilities.

MHS experienced a difficult year in its administrative team, with two resignations causing reshuffling and frustration among staff, students and parents.

Next year, the district’s athletic director Brian Winter will take over as principal, and Vratil said the high school administration aims to stay the same by the end of the school year in 2019.

Heidi Vratil (right) presents an award to Haley Petersheim during Senior Awards Night.

“The team that we have in place has the skills, the dispositions, the beliefs to grow this place to be a ‘B’ school and then to be an ‘A’ school,” Vratil said.

Vratil’s tenure at MUSD, in general, is a practice in curiosity and drive.

“Her career exemplifies her willingness to learn and to take risks at new things,” said longtime colleague Bernadette Russoniello.

Vratil is a National Board-certified teacher and spearheaded an effort to encourage MUSD teachers to tackle the ambitious certification.

“Watching teachers grow in their own fields, in their own practice – that’s the best because then their impact on kids is greater and that ultimately is what we’re here for,” Vratil said.

Fifty-five district teachers are pursuing board certification under Vratil’s guidance — granting MUSD the highest percentage in that category in the state. Five teachers are now certified at the highest level an educator can achieve, according to Vratil.

Vratil compares the process to the rigor of earning a master’s degree.

“These teachers have gone through a structured, rigorous process to prove their practice against others in our country,” Vratil said, adding, “The biggest thing that I see different is the common language, the way they know their kids and how to teach them and being reflective about their practice.”

Vratil also brought the teacher-mentoring program to MHS and the district’s two middle schools. Through this initiative, every rookie teacher is assigned a mentor for guidance.

Jennifer Miller is one of those mentors. She credits Vratil with having a profound impact on her profession by habitually pushing teachers out of their comfort zones.

“…Vratil is one of the most passionate educators I know. She is all about helping teachers be the best versions of themselves,” Miller said.

After a tumultuous year at the high school, Vratil said she considered looking outside the district for another opportunity. She decided to stay to nurture the educators growing in their professions.

“I don’t have a definition of what it looks like to be done,” Vratil said. “I just know that I’m not.”


This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman. Photo by Michelle Chance

Tracey Lopeman officially becomes the superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District July 1. Lopeman is currently under contract as a consultant and de facto interim superintendent after the early departure of Steve Chestnut. She spoke with InMaricopa’s Michelle Chance about the future of the district.

TRACEY LOPEMAN
Hometown: Henderson, Nevada
Residence: Phoenix
Plans to move to Maricopa: Not right now
Commute: I enjoy it. It’s a nice drive, and it allows me some time to think about work and get ready for the day.
Family: I have a fiancée, Tony Johnson. The rest of my family still lives in Henderson. I have a brother and sister and my nephews.
Pets: Two rescue dogs, Chico and Howard.
Education: I went to Northern Arizona University for my bachelor’s degree and I got my master’s and my doctorate at Arizona State University.
Hobbies: We go to ASU football games. I enjoy sports, cooking, home design, yard work, time with family and friends and entertaining.
Little known fact: I’m an excellent tap dancer. I’ve been doing it since I was 5.

What are some tangible goals you have for MUSD?
Some tangible goals have to do with student achievement: Improving the numbers of students who are proficient and highly proficient on the Az Merit. Teacher retention and, of course, that’s directly related to student achievement. We can track teacher retention. I also have a goal for safety and service. Things that we can associate with safety and service would be transportation services and behavior management on the campuses and making sure the environment is orderly and calm and we can track those as well.

What are some challenges at MUSD you hope to overcome?
One of the challenges is the teacher turnover. We want to make sure that we are not having to start over every year with high numbers of staff. So, if we can impact teacher retention, we are going to do that.

What are your specific strategies to keep teachers?
We want to get as much of that money (from new state budget) into the classroom as possible. We think we have a really good approach to that, a really good plan. It’s not approved by our board yet, but I think that it will be well received by our staff. We want to have a competitive package, and we believe the increase that we’ve received from the Legislature is going to help with that.

How do you define a teacher?
Obviously, there [are] three separate definitions the Legislature has included. For our purposes, we want to use the most broad definition as possible so that we can make sure as many teachers as possible have their raise.

Will that definition be shared in a future board meeting?
Absolutely it will. This is all a part of the package that we are continuing to craft and I’d love to give you the scoop, but I’ve got four board members that don’t know the details yet because we are really still crafting them.

With the new budget, there’s an increase to the base formula that calculates teacher pay. Can you share how that would apply to MUSD’s “unique student characteristics” you mentioned at a previous board meeting?
Those are the different weights that are applied to students when it comes to our enrollment. Whether it’s a typical student or a special needs student, there’s a formula that is influenced by those characteristics.

And every district is going to have to figure out what those are individually?
Yes, and we will share those at a future meeting.

Are there any plans in the budget to boost classified employee pay?
Yes. We believe that every employee impacts students. Every one of us is here to serve students in one form or another, and we also know that we want to be competitive across all employee groups. We want to make sure that we validate what every employee brings to the education of every MUSD student. We believe that reflects the intent of the #RedForEd movement. It was to support all employee groups – certified and classified. http://www.inmaricopa.com/musd-approves-10-teacher-raise/

The #RedForEd movement began soon after you were hired. How did that make you feel?
It was like, ‘Wait a minute, I just got here and everybody’s leaving?’ I feel like we had a front-row seat to something historic in Arizona. It is a familiar message that our state needed to properly fund public education. That’s not new, but the method was completely new.
It was exciting to have a front-row seat for that. It’s unfortunate we lost six days (of school). I certainly did not want to see that happen, but we were linking arms as a leadership team. I think districts across the state linked arms to figure out how we could best respond to this unprecedented movement. It was an awesome learning experience that I couldn’t have ever have imagined.

What are your duties at your current post at Alhambra Elementary School District?
I am an assistant superintendent for strategic planning, implementation and accountability. Right now, I am at the point of closing out the strategic plan in the Alhambra School District. I’m working with departments and bringing that to closure. I’m spending about three days a week in Maricopa because I have that support from my current superintendent in Alhambra.

How did you spend your tenure at Alhambra?
I was a teacher, then an assistant principal, then a school principal for 13 years. Then I worked at the district office as an assistant superintendent on the strategic plan. It’s hard to believe that was 28 years.

What do you bring to the table that’s different from what MUSD has had, this being your first post as superintendent?
I think I bring a knowledge base and an experience base that will capitalize on what (former Superintendent Steve) Chestnut brought with the vision and strategic plan that he established here. There’s a great foundation for strategic thinking and accountability already. So, I think I bring that mindset to the organization and, also, I bring an external focus that will assist with the marketing of our district. I have my experience through my roles at district office in that, so I can bring those connections and relationships to this district.
I have experience that picks up the torch without much delay and builds on the foundation that (Chestnut) established here. I’m really quite lucky because there’ so many great things going on in every one of the schools and there [are] already some pretty powerful relationships with different communities in and out of town, so I’m ready to, without missing a beat, continue what we have established.

A lot of teachers have complained about poor communication between school sites and the district office and have expressed a desire to see their superintendent present on campuses. What’s your philosophy?
One of the experiences that I’ve had as the assistant superintendent was facilitating the superintendent’s advisory councils for the last two years. I am familiar with and have seen the benefit of the experience of having a certified advisory council, a classified advisory council, a student advisory council, a parent advisory council.
Those are opportunities to interact directly with those different groups to listen and hear about concerns, but also get feedback on the direction and accomplishments related to our strategic plan. I know that I have different avenues already established to create those channels for deliberate, planned, routine feedback, conversation and relationship building.

That’s something you’d start at MUSD?
For sure. That will be happening at every site when we are back in the fall.

MUSD board members have discussed building new schools. How do you plan to accommodate this growth?
Growth is a great problem to have. We see it as an opportunity. We are going to engage the community, the staff, and we’re also going to engage the experts. We make sure the decisions we make are sustainable. Talk about an intense conversation with lots of details, that’s a very long-term conversation that will be inclusive and transparent.


A portion of this interview appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

In an end-of-year changeup, Maricopa Unified School District approved dozens of personnel moves Wednesday.

That included creating six new position titles involving more than 27 employees. Among those are 17 general education teachers, three and a half special education teachers, two nurses, three full-time substitutes, a plumber and a payroll clerk.

The new positions, costing $1.2 million, are funded through enrollment growth, inflation funds and carry-forward Maintenance & Operations Funds (M&O).

Seven current employees are being reclassified at a total cost of $48,800 from the same M&O funds. Among them are former high school Principal Rick Abel, who will become a high school teacher. Lead groundskeeper Chad Whittle becomes the grounds coordinator.

Among 14 new hires are high school Spanish teacher Irma Preciado, MHS choir/guitar teacher Austin Showen, Pima Butte Elementary second grade teacher Kelly Gomez, Butterfield Elementary fourth grade teacher Daisha Johnson, high school art teacher Cathy Smith, Santa Rosa Elementary third grade teacher James Braciszewski, Desert Wind Middle School math teacher Barbara Fallstead, Maricopa Elementary kindergarten teacher Amberlyn Strasburg and Santa Cruz Elementary fourth grade teacher Teri Nordhoff.

The district is also dealing with 13 resignations, two terminations and two coaches who did not return their contracts for renewal. Teachers resigning include MHS English teacher Kristen McCallin, SCES fifth grade teacher Suzanne Petersheim, MES ESS teacher Theresa Arellano and high school physical education teacher Cory Rovens. The resignations of high school counselors Rebecca Collins and Gretchen Mazaheri were accepted along with that of guidance counselor Cara Osmer.

Not returning contracts were high school track coach and chemistry/physics teacher Sheldon Hutchinson and MHS girls’ basketball coach and SCES fifth grade teacher Melvin Mitchell. The terminations were a bus driver and a bus aide.

Also in personnel, the board approved $1,000 mentoring stipends for 45 teachers.

MUSD Board

 

Teachers and other certified personnel in the Maricopa Unified School District can expect to receive the 10-percent raise. The governing board approved pay hikes Wednesday.

The increases affect paychecks in the 2018-19 school year, totaling about $2.6 million.

Bus drivers and mechanics are approved for a 10-percent hourly-wage increase. Administrators and classified staff (maintenance workers, secretaries, aides, etc.) will see a 5-percent raise. Most funding for the traditional teachers comes from monies allocated to districts from the state Legislature.

MUSD expanded its definition of “teachers” to include counselors, teachers on special assignment, academic coaches and related service providers. To afford that, the district is dipping into is inflationary funds to cover those and other employees’ raises.

While the board approved the 5-percent raise for classified staff, Board Member Patti Coutre suggested bumping the figure to 7 percent. Aron Rausch, Business Services director for the district, will assess the impact Coutre’s suggestion would have to next year’s budget.

A discussion is expected on the possibility of adding 2 percent to the approved 5 percent during a meeting June 27, where an anticipated budget will be presented.

by -
Papers left for the board.

A trio of people interrupted a Maricopa Unified School District board meeting Wednesday to “serve papers” to the governing board as part of a legal complaint filed May 10 in Superior Court. Chauncey Hollingberry, a Buckeye resident who maintains a YouTube channel filming himself confronting various government entities and police officers, had a reported process server place the summons paperwork in front of the board while members were trying to approve the consent agenda at its Wednesday meeting.

When the server ignored the request not to approach the board during the meeting, police were called to a disturbance at the district office. By the time Maricopa Police arrived, Hollingberry and the two others had already left the building. There was no further incident.

Hollingberry’s complaint, in part, states MUSD did not fulfill his public records request when he demanded all records the district might have that mentioned his name and media sites accessed by a specific employee at Santa Cruz Elementary School.

Maricopa Unified School District board members Joshua Judd, Patti Coutre, AnnaMarie Knorr and Torri Anderson approved a resolution supporting teachers' campaign for better funding in April.

 

Teachers and classified staff at Maricopa Unified School District could see a pay bump next school year, according to district documents.

The MUSD Governing Board will vote to approve a 10-percent salary increase for teachers, academic coaches, school counselors, “related service providers” and teachers on special assignment during a meeting May 30.

Classified staff could see 5 percent added to their hourly pay rate, if approved.

The board will also consider a 10-percent hourly increase to the paychecks of its bus drivers and mechanics in the district transportation department.

MUSD administrators would receive a 5 percent salary increase under the proposal.

Documents stated the increase would cost the district’s 2018-19 maintenance and operation budget more than $2.5 million.

Earlier this spring, districts experienced a teacher walk-out that left schools empty statewide. Educators in the #RedForEd movement demanded better funding for classrooms and themselves.

Teachers received a 1 percent pay increase last year.

Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature approved this month a plan that included a phased increase for public school teachers – a term they left to districts to define.

By 2021, educators would see a 19 percent average pay increase.

Under the statewide budget for FY 2018-19, the Legislature approved a 9-percent increase in teacher pay; with 5 percent being added each of the following two years.

However, how much and who that money goes to is ultimately at the discretion of school boards.

The Board will vote on the salary recommendations at the District Administration Building, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy., May 30 at 6:30 p.m.

by -
Abcdee Herrera of Maricopa Wells joins her classmates during the promotion ceremony Tuesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Eight graders from Maricopa Unified School District’s two middle schools, Desert Wind and Maricopa Wells, came together Tuesday to mark the end of junior high and their promotion to high school. It was a long day for the students, who spent the morning rehearsing on the Maricopa High School football field. But DWMS’s planned eighth grade trip to Wet ‘n’ Wild is Wednesday. The last day of school is Friday.

by -

Students of the National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) from Butterfield Elementary School spent their time lending support to those who need it the most.

Over the years as members of the NEHS, the students are able to provide service to various organizations – this time it was rendered to Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) located in Mesa.

The 18 students were able to prepare over 39,000 meals for children located in the Philippines. FMSC was founded in 1987 and has outreach programs in more than 70 countries.

The service project coincides with the celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Butterfield Elementary in the Maricopa Unified School District.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The fourth annual Music-a-Thon at Maricopa Unified School District filled the Performing Arts Center with music for seven hours Saturday. Bands and choirs from Maricopa High School, Desert Wind Middle School and Maricopa Wells Middle School performed from 1 to 8 p.m., directed by Ivan Pour, Tonya Hobt and Roger Wagner, along with guest conductor Mayor Christian Price. The MHS Marching Band has been invited to perform in the American Veterans Center’s National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., May 27, 2019. For the following year, the music department will attempt to raise $165,000, especially through the education tax credit program.

Incoming MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman (right) shares a laugh with Board President AnnaMarie Knorr before Wednesday's meeting. It was Lopeman's first time on the dais. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

 

By law, 180 days of instruction are required in the Maricopa Unified School District.

After a staff walkout, the district worked to accommodate six days out of school without extending the school year. Wednesday, the governing board approved the temporary suspension of the state-mandated policy.

Instead, it adopted a plan that would fit the equivalent minutes of instruction into 174 days, as allowed by law.

Board member Patti Coutré asked Human Resources Director Tom Beckett whether there was a plan to change the policy outright, apparently to allow the district to use equivalent minutes in the future without having to suspend policy.

“We are planning, on the May 30 agenda, to bring back a policy revision on this so that we don’t once again run into this situation,” Beckett said.

Beckett’s note to the board indicated the district will have “an equivalent number of minutes of instruction to equal 180 days of instruction without including the minutes/hours lost” during the closure.

The MUSD schools were closed as several faculty members participated in #RedForEd demonstrations at the capitol seeking an improved state education budget.

The board also voted to adjust the current school calendar to show the lost instructional days from April 26 through May 3. They also adopted the revised work schedule for certified and classified employees, “to ensure that classified employees are available to provide support services for the remainder of the school year and/or to provide classified employees the opportunity to make up lost work time due to school closures.”

As originally scheduled, the last day of classes for MUSD schools in May 25. High school graduation is May 24.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa Unified School District’s Native American Education Program and its parent advisory committee (NAPAC) hosted their year-end Family Night on Wednesday, honoring past, present and future.

The event featured Yellowhouse, an award-winning Navajo Nation dance group, as well as Ak-Chin’s Ba’ban Keina dancers. Maricopa High School’s Native American graduates were also spotlighted at the event, which was in the Performing Arts Center.

Click photos to enlarge.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The fourth annual Music-a-Thon by Maricopa Unified School District is May 12, 1-8 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

Music-a-Thon features all of the bands, choirs, and orchestra from Grades 6-12 in MUSD. This event will feature over 500 students in seven bands, three orchestras, five choirs, and combined performances from Desert Wind Middle School, Maricopa Wells Middle School, and Maricopa High School.

Roger Wagner, director of Instrumental Music at Desert Wind, said, “We are in our fourth year of this event and it has become a must-see for music fans and our community. The beauty of a combined choir of 200 students, the incredible sound of a shared orchestra, and the power of 180 band students in performance cannot be matched.”

This year’s closing combined band piece will be conducted by Maricopa Mayor Christian Price.

“We’re excited to show what MUSD Music can do, as well as invite our yearly special guest to conduct the MHS Fight Song, Rams Fall in Line,” said Ivan Pour, director of Instrumental Music at Maricopa High School.

See the schedule

 

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.


MOBILE USERS GET NEWS FIRST. Download InMaricopa for Apple and Android devices.

Photo by Michelle Chance

After telling students and parents classes would resume Thursday, Maricopa Unified School District now says “lack of progress at the Legislature” will keep doors closed “until further notice.”

The Arizona Education Association announced before noon on Wednesday that it is “strongly opposed” to the K-12 Education Bill in the House and Senate.

“While this bill moves the needle, it still does not go far enough,” AEA President Joe Thomas said. “It does not restore the more than $1 billion taken from our students and it leaves out school support staff like counselors, bus drivers, librarians, and many more who are vital to the success of our students.”

After MUSD announced its re-opening, some district teachers chatted on social media about not coming into work.

MUSD apologized for the confusion.

“We will continue serving meals at our cafeterias for our students who depend on us for breakfast and lunch,” the official announcement stated. “Our top priority is student safety and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time.”

Thomas said lawmakers brokered the education bill “behind closed doors as a partisan deal, without input from us. We were not able to change the minds of lawmakers, so the next step will be to change the faces of our lawmakers.”

“I truly think teachers deserve a higher pay and that we students deserve a proper education – at least a better one than what we’re receiving,” Mariocopa High School senior Kenya Gay said. “Teachers really don’t get enough credit or recognition for what they do. The walkout is not really affecting me personally because I don’t do sports or extra stuff, but I do know that it’s troubling some students who – especially – have tests coming, but teachers have been accommodating by having meetings at Starbucks and stuff. I just hope the teachers get the pay raise and that we get the proper funding we deserve.”

Schools in the Maricopa Unified School District are scheduled to re-open May 3, according to an MUSD statement.

SEE UPDATE 

The openings come on the week anniversary of a statewide teacher walkout and a day after the state announced two K-12 budget bills.

School children will apparently not need to make-up missed days at the end of the year.

“We have calculated the instructional hours in our current school year calendar and have determined we have sufficient hours to conclude the school year,” according to the district statement.

The last day of school for MUSD students will remain May 25.

Rescheduling of events and activities postponed because of school closures will be communicated to parents and students by school principals.

The statement said the MUSD Art Walk originally planned for Thursday is cancelled and “will not be rescheduled.”

Some teachers have indicated they may stay out another day until the budget has passed. MUSD may allow a delegation of up to 10 teachers to travel to the capitol each day the Legislature is in session until the budget passes.

The closure has affected students in different ways.

“I think the walkout is great, I really respect what teachers are doing and I agree, I don’t think that they’re getting paid the proper amount,” MHS senior Ty Pen said. “Arizona’s one of the lowest funding in education. The only problem I’ve really come across is being able to find transportation to get to school [at CAVIT]. I hope that this movement didn’t go without purpose that the teachers get what they have been fighting for.”

“I think that the walkout is absolutely justified because out teachers work so hard and they do deserve a livable salary,” senior Rachel Knight said. “With that, I agree that AZ students deserve a fully funded education. Personally, it’s affecting me due to AP test preparation, less time in class means less instructional time to prep. However, teachers, such as [Aiden] Balt, are making sure AP testers will be prepared and confident come next week, despite the walkout.

“I’m hoping the state legislators and Gov. Ducey will realize that this movement isn’t going away until there is a comprehensive resolution. Arizona schools and students deserve a competitive education and the teachers that lead that deserve a livable wage.”

Two other schools closed as a result of the #RedForEd movement.

Charter schools Leading Edge Academy closed April 26-27 and Sequoia Pathway Academy closed April 26 and reopened Tuesday.

Legacy Traditional School, Holsteiner Agricultural School, Camino Montessori, Mobile Elementary School District remained opened through the walkout.

“My mom has been a teacher in Arizona for about 14 years and I’m happy they are finally doing something to be getting paid what they are worth, MHS senior Baylen Redfern said. “My mom has worked a second job as a waitress up in town and working summer school to make ends meet. Teachers in general are underpaid and in Arizona it’s even worse.”

Joycelyn Cabrera contributed to this report.


MOBILE USERS GET NEWS FIRST. Download InMaricopa for Apple and Android devices.

Staff and scholars of Maricopa Elementary School celebrate their Lighthouse designation.

This year, Maricopa Elementary School became just the fourth “Leader in Me” Lighthouse School in the state. Wednesday, its students helped explain the significance to the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board.

 “To achieve this recognition, we needed to demonstrate the elements of and meet the Lighthouse criteria,” MES Principal Jennifer Robinson said.

Those criteria are core paradigms, leadership, academics, culture and measurable results. Core paradigms include potential, motivation, change and education.

The five-year process is a school transformation drawn from Franklin Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and other materials produced by the Covey organization.

The school’s mission statement combines all of the classes’ mission statements into a collection of important words. One class’s mission statement reads: “We will be proactive and responsible. We will do our best to work hard and pay attention. We will help each other achieve our goals. We will be leaders in all we do.”

Each student has a leadership binder to keep track of school, class and individual efforts. Some students target reading, others math or a behavior goal, and all can track their own progress.

“Motivation is important to me because not reacting and choosing kindness is important,” fifth grader Amanda Childers said. “If I track my progress, I will be successful and move onto sixth grade… I think education is important to me because it is the start to our own future.”

The program includes Wildly Important Goals, or WIGs. One of MES’s WIGs was to achieve Lighthouse status by May. The school reached that goal in February.

The school also achieved another WIG this year, having 80 percent of is scholars making expected growth in math and English language arts. It is close to meeting another WIG, having a daily attendance rate of 95 percent.

Progress is displayed prominently for the students to see how the school is doing.

Robinson said MES followed two Tempe schools (Kyrene) and one in Gilbert in receiving the designation. Since then, Luke Elementary in Glendale became the fifth Arizona school to achieve Lighthouse status.

“This year we were one of 25 schools in the world that [were] given this distinction,” she said. “There are 379 Lighthouse Schools in the world, and MES is one of them.”

Leader in Me recently updated to show 383 Lighthouse Schools worldwide and 3,307 schools in the process.

Maricopa Unified School District board members Joshua Judd, Patti Coutre, AnnaMarie Knorr and Torri Anderson approved a resolution supporting teachers' campaign for better funding in April.

 

As if putting a stamp on an energetic evening featuring scores of #RedForEd T-shirts, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board expressed their support as the teaching staff prepared to join a statewide walkout to change education funding.

MUSD school closed Thursday and remain closed Friday.

Though not specifically expressing support of the work stoppage, the board cited “chronic underfunding” in approving a “Resolution Supporting Educators.”

“[W]e support our school employees as they make their demands known for legislative action to secure the necessary funding for meaningful pay raises and education funding,” the resolution states.

Before the meeting, teachers from MUSD and other local schools gathered at Copper Sky for a rally. They then created “thank you” cards to individuals and organizations that have expressed support.

Two of the four board members present at Wednesday’s regular meeting also wore red.

High school teacher Aidan Balt thanked the board for supporting teachers and student. Then she specifically thanking incoming superintendent Tracey Lopeman and the cabinet for communicating the walkout situation quickly to all families in English and Spanish.

“I’ve never been more proud to be a teacher and I’ve been more proud to work for MUSD,” she said.

Technology Integration Specialist Christine Dickinson thanked the classified staff of MUSD for their support, calling all of them educators.

“All together we have to do this as a united team,” she said. “This is not about teacher pay. If it was about teacher pay, this would have been resolved. This is about educators united, not teachers, educators. Together as a team we are educators.”

April 12, Gov. Doug Ducey proposed a 20-percent teacher pay raise by the fall of 2020, but state teachers voted to walkout instead, saying it did not do enough for support staff or per-pupil funding.

Supporting Ducey’s plan, Senate President Steve Yarbrough said the teachers were victimizing the students.

“While the schools close, the Legislature remains open, with leaders attempting to complete their task to bring the teachers significantly better pay,” Yarbrough said in a prepared statement. “We hear their frustration. Our hope is that the teachers who choose to walk out on their children will return to their classrooms, so that students can learn and complete their school year.”

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.”


MOBILE USERS GET NEWS FIRST. Download InMaricopa for Apple and Android devices.