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Maricopa children ride buses to schools outside of the city every day. 

Valley schools that bus Maricopa children:

Kyrene School District:

Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School, Kyrene del Pueblo Middle School, Kyrene de la Estrella, Kyrene de los Lagos, Kyrene del Milenio.

Tempe Union High School District: Mountain Pointe High School

It’s often considered a controversial option that has been available to families since incorporation. Parents send their children to school in the Valley for a variety of reasons, including displeasure with Maricopa schools and perceived better educational opportunities.

The Maricopa Unified School District, the only district with a transportation department, has seen a recent upsurge in parent and student complaints.

Many parents turn to other options.

Two school districts, Kyrene and Tempe Union High, send 15 buses to and from Maricopa five days a week.

The commute involves sitting through rush hour traffic on the troublesome State Route 347, a roadway with a dangerous reputation.

In 2014 there were 104 crashes, 46 injuries and one death caused by vehicular accidents on SR 347, according to the most recent data provided by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Despite the safety concern, parents who send their children to schools in the Valley said their students are safe.

Bethany Auxier Anguiano’s two children, third and first graders, attend an elementary school in the Kyrene District.

The kids leave the house at 6:30 a.m. to catch the bus, Anguiano said.

“I am not actually concerned too much about the 347 because traffic is so slow during morning rush hour. We have a great bus driver and our bus has seat belts,” she said.

Overall, Anguiano said, there are no major issues with transportation besides the occasional accident on the 347 that prevents students from getting to school on time.

Of the 10 routes running in Maricopa from the Kyrene School District, only one bus has been involved in an accident in the past two years, according to Transportation Director Eric Nethercutt.

Most recently, a Kyrene bus was in an accident on John Wayne Parkway Nov. 6.

“My kids don’t ride the bus in the mornings because my husband drops them off on the way to work, thankfully,” said parent Kathie Gerow-Martin. “(There is) no overcrowding on the way home, but their bus was hit last week in the morning so I’m very thankful they were not on it at that time.”

The Maricopa Police Department said none of the 26 children on board at the time were injured.

Although accidents are reportedly a rare occurrence for Kyrene’s Maricopa routes, Gerow-Martin said SR 347 still worries her.

“(The 347 is) a huge concern with my husband and I, but my daughter has a phone, so I feel a lot better about the commute because, of course, if anything is wrong she can call and text us,” Gerow-Martin said.

Kyrene buses children to three elementary schools and two middle schools. Tempe UHSD transports students to Mountain Pointe High School.

Like Kyrene, the Mountain Pointe routes have been involved in one accident in the past two years, said TUHSD Transportation Director Tim Snow.

Would you like to share your child’s transportation experience? Contact Reporter Michelle Chance at Michelle.Chance@InMaricopa.com.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett talks about MUSD transportation at a Nov. 8 meeting. Photo by Michelle Chance

A presentation from the supervisor of the Maricopa Unified School District Transportation Department showed the school system pays its bus drivers less than a list of comparable districts.

“You can see from the list there, we are dead-last,” said Tom Beckett, Human Resources director and transportation department liaison.

At MUSD, drivers are paid an hourly wage of $11.02; that’s more than $4 less per hour than the Higley Unified School District.

The conversation during a meeting Nov. 8 came after a series of complaints from parents, alleging habitually tardy buses, poor communication from the district and overcrowding.

“Sometimes it doesn’t appear that way, but we love those community calls and parents letting us know that things aren’t going as well as we’d like,” Beckett told the Governing Board.

Despite grievances posted to social media, parents did not address the school officials during the meeting’s call-to-the-public forum.

Beckett said the district has improved complaints made to the transportation department regarding poor communication by hiring front office staff to answer phones and send messages through the district’s ‘ConnectEd’ system after the position was vacant for over a month.

The path toward solving the district’s transportation problems could also involve a future salary increase.

Beckett said a shortage of bus drivers is one reason for the department’s “challenges” that stem from the beginning of the school year. A bump in pay would be one solution to the problem, he said.

Higher wages for bus drivers could attract and retain transportation employees in the department that currently employs 38 drivers and is in the process of hiring five more.

To widen the pool, the district trains candidates, and aids them through state tests and endorsements, Beckett explained. It can take weeks for a candidate to become fully qualified before they get behind the wheel of a yellow bus, resulting in delays for a department that needs help immediately.

The driver shortage has even affected driver training.

“We have a full-time trainer, but unfortunately she’s been called out of training many times to drive a bus,” Beckett said.

Members of the school board and Beckett agreed a pay increase for all classified employees will be something the district will consider as budget talks ramp up in the coming months.

“Ninety-eight percent of our routes go smoothly every day. There are some challenges, but we have an awful lot of employees really working hard for us,” Beckett said. “I know sometimes they don’t feel appreciated for what they do.”

Rick Abel (right) at a Maricopa High School football game earlier this year. Abel had been acting principal at MHS and will be interim principal the rest of the year.

Rick Abel and Thad Miller, two acting principals in the Maricopa Unified School District, will continue their positions and posts through the 2017-18 school year, school officials said Friday.

The district made the announcement soon after confirming the resignation of former Maricopa High School Principal Renita Myers.

The MUSD Governing Board will vote to approve Myers’ resignation during a meeting Nov. 8.

Beginning Nov. 3, Abel’s and Miller’s respective titles change from “acting principal” to “interim principal,” according to a news release from the district.

Abel began as acting principal at MHS Oct. 16. MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said former MHS Principal Renita Myers resigned Oct. 23.

After he was transferred to the high school earlier this school year and back again, Maricopa Wells Middle School will keep Miller on campus, now as its interim principal until May.

The news release stated the district will consider a decision regarding the principal position at each school for the 2018-19 school year “in the next few months.”

Thad Miller

“I am very pleased that Mr. Abel and Mr. Miller will be serving as principals for the rest of the school year,” Chestnut stated. “They are both excellent leaders and I greatly enjoy working with them. Both are greatly respected by students, staff and parents.”

Abel has worked as a district principal since 2009 at Santa Rosa Elementary, MWMS and now MHS.

Miller, a veteran MUSD employee and lifelong Maricopa resident, began work in 1997 at the district’s Maricopa Middle School as a science teacher.



A group of middle-school students was allegedly harassed by an unknown individual in a black mask Tuesday morning.

Officials at Pima Butte Elementary School sent out an advisory bulletin around 11 a.m. warning parents that around 8:20 a.m., a man in a black “ski mask” harassed the students as they waited for their bus near the corner of Van Der Veen Way and Rancho El Dorado Parkway.

The man, according to the bulletin, stopped his vehicle – a light-red Ford pickup truck – then got out and allegedly shouted something inaudible at a group of Desert Wind Middle School students waiting at the stop.

As a bus approached, the bulletin says, the man wearing the mask, black pants and a red, white and black striped collared shirt, got back in to the pickup and drove away.

“One of the witnesses on scene believes they knew who it was,” Maricopa police spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said.

MPD is pursing that lead, he said.

At this time, police believe the man does not pose any further threat.

MUSD is seeking a new curriculum for ELA.

New curriculum for English-Language Arts could be in local classrooms next school year.

Curriculum Price Tags
“Company A”: $1,208,514
“Company B”: $1,319,500
“Company C”: $1,741,289

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved the creation of a curriculum committee during a meeting Oct. 25 to aid teachers and the district with related decisions.

The ELA Adoption Committee will consider the purchase of a K-12 curriculum set in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. MUSD last adopted ELA curriculum in 2004.

Professional Development Coach Stephanie Rhinehart presented figures of three proposed textbook vendors Wednesday night.

Curriculum from the anonymous vendors ranged from $1.2 million to $1.7 million.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said district Business Services Director Aron Rausch recommended the proposed K-12 adoption be made in separate purchases between 2018 and 2019.

The first order would be approximately $1 million in July 2018 and another $1 million in the next fiscal year. The schedule would mean only certain grades would receive curriculum at a time.

Board President Patti Coutre, Vice President AnnaMarie Knorr and Board Member Torri Anderson said they preferred the district adopt and pay for the curriculum all at once.

It’s not the first, pricey curriculum adoption proposal this year.

The district adopted math K-12 curriculum earlier this year for over $1.03 million from its reserve funds.

“When we first did this with math, we did it all out of the reserves, and when we talked about doing ELA, we also talked about it coming out of the reserves,” Coutre said. “If we have the money in the reserves, what difference does it make if we do it in one fell swoop versus two?”

Chestnut said Rausch’s recommendation was based on conservative, future spending.

“I know Mr. Rasuch’s concern is that we will be spending $3.5 million to $4 million in reserve funds in the next couple years so being fiscally conservative, he’d like to make sure we have reserves to cover any unforeseen expenses,” Chestnut said.

Rausch clarified in a conversation later this week that the district has not yet designated what fund reserves they will be pulling from, but it would not be its Maintenance and Operating fund where all of the override money is budgeted.

“This purchase will have to come out of a fund that supports accounting and budgeting laws for the purchase of capital and has reserves and budget available,” Rausch said. “The ‘M and O’ fund where most of the override is budgeted for operations and staff cannot be used for capital purchases by law.”

Knorr requested a budget breakdown from Rausch to be discussed in a future meeting. She said despite his concerns she would prefer the district adopt the curriculum simultaneously and possibly before 2018, citing poor student test scores in the subject area.

“I would rather take a little risk and invest in our children so that they get the ELA curriculum that they need as we go forward then sit back and let it continue on as is,” Knorr said.

Anderson and Coutre agreed.

“I don’t think we can wait, we’ve waited too long for curriculum,” Anderson said.

The board approved the creation of the ELA adoption committee unanimously. The debate regarding the curriculum purchasing schedule is expected to be on the board’s Nov. 8 agenda.

Business Services Director Aron Rausch

Local teachers will soon see a payout from the state’s recent 1.06 percent pay raise.

MUSD will pay teachers from M&O because the state has not yet dispersed money to districts.

The Maricopa Unified School District will distribute $196,000 to approximately 330 teachers by December, said District Business Services Director Aron Rausch.

That’s less than $600 per teacher.

“Our goal is to have that in the Nov. 17 payroll as one lump sum. If it’s not possible to make that payroll, then it will be Dec. 1,” Superintendent Steve Chestnut said.

Although the raise was initiated by the state, MUSD will pay teachers from the Maintenance and Operations fund because the state has not yet dispersed money to districts.

Rausch said the state will reimburse MUSD at some point in the future.

Only eligible teachers who have worked in Arizona for the past year are eligible for the raise.

“We are going to give one lump sum to returning teachers or teachers that taught in Arizona last year,” Chestnut said. “New teachers will not be included as the statute was written.”

School counselors and other “miscellaneous positions” are not eligible either, Chestnut said.

District employees in the human resources and payroll departments researched and compiled a list of around 330 educators who are entitled to a check.

Chestnut said an email will be sent to school staff explaining the eligibility details from the state.

The disbursement was discussed during a district meeting Oct. 25. Because the state has not allocated funds to schools, the district revised it’s 2017-18 budget to allow teachers to receive their raise.

The revision was approved unanimously by the district governing board Wednesday night.

“I’m surprised it’s not more,” said Board Member Torri Anderson after the vote.

The governing board debated for months this year to apply its own pay boost for teachers. Over the summer, it eventually approved a 3 percent salary increase for all district employees in its 2017-18 budget.

Although the 1 percent raise by the state has been compared to “peanuts” from teachers and education advocates around Arizona, some teachers working at MUSD will receive just over a 4 percent increase in combined pay boosts from the state and district this year.

Diego Villareal and Sara Earle were honored by Maricopa Rotary at an Oct. 25 meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board as Students of the Month. Pictured behind them are Rotarians Alma Farrell and Joanne Ortega and MUSD board President Patti Coutre. In back are school board members Joshua Judd, AnnaMarie Knorr, Gary Miller, Superintendent Steve Chestnut and school board member Torri Anderson. Photo by Michelle Chance


Outstanding students in the Maricopa Unified School District were highlighted for their academic efforts during a school board meeting Wednesday night.

Maricopa Rotary Club Youth Coordinator Alma Farrell and Joanne Ortega presented Maricopa High School senior Diego Villareal and Desert Wind Middle School Sara Earle with Rotary Students of the month for October.

Farrell said Villareal is an honors student with a 3.861 grade point average.

“His guidance counselor nominated him for this award,” Farrell said. “She reports that she admires his diligence to do his work and as well as the respectful and kind demeanor that he has.”

Villareal is a member of the National Honor Society, is involved in the school’s Book and Media Club, and active in his church as a youth pastor, Farrell said.

Earle, DWMS eighth grader, was lauded by school staff in Farrell’s report for her sense-of-humor and her work ethic.

“Not only does she excel in each subject area within the Blended Learning program, she goes above and beyond teacher expectations for a student,” Farrell quoted one teacher as saying.

Earle is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and the Tiger volleyball team.

The MUSD Governing Board also approved the early graduation of MHS senior Andrew Bounsone during the meeting.

Bounsone’s guidance counselor Chris Lathan requested the board approve Bounsone’s December graduation.

Lathan said Bounsone, who was not present at the meeting, intends to walk during the graduation ceremony in May before enlisting in the military.

“One of the reasons he wants to graduate early is because he’s going to be servicing in the Army, so one of the things he would like to do is work and get extra money and work out a little bit and get himself ready for basic training,” Lathan said.

Board Member Gary Miller clarified with the board that Bounsone would still be eligible to attend prom in the spring.

The board voted unanimously to approve Bounsone’s early graduation.

This is Red Ribbon Week at Maricopa High School

A local high school is spreading drug-awareness through a series of week-long events.

Students at Maricopa High School are participating in Red Ribbon Week, a national annual drug prevention campaign from Oct. 23 through Oct. 29.

MHS Prevention Coach Yolanda Ewing said children whose parents talk to them about drugs and alcohol are less likely to use the addictive substances.

“Substance abuse awareness education helps support those parents who are making the effort to talk with their kids as well as fill in the vacuum being left by those who don’t,” Ewing said.

According to the Red Ribbon Week Campaign website, only a quarter of teens nationwide report having these conversations.

The awareness week comes at the height of a national opioid epidemic. Although the increased abuse of prescription medication is cause for much concern, Ewing said “alcohol is still the most widely abused drug nationwide by teens and by Maricopa teens.”

Organizers kicked off the week Monday with a “table talk” held during lunch by the Students Against Drunk Driving club.

Tuesday, the Ready for Life program hosted a red ribbon drug awareness “Ram Fest” after school with live music and food.

The MHS Drama Club performed “Your Future is Key, So Stay Drug Free” inside the Black Box Theatre Wednesday afternoon. Students viewed a screening of “Natural High” Thursday and engaged in a discussion with their peers afterward inside the school lecture hall from 2:45 to 5 p.m.

During the MHS Rams Football final game of the season, students will sign a red ribbon pledge and conduct a balloon release.

The week concludes Sunday at Copper Sky with a community outreach event at 2:30 p.m.

“We plan to have fun activities for everyone, free food, live entertainment and a balloon release,” Ewing said.

As part of the campaign, students also entered a Red Ribbon-themed essay and poster contest.

For more information contact Ewing at yewing@musd20.org.

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Submitted photo

Sept. 24, seven members of the Maricopa Wells Dance Team performed at a home Diamondbacks baseball game at Chase Field. The performance was part of the pregame activities for the Diamondback and Florida Marlins baseball game. This is the second year that instructor Yvonne Palm has taken students from her dance class to the annual Diamondbacks Dance Day. The dance team from Maricopa Wells performed along with other dance teams from across the state.

“As a dance class and team, we had an amazing opportunity to perform a dance at the D-Backs Dance Day,” Palm said. “I am so proud that the Maricopa Wells Middle School Dance Team got to be involved in this fun event.”

Who will be Maricopa Unified's next superintendent?

The Maricopa Unified School District will vote to kick-off the process for its superintendent search Wednesday night.

The MUSD Human Resources Department could receive a green light from the school board during a scheduled meeting to research various methods for finding its top new administrator. Current Superintendent Steve Chestnut’s contract will end June 30 after the board voted unanimously in September to not approve an additional contract through 2020.

MUSD Board President Patti Coutre. Photo by William Lange

The new superintendent’s contract would be negotiated, but the finalist must begin work at the district by July 1, 2018.

MUSD School Board President Patti Coutré said search methods HR will consider include the district’s internal HR department, the governing board, a local search firm, the Arizona School Board Association and a national search firm.

“We want (the HR department) to gather all that information and give us the pros and the cons, and then the board will deliberate with that information to decide what direction we want to go with,” Coutré said.

The board hopes to use information compiled by HR for deliberation with its attorney during a private meeting Nov. 8., followed by “direction in open session.”

Coutré said the public and district stakeholders will have opportunities to submit their input throughout the process.

“A lot of this stuff will take place in executive session because of the fact that it’s personnel (related), but we will do as much in open session as is allowed so that we have that transparency factor,” Coutré said.

The district previously used a national search firm prior to hiring Chestnut.

Coutré said the board hopes to have a job description available for applicants by December. In the past, stakeholders had a say in who they would like to see manage the district.

“When we did this with Dr. Chestnut, we actually had various focus groups meet with our finalists, and then they gave feedback back to the board,” Coutre said. “There is going to be plenty of opportunity to get community input throughout this whole process; we just haven’t defined that yet because a lot of that will be determined by what method we go with.”

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Devin Carson

In September, the board learned Chestnut was once again a finalist for a position at another district. Chestnut has expressed his desire to manage a large district and has since announced his candidacy in a few other districts.

His most recent prospect at Gilbert Public Schools went to another candidate.

Coutré said she doesn’t believe the board would offer another contract to Chestnut in the future, citing “philosophical differences” between the board and Chestnut.

“Dr. Chestnut is an amazing superintendent and he wants to be a superintendent for a larger school district and I think he’s going to achieve that because he is who he is. He’s a great guy,” Coutré said.

Although the board hasn’t voted on the specifics yet, Coutré said they will likely look for a candidate who is collaborative, exudes leadership and transparency, and a desire to build relationships with stakeholders.

“A lot of those qualities that Dr. Chestnut possessed is what we will continue to look for in a superintendent – the board still has to meet to decide – but I can’t imagine us looking for anything other than we want to find a leader that is going to continue our pursuit to become an A-district, and that’s what we will continue to look for,” Coutré said.

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Linette Caroselli

Linette Y. Caroselli of Maricopa has been recognized as a RunJumpThrow Outstanding Organizer for exemplary volunteer work to encourage local youth to embrace the importance and fun of physical wellness, USA Track & Field (USATF) announced Tuesday.

A collaboration between USATF and The Hershey Company, RunJumpThrow (RJT) is a hands-on program that gets kids excited about physical activity by introducing them to basic running, jumping and throwing skills through track and field. It provides children ages 7-12 a fun chance to learn and practice these skills, which are the foundations of track and field nearly every other sport.

As a grade-school teacher and active alumni member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Caroselli saw a space in her community where RunJumpThrow could flourish.  She organized two events in March 2017, reaching over 1,100 students at Maricopa Elementary School and Santa Cruz Elementary as part of the Youth Symposium by Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.  In addition to the traditional RunJumpThrow program, Caroselli incorporated several professional development opportunities for students from visiting local high schools, including workshops on college, health, careers and even martial arts.

“It was a pleasure to serve the students of Maricopa and introduce this wonderful program to our youth,” Caroselli said. “The smiles and laughter were worth the many hours of organizing and planning. The kids had a phenomenal time and look forward to it every year.”

To learn more and to bring RJT to your community, visit runjumpthrow.usatf.org.

Mallory Miller. Photo by William Lange

Administrative changes plaguing Maricopa Wells Middle School continue as district officials confirmed Friday that Assistant Principal Mallory Miller resigned in early October.

According to school documents, Miller’s resignation was effective Oct. 3.

The departure comes after a string of transitions between MWMS and Maricopa High School administrators, most of which have gone largely unexplained by the district.

Currently, acting principal at MWMS is Thad Miller, no relation. Thad Miller is filling in for Rick Abel, who is acting principal at MHS while Principal Renita Myers is on leave.

Tom Beckett, human resources director for the Maricopa Unified School District, said MUSD is recruiting candidates from within and outside the district to fill Mallory Miller’s former position at MWMS.

“​We have middle school staff members assisting Mr. (Thad) Miller with administrative tasks and we are very thankful for the cooperation that group of professionals has provided during this transition,” Beckett said.

It is unclear how long Abel will assume Myers’ role at the high school.

Mallory Miller and Myers were previously administrators at Desert Wind Middle School and worked together again at MHS at the beginning of the school year before the district moved Mallory Miller to MWMS.

Miller’s was not the only staff resignation to come suddenly. Longtime MHS Librarian Robin Shoup resigned on Oct. 17.

“We have interviewed for a librarian, and we are very close to finalizing a placement,” Beckett said.

MUSD Transportation Director Fred Laguna is expected to retire in December.

“Mr. Laguna is retiring after a long and successful career in school transportation,” Beckett said. “He oversaw and helped lead the district through a number of great projects during his time with us.”

The personnel changes are on the MUSD Governing Board agenda for its Oct. 25 meeting.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut talks to parents about the district's letter grade Wednesday morning. Another parent meeting is scheduled for tonight. Photo by Michelle Chance

A week after the public learned the results of the state’s new letter grade system and the subsequent A-F labeling of local schools, a small group of parents met to hear from their children’s district on the issue.

Steve Chestnut, superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District, spoke to parents Monday morning at the district administration building.

Data from the Arizona Department of Education show that public and charter schools around the city struggled to improve their letter grades, leaving Maricopa children without any A-rated schools.

However, for some parents in the city’s largest traditional school district, the letter grades do not account for much.

Priscilla Behnke, who runs an independent mentoring program at local schools, is a parent of a Maricopa Elementary School student. Behnke questioned the importance of the state’s letter grade ranking.

MES lowered from a “B” to a “C”-rated school this year.

“We were going to send my kid to Ahwatukee, and I had a program at MES and I said to my husband, ‘We have to bring our kid to MES,’” Behnke said. “I don’t regret it and I don’t care about this grade – I really don’t – what they’re doing over there is amazing.”

Behnke and other parents in attendance agreed parents should also be held accountable for school performance.

Eighty percent of K-8 letter grade rankings depend on student scores on the AzMERIT standardized test. For high schools, that figure lowers to 50 percent.

“Everything is about what you put into your schools. That’s what counts. If you are active, if you care, if you participate, you get more out of it and so does your child,” said Monica Millo, parent of a second grader at Butterfield Elementary.

Millo transferred her son to MUSD this year after attending charter school Leading Edge Academy since kindergarten.

“I’ve been able to go into a charter school and I’ve been able to go into our Maricopa district and see the differences,” Millo said. “I have seen more from teachers here, and to me, that letter grade is a bunch of garbage.”

A handful of parents came to the morning meeting. Photo by Michelle Chance

Although the consensus of most parents in attendance was that letter grades did not accurately reflect their children’s schools, others argued negative issues in the district must be addressed to improve overall.

Since school began in August, administrative changes at Maricopa Wells Middle School and Maricopa High School – as well as apparent fighting and bullying issues between students at MWMS has caused some parents worry and confusion.

Dan Trevizo is a parent of a former MWMS student. Trevizo transferred his daughter to Leading Edge Academy over fall break for issues he said were due to unresolved bullying at the middle school.

“I think there are some issues and I think the letter grades are important. I think the states need to provide that information to parents who may not hold the overwhelming view that a lot of parents in here hold,” Trevizo said.

Trevizo said MUSD is a good district, but added administrative changes as well as sixth graders transferring this year from elementary to middle school have contributed to the bullying issues at MWMS.

“There are a lot of altercations going on (at MWMS),” Trevizo said. “The principals are being pulled around, there is really no leadership until recently when they decided to put these principals where they currently are.”

Chestnut said he is aware of the issues at MWMS.

“It’s been a weird year, I acknowledge that. The administrative changes have not helped at all, but we are working on it,” Chestnut said.

A second meeting for MUSD parents will take place 7 p.m. tonight at the District Administration Building.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut talks about the lowered letter grades at several schools. Photo by Michelle Chance

MUSD Transportation Coordinator Sergio Pulido checks out the power box for a camera. Photo by Michelle Chance

New surveillance cameras installed below the stop-arms of school buses could lead to traffic citations.

The Maricopa Unified School District’s Transportation Department installed the cameras in September after bus drivers continuously reported vehicles passing while the stop-arms were out.

According to state law, drivers must stop in either direction when a school bus has its flashing lights on and when its stop-arm is displayed. The law states motorists can continue driving when the “bus resumes motion or the signal and alternately flashing lights are no longer displayed.”

According to MUSD, however, many motorists fail to follow the law.

Sergio Pulido, MUSD transportation coordinator, said the department receives around 25 unlawful passing complaints from bus drivers a month.

“It happens a lot, and thank God that a kid hasn’t gotten hit,” Pulido said.

Currently, bus drivers submit written reports, including license plate numbers, to Pulido, who then forwards them to the Department of Public Safety.

However, Pulido said it’s unclear what happens after DPS receives the complaints and whether citations are ever issued.

That’s one reason the district met with Maricopa Police Department before the school year began to discuss sending footage captured by its cameras directly to local police.

MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said the department is coordinating with the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court to implement an agreement among the district, MPD and the court.

In Arizona, civil penalties for the first violation include a minimum fine of $250. The fee increases to $750 and a suspended license if a second offence committed within 36 months of the first. A third violation carries a $1,000 fine and a suspended license of up to a year, if it occurred within 36 months of the original.

Pulido said the department is also considering meeting with Ak-Chin Police Department and Pinal County Sherriff’s Office to issue citations captured by bus cameras in areas outside of Maricopa city limits.

MUSD installed surveillance cameras in the interior and exterior of its school buses for three years and expects to have the new stop-arm cameras operational after updates to its software program are made in the coming weeks.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

MUSD and other schools in Maricopa saw their state letter grades drop this year.

The majority of local schools have received lowered A-F letter grades since the scores were last released by the state in 2014.

The district will hold two meetings for parents regarding the A-F letter grades on Oct. 18. The first meeting will be held at 10 a.m. and another at 7 p.m. at the MUSD Governing Board Room, 44150 W. Maricopa Casa Grande Highway.

Schools received their letter grades for the 2016-17 school year from the Arizona Department of Education last week. The results were formally released to the public Oct. 9.

The state’s “A-F Accountability system” was recently adopted in April and measures new testing and achievement standards.

“Arizona’s new transparent A-F system has clear objectives and metrics that focus less on the results of one test, but place a greater emphasis on student growth,” said Tim Carter, president of the Arizona State Board of Education in a press release on Sept. 25.

Letter grades are partially based on results from the AzMERIT standardized test and a combination of other factors including proficiency, growth, English Language Learners’ growth and proficiency, and acceleration/readiness factors.

Indicators are weighted differently for K-8 schools and high schools. For example, 80 percent of K-8 scores are dependent on AzMERIT proficiency and growth, whereas high school scores in that category make up 50 percent.

The 2016-17 letter grades are the first to be released after the state took a “two-year hiatus allowing for a transition to higher academics and a new assessment.”

Legacy Traditional School and Pima Butte Elementary, the only formerly “A”-rated schools in Maricopa, lowered to “B” ratings.

Both middle schools in the Maricopa Unified School District, Desert Wind and Maricopa Wells, lowered from “C” to “D” ratings.

Saddleback Elementary “C”; Santa Cruz Elementary “B”; and Maricopa High School “C”, all maintained their letter grades.

Butterfield Elementary, Maricopa Elementary and Santa Rosa Elementary all lowered from “B”-rated schools to “C” ratings.

Charter school Sequoia Pathway Academy rated “C” in both its K-8 and 9-12 schools. Leading Edge Academy received a “B” rating.

Holsteiner Agricultural School, Camino Montessori School and nearby Mobile Elementary School did not receive ratings.

According to an ADE press release “the State Board voted to not assign FY17 letter grades for schools exclusively serving grades K-2 and small schools.”

Those ratings are scheduled to be released to the smaller schools in mid-January, and opened to the public in February.

Regionally, Stanfield Elementary School received the lowest “F” rating.

Maricopa’s largest public school district, MUSD, has for years publicly campaigned to become an “A”-rated district.

However, challenges most schools experienced adapting to the new standardized test and letter grade system have proved that goal is still ahead of the district.

“We knew that this was a tougher test (AzMERIT) and more demanding curriculum standards, so we knew that it was quite possible that letter grades could drop,” said MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut.

The district’s recent efforts in passing an override, hiring 50 additional teaching staff, and implementing new technology in schools are all ways the district plans to improve scores in the future, Chestnut said.

“We believe that we have good strategies in place to continue to improve and that’s our goal,” Chestnut said.

This year, the district opened Ram Academy, an alternative program for high school students with credit deficiencies. Chestnut said those students’ scores will be included in next year’s state letter grades for Maricopa High School because the academy is not considered separate from MHS, at least for now.

The district will hold two meetings for parents regarding the A-F letter grades on Oct. 18. The first meeting will be held at 10 a.m. and another at 7 p.m. at the MUSD Governing Board Room located at 44150 W. Maricopa Casa Grande Highway.

Photo by Michelle Chance

As students let out of school for the start of fall break Friday, the Maricopa Unified School District announced yet another administrative change at two of its schools.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut confirmed Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel will begin as acting principal at Maricopa High School on Oct. 16.

MHS Principal Renita Myers has been on a leave of absence since Sept. 25. Heidi Vratil, assistant principal at the high school, filled Myers’ shoes as acting principal until Friday.

Chestnut said Vratil will return to her role as assistant principal when students return from break, but could not comment on the district’s decision to transfer Abel from MWMS to the high school.

Thad Miller, MHS assistant principal, will return to MWMS Oct. 16 as acting principal. It will be the second time in a month Miller has temporarily filled Abel’s role.

On Sept. 15, Abel began a week’s leave of absence at the middle school. Days after Abel’s return, it was reported Myers was on leave from the high school.

District officials will not disclose the reasons behind either of the administrators’ absences.

Miller began the year at the middle school, but was abruptly transferred to MHS as the district shifted high school Assistant Principal Mallory Miller to MWMS.

District officials have also refused to comment on the reason behind the transfers.

Former Maricopa High School Principal Renita Myers

A high school principal is on a leave of absence this week.

Maricopa High School Principal Renita Myers began the leave Sept. 25, said Tom Beckett, human resources director for the Maricopa Unified School District. The reason behind the leave remains private.

Becket said MHS Assistant Principal Heidi Vratil is stepping in for Myers as acting principal, adding, “at this time that is all that can be said.”

Myers came to the district in 2006 and worked a variety of teaching and administrative positions at the high school. According to her biography posted online, Myers eventually worked her way up as principal at Desert Wind Middle School during the 2014-15 school year.

Myers became principal last year at MHS after switching positions and schools with June Celaya.

Recent administrative changes are not new to the high school.

Earlier this school year, the district transferred MHS Assistant Principal Mallory Miller to Maricopa Wells Middle School after having recently relocated her from a position at DWMS.

The transfer caused a strong parent reaction on social media and at the district’s board meeting because the district chose to swap Mallory Miller with MWMS Assistant Principal Thad Miller, no relation, at the high school.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said previously the move was made “in the best interest of MUSD,” but could not clarify the reasons why.

In mid-September Thad Miller temporarily returned to the middle school for a week to fill the shoes of Principal Rick Abel, who returned from administrative leave on Sept. 22.

The length of Myers’ leave is unknown but is expected to last through the week.

Administration emphasizes district is not 'zero tolerance'

Maricopa Unified School District Administrative Office

Counseling referrals could be used to cut down on days spent on suspension for local secondary students.

The Maricopa Unified School District discussed the possible change to its discipline policy during a Governing Board meeting Wednesday night. The referrals would only apply to students who are first-time, minor drug and violence offenders.

Board Member Torri Anderson suggested the change following similar policies enacted by other districts in the Valley, including Paradise Valley Unified School District. In similar districts, Superintendent Steve Chestnut explained, counseling sessions reduce the number of days a student is suspended from school.

Anderson said the move would allow parents and students to receive drug or bullying counseling to reinforce good behavior on campus.

“When they are on off-school suspension, they are gone for three days and they can go sell more drugs and make more money and come back to school and sell more drugs,” Anderson said.

Currently, codes of conduct included in student handbooks for secondary schools in the district allow administrators to apply a range of consequences for students, including 10 day suspension, “long term” suspension, expulsion, “alternate placement,” or a referral to the Maricopa Police Department.

Although MUSD students have access to school counselors, it is not required in the district’s disciplinary policies at either the elementary nor secondary level. The question of funding such referrals by the district is one that could only be answered by the district’s attorneys, Chestnut said, but one that will be looked into.

Anderson said a grant funded by the district itself could be another option.

“I think it would be worth the expense,” she said.

The discussion came after complaints made by parents about how the district handled student discipline in recent weeks.

Parents previously addressed the board concerning fights between students at Maricopa Wells Middle School, as well as a misconception that the district had a “zero tolerance” fighting policy in which students involved in fights are suspended regardless if one is a victim.

Chestnut clarified in past meetings and again Wednesday night that the notion MUSD has a zero tolerance policy is “inaccurate.”

However, Anderson requested the board hold a meeting with elementary teachers and principals due to wording within its code of conduct.

Under the fighting category, the handbook states, “Mutual participation in an incident involving physical violence where there is no major injury.”

Anderson said the district should meet with educators and administrators to work out a district definition of “mutual participation.”

Even without the suggested changes, Chestnut said district principals are “getting it right most of the time” with the current code.

“We have principals that use judgment and they are good at applying the discipline grid so that we have consequences that are fair. I am not saying they are perfect, but I am saying that I’ve been so impressed with them over the past five years,” Chestnut said.

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Submitted photo

New Maricopa High School Choir Director Lindsay Decoste is doing some great things to build up the choir program at MHS while also supporting the high school’s college and career academic focus. 

Sept. 23, Decoste and four students from the MHS Choir attended the Arizona State University Vocal Connection event on campus at ASU. Throughout the day, students Chloe Seekings, Seneca Abbott, Jacobo Porras and Douglas Moulton participated in several workshops. At the end of the day, they joined their voices with 300 other high school students and learned two new pieces of choral music under renowned conductors Jason Thompson and Bart Evans.

Sept. 25,  the four students taught the rest of the MHS choir what they learned at the workshop. 

“This was a valuable experience for all five of us,” Decoste said.

Thad Miller to return to MHS Monday

Maricopa Wells Middle School

After a week spent on a leave of absence, Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel returned Friday to his duties on campus.

Rick Abel

Maricopa Unified School District’s Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said the district still cannot comment on the reasoning behind the leave, “but I can tell you that we are all very happy to have Mr. Abel back in his administrative role leading Maricopa Wells Middle School.”

Abel could not be reached for comment.

Filling Abel’s position temporarily was Maricopa High School’s new Assistant Principal Thad Miller, who had previously held the same role at MWMS.

Miller was transferred to MHS early in the school year, switching positions and schools with one of MHS’s assistant principals, Mallory Miller, no relation.

“(Thad) Miller will be returning to Maricopa High School on Monday, Sept. 25,” Beckett said.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Games, music, an alumni football game and traditional bonfire marked RamFest at Copper Sky Thursday in celebration of Homecoming Week for Maricopa High School. MHS graduates took on city employees and officials, and anyone else who could be rounded up, in the alumni game. Vendors sold food and treats, MHS Marching Band provided pep music, and Maricopa Fire/Medical Department started and maintained the bonfire for a large crowd as the football team prepared to take on North Canyon the following evening.

MWMS Principal Rick Abel

The principal of a local middle school is on a “temporary leave of absence,” according to school officials.

Tom Beckett, human resources director with Maricopa Unified School District, said Principal Rick Abel of Maricopa Wells Middle School began administrative leave Friday.

In his place will be acting Principal Thad Miller, Beckett said.

A separate shakeup in administration at the middle school before Abel’s absence caused parent uproar on social media and during the district’s governing board meeting Wednesday night.

Two weeks ago, the district transferred Thad Miller, who was MWMS assistant principal, to Maricopa High School to take the place of MHS Assistant Principal Mallory Miller, no relation.

Mallory Miller moved from MHS to Thad Miller’s position at MWMS.

During the school board meeting, friends and family of Thad Miller expressed their displeasure toward the district’s decision to remove him from MWMS, describing him as a favorite of students and staff.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said he made the decision to switch the administrators “in the best interest of MUSD.” Chestnut said he would not comment further on the matter when asked to elaborate. Thad Miller and Mallory Miller could not be reached for comment.

Only days into his position at MHS, Thad Miller finds himself back at Maricopa Wells – this time as interim principal.

Beckett said he could not comment on the reason for Abel’s leave of absence. Abel also declined to comment.

Abel joined MUSD in 2005 as principal at Santa Rosa Elementary.

It is still unclear the reasoning behind most of the administrative changes at MWMS, but the school has recently come under fire for what parents assumed was a district-wide, zero-tolerance policy regarding student violence on campus.

Wednesday’s school board meeting produced concerns from a parent of a Maricopa Wells student recently involved in a fight at the school.

Julia Ivy said her son received the same amount of suspension as another student who, she said, was the aggressor. Ivy’s position was that zero-tolerance policies re-victimize students who try to defend themselves.

Afterward, Chestnut clarified the district’s student violence policy as a “case-by-case” issue, adding, it does not have a zero-tolerance policy in place at any of its schools and student safety is MUSD’s top priority.

Chestnut a finalist at Gilbert Schools

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Devin Carson

The 2017-18 school year will be the last for Superintendent Steve Chestnut at Maricopa Unified School District, school officials said Thursday.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said the school board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to approve Chestnut’s current contract through June 30 and “not to move forward with any future contracts.”

The decision was motioned by board member Torri Anderson and seconded by board member Gary Miller.

Late Wednesday evening, the board convened in a private session with its lawyer to discuss Chestnut’s current contract and another that would have run through 2020.

The reason behind the board’s decision to toss the lengthier contract could have something to do with its superintendent’s professional desire to manage a larger district.

Anderson said the board learned last week Chestnut is a finalist for a superintendent position with Gilbert Public Schools – a sizeable district with 40 schools.

According to the district’s website, GPS closed its superintendent search Aug. 16 and will hold a community forum with final candidates Sept. 19. A representative with the Arizona School Boards Association, and Chestnut himself, confirmed he is one of four finalists for the Gilbert position.

Anderson said MUSD’s own search for a superintendent does not have a timeframe yet as the board awaits those details from its legal counsel.

She said there are no hard feelings between the board and Chestnut, adding the board supports his professional goals.

“As a board we felt that we wanted to do what was best for our staff and students, and it’s a tough decision to make, but as a board I was pleased to see that we unanimously voted for the motion,” Anderson said.

Chestnut was a finalist for the same position at Deer Valley Unified School District in May, but stayed with MUSD after the latter district hired a different candidate.

In an interview with Chestnut soon after, he said he was “not actively seeking another job.” Around that time, however, the position in Gilbert opened.

Jennifer Bell is an award-winning teacher at Santa Cruz Elementary School. Photo by Mason Callejas

Voted one of three “Best of the Best” teachers at Maricopa Unified School District in May, Jennifer Bell said growing up she never thought she would pursue a career in education.

But memories from her childhood were exactly what motivated her to become one anyway.

“Honestly, the reason why I became a (special education) teacher is my own brother, who is three years younger than me, was born deaf,” Bell said.

The siblings grew up in a small farming town in Montana. Bell said its rural location presented obstacles for their parents who fought to retain interpreters and other resources like closed captioning for class projects.

“My brother went through holy hell growing up,” Bell said. “Kids were not nice to him because he was different, and so I think that’s why I’m really passionate here,” Bell said.

As a resource teacher at Santa Cruz Elementary, Bell wanted to change the negative feelings sometimes associated with special education.

“I believe that the stigma is changing at Santa Cruz because we treat all students with respect,” Bell said.

Her work has not gone unnoticed by her colleagues at Santa Cruz. They have nominated her for the “Best of the Best” award the past four years.

Bell is as cool as her classroom at SCES, where she is the resource teacher. Photo by Mason Callejas

Academic Coach June Shull nominated Bell last year in part because of how she handled a large caseload of students after a part-time resource teacher left in the middle of the school year.

“Mrs. Bell did not get a replacement. Although she ended up with almost 50 students, she never complained about the situation,” Shull said.

This year, sixth-grade students at MUSD elementary schools were transferred to the junior highs, leaving a smaller class size for Bell at Santa Cruz.

“Because of the override, we did have less kids in our classrooms today and it felt like kids were going to get more one-on-one,” Bell said after the district’s first day of school ended. “We are going to have higher learning and higher scores because the kids actually get more instruction.”

Santa Cruz is in Tortosa, the community farthest from the center of town.

Colleagues said Bell is known for promoting the school through her community spirit during events like Salsa Festival, 2nd Saturday Market and the Mud Run.

“We are kind of a diamond in the rough, a lost gem out here. The more that we can expose Santa Cruz, the better,” Bell said.

Bell and her husband Aundre, who teaches special education at Desert Wind Middle School, live in Tortosa with their two children, Elijah and Alivia, who both attend Santa Cruz.

Next year Elijah will attend Desert Wind.

“Mrs. Bell is a big believer in investing in ‘her’ community,” said Danielle Bambling, preschool and elementary program specialist at MUSD. “She takes great pride in the fact she lives and works in the same neighborhood and begs to never be transferred.”

Bell plans to stay put and continue the success she and her students have accomplished in the classroom.

“I want my students to feel that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to,” Bell said.

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Kristina Begonja asked the MUSD board not to move her from Butterfield to Saddleback, where enrollment has jumped. Instead, the district was able to hire another teacher. Photo by Michelle Chance

Enrollment at the Maricopa Unified School District is below initial projections, school officials said last week.

At an MUSD Governing Board meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Steve Chestnut presented figures for each of the district’s schools. The total showed the district is down from projections by 112 students.

Chestnut said missing the target by more than 100 students is concerning due to the amount of state funding the district receives per pupil. However, he said enrollment typically continues to grow through the fall.

Actual numbers are up compared to last spring, when district enrollment was 6,098. Today, it is 6,660, through the administration expected it to be around 6,772. Last year, enrollment was at its highest by Oct. 1, Chestnut said.

“The situation is not a crisis by any means, but it’s just something we will have to keep our eye on,” Chestnut said during his report.

Four MUSD schools are above projections: Maricopa Elementary School, Pima Butte Elementary, Saddleback Elementary and Desert Wind Middle School.

During the meeting’s call to the public, Butterfield Elementary School kindergarten teacher Kristina Begonja asked the board to reconsider its decision to transfer one kindergarten teacher from Butterfield – a school below enrollment projection – to Saddleback.

“As a teacher in this school district, I empathize for Saddleback and their higher class sizes. Like them, we want nothing but the best for our children,” Begonja said.

She urged the Board to instead hire a new kindergarten teacher from outside the district.

On Monday, MUSD Director of Human Resources Tom Beckett said staff at Butterfield Elementary came up with a solution.

Beckett said Butterfield received additional funds from the state this year due to their growth on the previous school year’s AZ Merit test.

“One of the ways the money can be spent is to hire additional staff,” Beckett said. “The Butterfield staff actually needed to vote on how the money should be spent, and the staff overwhelmingly supported the additional kindergarten position that was slated to be transferred to Saddleback Elementary.”

Beckett said the district recently began advertising for the position and hopes to fill the kindergarten vacancy in September.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa High School, despite having a freshman class of more than 600, is also experiencing lower enrollment than the district projected. A part of the reason why, Chestnut explained, is high school enrollment also includes students from the Ram Academy.

MHS is down by 78 students; 22 of those from Ram Academy.

One-hundred-twenty students are signed up with the alternative school, but many of those who have failed to attend are what some school officials refer to as “fifth-year seniors,” students who return to school after not graduating at the conclusion of 12th grade.

“They are primarily our fifth-year seniors, and sometimes our fifth-year seniors come up with a different plan,” Chestnut said.

Chestnut said MHS hopes to transfer students who could benefit from the alternative program from the traditional high school over to Ram Academy as the school year goes on.

As enrollment fluctuates across the district, Ram Academy is still waiting on the installation of a portable building that will house English and math classes.

Last week, workers dug trenches for utilities and installed skirting around the building. Chestnut said the district hopes the building will be open for student-use in a couple of weeks.

Until then, Assistant Principal Steve Ybarra has said students are temporarily using classrooms for those subjects on the main campus.

Maricopa Wells Middle School baseball and softball players will have a little more shade this season, thanks to a donation to improve the dugouts.

The dugouts at Maricopa Wells Middle School’s baseball and softball field received a facelift recently.

Aug. 4, Tom Dugan and employees from T&K Feeds installed new shades over the dugouts. Dugan also donated the cost of the materials.

The improvements come a few weeks before the Panthers’ first game Thursday, but sunny dugouts are something young ball players have had to live with in years prior, according to District Athletic Director Brian Winter.

“The dugouts did not have shade prior to Tom and his team installing the tarps/shade,” Winter said.

MWMS Principal Rick Abel said the school provides ice and water for teams on practice and game days, but he said the new shade installations will help kids stay cool.

“Most importantly they will provide some shade on these hot days,” Abel said.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board will vote to approve Dugan’s $1,300 donation of dugout shade materials Wednesday night. The regular meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Also on the agenda are an intergovernmental agreement with Central Arizona College and policy updates on bus driver requirements, board member qualifications, staff discipline, fingerprinting and textbook adoption.

The issues for the Maricopa Unified School District Transportation Department continued this week.

The Maricopa Police Department cited an MUSD school bus driver Wednesday for “failure to control speed to avoid a collision” after hitting another vehicle.

“The bus was turning left onto Honeycutt Road from SR 347 and clipped the front of the vehicle that was sitting there to turn north onto John Wayne Parkway,” said MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado.

The bus driver reportedly continued east on Honeycutt Road after the accident, later telling MPD he did not know he hit the vehicle, Alvarado said.

A witness followed the bus to the transportation department building on Honeycutt Road and called MPD.

Alvarado said damage to the vehicle hit by the bus is unknown, but the report did note the vehicle was towed from the scene.

The report stated the driver of the vehicle declined medical treatment.

“The bus, once it was located at the bus barn, had a white scuff mark to the tire,” Alvarado said.

MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett, who oversees the transportation department, said the district reported the accident to the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the driver will undergo a drug and alcohol screening, per school board policies.

“The driver (…) will have a court date in September,” Beckett said. “The driver has been reassigned pending the outcome of the court’s decision.” 

Krista Roden and Wade Watson explain the need for a new English Language Arts curriculum. Photo by Michelle Chance

After approving a million-dollar-math curriculum in May, the Maricopa Unified School District is in talks of adopting a new English Language Arts platform by the end of the school year.

The ELA curriculum comes at an estimated $1.5 million price tag, according to a presentation at the MUSD governing board meeting Wednesday night.

 “We feel that the ELA adoption will be a little more than the math (curriculum) just because of the supplementals and the resources that go into it,” said Krista Roden, director of teaching and learning.

In May, MUSD paid just over $1 million for new math curriculum using reserve funds.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Wade Watson said, like the math platform, the ELA curriculum would span kindergarten through 12th grade. It’s also hoped it will boost test scores.

“We want to expose students to the material in the fashion that they see it on the test, so it’s not this brand-new experience for them,” Watson said.

The Roden and Watson curriculum team will be back at MUSD’s meeting on Aug. 23 to hear if the board will grant them permission to begin researching ELA curriculum vendors.

If approved, a new ELA platform could be adopted by April – the first time since 2004.

Maricopa Wells Middle School

Overcrowded buses, eliminated bus stops and poor communication were complaints brought forth by parents during a school board meeting Wednesday night.

Community members and parents attended the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meeting to address the transportation woes experienced by their children.

Tena Dugan, high school parent, said she also spoke on behalf of other parents who expressed concern on social media.

“Now everyone here knows that I defend MUSD, but tonight I am here because I am a little angry,” Dugan said.

One reason stemmed from a photo posted by another parent on Facebook earlier that day. It showed a crowded interior school bus with students sitting in the aisle.

“There are three kids to a seat and those sitting on the floor. I think it’s completely uncalled for,” the post from Facebook user Jennifer Peterson reads.

Dugan said while some bus drivers packed students inside buses this week, others instead redirected students to the high school’s front office to alleviate congestion on the bus.

It’s an absence of consistent policy that Dugan said caused confusion and commotion in the office.

“This is not the first year this has happened,” Dugan said. “Our transportation department should be responsible for having a procedure that every single bus driver follows.”

Transportation Supervisor Tom Beckett said the district is implementing headcounts during the morning and afternoon to measure student loads on each bus.

Beckett said some children do not ride the bus in the morning, but do take it home in the afternoon, making the passenger population sometimes unpredictable.

“If we do need to do some adjustments for stops or reallocate kids to a different bus, that’s what we’re planning to do,” Beckett said.

Some parents at the meeting said they were caught off guard when they found out shortly before the first week of school that their children’s bus stops had been eliminated.

Two stops within walking distance to Maricopa Wells Middle School were removed, as per school policy.

“We did eliminate the route this year because we can actually not claim miles [if] we’re picking up students inside walk zones,” Beckett said.

Alicia Hanley said the summer heat was unsuitable for her son to walk over a mile home from school, when he would have normally been able to ride the bus.

“It was 109 degrees today at 4 p.m. when he would have been walking home from school,” Hanley said. “If I would have done that to my dog, somebody would probably be reporting me for cruelty to animals.”

Erica Brown’s son walked home from Maricopa Wells Monday afternoon in 108-degree weather, she said, after being transported by a school bus in previous years.

Beckett said the district is planning to reinstate the two stops at Maricopa Wells by Monday.

“Evidently the communication just wasn’t as clear as it probably should have been. If there was going to be a change, it probably should have been communicated earlier,” Beckett said.

Parents are scheduled to receive instant message updates from the district regarding the reinstated stops at Maricopa Wells sometime this week.

A collision involving a school bus stopped traffic on John Wayne Parkway Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa police are investigating a school bus-involved accident on southbound John Wayne Parkway, just north of the railroad tracks Tuesday afternoon.

Three children were on board the Maricopa Unified School District bus that was transporting students after the second day of school, said Maricopa Fire & Medical spokesman Brad Pitassi.

A blue Ford truck was involved in the accident as well, and sustained minor damage to the front of the vehicle, Pitassi said, adding there was no damage to the bus. Although MFMD reported the children did not sustain injuries, Pitassi said two of the minors were transported to Chandler Regional Center as a precaution.

“When parents of minors aren’t on scene, we ask them. And a lot of times if there is an accident they say, ‘Take them to the hospital’,” Pitassi said.

The three adults on the bus and the driver of the truck refused medical attention and reported no injuries, Pitassi said.

According to MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado, the incident is being investigated as a possible DUI, and the driver of the pickup was detained.