Tags Articles tagged with "MUSD"


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.

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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.


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.

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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.”

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At least two charter schools in Maricopa will be closed Thursday for a planned #RedForEd teacher walkout.

Sequoia Pathway Academy Campus Director Alfonso F. Alva said Monday the school will be closed Thursday and Friday. That makes SPA one of eight EdKey schools planning to close for the walkout. The Maricopa campus was already scheduled to be closed Friday.

Late Tuesday, Leading Edge Academy told parents the school would close Thursday and Friday, a decision based on the number of teachers and staff indicating they would not be at school. Legacy Traditional School, another large charter, is currently slated to be open.

Statewide, educators have called for a work stoppage to bring awareness to the issues of teacher pay and education funding in Arizona. In a rejection of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal for what is being described as a 20-percent raise by 2020, a majority of teachers voted last week to walkout April 26.

The effort is being organized by Arizona Education Association, Arizona Educators United and other teachers. The duration of the walkout has not been determined.

Neighboring districts in Stanfield and Mobile both intend to stay open. Monday, Stanfield Superintendent Melissa Sadorf posted an announcement to parents explaining a full schedule Thursday and early release Friday.

During those two days, she said, “some teachers will not be at work and on those days we may be short-staffed.”

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Maricopa Unified School District will feed students breakfast and lunch throughout the walkout, according to a district press release.

“The district is making special arrangements to provide food service for our students who depend on us for breakfast and lunch,” the document states.

MUSD schools will close April 26-27; and could remain closed into next week as teachers statewide walk-out in protest of low pay and in support of increased salaries for support staff, funding for students and better working conditions.

All nine MUSD schools will serve breakfast and lunch at these times:

Breakfast: 7:30 – 8:30 a.m.

Lunch: Noon – 1 p.m.

Children are instructed to eat meals at the schools they attend — a parent or guardian must accompany them. Student supervision is unavailable and there will be no access to playground equipment. Meals will be available for purchase for family members.


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

Known agencies providing walk-out childcare:

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


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

Copper Sky, 44345 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


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

Click here to register.

Rockstar Cheer, 12501 N. Murphy Road



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

Food Disbursement:

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

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Schools in the Maricopa Unified School District could close late next week after teachers voted to approve a statewide walk-out.

Leaders of the #RedForEd movement announced Thursday evening the walk-out is slated to begin April 26 following three consecutive days of walk-in events that week.

Arizona Education Association and Arizona Educators United collation have not placed a limit on how long the walk-out will last.

Educators voted on the matter this week and the results showed they “overwhelmingly support” a walk-out, according to the AEA and AEU.

AEA President Joe Thomas said in a press conference Thursday evening that 78 percent of the 57,000 votes cast supported a strike.

The vote comes after widespread rebuke from the Arizona education community regarding Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal last week which he said would increase teacher salaries by 20 percent – including the one percent raise approved last year.

Arizona Education Association and Arizona Educators United coalition have criticized the proposal as hastily presented and shortsighted.

“This vote was not an easy decision for educators,” AEA Vice President and Isaac Middle School teacher Marisol Garcia said in a news release. “As I turned in my ballot today, I thought about my son, my colleagues, and my students. By voting today, I am standing up for my son and all students in Arizona and the public schools they deserve.”

Educators in the trenches argue the movement is about more than just teacher salary, but also increased compensation for support staff and per-pupil funding among other issues.

Walk-out information was posted to the MUSD website Thursday evening ahead of the highly anticipated announcement by the Arizona Education Association and Arizona Educators United coalition.

Parents will have to utilize alternative child care in the event of a walk-out, according to the document.

“If a walkout occurs, the only way to ensure the safety and well-being of our students is to close our schools. We notified families of the possibility of a walk out and we have asked parents to make a plan for alternate arrangements for their children if a walk out occurs. The district will not have staff to provide any services at the school site. The district could not vet outside resources, so would not be able to make any recommendations for child care options, feeding options, or any services not directly provided by the district.”

Any days MUSD schools are spent in closure will have to be made up at the end of the school year.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman encouraged parents in a district email to rely on the MUSD internal communication “ConnectEd” to stay informed on possible school closures:

“Dear MUSD parents,

You may be aware that many of our teachers and staff have been participating in statewide efforts to increase awareness for teacher and staff salaries and the need for additional public education funding.

These efforts have included a rally at the State Capitol, social media campaigns and peaceful walk-ins to schools each Wednesday morning. Staff are organizing independently and on their own time. We respect our teachers and staff in their unity efforts and appreciate that they are non-disruptive of the instructional day.

We want to make you aware that there is the potential for teacher walk-outs across Arizona. No decision or date has been set by the organizers, but as a district we are working to determine the impact on school operations. In the event of a work stoppage, we would more than likely close the schools and do everything we can to provide you with advanced notice. We will use our ConnectEd notification system to get information to you. Please make sure that your phone numbers and email address are current in our student information system.

We are fortunate to have a community that consistently supports our schools. We appreciate our dedicated employees who continue to focus on meeting the needs of our students. And we appreciate all of you and your support of our schools while these statewide actions are under way.


Dr. Tracey Lopeman and Superintendent’s Cabinet”

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Schools could close if teachers in the Maricopa Unified School District walk-out in the future. Information posted to the MUSD website was published Thursday evening ahead of a highly anticipated announcement by leaders of the #RedForEd movement.

Information posted to the MUSD website was published Thursday evening ahead of a highly anticipated announcement by leaders of the #RedForEd movement.

The Arizona Education Association and Arizona Educators United coalition are expected to reveal the results of a statewide vote April 19 at 8 p.m. to determine teachers’ support of a future walk-out.

Teachers participated in the voting this week, as well as their second walk-in on April 18.

The vote comes after widespread rebuke from the Arizona education community regarding Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal that he said would increase teacher salaries by 20 percent – including the one percent raise approved last year.

AEU and AEA leaders have criticized the proposal as hastily presented and shortsighted.

The date and length of the proposed walk-out is still unknown. MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said leaders of the local teacher association assured district officials “no walk-out is scheduled for Friday.”

Any days MUSD schools are spent in closure due to the walk-out will have to be made up at the end of the school year, according to the district document.

“If a walkout occurs, the only way to ensure the safety and well-being of our students is to close our schools. We notified families of the possibility of a walk out and we have asked parents to make a plan for alternate arrangements for their children if a walk out occurs. The district will not have staff to provide any services at the school site. The district could not vet outside resources, so would not be able to make any recommendations for child care options, feeding options, or any services not directly provided by the district.”

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman encouraged parents in a district email to rely on the MUSD internal communication “ConnectEd” to stay informed on possible school closures:

“Dear MUSD parents,
You may be aware that many of our teachers and staff have been participating in statewide efforts to increase awareness for teacher and staff salaries and the need for additional public education funding.
These efforts have included a rally at the State Capitol, social media campaigns and peaceful walk-ins to schools each Wednesday morning. Staff are organizing independently and on their own time. We respect our teachers and staff in their unity efforts and appreciate that they are non-disruptive of the instructional day.
We want to make you aware that there is the potential for teacher walk-outs across Arizona. No decision or date has been set by the organizers, but as a district we are working to determine the impact on school operations. In the event of a work stoppage, we would more than likely close the schools and do everything we can to provide you with advanced notice. We will use our ConnectEd notification system to get information to you. Please make sure that your phone numbers and email address are current in our student information system.
We are fortunate to have a community that consistently supports our schools. We appreciate our dedicated employees who continue to focus on meeting the needs of our students. And we appreciate all of you and your support of our schools while these statewide actions are under way.
Dr. Tracey Lopeman and Superintendent’s Cabinet”

Stay with InMaricopa.com and check in with our social media for updates on the walk-out vote.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman. Photo by Michelle Chance

Tracey Lopeman is officially Maricopa Unified School District’s new superintendent.

The MUSD Governing Board unanimously approved a three-year contract Monday. Lopeman will receive $140,000 per year and begin contract work July 1.

The contract ends June 30, 2021.

Lopeman’s superintendent contract includes health insurance, car and cell phone allowances, a retirement plan, performance pay and vacation days.

Until July, Lopeman will work part-time as a superintendent consultant for MUSD while she finishes her duties as assistant superintendent of the Alhambra Elementary School District.

The board approved Monday afternoon up to a $20,000 payment for Lopeman’s 2.5 months of consultant work from now until July 1.

Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said the decision to hire Lopeman part-time until the fiscal year begins will allow the new superintendent to be involved in cabinet meetings and budget discussions.

“It’s not a set amount; it’s up to $20,000,” Knorr said regarding Lopeman’s consulting contract. “So, because of state procurement laws, typically when it could be up to a certain amount, we have to go up to bid, but in the case where it’s something like this – it’s a sole source because there is nobody else that we want.”

Knorr said consultant payment will be calculated by the hour. The Board had no estimate how many hours Lopeman will contribute or a ballpark total for what Lopeman will eventually receive.

Wednesday concludes the Board’s ambitious superintendent search timeline originally approved in December.

The effort was spearheaded by former President Patti Coutré before Knorr took the reins.

It’s considered the first major accomplishment for Knorr in her new leadership role.

“I’m excited for the future and bringing her on board. I’ve enjoyed every step of the process – it’s been extremely time consuming, but well worth it,” Knorr said.

Lopeman was present during the board’s announcement and said she is excited to work with “a great board and a great community.”

The new district figurehead’s initial impression of her new job reflects its slogan.

“Like the (MUSD) motto says, ‘a community dedicated to success,’” Lopeman said. “Every person that I’ve met has a purpose here and it’s clear.”

The board meets again for a regular meeting at the district administration building April 25 at 6:30 p.m.

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Gov. Doug Ducey

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

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

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

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

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

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

If approved, teachers would receive a gradual pay increase:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not all local teachers were convinced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maricopa Wells Middle School. Photo by Mason Callejas

The movement to increase teacher pay and improve education for Arizona students continued April 11.

Teachers participated in walk-ins at eight schools in the Maricopa Unified School District.

Hundreds of teachers, parents, students and community members held homemade signs and marched along busy sidewalks closest to campus.

The protests typically lasted 30 minutes. Afterward, teachers entered their classrooms upon contract time. However, today’s statewide demonstration that did not disrupt the school day could evolve in the coming weeks.

Coalition leaders with Arizona Educators United prepped Arizona teachers for an impending walk-out in a video posted to Facebook April 9. AEU is expected to announce a walk-out date later this week or next.

“If your district does not have the superintendent support or the school board’s support, you may not be ready for a walk out,” warned Derek Harris in the video.

School administration and MUSD School Board members attended the walk-ins Wednesday and largely voiced their support of the walk-in demonstrations and increased state-funding.

However, Board Member Torri Anderson could not comment on what the board’s position could be if MUSD teachers decide to strike.

Anderson said a discussion between the board would need to take place along with its attorney before their stance could be announced.

“We’ll see what the next step is, but our teachers and our students deserve a world-class education so it’s time for the state to support that and really do what’s best for our students,” Anderson added.

Many frustrated teachers targeted Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey during the demonstrations and indicated support for the impending walk-out.

“If nobody will listen – and nobody that has the power to make change is willing to do that – if that’s the next step, I will do what needs to be done to make change,” said Shelly Fisher, a second grade teacher at Pima Butte Elementary. “But my students and my families come first – so my first job would be to take care of them, and if we can do this and still take care of them, then I would absolutely support (a walk-out).”

Santa Cruz Elementary faculty participated by wearing their #RedForEd shirts. Submitted photo

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A sea of red may be visible at local campuses tomorrow morning as parents drop their children off in the Maricopa Unified School District.

Teachers at seven campuses will participate in #RedForEd demonstrations before school begins. At contract time, teachers will walk through the front doors together.

Most demonstrations are scheduled to last 30 minutes.

The movement is led by Arizona Educators United and teachers around the state will be participating. Read their demands here.

Organizers said community members, parents and students can participate.

MUSD School Walk-ins:

  • Butterfield Elementary: 7 a.m.
  • Maricopa Elementary: 7:05 a.m.
  • Saddleback Elementary: 7:10 a.m.
  • Santa Rosa Elementary: 7:30 a.m.
  • Pima Butte Elementary: 7:30 a.m.
  • Maricopa Wells Middle School: 8 a.m.
  • Maricopa High School: 6:30 a.m.
  • Desert Wind Middle School

Patrick Flint was named Maricopa High School's first-ever Mr. MHS. Submitted photo

Friday, eleven senior guys showcased their best beachwear, talent and formal wear in a battle to become the first ever Mr. MHS.

Patrick Flint, aka ‘That Yo-Yo Kid’ was crowned the pageant winner. He said in all his high school career, he never imagined competing on stage this way, as he is an introvert. The grand prize winner not only received the title of Mr. MHS but also two tickets to prom and a free tailored suit from Nick’s Menswear.

A committee of eight Student Council members has been working since November fine-tuning the details of this event, and the guys have been practicing since February.

Raffle baskets were awarded to audience members, and the guys had a chance to also be awarded for the Penny Wars challenge (proceeds to benefit Children’s Miracle Network) and for the “People’s Choice” award.

“The guys have set the bar very high for next year,” judge and English teacher Aidan Balt said.

Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Alonso Chavez won the Penny Wars challenge. Jalen Reyes won “People’s Choice” and was also the second runner up overall. Caleb Wilson was the first runner up. Others competing were Kyle O’Hare, Zechariah Wooten, Nicholas Bradley, Elias Alvarado, Jonavis Rodriguez, Ethan Smith and Jayden Jensen.

MHS Student Council would like to thank everyone that made the event possible, including Josh Fink of Nick’s Menswear. Judges along with Balt were Principal Rick Abel and Jenn Miller. The score auditor was Amanda Zimmerman. Teacher Kevin Piquette and his fantastic Tech Crew ran the stage. National Honor Society members helped sell tickets and pass out programs, and the “A-Team” choreographed the opening number.

Student Council is excited to continue this tradition in the years to come. 

Submitted photo

Teachers are upping the ante in a statewide campaign to increase pay and improve education for their students.

“Walk-ins” are slated to occur at schools in the Maricopa Unified School District April 11.

Teachers will meet in front of campus 30 minutes before they’re contracted to begin the day. (Read below to see the times at each school). Some will carry signs, and most will be wearing red. All will walk into the school together before school begins.

The #RedForEd movement began in early March in Arizona. Teachers wore red to school as a show of solidarity.

But now Arizona Educators United (AEU) — the coalition of teachers, administrators and support staff who support the movement – are strategizing ways to force the hand of legislators, and most importantly, their governor.

“(Gov. Doug) Ducey needs to do something,” said one MUSD teacher April 5.

A group of around 25 crimson-clad teachers met inside a classroom after school at Santa Rosa Elementary this week to schedule the walk-ins, discuss goals and, at times, voice their frustrations.

Arizona public school teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation and all eyes are on other states, like West Virginia and Oklahoma, who have protested their own working conditions and low wages with some success.

Teachers in some schools in the Valley walked out for one day last month, but Arizona educators teach in a right-to-work state, and many realize the risk a strike could bring them.

“It will take unity like you’ve never seen before,” warned MUSD Volunteer Coordinator Jim Irving. “You’re fooling yourself if you think some can (strike) and some can’t.”

Some local teachers said they’d be on board and viewed walk-ins as a way for the AEU to measure the movement’s manpower in case demands aren’t met.

AEU demands:

  • 20 percent salary increase for teachers to create competitive pay with neighboring states
  • Competitive pay for all education support professionals
  • Permanent teacher salary structure which includes annual raises
  • Restore education funding to 2008 levels
  • No new tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average

AEU encourages parents, community members and students to support teachers April 11.

However, AEU advises teachers against speaking to the community during school hours about the event. Teachers also cannot communicate details about the walk-in via their district email.

Representation from each MUSD school site was not present at the walk-in meeting this week, so the April 11 events cannot currently be confirmed at every school.

If you are a parent or community member, please contact your school administration to confirm whether your child’s campus is participating.

Maricopa High School and Maricopa Wells Middle School are confirmed to be participating so far.

MUSD School Walk-ins:

  • Butterfield Elementary: 7 a.m.
  • Maricopa Elementary: 7:05 a.m.
  • Saddleback Elementary: 7:10 a.m.
  • Santa Rosa Elementary: 7:30 a.m.
  • Pima Butte Elementary: 7:30 a.m.
  • Maricopa Wells Middle School: 8 a.m.
  • Maricopa High School: 6:30 a.m

Representatives from Santa Cruz Elementary and Desert Wind Middle School have not indicated whether they will participate.

Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance

Around 8,000 school buses are inspected by the Arizona Department of Public Safety every year. Inspectors discover minor and sometimes major defects.

In 2017, nearly half of Maricopa Unified School District’s fleet had major violations, according to DPS documents and the Arizona Administrative Code.

Capt. Brian Preston, who oversees commercial vehicle enforcement with DPS, said if school district transportation departments cannot repair the defect while the inspector is on-scene, the bus is not allowed on the road.

What is considered a major defect is wide-ranging, however, from quick fixes like decals for emergency exits to mechanically intensive repairs of the suspension or engine.

“There are things that will shut a bus down that will not shut your personal car down,” Preston said, adding school buses are held to a higher safety standard.

But between 2014-17, many of the violations included defects such as inoperative brakes, exit doors, lamps and alarms – and defects in tires, seats and suspensions.

2017 a difficult year in the bus barn

Last year’s inspection of MUSD’s 37 buses included 17 that qualified for out-of-service violations, eight buses with no violations and 12 marked with minor violations.

Preston said the state average for out-of-service school buses at any given district fleet is 30 to 35 percent. Last year, 48 percent of MUSD’s fleet was tagged with major defects.

“Obviously, that’s higher than what we generally have as a state average,” Preston said.

MUSD Transportation Department Director Sergio Pulido said staff shortage was partly to blame. Two shop mechanics were out with major surgeries for a period of time, leaving one mechanic in the garage to handle regular maintenance of the fleet.

Pulido and former Director Fred Laguna also pitched in at the garage while they prepared for a change in leadership.

“I had to do my job, and then I was learning to do his job because he was retiring,” Pulido said.

2017 was a year of transition for the transportation department that has for years dealt with an industry accustomed to a shortage of school bus driving staff.

This school year, Pulido’s two mechanics have returned to the garage.

MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said the department also hired a shop foreman. Pulido believes the additional mechanical muscle at the bus barn will lead to better inspections.

Newer equipment would help too, Pulido said.

Aging fleet

The average age of an MUSD bus is 10 to 15 years old. The oldest, No. 36, was made in 2001.

But persuading district administration to replace an entire fleet is difficult given MUSD may have to build additional school sites to support growing enrollment, among other expenses.

The district typically purchases one used bus per year. In March, the transportation department received a large, 84-passenger bus. Pulido said one bus a year is not enough.

“It’s frustrating because you want to run a good fleet, you want your people to stay and you want to make your people happy,” Pulido said.

Last year’s violations are not new to the district. According to DPS documents, MUSD’s aging fleet received major violations above the state average in 2016 (39 percent) and 2014 (48 percent). MUSD was below the mark in 2015 with 28 percent.

Those data don’t mean nearly half of the fleet was taken off the road.

Quick repairs

DPS inspection reports indicate much of the major defects were repaired during inspections. A DPS trooper typically spends two to three days inspecting a fleet.

Troopers tag buses that have passed inspection with a sticker displaying the current year.

Buses are usually shut-down when the transportation department is short the parts needed to make the repair during inspection, Pulido said.

In that case, Pulido said the department consolidates and reassigns routes to other buses until the repair is made and a re-inspection can be scheduled with DPS. Combined routes often mean up to a 30-minute wait for school children – and myriad complaints from parents.

Pulido said he does not put an out-of-service bus on the road, even if the proper repairs have been made prior to re-inspection.

“The safety of the students, the safety of the driver and the liability of the district – you don’t ever want to put that in jeopardy,” Pulido said.

School administrators and employees who violate state statute concerning school buses are “guilty of misconduct and subject to removal from office or employment.” To enforce such misconduct, an informed person would need to report the allegation.

“DPS would investigate, contact the district, and the district would comply,” Preston said.

Preston said DPS has received reports that other districts allegedly operate buses that have failed inspection, but investigations rarely lead to disciplinary action because district administrators said they were unaware, or it was simply a mistake.

“In the past we prepared for these kind of things: cease-and-desist orders and potential for whatever type of sanction that could come, but it’s never come to that point,” Preston said.

MUSD’s next round of inspections is expected this fall.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

This is the second in a series of columns featuring the principals at Maricopa’s district and charter schools.

Loraine Conley, Ed.D., principal at Santa Cruz Elementary School in the Maricopa Unified School District, received her

Loraine Conley

undergraduate degree from Langston University (Oklahoma), has a master’s in educational administration from Iowa State university and her doctorate in education from ASU. In her 25 years in education, she has been an elementary teacher, a middle school language arts teacher and an assistant principal.

She is most proud of the numerous awards received by the school, its students and faculty. Dr. Conley looks forward to sustained improvement at Santa Cruz with the continuing support of the school community.

Maricopa’s principals come to us from all over the United States, and one principal started out overseas. Eva Safranek, principal at MUSD’s Santa Rosa ES, was born in the Czech Republic and arrived in Tucson at age 13. Her BA in elementary education was received at ASU, and she has two master’s degrees from University of Phoenix. During her 15 years as an educator, she has served in various teaching, coaching and coordinator positions before coming to Santa Rosa six years ago.

Eva Safranek

A major accomplishment at her school this year is the implementation of the new math curriculum, which is challenging and brings more rigor to the study of math. She is excited about the improvement expected from the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) program. Ms. Safranek’s credo as a principal is building relations with students and staff to allow all to be the best that they can be.

Felicia Williams is the principal at Saddleback ES at MUSD and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her undergraduate degree from Ohio University.

Felicia Williams

She obtained masters degrees at University of Phoenix and NAU. Her 16 years of experience include teaching positions in a number of elementary grades, academic coach and principal. She has been at Saddleback for eight years.

When asked about this year’s primary accomplishment, she points to the enhanced use of technology by students which was led by Enna Post, a phenomenal technology teacher. Mrs. Williams looks forward to the total implementation of the PBIS program next year. Her guide as a principal is a statement by Harvey Firestone: “You get the best of others when you give the best of yourself.”

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

This column appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Jack Williams (left) and Cianni Burgos (right) spoke to the MUSD board about their experience in Ram Academy, run by MHS Vice Principal Steve Ybarra. Photos by Michelle Chance

Cianni Burgos dropped out of high school her senior year to care for her newborn daughter. Jack Williams encountered road blocks and was losing hope of graduating high school.

Both were among the first students in Maricopa High School’s Ram Academy – a credit recovery program for juniors and seniors.

“I was at a point in my life where I felt like there wasn’t much room to go, and when I heard about Ram Academy I felt like that was my opportunity to get somewhere in life,” Williams said during a presentation to the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board this week.

Williams recently graduated, and Burgos will complete her final high school credit in May.

Teachers make the program

The school-within-a-school at MHS opened in August 2017 and has since graduated 12 students previously at-risk of never receiving a diploma.

Unsurprisingly, the school is an alternative from the traditional campus in many ways.

At a maximum 125-student capacity, Ram Academy sticks to a 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio.

The small staff bring with them big experience, according to the school’s administrator, Assistant Principal Steve Ybarra.

“It is a team effort, and teachers make the program,” Ybarra said.

The five “master teachers” are highly qualified instructors in their individual subjects, Ybarra said. Two of them are former principals, and another has experience in guidance counseling.

Recruitment of the teaching dream team began last summer.

“I told them in the interview(s), ‘I’m not going to question what you teach, I just want you to make connections with kids,” Ybarra said. “That’s the key. Making those connections,” Ybarra said.

Math teacher Reid Martin is a former principal who moved from Kansas to teach math at Ram Academy. His wife is a teacher at MHS.

He’s been tasked with incorporating the district’s new math curriculum into the program’s accelerated schedule – while in its inaugural year of operation.

Despite the challenges, Martin said the students are thriving under the one-on-one attention from staff.

“We teach kids how to advocate for themselves in a way that is really applicable,” Martin said. “The relationships that the kids have in Ram Academy, they walk into an environment that is completely different than our high school. The culture that is being created inside Ram Academy is really unique.”

Students get second chance

Life outside of the classroom for many Ram Academy students threatened their ability to obtain a high school degree.

Fifth-year seniors – students who dropped out senior year and have returned – are among Ram Academy’s most successful participants.

“At the start of my original senior year, I was having my daughter. She’s now one and a half years old,” Burgos told the governing board March 28.

The young mother said she nearly lost the drive to pursue a diploma. But then she enrolled in Ram Academy.

She found small class sizes and thoughtful guidance when selecting courses.

“I have a personal connection with every teacher I have, (and it) makes me so much more motivated to graduate,” she said.

Her name and photo will soon be displayed on the school’s wall of fame – an encouraging tribute to Ram Academy’s graduates.

A face already featured on the walls is Williams’.

“I’m proud to say I’m a graduate and I’m expecting a son in the upcoming month, so everything is falling in place,” Williams said.

A few of the academy’s students come from the foster care system. One, Ybarra explained, was a 17-year-old student who had no high school credits.

Another student aged out of the foster system and was displaced from Maricopa.

“The family didn’t want her anymore because they weren’t going to get payment, and so she ended up going to a group home on the west side,” Ybarra said.

For three weeks, the group home funded a taxi to and from Maricopa to allow the student to graduate, according to Ybarra.

“There was no way she would be able to start new someplace else and get any credit,” he said.

Twelve additional students are expected to graduate by the end of the school-year.

Higher-education challenges

As the projected graduation rate at the academy grows, the program failed in its first year to promote college enrollment.

Ybarra said attempts to schedule university tours for Ram Academy students this school year were unsuccessful. However, he said, military representatives have visited the school.

The academy also encouraged students to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and the ACT standardized admissions test.

He said the program hopes to coordinate with MHS Career and College Coordinator Bernadette Russoniello in the future to better promote post-high school education.

Expansion in program’s future

Ram Academy operates in a few existing CTE classrooms and a modular building on the northside of campus. Ybarra said the limited space is adequate for the program’s small capacity – which he attributes to some of its success.

However, Board Member Torri Anderson expressed her desire to see the program grow.

In the future, Anderson said Ram Academy would ideally enroll freshmen and sophomores identified as being at-risk of becoming credit deficient.

Ybarra said the program would embrace growth in enrollment, so long as Ram Academy could find a larger house of learning.

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Tracey Lopeman, Ed.D.

The Maricopa Unified School District unanimously voted to enter into contract negotiations with its top pick for superintendent Wednesday.

The governing board met in executive session after its regular meeting March 28 to delegate the negotiation process among its finalist, the board’s attorney and Board President AnnaMarie Knorr.

MUSD’s board voted March 26 to offer a contract to Tracey Lopeman, one of three finalists in the district’s superintendent search.

The board and Lopeman are expected to deliberate an annual salary range between $135,000-$155,000.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said the board can offer Lopeman up to a three-year contract with health insurance, disability insurance as well as possible car and cell phone allowances and other terms.

The board previously stated it would prefer to officially hire a new superintendent by April.

If a contract is accepted, Lopeman will replace former Superintendent Steve Chestnut, who left MUSD for a position at Scottsdale Unified School District early this month.

Beckett said the board has indicated it would like to have Lopeman on-the-job as soon as possible. Lopeman is assistant superintendent of the Alhambra Elementary School District in Phoenix. The board’s last salary negotiation with Chestnut occurred in 2015 at a $137,000 price tag.

Alongside contract negotiations, MUSD is also considering the adoption of K-12 English-Language Arts curriculum.

A presentation by Curriculum Director Wade Watson showed a majority of teachers in the district who piloted three anonymous curriculum vendors in their classrooms preferred the most expensive package: $1.7 million.

The board might take action on future ELA curriculum during its next meeting.

The district approved district-wide math curriculum last year for more than $1 million.

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Tracey Lopeman , Ed.D.., fields questions during a public forum with the three final candidates for MUSD superintendent. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Tracey Lopeman stood in front of Walmart to meet Maricopans in an effort to get to know the community when she was a candidate to be the next superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District.

Monday night, she became the last person standing after the governing board voted unanimously to begin contract negotiations with the long-time administrator from Alhambra Elementary School District. The evening started with a 90-minute forum for community members, teachers and students to get to know the three finalists.

“The more I came to Maricopa, the more I just loved it,” said Lopeman, adding she had little familiarity with the community before she applied for the job.

This is her 28th year in education, starting as a junior high teacher. She is now assistant superintendent for strategic planning, implementation and accountability at Alhambra.

“That’s a big title; it’s a big job. It means I get to get into everybody’s business,” she said.

MUSD Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said Lopeman has the “energy and enthusiasm” the board was looking for, adding all three finalists were highly qualified.

Heather Cruz of Litchfield and Cort Monroe of Queen Creek were also up for the job. The district culled the finalists from 30 applications.

Previous superintendent Steve Chestnut left for a post in the Scottsdale Unified School District.

Moderated by Karen Gasket of the Arizona School Board Association, the three finalists were asked wide-ranging questions from dealing with growth, safety and parental involvement.

Lopeman said she appreciated the board’s efforts in transparency in having a public forum that allowed community members to get to know the candidates. She said a key to strengthening community and parental relations with the district would be to have more such forums, “and ask you the open-ended questions, ‘What are your hopes and dreams for the kids here in Maricopa?’

“I know for me it’s that every one of them graduates from high school ready to innovate, create and be successful.”

Lopeman said she sees the next big challenge for MUSD as growth. A recent study projected the K-12 student population to grow from 6,729 to 11,587 in 10 years. 

Who will be MUSD's next superintendent? Tracey Lopeman, Cort Monroe and Heather Cruz are finalists for the job.

Interested in meeting candidates for Maricopa Unified School District’s new superintendent?

What: Superintendent Candidates Forum
When: March 26, 7 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Unified School District Administration Office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

The three finalists will take questions from the public March 26 at 7 p.m. at the district administration office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

The MUSD governing board selected Heather Cruz, Tracey Lopeman and Cort Monroe from a pool of 30 applicants. To learn more about the candidates click here.

Arizona School Board Association Representative Karen Gasket will moderate the hour-long Q&A session.

Gasket has assisted MUSD in its search for a new leader since November.

After the panel takes questions, attendees can interact with the finalists during an “informal” social portion of the forum.

MUSD will also accept comment cards from the public regarding the candidates to be considered by the governing board during deliberations.

Those discussions will begin in executive session at 8:45 that evening. Afterward, MUSD’s top-pick will be announced publicly at the administration office. Contract negotiations are slated to begin in the following days.


Maricopa teacher Marjorie Stout at the memorial of Vittorio Emmanuel II in Rome, with her class of second graders. Submitted photo

A Maricopa teacher scored a trip to Italy for spring break, and she didn’t leave her class behind.

Marjorie Stout teaches second grade at Saddleback Elementary School. When her husband told her he was taking her to Italy, she was thrilled, and so was her class. They wanted to go, too, of course. Even after an online virtual tour of Rome, they were still “bummed” they couldn’t go, Stout said.

So, Stout, who has been teaching for 17 years, had a class photo printed on a shirt and on a vinyl poster. As she goes around Rome, she has a photo taken of herself with the class photo at various Italian landmarks. She then shares many of the photos with the class on Class Dojo.

“When I told this idea to my class, they went crazy with excitement,” she said. “So here I am, still in Rome carrying a huge poster wherever I go.”

The Stouts are in Rome for six days.

In the first two days, they (and the virtual class) have visited the Colosseum, Memorial of Vittorio Emmanuel II, The Pantheon, The Vatican (“We saw the Pope too!!!”), Sistine Chapel, The Trevi Fountain, “too many churches to mention,” The Spanish Steps, Piazza Barbini and Piazza Nova.

See more of this special trip in the April issue of InMaricopa.

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Submitted photo

March 8, the Desert Wind Middle School Symphonic Band earned a rating of excellent in the Arizona Band and Orchestra Director’s Association Regional Elementary/Junior High Band Festival. This event, held at Mesquite Junior High School in Gilbert, featured many of the East Valley’s finest Junior High/Middle School bands.

Desert Wind’s Symphonic Band earned praise and superior scores for their control of tempo, consistency in intonation, and their quality, characteristic sounds on their instruments.

Following their performance, these seventh- and eighth-grade students received great feedback from clinician Bill Patterson, Arizona music educator and past ABODA president. The clinic focused on expanding their dynamic and expressive capabilities as an ensemble in their performance of their repertoire, as well as concepts to focus on in future performances. Symphonic Band also received recorded comments from Patterson and two other clinicians – Jon Gomez and Ann Haenfler.

In addition to their performance and clinic, Symphonic Band heard performances from four outstanding groups from other area schools (Willis Junior High School Symphonic Band, Kyrene Aprende Middle School Seventh-Grade Band, Kyrene Altadeña Middle School Eighth-Grade Band and Desert Ridge Junior High School Eighth-Grade Rattler Band).

Roger Wagner II, Desert Wind’s instrumental music director, said,”Symphonic Band’s performance represents the tremendous effort our students have put into building the Band program and continuing the pursuit of musical excellence at Desert Wind. We are incredibly proud of the hard work our students have put in and we look forward to continued growth.”

Symphonic Band will be joining the Desert Wind Orchestra, Tiger Band and Maricopa High School Orchestra for the MUSD Art Walk on May 3 at 6 p.m. in the MUSD District Office and all of the Desert Wind, Maricopa Wells and Maricopa High School bands, choirs and orchestras at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 12, for the fourth annual MUSD Music-a-Thon – featuring special guest Mayor Christian Price.

Submitted photo

Costa Verde is building homes in the Santa Rosa Springs development. Photo by Michelle Chance

A report by Phoenix-based consulting firm Applied Economics estimates Maricopa’s recent housing growth could be a sign of more to come. It projected 1,200 new housing units will be built every year for the next five years. If future construction projects become a reality, AE estimates the city could grow by 42,000 housing sites 20 years from now. To read the report submitted to Maricopa Unified School District, click here.


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Photo by Michelle Chance

After upheaval in Maricopa High School’s administration level last fall, district officials confirmed Monday another assistant principal is on leave.

MHS Assistant Principal Heidi Vratil reportedly went on an unspecified leave of absence last week, according to Maricopa Unified School District Human Resources Director Tom Beckett.

“Dr. [Steve] Chestnut announced to the high school staff on Wednesday, March 7, that Heidi Vratil was on leave,” Beckett said March 12. Chestnut left his position as superintendent March 9.

Beckett did not clarify whether Vratil was placed on administrative leave nor provide reasoning behind her absence, citing it as a “personnel issue.”

Vratil said she preferred not to comment.

Vratil is a longtime MUSD educator, administrator and a National Board-certified teacher. Her work as assistant principal at MHS focuses on curriculum and instruction. Vratil has advocated for teacher mentorship programs and professional development through the NBCT program while regularly reporting teachers’ progress at MUSD Governing Board meetings.

She is among 32 administrative staff members listed as returning for next year in the personnel schedule released Feb. 28.

Vratil’s leave is among many in leadership positions at MHS this school year. Vratil was temporarily acting principal while former principal Renita Myers was placed on administrative leave in September.

In October, Myers and former Assistant Principal Mallory Miller resigned.

Former Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel took over for Vratil’s temporary principal assignment that month after his own brief leave of absence from the middle school.

Abel is expected to carry out the principalship position until the end of the school year. Current athletic director Brian Winter has been hired to take on that role next year.

Explanations regarding all the administrators’ leaves of absence have remained vague or non-existent by district officials.