Tags Articles tagged with "MUSD"



By Michelle Chance

The Maricopa Unified School District will go after a new math program.

Wednesday, the Governing Board approved a committee’s authoritative power to recommend a K-12 Mathematics curriculum for the 2017-18 school year. The adoption of the district-wide curriculum change is estimated to cost between $800,000 and $1 million.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said during a previous board meeting the district will pay for the curriculum using reserve funds to expedite the process.

Despite the price tag, supporters said updated math textbooks and curriculum are overdue.

MUSD Director of Teaching and Learning Krista Roden said the last time the district adopted math curriculum was in 2005.

Impassioned, Roden and the district’s director of Curriculum and Instruction, Wade Watson, set out to ensure Maricopa students no longer were taught from 12-year-old math books.

A visibly happy Roden was nearly speechless after the meeting.

“There’s no words; I feel like a giddy parent,” she said regarding the board’s decision.

Watson said their momentum grew when the school board asked about investigating the cost of their proposed curriculum adoption.

“As soon as they expressed that interest, we were on it,” he added.

However, the path toward adopting the math curriculum is a calculated process.

In a couple of weeks, a few district classrooms will begin piloting textbooks by three curriculum vendors: Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill.

From there, Roden said teachers will inform the Mathematics Textbook Selection Committee of the curriculum that works and those that do not.

The committee will then make a purchase recommendation to Chestnut. Once approved, MUSD will display the curriculum materials at the district office for 60 days.

The school board will make a decision whether to approve the recommended curriculum within the 60-day time limit.

Board member Torri Anderson was enthusiastic about the progress made toward the adoption.

“I know it’s a long process, but I’m glad we are getting started now,” Anderson said. “I would love for it to be done by May, but … I’m just excited that we are able to do this.”

Roden and Watson said new math textbooks will be on students’ desks come fall.

Outdated curriculum is not the only reason school officials are pushing for the adoption, however.

Students at MUSD are struggling with math, and Roden said new curriculum will raise achievement scores and garner more success on the AzMERIT test.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

In December, Maricopa Unified School District (MUSD) was one of only four Arizona school districts named to the seventh annual Advanced Placement Honor Roll. Many citizens of Maricopa might ask, “What’s the big deal? What is important about Advanced Placement (AP)?” and “Is this just another meaningless public relations announcement?”

The AP program is conducted by The College Board, a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to allow high school students to take college courses while still in high school and receive credit via a national exam managed by the Educational Testing Service, also a nonprofit corporation. The AP program is trusted by the vast majority of colleges and scores on AP exams are used by colleges to award credit to incoming students.

The AP Honor Roll recognizes school districts that maintain successful AP programs. Among students enrolled in AP courses there are at least 30 percent who are from underserved minorities or at least 30 percent who qualify for free/reduced lunch. AP students at Maricopa High School qualified on both standards. Only four Arizona districts met the requirements for the Honor Roll, thus MUSD’s receipt of this award is quite significant.

MHS has increased its AP course offerings to 11 – Studio Art, English Language, English Literature, Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, World History, U.S. History, Government, Economics and Spanish. It takes more than qualified AP teachers to obtain student success in AP. The coursework students take going back to elementary school must build a level of knowledge and work ethic that prepares students to meet the challenge of an AP class.

Given the success of MUSD’s AP program, credit must be spread throughout the district schools.

Special notice must be given to the high school’s AP teachers. As challenging as the coursework is for the students, the teachers must have the subject-area knowledge to meet the demands of an AP course. This is national curriculum and topics cannot be skipped. Failure of the teacher to cover the course curriculum thoroughly will result in low exam scores. Obviously, the scores of MUSD students validate the qualifications of their teachers.

Indeed, MUSD being awarded a place on the AP District Honor Roll should bring pride to our community. The teachers and administrators of the district should be congratulated for their contributions to the success of the AP program in Maricopa.

Murray Siegel has a PhD in MathEd and 42 years of teaching experience. He and his wife Sharon are volunteer teachers of advanced math classes at Butterfield Elementary School.

This column appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

MUSD has survey the community and its staff about making serious changes to its calendar.

By Michelle Chance

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved a much discussed modified calendar Wednesday. However teachers, school staff and students won’t see the changes until fall 2018.

Board members agreed the traditional calendar, along with a few amendments, will continue through the 2017-2018 school year to allow parents and teachers time to prepare for the changes.

Two amendments to the traditional calendar were adopted from the modified calendar:  Two “teacher days” (in which students will be exempt from attending school), and an additional day for Thanksgiving break.

Prior to approval, the proposed changes to the school calendar caused some teachers, parents and students to raise alarm.

Under the modified calendar, students will begin school in July. It will also extend fall, winter and spring breaks by an additional week.

Board Member Torri Anderson said she was “bombarded” with emails from parents in the district who raised concern that the shortened summer break could impact teen students who hold summer jobs.

Other board members said parents raised issue with having to find childcare during the extended holiday breaks.

AnnaMarie Knorr, the board’s vice president, said parents and school employees she talked to about the modified calendar “felt the (changes) were happening too fast.”

The director of Child Nutrition at the district, Suzette Moe, spoke during the meeting and said she favored the traditional calendar because her staff would receive either no check or two half-checks during the extended two-week breaks under the proposed changes.

“That would affect them a great deal since I do have single moms that work for me,” Moe said.

Feedback from surveys recently sent to parents and school staff was also discussed. The findings were the cause of much debate among board members because the results of the surveys were close.

The community survey split those in favor of the modified calendar and supporters of the traditional calendar by less than 1 percentage point.

The same survey sent to school staff favored the modified calendar slightly more than the traditional option.

District Superintendent Steve Chestnut said the board received a tremendous response from the surveys, the results of which indicated a desire for a modified calendar.

“I think the data supports that,” he said.

In an attempt to satisfy both sides, the governing board approved the traditional calendar for one more year, and postponed the modified calendar until the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years.


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Reece Thompson

By Reece Thompson

There is a current debate on the acceptance or refusal of a new calendar system in the MUSD20 District. The governing board will be discussing it again at Wednesday’s meeting.

Option 1 would change the current school calendar for the entire district to a “year-round” calendar, taking away two weeks of summer vacation and using them in the fall and spring instead. The main argument made on the side of “Pro Option 1” citizens has been that it would decrease the amount of time from school, which would help students retain more information, allowing them to have less time reviewing and more time learning.

The second option is to continue using the current calendar. Many arguments have been made for this side from students, teachers and even parents. These include vacation or summer school programs that would have to be cut short due to the shortened schedule.

One point brought up by teachers that spoke at the Jan. 25 board meeting and echoed by some of the community was that some teachers could have a hard time finding work over the summer. This relates to a bigger problem. However, the question is still one that is important. Is there a solution to this problem that has not been brought up yet?

This is where the third option comes into play. One teacher that I was able to speak to actually requested a third option. When I asked them about their choice they said, “Something in the middle would work best… they are both good, however you can’t let the breaks get too long.”

They were speaking about the retention of information in students. As a student, I have seen many times that after a two-week break there is a lot of time wasted on review when it could be spent on new concepts.

When I asked students for their take, they usually went to one of two arguments for why there should be no change or very little change. One argument was that they wouldn’t be able to hold a summer job and get the money they need for the school year. The other was that because of a shortened summer, they would be unable to attend online summer school.

For many students, online school is the way to get ahead, or to even stay afloat. By cutting time out of the biggest break that students have, the options they have are cut even more.

Based on these options and interviews, I personally have concluded that either nothing should happen at all to the current District Calendar or an option three would have to be put into place in order to give an equal and fair calendar to all students. By doing this, all students would have the opportunity to get the job they need or want, they would be able to attend a summer school program, and they would have enough time to have fun.

So the question isn’t really, “Which one do we pick?” It’s, “Why should we pick one?”

Reece Thompson is a junior at Maricopa High School.

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MHS tuba players Katherine Espinoza and Chance Ackerson. Submitted photo

The Maricopa High School Band and Orchestra Programs had 11 students audition for the Arizona Music Educators’ Association Central Region Honor Band and Orchestra on Saturday at Desert Ridge High School in Mesa.

Tuba player Chance Ackerson was named to the region band for the second straight year.
Tuba player Katherine Espinoza was named second alternate and will be called up to perform if needed.

Music Instructor Ivan Pour stated, “This is an extremely rigorous audition process. Students have to prepare three etudes, perform 2 scales (chosen by judges), and sight read. Our region is one of the most competitive in the state with many large and successful music programs in it, including all the Gilbert district high schools, Mesa Mountain View, and many others. This is a big accomplishment for these students. Please congratulate them!”

The rehearsals for the band will be Feb. 17-18 at Mesa Mountain View High School, with the performance of the region, orchestra, band and choir at 2:30 on Feb. 18 also at Mountain View. The band clinician this year is AMEA President Jennifer Hamilton.

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The Sura team from Maricopa Wells earned second place in the state with their Future City idea. Submitted photo

Students from Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle Schools 20+1 programs took home 16 awards at the Arizona Regional Future City competition at ASU on Saturday.  Teams from Maricopa Unified School District took second and third place.

The competition gave out a total of 34 student awards, with 16 of those going to MUSD students.

Maricopa Wells Middle School students earned a total of 12 awards. Team Sura finished second place in the state.
Awards also went to teams Purnea, Tiago, Novara, Liyong Kongjian and Schone Stadt.

Robyn Rice, one of the teachers in the 20+1 class at MWMS, said, “I was repeatedly stopped by engineers and Future City directors who told me how impressed they were with our students. The co-director of Future City Arizona said that our students were a ‘class act’ and every one of them impressed him with their intelligence and kindness. I am so proud to be their teacher and watch their success.”

Joseph Szoltysik, one of the teachers in the MWMS 20+1 class, said, “It’s always rewarding to watch your students succeed at something they’ve worked so hard to attain.  I couldn’t be more proud of all MWMS students.”

Desert Wind Middle School students earned a total of four awards. Team Jakarta finished in third place in the state of Arizona. The team of La Perla Renacida also earned an award.

Jennifer Szoltysik, one of the teachers in the 20+1 class at DWMS said, “We are very proud of all of the Future Cities participants from Desert Wind Middle School. They worked extremely hard over the last four months and represented both the school and the district well. It’s always exciting as a teacher to see the students’ work showcased at such a prestigious event.”

Eight teams from Maricopa Wells Middle School and eight teams from Desert Wind Middle School traveled to ASU to compete in the Arizona Regional Future City competition. The teams had to complete a virtual computer model of a city, write a research essay around this year’s theme of Public Spaces, build a scaled model of their city, and create a 5-7 minute presentation about their city. The teams competed at the school level to earn their place in the top 8 that advanced to the state competition at ASU.

Maricopa Wells Middle School Winning Teams
Presenters: Alyson Bowen, Emma Schrader, Zeah Zimpleman
Project Manager: Kaden Rogers, Alternate: Arianna Vargas
2nd Place in Arizona
Innovative Use of Infrastructure

Presenters: Anabelle Dayley, Megan Hahn, Erin Hildick
Project Manager: Nicholas Perez, Alternate: Shyanne Price
Best Computer Model
Best Team Effort
Walton Sustainable Community Award
Excellence in the Use of Building Materials

Presenters: Alondra Garfias, Maverick Miller, Joseline Nowell
Project Manager: Alexander Grace, Alternate: Trenton Redwanc
Walton Sustainable Community Award
Architectural Excellence Award

Schone Stadt
Presenters: Brenna Fitzpatrick, Victoria Richardson, Morgan Witte
Project Manager: Charlee Hyde, Alternate: Robert Hahn
Best Scaled Model
Rich Goewey Community Awareness

Presenters: Joseph Abel, Joshua Kulinowski, Rylee Tarcola
Project Manager: Taryn Meyers, Alternate: Savannah Wade
Best Team Presentation

Liyong Kongjian
Presenters: Elena Antunez, Rori Gosiak, Bailey Rigby
Project Manager: Dylan Hahn, Alternate: James Couts
Award of Distinction

Desert Wind Middle School Winning Teams
Presenters: Isabella Ebner, Kian Pack, Jaden Pyle
Project Manager: Blake Fullmer, Alternate: Emmy Balgaard
3rd Place in Arizona
Best Multimodal Transportation System
Walton Sustainable Community Award

La Perla Renacida
Presenters: Kendahl Belmore, Kylie Myers, Janie Pyle
Project Manager: Ryan Nguyen, Alternate: Nathan Shearer
Best Use of Water and Environmental Resources.

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Principal Janel Hildick introduces Butterfield AMIC students and discusses the AMIC program. Photo by Mason Callejas

Butterfield Elementary teachers and students presented Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board an update on the programs at the school during a board meeting Wednesday night. They specifically addressed the Advanced Mathematics Intervention Class (AMIC).

Maricopa Chamber of Commerce's Educator of the Year Christine Dickinson from Maricopa Elementary School accepts the award at Wednesday’s MUSD board meeting. Photo by Mason Callejas

The Maricopa Unified School District unanimously voted Wednesday to approve the installation of additional bathrooms and portable buildings at Maricopa High School, a move designed to accommodate the district’s new Alternative Education Program.

The measure to install more bathrooms in the automotive building was tabled at the board’s Jan. 11 meeting due to concerns about the construction timeline and whether it would be completed by the start of the 2017-18 school year.

After conferring with Business Services Director Aaron Rausch, Superintendent Steve Chestnut expressed confidence at Wednesday’s meeting, saying the district will “get this done by June, before the first day of school,” and he again recommended approval of the measure.

The second item approved by the board was the installation of two portable buildings, which will be used by the Alternative Education Program.

There were some questions raised as to the possibility of the installation of a permanent structure. However, due to budgetary implications, new construction projects are not quite feasible. Furthermore, Chestnut said the district’s steady growth merits the purchase regardless of application.

“This will launch our new alternative program at the high school, and I think these will be good investments,” Chestnut said. “We’re continuing to grow. It’s only a matter of time before we start buying portables, so we might as well get started now.”

Chestnut said the alternative program is currently designed to begin at 2 p.m., thus the portables could serve a secondary purpose during the early part of the day.

The alternative program will be designed to assist up to 120 credit-deficient juniors and seniors who may be at risk of not graduating on schedule.  The program is set to begin with the 2017-18 school year and is funded by revenue gained from the recent tax override.

Joseph Jones in full dance regalia. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Native American Parent Advisory Committee at Maricopa Unified School District hosted a Native American Regalia Fashion Show on Thursday.

Representatives of every native affiliation in the district wore traditional and new styles of clothing and jewelry. American Indian Institute Director Jim Larney described the regalia and its history and symbolism. Arizona State University’s Native American Club also gave a presentation.

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MUSD District Spelling Bee winners were Andrew Dinh, Emma Schrader and Cannon Jones.

The Maricopa Unified School District held its annual Spelling Bee at the District Administration Building on Tuesday.

The well attended bee went a total of 11 exciting rounds. Winners and potential alternates who will represent MUSD at the Pinal County Spelling Bee to be held in Coolidge on Feb. 17 are:

1st place: Andrew Dinh – 8th grade – Desert Wind Middle School
2nd place: Emma Schrader – 8th grade – Maricopa Wells Middle School
3rd place: Cannon Jones – 7th grade – Maricopa Wells Middle School
Sasha Bates – 4th grade – Pima Butte Elementary School
Mara Fortunato – 4th grade – Santa Rosa Elementary School
Aleena Antone – 5th grade – Maricopa Elementary School

Torri Anderson was the District Spelling Bee announcer. Judges were Jim Irving, Dennis Koch, Jane Tifft and Robin Shoup.

Submitted photos
Submitted photos

A proposed calendar change at MUSD would have school starting in July but two-week breaks for fall and spring.

Maricopa Unified School District’s Governing Board decided Wednesday to further seek community feedback on an adjusted school calendar before they make a final decision.

The proposed calendar change will mandate “two-week fall and spring breaks, the addition of Wednesday to the Thanksgiving holiday break and two additional teacher days during the school year.”

See the Proposed Calendar compared to the Traditional Calendar.

Board members unanimously agreed to table the measure pending an extension of a survey they felt was not adequately utilized.

Only 6 percent of survey recipients responded.

Board member Torri Anderson cited the timing of the survey as one of the reasons there may have been a low participation rate.

“They went out during the holidays, and I think a lot of parents missed it,” Anderson said. “I received many, many emails in the last 24 hours from parents who did not know.”

Board Vice President AnnaMarie Knorr also felt the issue warranted further assessment.

“We don’t even adopt policies unless we have them at two meetings,” Knorr said. “This is a huge change, and this is the first time we have publicly discussed it.”

Despite recommending approval of the new calendar, Director of Human Resources Tom Beckett also expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of external response from parents and concurred with the board suggesting a survey extension would be a good idea.

He said the survey will simply be reopened, meaning those who have already participated do not have to resubmit.

Those who haven’t and would like to chime in can do so through Feb. 6 at the following link — https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LV3H68L .


By Michelle Chance

A representative from the Pinal County Juvenile Court said the number of juvenile referrals in the City of Maricopa increased more than 3 percent over the last two years.

Referrals in juvenile court are the equivalent to a “police report,” said Teresa Fuller, probation officer supervisor at Pinal County Juvenile Court. Additionally, a report by the Juvenile Justice Services Division of the Arizona Supreme Court said referrals can be made by “police, parents, school officials, probation officers,” and others.

Three cities within the county hold the highest number of referrals: San Tan, Casa Grande and Maricopa, Fuller said.

However, over the past two years, the first two cities’ rate of referrals decreased, while Maricopa’s did the opposite.

Fuller said this prompted her department to look into a solution to prevent county youth from entering the juvenile justice system through an alternative diversion program.

The possible solution? Fuller said it could be implementing a new teen court program.

“(Four percent) doesn’t sound like a lot, but if the other areas where you’re getting the majority of referrals are decreasing, this might be a good target population,” Fuller said in regards to focusing on Maricopa to pilot the new program.

On Jan. 5, Fuller held a discussion about adopting a teen court at the Copper Sky Substation with community agencies including: high school and middle school principals, the Maricopa Police Department, Ak-Chin tribal members, representatives from the Department of Child Services and others.

Ricardo Alvarado, public information officer for MPD, said the police department has referred more teens for crimes in its jurisdiction, but said he did not consider it a “spike” in the number or percentage of juvenile referrals.

“We believe (the teen court) is a good concept, but we also want to get parents’ input to find out what they think before we go any further.”

Fuller said the data compiled by the department found there are two main offenses in Maricopa juvenile referrals, but declined to comment on which categories those crimes fall into.

According to the most recent statistical juvenile court report by the Arizona Supreme Court, the top three categories for juvenile referrals statewide between July 2014 and June 2015 were misdemeanor shoplifting, probation violation and simple assault.

Fuller said one major factor in successful teen court programs is the cooperation of community agencies, like local secondary and high schools.

Steve Chestnut, Maricopa Unified School District superintendent, said there has not been a rise in teen delinquency at the district.

“We have not seen an increase in student crime on school grounds or at school activities,” he said.

Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel attended the teen court meeting in early January.

He maintained that school-based incidents at his school have stayed “fairly consistent,” but said he would nevertheless like to see a teen court within the community.

While principal at a school in Idaho, Abel said he cooperated with a teen court program for three years and saw behavioral improvement in the students who were referred there.

Fuller said research shows teens usually do better in teen court, adding, “We found that when youth participate in teen court, as opposed to traditional or diversion or first-time offender programs, they have a lot higher success rates in completing their consequences and not recidivating.”

And although there are many different models for teen courts, Fuller said they are often run by the kids themselves, filling roles as defense attorney, bailiff, jurors and even judge.

“It’s really impactful for that youth who is going through the process because they hold their peers thoughts about them, I think, at a higher regard than they do somebody from the court system.”

Lillian Downing, Dependency supervisor with Pinal County Juvenile Court, said teen courts aid in preventing teens from getting involved in more serious crime and drug use down the road, which has societal benefits.

“Ultimately the whole community benefits by assisting those youth to have better outcomes and to focus their energy on more positive things,” Downing said.

A decision has yet to be been made on whether to adopt a teen court in the city of Maricopa, but future meetings will be held to discuss resources available for the court, who will be in charge of it, and possible models for the program, Fuller said.

If a successful teen court is implemented in Maricopa, Fuller said her department will look into expanding the program into other cities within the county.

Supported by her family, AnnaMarie Knorr takes the oath. Photo by Mason Callejas

Incumbents AnnaMarie Knorr and Torri Anderson and newcomer Joshua Judd were sworn in as member of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board before Wednesday’s meeting by Judge Lyle Riggs.

Maricopa Unified School District is creating an alternative school to get high school students who are "credit-deficient" back on track for graduation.

The Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board discussed at a Wednesday meeting an implementation strategy for the district’s newly founded Alternative Secondary Program.

Per the district’s description, the purpose of the program is to encourage “remediation leading to graduation,” meaning through the program students who are “credit deficient” or otherwise do not conform to a “comprehensive school” model can not only graduate with a diploma, but also do so on time.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut has high hopes for the program not just as a service to students who don’t wish to participate in regular high school program, but to students who may just need a semester or two to get back on track.

“We think that some of them could and should get caught up and then maybe go back into the regular program,” Chestnut said. “But we think that some of them may want to spend their last two years of school in this program.”

The current program design is based on nine-week semesters, Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., with two-hour blocks and new students being able to cycle into the program every nine weeks.

The district hopes the program will be able to accommodate as many as 120 credit-deficient students in grades 11 and 12, and hopes in the future they will be able to accommodate ninth and 10th grade. However, due to budgetary restrictions, the underclasses will be excluded from the alternative program’s current design, a fact which has board member Torri Anderson concerned.

“If we can catch them as freshman and sophomores, they don’t have to be in it for junior and senior year,” Anderson said. “So, my idea is let’s do something that is preventative.”

Chestnut agreed with Anderson, and acknowledged the district is still dealing with limited resources and he wants the current program to succeed before it is expanded upon.

He said the program is not necessarily limited to 11th and 12th grades. The 120 slots will be filled on a case by case basis with “the kids who are in the greatest need,” including ninth and 10th grades. However, the target groups remain juniors and seniors who are approaching graduation.

There was also talk of implanting a case manager to assist special-needs students who may benefit from the program.

Currently the plan is to utilize four classrooms at Maricopa High School located in the automotive building. The board also plans to purchase two portable buildings, which will accommodate two other alternative school classes.

Final approval of the program plan has not been made. Most board members agree on key items and, because of the timeliness of the matter, plan to have the wrinkles ironed out sometime in February.

The program is set to begin with the 2017-18 school year.

Maricopa Wells Middle School

The Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board voted Wednesday to approve the relocation of sixth grade classes from the district’s six elementary schools to its two middle schools.

The decision came down as a result of the recent override measure, which will expand elementary school faculties by an average of four teachers per school, reducing the number of available classrooms.

To accommodate this growth the district has decided to move sixth grade classes to Desert Wind and Maricopa Wells middle schools, where Superintendent Steve Chestnut believes the sixth graders belong.

“Those schools were designed to be middle schools,” Chestnut said.  “I’m a former middle school principal, I love middle schools and I think sixth graders thrive in that environment.”

Board member Torri Anderson voiced her concern over the possible infringement on special-needs and blended learning programs, which currently use space at Maricopa Wells that sixth grade classes will be occupying in the future.

Chestnut acknowledged there will be some issues with relocating those programs, but classroom space is available elsewhere in the district which can be utilized for those smaller programs, he said.

No decisions on the relocation of those programs has been finalized.

Anderson also inquired about the move effectively reversing a 2013 board decision, which resulted in the relocation of sixth grade to elementary schools. The move was in part designed as a cost-saving effort by the district. However it was also meant to encourage parents to retain their children in MUSD for as long as possible.

“That was one of the deciding reasons as to why we moved them,” Anderson said. “Because, we thought, ‘Oh, if we can keep them here for sixth grade, then guess what, they stay here for seventh and eighth.’”

It’s unclear if the effort did, in fact, have an impact on the retention of students, as Chestnut did not have statistical information to present on the topic.

Relocation of the sixth grade classes is set to begin with the 2017-2018 school year.

Joshua Judd

Starting Jan. 11, the Maricopa Unified School District will have a new face on its governing board.

In November, MUSD had just enough candidates to fill the available seats on the governing board. That meant no vote by the public was necessary. Current board members Torri Anderson and AnnaMarie Knorr retain their seats. The third slot is filled by newcomer Joshua Judd.

Judd is a teacher in another district, but his three children attend Pima Butte Elementary.

“My overarching goal for service on the MUSD Governing Board will be to help guide the district to an ‘A’ rating. I am joining an award-winning team and humbled at the opportunity to serve my community,” he said.

Hometown:    North Haven, Connecticut
Residence: Cobblestone Farms
Maricopan since: 2009
Occupation: Teacher
Family: My amazing and beautiful wife of 17 years Julie Judd, father to three wonderful children Elijah, Abigail, and Lillian
Pets: The best dog ever (Thor), and a bearded dragon (Voldemort)
Car: Chrysler 300
Hobbies: Reading, research and debate
Pet peeve: Pictures that are hung crooked
Dream vacation: Rome
Like most about Maricopa: The small town feel, but potential for growth
Like least about Maricopa: Global Water!

Favorite …
Book: “Campaigning With Grant” by Gen. Horace Porter
Movie: Kingdom of Heaven
Actor: Al Pacino or Robert De Niro (it’s a toss-up)
Song: Too many to pick just one
Team: New England Patriots
Athlete: Tom Brady
Restaurant: Brooklyn Boys
Quote: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  – John Adams

Kindergarten teacher Brad Davis talks about class sizes at Santa Rosa Elementary.

Large class sizes have been a concern at Maricopa Unified School District, and were a compelling reason for the voter-approved override. Santa Rosa Elementary has particularly felt the stress of growing student numbers.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut, Principal Eva Safranek and teacher Brad Davis spoke with InMaricopa about how the additional funds will impact the school and the district.

Dec. 9, MUSD officially began its recruitment efforts for the upcoming school year.  The district has committed to hiring 50 new teachers and instructional staff members for the 2017-2018 school year.  The district is asking for support from the community and encouraging all internal and external stakeholders to share the news with family, friends and professional acquaintances.

As part of this effort, the District will be hosting a Job Fair on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the District’s Administrative Office Building located at 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway in Maricopa from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Administrators and supervisors will be present to discuss opportunities and also to conduct interviews for projected openings.

Interested candidates should access the District’s online application at https://musd20.tedk12.com/hire/index.aspx and complete the appropriate application prior to the Job Fair.

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Maricopa Unified School District Administrative Office

Maricopa Unified School District was one of four Arizona school districts receiving national recognition for its advanced placement program.

MUSD was named to the College Board’s seventh annual Advanced Placement District Honor Roll. Other Arizona school districts are Vail, Tucson Unified and Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Schools.

“I am honored to congratulate these four Arizona school districts on their hard work to enhance student learning through their progressive Advanced Placement Programs,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said in a statement. “This accomplishment highlights the dedication of both students and teachers in their efforts to reach the highest levels of academic achievement.”

To be included on the honor roll, school districts were studied on three years of data, 2014-2016

Schools were judged on increased participation in and access to AP courses (at least 4 percent in large districts, 6 percent in medium districts and 11 percent in small districts), increased percentage of minority students scoring at least a 3 on an AP exam and increased percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher from 2014 to 2016.

The percentage of students who qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch is also considered.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said the high school increased its AP offerings from 8 to 11. “I think that’s a new high for us,” he said.

In Maricopa, under-represented minority students – defined as “African-American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native” – are in the majority. Chestnut said the school has a white population of 36 percent. And 57 percent of students are considered low-income.

“We try to send more and more teachers to AP training,” Chestnut said.

As part of the district’s strategic plan, the district budgeted for the extra training and AP textbooks to provide more access to the advanced courses.

“We are pleased we scored well,” Chestnut said.

In AP exams, a score of 2 will allow high school credit but not college credit. A score of 3 or 4 provides college credit.

MUSD was among 433 districts in the United States and Canada to qualify for the honor roll.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Devin Carson

The Maricopa Unified School District approved a merit-based cash bonus for the district’s superintendent at the Nov. 17 board meeting, a move which could indicate scholastic improvements.

The unanimous decision came after a closed executive session where, according to the board’s preliminary minutes, it was deemed that Superintendent Steve Chestnut partially achieved two performance goals outlined by the district.

In all, Chestnut is set to receive $9,500 of a possible $14,700 in bonuses. The criterion, established by the Superintendent Performance Pay Goals document, ratified Dec. 2, 2015, offered a potential $7,350 each if met or exceeded.

Of the award, $2,500 is being granted for achievements toward Goal 1, an assessment of AzMerit test scores. The document states that, despite failing to meet the established goals, the bonuses may be  prorated if the superintendent has “approached or made meaningful progress on the goal.”

School Board President Patti Coutré indicated comparisons of peer district test scores were made to determine if there was progress made toward Goal 1. Though improvements were seen, scores still fell short of expectations, and thus Chestnut would receive only a portion of the bonus.

“His goal for that [test scores] was to meet or exceed the previous year’s scores,” Coutré said. “It is unfortunately obvious that that goal was not met.”

Though MUSD administered the district’s first AzMerit test in the spring of 2015, it wasn’t until spring of 2016 that the district could establish a solid baseline of AzMerit test scores. It was those scores that were then compared to test results from peer districts as well as state averages, and it is from that assessment that the board made its decision.

The remaining $7,000 is being granted to Chestnut for overall progress in implementing the district’s strategic plan, which outlines, among other things, updates to the K-12 curriculum, the addition of select new faculty and staff and new improvements to emergency management procedures.

Though unrelated to Chestnut’s assessment, the district also recently saw the passage of Maricopa’s new budget override, which will expand the public school budget and soon allow for the hiring of 50 new faculty and staff.


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Posing with members of the MUSD Governing Board, students of the month for September and October were Haley Petershiem, Zeah Zimpleman, Madison Russo and Lauren Davis. Not pictured are Zeya Suchite and Edward Banuelos. Photo by Mason Callejas

The Maricopa Rotary Club presented their monthly selection of outstanding students for September and October at the MUSD Board meeting Nov. 17.

The three middle school and three high school students were honored and chosen by leaders at their schools based on achievements both in the classroom and out.

According to the Rotary Club, recipients of the awards, hailing from Desert Winds and Maricopa Wells middle schools and Maricopa High School, have all achieved stellar grade reports and have exhibited admirable character traits. As such, their teachers and activity leaders have deemed their actions exemplary and worthy of recognition.

For the month of September the Rotary Club recognized Maricopa High School student Haley Petershiem for what her teachers and administrators called a “positive attitude and performance on campus,” and that “students like her are what make Maricopa High School a great school”

Also for the month of September, Desert Winds Middle School student Zeya Suchite was recognized for being an “excellent student and awesome athlete,” and for her participation in numerous clubs and city activities.

Edward Banuelos is one of two high school students chosen for the month of October. As a second year student at the CAVIT Firefighter program, Edward hopes to join the Navy after graduating, and then plans to join the front line of first responders as a firefighter. He was honored not only for his involvement at MHS in Debate Class and as a member of the Cross Country team, but also for choosing a career path that will ensure the “safety of our community and nation.”

Maricopa High School Student Lauren Davis was also chosen as the club’s October student of the month. According to her teacher, Katherine Persitz, Lauren “is a dedicated and faithful student who goes above and beyond to take care of herself and the people around her.” She is a member of the National Honor Society and MHS Soccer player.

From Maricopa Wells Middle School Zeah Zimpleman was chosen as the October student of the month. Carrying a 4.0 GPA Zeah is a member of National Junior Honor Society, orchestra and the MWMS Volleyball team. She is also known to participate in community service projects through her church.

Madison Russo was chosen from Desert Winds Middle School also for the month of October. Madison is the DWMS Student Council secretary, she sings in the choir and is a member of the soccer and volleyball teams. According to Roger Wagner “she exhibits a great work ethic” and has an “approachable fun-loving personality.” Madison is also well known to go out of her way to help others.

For more information on the Maricopa Rotary Club please visit their website.

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On the eve of a national election voting Americans who have yet to cast an early ballot will soon approach polls all across the country to decide on what some are considering to be one of the most divisive contests in American political history — Clinton or Trump.

At both the state and federal levels, Arizonans have the potential to make history and turn their traditionally red state into a blue one. They also have the potential to introduce dramatic socioeconomic changes in the form of recreational marijuana legalization and an increase in state minimum wage to $12 an hour by the year 2020.

Tuesday, Maricopans will be deciding these and other measures that may have grand effects on the government and education systems alike. One such measure is the proposed education budget override.

The Maricopa Unified School District override is designed to add technological resources, staff and faculty. Residents in Maricopa have become aware of the budget woes within the school system, and some have begun to take cautionary measures to guarantee their children receive a quality education.

Speaking on terms of anonymity a parent of a Santa Rosa Elementary student informed InMaricopa his child was in a classroom of 45 students with only one teacher and no aide. He said after it became clear their child’s grades began to suffer as a result of the overcrowded classroom they began considering alternatives, such as home school.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut doesn’t deny there is a problem, and recognizes that teachers in the district are on average instructing classes larger than normal.

“Class size is a big deal in our district and it’s larger than we want it to be,” Chestnut said. “That’s one of the primary reasons we have an override on the ballot.”

The override, in his view, will essentially pad the school district’s budget so it can hire as many as 50 new teachers to accommodate the excess of students. With a larger faculty the district will not only be able to reduce the student to teacher ratio in core curriculum classes but also be able to offer additional elective classes at the secondary level.

“It is true that we have some really large classes,” Chestnut said. “I get it, but we can make them smaller.

In 2015 Arizona’s public schools had an average classroom size above the national average of 16.1 students per teacher, with 18.6. That same year, MUSD saw teachers instructing classrooms with an average of 21.8 students. For the 2016-17 school year so far, the average class sizes can be as high as 33 students in some high-school level core classes, and as low as 22 in some first grade classes.

Some education critics cite graduation rates to grade the effectiveness of educational institutions, and then by comparing those numbers with teachers’ incomes, correlate a causality. However, statistics show this may not be true.

In 2015 MUSD had a graduation rate at 85 percent, 9 percent higher than the national average, and an average annual teacher’s salary of $45,262, an amount almost on par with the state average of $46,000. In comparison, Arizona’s neighbor to the north Nevada had a graduation rate at 71 percent in 2014, almost 10 percent less than MUSD, and paid its teachers on average 20 percent more, $55,000 annually.

The district claims the expanded budget will bring new teachers but it will also allow for the hiring of more support staff, like counselors and librarians, and will include money to aid the development of technological learning measures which may have a greater bearing on the quality of education than salaries alone. This extra money plays into what is arguably the most import number in the equation — per pupil spending.

According to the Arizona Auditor General’s annual report for 2015, per pupil spending within the MUSD was $300 less than the Arizona state average of $9,057. Furthermore, a 2015 report from the National Education Association puts the national per pupil spending average at almost $12,000. Nevada, by comparison, spends on average $8,411 per student, $300 less than Arizona.

If the override passes, Chestnut believes it’s easy to see how it will affect students. He said “$1.3 million, divide that by 6,500 students, that’s $200 per student.”

This year’s heated election cycle has pushed the topic of education to the back burner for many Americans, but for Maricopans it still could lie at the forefront of their agenda.

Gary Miller

By Gary Miller

Recently I had a conversation about the Maricopa Unified School District (MUSD) override with a constituent named Ed. Ed is a retired college pitching coach living on a fixed income.During our conversation, he threw me straightforward questions and provided me with encouraging words in support of local education. Ed pointed out that for the community to vote yes it needed to have trust in MUSD and the Governing Board to spend the money as proposed. Ed expressed that he was interested to know how much revenue would be generated and exactly how the revenue would be appropriated.

As a Governing Board member, I, too, believe that, “We the People,” taxpayers, have a right to know how much revenue will be generated and exactly how the tax revenue will be appropriated. As I informed Ed, if approved, the 10 percent, seven-year override would help MUSD provide students with more opportunities to achieve academic excellence when competing with districts that already have an override in place. If approved, the annual cost would be $133 per $100,000 of assessed value. I assured Ed that the revenue generated couldn’t be spent until the Governing Board appropriated the funds and the use of the funds has already been identified.

If approved, the override funds will be used in two ways:

1. 50 Additional Teaching Positions
•    Elementary Schools – 24 teachers for class size reduction
•    Middle Schools – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs
•    Maricopa High School – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs. 7 teachers will be hired for a new alternative program.
•    3 Elementary Counselors
•    2 Instructional Technology Integration Teachers
•    1 Elementary Teacher on Special Assignment
•    1 Elementary/Middle School Librarian

2. Additional Instructional Technology for Students
•    595 student laptops
•    17 locked computer carts with charging stations
•    1 tech support staff member
•    Computer Licensing
•    Technology Equipment and Supplies
•    Instructional Technology Professional Development for teachers

Personally, my passion is to help improve health-related quality of life in the community.  I shared with Ed that the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) calculates approximately one in five youth experiences a diagnosable mental health condition. I explained to Ed how the district currently has only one elementary counselor who can provide service to students that are in need at the district’s six elementary schools (there is a second elementary counselor than can only work with Special Education students). If approved, the MUSD override will provide funds for three additional elementary counselors to help improve the mental health of elementary school students.

Ed expressed to me that he and his wife will vote yes for the MUSD override. An old saying, “If you think the cost of education is expensive then wait until you see what ignorance will cost us,” helped Ed to convince his wife to vote yes.

I extend a great big “thank you” to Ed and to his wife for their trust and for their yes vote. For those of you reading this, I hope you, too, if you haven’t already, will vote yes for the MUSD override.

Gary Miller is an MUSD Governing Board member

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Ben Owens

By Ben Owens

For the past several years, MUSD 20 has just been getting by. Class sizes are continually growing and, in many cases, have surpassed what most people would consider an effective learning environment. For example, last year some kindergarten classes had over 30 students in them. Our children deserve better!

This is where the community can help. Voting “YES” on the override will help our kids directly by lowering class sizes and offering expanded learning opportunities. “YES” will also greatly expand the technology available to our students and the know-how to integrate that technology. By passing the override, each student in MUSD 20 will be positively affected and will ultimately be better prepared for college and life.

The residents of Maricopa stand at a cross roads and are being asked to make our community better. Together, let’s show the children of our community they are worth the investment. Maricopa is a great place to live and raise a family, but together we can make it better. Voting “YES” will help equip the children of our community with the smaller class sizes and the technology they deserve. Their future depends on us!

Please vote “YES” on the override on Nov. 8.

Ben Owens is a resident of Maricopa, parent of two and site council president of Santa Rosa Elementary.

Jackie Gonzalez

By Jackie Gonzalez

It seems that you cannot swing a dead political polecat without landing on someone who is for or against the Maricopa Unified School District override. On Oct. 12, Alan Marchione published an opinion piece against the override. It reads in an exasperated manner, calling into question the intentions of the school district to the “democratic process” and that it is “disrespectful to the voter,” while comparing a public school district to the charter school system.

I have been through the rigmarole of six failed override proposals, each with their own reasons as to why they were needed. Each was met with skepticism by both myself and the community at large. It was comparable to passing a plate at a religious service and asking for a contribution; there was no established plan, just please give us money. I voted “No” then.

This time seems different, however. Upon doing my own research, in conjunction with the pro and con views presented, it gave me a clearer picture of WHAT they are asking for and more importantly WHY (as opposed to previous years). The presenters of the bill explain WHERE the money is going. Contrary to Mr. Marchione’s opinion, this actually shows the voter respect; it says when you approve this, here is what you will pay and what it does for the community at large ($500,000 that goes to hiring 50 new teachers, technology, and other programs and support marked out). Like many others, this reassures me that the money granted will go where it’s meant to. Like many others, I have changed my stance on this proposition.

The questions and distinctions were raised as to the difference between a district school and a charter school. I believe that it is unfair to compare a whole school district to one specific charter school (Legacy Traditional). For instance, many charter schools raise substantial amounts of money and funding from private sources (GreatSchools.org). Spending per pupil can vary drastically even within the same city between schools. This is different from district schools, where AZ/MUSD spending is around $7,890 per student, compared to a national average of $11,927 per student (Niche.com). And while we are on the topic of sources, it was quoted through Niche that Legacy Traditional School is ranked #1. I am not sure where that information was found, since Niche.com shows Legacy as unranked for their K-10 offering.

Maricopa is indeed ranked 75th for their entire district. If you ask me, that’s atrocious. While the reasons might be cloudy, it boils down to the fact that the teachers are overworked, underpaid and expected to perform tasks way above simple “teaching.” We can all agree that better schools equal better students. This in turn equals a better workforce and punts the ball back to the job market to create jobs in town. Even if you do not have children yourself, it is selfish to think you will not see a boost to the property values that will occur. Maybe then will the parents who ship their kids off to Tempe, Kyrene or other cities trust in what MUSD has to offer.

We look to other cities often for guidance on economic matters. How do cities like Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek attract the companies and places that Maricopa wants? Let’s look at the investment that those respective cities make for their districts’ education. We cannot seek to carbon copy other aspects, but leave education out in the cold. The expected cost is around $11.80 per $100,000 of assessed value of your house. This is much lower than the market value of your house. For me, it comes out to about $17.54 per month for me. That’s not a large impact, and would not be for any sensible person or family.

Speaking specifically about Prop 123 for a moment, this statewide ballot allocates money to the entirety of the state; not just Maricopa. This override is strictly for Maricopa to enjoy and benefit from. There is overwhelming support from the MUSD Board (duh), but also from most of, if not all of the major groups in town. Maricopa City Council has come out in favor of it, as has the mayor himself, the justice constable, the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance, and the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce. With so many credible groups coming out to support it, it seems as though the only ones against it this time are those who use the charter school system and who bus their kids out to other districts, robbing our Maricopa Unified School District of even more money. Just think if those kids were here, an override may not be needed.

Believe in the kids. Believe in the school system in Maricopa. Invest in the future. It may pay off sooner than you think.

Jackie Gonzalez is a resident of Maricopa.

Vincent Manfredi is chairman of the Vote Yes on the Override campaign. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Below are more “pro” arguments for the Maricopa Unified School District’s proposed budget override from community members, elected officials and business leaders. No “against” arguments were submitted for the election pamphlet.

The Maricopa Education Foundation strongly supports the MUSD override proposal. Parents, teachers and district administrators agree that class size reduction and instructional technology are the two most critical areas of focus to accelerate improvement in the Maricopa Unified School District. However, these are areas that can only be addressed with additional funding. This override proposal is the necessary path to acquire the funding and deliver results. The proposal for allocation of these dollars explicitly states that they will be used for the addition of up to forty-seven new teachers for class size reduction and academic program expansion, plus a significant investment in instructional technology. With this clear plan in place, we can be confident that the low annual tax payer contribution for this override will be used as designated, thus insuring that our investment is used wisely. The Maricopa Education Foundation’s mission is to promote educational excellence in Maricopa and these override funds are necessary for the District to continue on the path of delivering excellence, all the while strengthening the community at large. This is why we recommend a “yes” vote on the override proposal.
Jeff Kramarczyk, President Maricopa Education Foundation

The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce is pleased to support and encourage a “for” vote on the Maricopa Unified School District #20 10% Override. Economic development and prosperity is essential to our business community and benefits the entire City of Maricopa. However, these endeavors cannot exist without a strong and adequately funded education system. Well-educated students create a well-rounded and powerful workforce, which is essential in attracting new businesses and companies to our City. The mission of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce is to support our members by promoting commerce in the greater city of Maricopa area through business advocacy and leadership in economic, political and educational development.

Sara Troyer

The Board of Directors of the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance wholeheartedly supports the seven-year override for the Maricopa Unified School District as approved by its Governing Board. The added funds will go directly to the benefit of our children – in the classrooms – and will enable the MUSD to deliver quality education to Maricopa’s students.

Having a high quality public education system is essential to Maricopa’s future. We urge all Maricopans to support this override to help elevate Maricopa’s ability to compete for, attract and grow high quality jobs. Companies seek to locate in communities that have a highly skilled and educated workforce. Highly educated and skilled workers seek to live in communities that offer an outstanding quality of life, including high performing K-12 education systems that prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

William H. Stacy, P.E., MEDA Chairman/CEO Electrical District No. 3
John D. Schurz, MEDA Treasurer, Orbitel Communications
Jennifer Alai, Great Western Bank
Brian C. Bernardo, Banner Health
Ron L. Fleming, Global Water
Bryan M. Hartman, Santa Cruz Ranch
James F. Kenny, MEDA Secretary, El Dorado Holdings
Adam Saks, Ak-Chin Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center
Bud Walters, Southwest Gas Corporation

As Mayor, I often hear the cry for the City to “bring more businesses” to Maricopa for those who wish to live, work, and shop here. Frankly I could not agree more! Yet, I often wonder if those same people know the primary reason businesses relocate to any given city is directly related to the quality of the school system? A school system that will directly produce the pipeline of talent and the skilled workforce needed to support and staff those new businesses.

I also wonder if the average person knows that we are asking our Maricopa students to become qualified to take their place in the technically savvy business world by working on outdated computers & operating systems that are older than they are? I wonder if they realize that we are asking them to learn and excel in an environment where there is only one teacher for every 37-40 students? Hardly a recipe for success!

Today, you and I have the opportunity to directly influence the future of Maricopa’s business community by solving these two financial impediments for our student pipeline.

Please join me in voting YES on the MUSD Override and support Maricopa’s students, residents and businesses!

Christian Price, Mayor, City of Maricopa

I am proud of Maricopa and its community spirit. Our victories in the battle of the burbs the last three years are testament to the fact we are stronger when we come together for a common cause! The common cause right now is the MUSD#20 Override!

The Override will provide for $500,000 in technology funding. In this ever-changing world we all know technology needs to be replaced frequently, but some of the children at MUSD are younger than the computers they are using. Some of the outdated hardware and software is no longer supported by the vendors and must be replaced for us to be competitive.

Secondly, The Override will provide up to 50 new teachers for MUSD#20. Seven of those teachers will help establish a new alternative high school program, because some students have difficulty being successful in a large comprehensive high school like MHS. The remaining teachers will be spread among our schools to give us a competitive advantage when it comes to providing gifted programs as well as reducing overall class sizes.

We can do better, we should do better, we must do better, so let’s do better by voting YES on November 8th.

Vincent Manfredi, Maricopa City Council Member & Vote Yes Maricopa Campaign Chair


The MUSD Governing Board requests voters to vote YES on the proposed budget override. The override would increase student academic opportunities, improve our school district and result in a stronger community.

The proposed 10% seven-year budget override would improve our students’ education by reducing K-12 class sizes, adding additional academic programs, and improving instructional technology for students.

Everyone in Maricopa wins with a strong public school system. Thank you for your support of our students and our community. Please join us in voting yes.

Patti Coutre, President
AnnaMarie Knorr, Vice-President
Torri Anderson, Member
Rhonda Melvin, Member
Dr. Gary Miller, Member

When Maricopa Unified School District requested pro and con arguments from residents about its proposed budget override, as legally required for its election material, it received no arguments against it. Eight arguments were received in favor of the override.

Here are some samples:

For the past several years, MUSD 20 has just been getting by. Class sizes are continually growing and, in many cases, have surpassed what most people would consider an effective learning environment. For example, last year some kindergarten classes had over thirty students in them! Our children deserve better!  This is where the community can help. Voting “YES” on the override will help our kids directly by lowering class sizes and offering expanded learning opportunities. “YES” will also greatly expand the technology available to our students and the know-how to integrate that technology. By passing the override, each student in MUSD 20 will be positively affected and will ultimately be better prepared for college and life.

The residents of Maricopa stand at a cross roads and are being asked to make our community better. Together, let’s show the children of our community they are worth the investment. Maricopa is a great place to live and raise a family, but together we can make it better. Voting “YES” will help equip the children of our community with the smaller class sizes and the technology they deserve. Their future depends on us!

Please vote “YES” on the override on November 8th.

Ben Owens, Maricopa resident

Maricopa is at a tipping point. Are we going to be the flourishing community with quality amenities, local jobs, great educational opportunities and low taxes many of us envision?

Do you want to have more stores and services in Maricopa?
Do you want to have employers bring more jobs to Maricopa?
Do you want your property values to increase?
Do you want your taxes to decrease?
Do you want our kids to have the best educational opportunities possible?

If you answered yes to ANY of these questions, you should vote YES on Maricopa USD’s override proposal.

A key to attracting industry to Maricopa is great schools. Businesses won’t locate here if they cannot recruit talent, and one of the first questions potential employees – a.k.a. moms and dads – ask is “How are the schools?” (Same goes for homebuyers!)

In addition to helping develop future doctors, cops, mechanics, teachers, etc., improving education in Maricopa will result in more businesses coming to Maricopa providing services and jobs. Commercial development will increase demand/value for our homes and decrease residents’ tax burden.

MUSD is a “B” district. Let’s give them the resrouces they need to become an “A” district and totally transform our community.

Scott Bartle, Maricopa business owner and former MUSD governing board president

Alan Marchione

By Alan Marchione

A new election cycle is upon us, and once again, we find the Maricopa Unified School District desperately trying to pass another override. The voters have now turned down this proposition six times.  At this point, it’s degrading to the democratic process, and disrespectful to the voter, to continue pushing this redundant agenda which has been vehemently rejected.

While I fully support education, I cannot support an additional education tax that isn’t distributed equitably amongst all of the students in our community.  If you’re a parent whose student attends one of our local charter schools, such as Legacy Traditional, Sequoia Pathway, or Leading Edge, your child won’t see a penny of the override funds.  That’s right, the additional taxes you’d be paying will only benefit those students attending MUSD, and your earnings will be further levied to purchase laptops for someone else’s student.

As for my tax dollars, I’ve become increasingly irritated with the ferocious appetite and sense of entitlement various government entities feel they have on what we earn.  MUSD can word-smith this however it wants to, but it’s further taxation on an already over-taxed community. Between current federal, state, county, city, MUSD, CAC, utility and gas taxes, already higher utility rates, HOA dues, and every other tax and fee that can be put on us, I’d actually like to keep what money I have left – for my family.

MUSD has a wonderful assortment of vibrant and highly qualified teachers.  However, the district is ranking at an embarrassing 75th place, according to Niche.com.  With our district sitting in the lowest quarter of districts statewide, we need to ask ourselves, why?  Marginal net improvement over the past several years indicates a severe lack of innovation and leadership. Money isn’t the only factor in well performing districts, as it comes down to leadership, effective educational philosophy and parental involvement.  Education at school is only one-half of the equation, as the other half is at home with Mom and Dad.

Here lies the important difference between our local public charter schools and MUSD.  Parental involvement.  Our neighborhood charters assign elevated significance on family participation in a child’s learning, and the result is flourishing students. MUSD is serving as a free, glorified daycare for many families, and the district needs to magnify the expectations placed on parent investment in education, instead of throwing money at the problem.

Recently, in an online discussion, Vince Manfredi, chairman of the Vote Yes on the Override campaign, crudely suggested that I thought my children were “too good for MUSD.”  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Children are receiving a comprehensive and more challenging curriculum at our local charter schools – because they are effective, efficient, and accountable. In fact, Legacy Traditional is the No. 1 Charter School in Arizona.  Simply put, as a parent who places immense importance on his children’s education and future prospects, why would I want to send my children to a district ranked 75th, when I can send them to a Charter School with a first class rating?

When considering the current override on the ballot, let’s not forget the additional, newly found revenue the district will be realizing from the recently passed Prop. 123 funds.  How much has our district needlessly spent in its continued attempts to pass the override?  The cumulative cost has been enormous, and one must wonder how that money could have been better allocated. I think MUSD should show us it can perform better within the constraints of its existing budget, as the Charter schools, and other higher performing districts around the state have done.

Alan Marchione is a 10-year resident of Maricopa.

Thanks to a grant from Gila River Indian Community, the award-winning MHS Marching Band will get a uniform upgrade an other improvements. Photo by William Lange

Like any school program, Maricopa High School Marching Band has a lot of needs.

The growing student population means a shortage of uniforms. Contest judges consistently comment the band needs more sousaphones to give the band a richer undertone. The drum line is well past its prime and showing it.

When prioritizing, it was decided new uniforms were No. 1 on the list. That became the focus of fund-raising over the past couple of years.

The other issues, like the aging drum line and a shortage of sousaphones, were set back with hopes of finding funding later.

An announcement this week by the Gila River Indian Community, however, could check all of those items off the wish list.

Uniforms themselves are very expensive. While the band members were rounding up about $5,000 a year, it was still well below what was necessary.

“We knew we needed to do a lot more than that,” MHS Music Director Ivan Pour said.

The entire district is under a tight budget, though it has done what it can to help the music department. Last year’s agreement with the district to match the department’s fund-raising efforts brought the total to almost $30,000 to buy more than 100 uniforms.

The band will be able to buy more instruments, hats and uniform pants with the grant funding. Photo by William Lange
The band will be able to buy more instruments, hats and uniform pants with the grant funding. Photo by William Lange

The uniforms did not include proper marching-band hats. This year, in debuting their new uniforms, the band members have been wearing baseball caps. There is also a shortage of uniform pants.

Parent Carol Shrock heard about grants available from Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and Ak-Chin Indian Community. Such community grants from gaming funds often go to police, libraries and food banks. A marching band seemed a novelty for that program, but Pour suddenly became a grant-writer.

The first grant due was from the GRIC. The band director had a week to fill out the application and submit it. This was near the end of the girls’ basketball season, and Pour filled out paperwork on the bus as the band traveled to Glendale in musical support of the team.

It was the beginning of a seven-month process. Gaming contributions must go through cities and counties. MHS Marching Band partnered with Pinal County and had to get that body’s approval, too.

Wednesday, Pour was informed the Gila River Community Council had voted unanimously to approve a grant for $75,000. It will be paid over two years to the Maricopa High School Band Infrastructure Project.

“This is very exciting for the MHS band program,” Pour said. “This will help improve our performance.”

Though he has not yet been able to speak with a GRIC representative about the grant, Pour believes the band’s reputation had the attention of the council, and the growth of the band has included more GRIC members.

In the notification to the school district, Program Director for the Gila River Office of Special Funding Cheryl Pablo stated, “We will begin processing the award immediately and an official award letter will be sent out as soon as we have it signed by Governor [Stephen Roe] Lewis. I would like to offer my personal congratulations to your organization and look forward to our continued working relationship!”

Pour said the funds will not only allow the band to buy 60-90 pairs of uniform pants, hats and plumes for everyone and the hat boxes to put them in but also will meet the other needs that have been on the back burner.

Normally, pieces of drum line are replaced every six years. MHS band’s drum line is more than 10 years old. The sets were already used when the school purchased them in 2006.

“Some are in rough shape,” Pour said. “Harnesses are starting to give. We’ve done a good job making them last.”

The funding will allow the school to replace that drum line.

Then there are the sousaphones, or marching tubas. The band has been using three tubas, a paltry number for a top-of-the-line marching band. The small-bore tubas are actually meant for orchestra use. Pour said the result of the grant will be seven sousaphones on the field, and the orchestra tubas will be able to go back inside.

The band has not had enough spare instruments to rent to parents who do not buy. Renting from stores can be $20-$50 a month, depending on the instrument. As the school’s music department picks up a few more pieces, parents will be able to rent at a fraction of the store costs.

“We really feel strongly our district supports our program tremendously,” Pour said. “They’ve always tried to do what they can.”

Along with huge gratitude to GRIC, he thanked the district and the county for coordinating the grant process.

Saturday, the MHS Marching Band will perform at the Arizona Marching Band Association (AZMBA) Mesquite Show along with 11 other bands. Oct. 22, the Rams will be in the Sounds along the San Tans Marching Invitational at Basha High School.


Bret Roberts

By Bret Roberts

Having lived in Maricopa since January of 2009 I have seen the override placed on the ballot many times only to fail miserably each and every time. Why is this time any different?

This time it is very clear where the funds will be spent – up to 49 new teachers to reduce class sizes and $500,000 for classroom technology to be specific. Although that in itself is extremely valuable information, for me it wasn’t enough. I needed to overcome some negative perceptions I had come to believe before I could in good conscience get behind it.

In the past I was against the override for a couple reasons. The one that troubled me the most was I kept hearing rumors there was gross mismanagement of funds, which naturally I could not support. Who would want to keep throwing good money after bad to try and fix a problem?

With that being said, I do have to admit that I had not taken the time to investigate these issues in the past. That has since changed, as well as my perception.

These negative perceptions all started for me back when our neighbors the Ak-Chin originally donated funds to MUSD and I heard rumors that they weren’t satisfied with the results of their donation. After addressing this with MUSD’s Superintendant Dr. Steve Chestnut (which, by the way, it bears mentioning the original donation took place in 2010 well before Dr. Chestnut’s tenure started in 2012), I learned this was a first for both MUSD and the Ak-Chin.

Therefore it was an opportunity to learn for both parties. At that time neither one knew what to expect and has since gained a better understanding from the initial experience. Since then our neighbors have graciously donated again, and, from the information I’ve been given, both sides were more prepared and happy with the results.

Another reason that kept my support at bay was I kept hearing MUSD had a top-heavy administration. This was one more perception that has proven to be false. MUSD’s administrative costs are actually 9.7 percent, which is below the state average of 10.2 percent.

Some believe these negative perceptions should be left in the past, never to be mentioned. However my perspective is, it’s imperative to discuss and deal with them head on. I just have a hard time believing we as a community will ever get past these negative rumors unless we talk about and overcome them once and for all. When I started looking into these issues I will admit I was not 100 percent on board and very skeptical as to the information that would be uncovered. At this point, I am glad I took the time to get involved. By attending not all but many meetings (that are open to public by the way) as well as doing a little research on my own I have learned quite a bit on this matter.

It is no secret that Maricopa has more than its share of Facebook groups and one of the most common topics I see in those groups is the subject of “why can’t we get this business or that restaurant”?  Economic development is the answer and for me it is the most important reason I now support the override. It plays a major factor in answering that question.

When businesses look at Maricopa as a potential home they come with a list of things they are looking for, and top-rated schools are usually in the top three. Passing the override and helping our schools become “A”-rated will help in the economic development of Maricopa, and it is an opportunity to remove one of the major reasons a business might use as a factor to not choose our community.

The more places of employment we attract, the more opportunities we will have for that particular restaurant or retail outlet you might be hoping for. Restaurants need lunch crowds to stay in business and until we get more employers in Maricopa we will remain limited at best. I hope I’m doing OK at connecting the dots as to how it is all tied together.

Better schools equal more opportunity for economic development and higher property values. Businesses pay more in taxes than individuals, so the more businesses we attract the more opportunity for individual taxes to be reduced.

Oh, and let’s not forget the benefit to the students.

Speaking of the students, here’s a few factoids to ponder. Were you aware that 68 percent of our prison population did not graduate from high school? Or that each Arizona high school dropout results in approximately $421,280 loss in economic activity and wages during his or her lifetime. As well as the long term economic cost of high school dropouts in the state is as much as $7.6 billion.

One last thing, MHS’s dropout rate is 4 percent. That is 1 percent higher than the states average. Hopefully passing the override will bring us closer to the state average.

As it is my family’s children have graduated from high school so I am not writing this as a parent. I am writing this as a citizen, a taxpayer and an advocate for the city of Maricopa. More importantly to share that when I decided to take the time to look into this I was able to overcome my objections and get behind the override. If you have objections I encourage you to look into them and ask questions, hopefully you will overcome them as I have.

I stated earlier throwing good money after bad to fix a problem is not something I believe in. After researching and educating myself a little more on the issue I believe risking a little up front on an investment, which is exactly how this should be viewed,  as an investment with tremendous potential on the rate of return for Maricopa.  Well that my friends is something I can get behind.

Bret Roberts is a Maricopa resident. He is Pinal County constable in the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Precinct.

This column appeared, in part, in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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Christine Dickinson

By Christine Dickinson

As a mother, teacher and proud Maricopa community member, I am asking voters to support the Maricopa Unified School District #20 Override by voting “Yes” on Nov. 8. This override is essential to bettering our schools for two reasons, it will ensure we hire additional teachers to lower class sizes and will equip our students with 21st century technology.

I am confident that Maricopa Unified School District is in need of this funding because I have been a part of the District Budget Committee for the past two years. I have seen firsthand the consequences of our low funding by the state of Arizona and the impact it is having on my children, my classroom and my students. Currently, MUSD does not have the enrichment programs that our neighboring districts have, and it is time that we make that possible for our kids and students. With these addition funds, we can expand our Gifted program and add enrichment programs to each one of our schools.

In recent years, we have lost highly qualified teachers to other states due to our lack of funding, which causes our class sizes to be over the state and national averages, and we can change that. With additional funding, we can lower our class sizes and ensure all of our classes are at optimal sizes.

My son had 32 students in his class last year – as a kindergartener!

His teacher was the most kind, patient teacher we could ever ask for and she did a fantastic job making sure my son was ready for first grade. But, there is no question in my mind as to why she no longer lives in the state of Arizona and instead chose to move elsewhere to teach in a state that has acceptable class size caps. Although the state of Arizona has suggested class size caps, they do not fund our public schools to ensure we have acceptable class sizes that help to keep teachers teaching.

We can make it happen for our kids.

Our technology needs to be updated because many of our computer labs no longer support the software updates which are essential to ensuring our students are becoming digital citizens and 21st century learners. Many of our labs have computers in them that are older than the kids using them!

With updated technology and devices available to each of our students, we can ensure students are educated in a technology rich environment which will expand their educational opportunities.
As a community we need to come together to support our kids.

Now is the time that we can make a direct impact at the local level and ensure our schools are appropriately funded. Please, join me in voting “Yes” to support our kids.

Christine Dickinson is a mother, teacher and Maricopa resident.