Tags Articles tagged with "MUSD"


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

by -
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.

by -
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.

Social media threats against Maricopa by "scary clowns" appeared briefly this week.

Social media accounts in Maricopa picked up a trend that has run across the country, threatening violence by vindictive clowns.

The scary clowns (or clown apocalypse) spread threats through posts on Twitter and Facebook. Tuesday, at least two accounts – Maricopa Clowns and Clowns of Maricopa – popped up with the same threat: “Sorry Maricopa, But Friday Oct 7th, we are coming to your town. Say goodbye to your friends and family. Good luck.”

Some follow-up posts targeted specific people and areas of town.

By late Wednesday, the accounts were taken down.

Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said MPD investigates the social media posts just like it does harassment calls.

MPD official statement reads in part: “The Maricopa Police Department has been aggressively working to obtain information on those responsible. We encourage parents to be aware of their children’s activity on electronic devices. What may seem like a funny post, email, text or Snapchat associated with the Maricopa Clowns, can cause fear and concern and exhaust resources attempting to determine the viability of this threat.”

Maricopa Unified School District also posted an official statement today regarding the situation: “The District and school leadership are working closely with Maricopa Police in their investigation. No District school or facility has been mentioned in the social media posts. We are asking parents, staff and students as always to be vigilant to any perceived threat and to report any suspicious activity to the Maricopa Police Department (Emergency 911 or Non-Emergency 520-568-3673).”

Similar threats have been made at other school districts in Arizona and in 10 other states. Some have been followed up with pranks that led to arrests, mostly juveniles.

“We will continue to investigate any threats made under the guise of this particular clown movement and insure those responsible are brought to justice,” MPD stated.

by -
Maricopa Elementary School PE teacher was on Channel 3’s AZ Family Morning Talk Show.

Maricopa Elementary School physical education teacher Paul Krigbaum was featured along with four Maricopa Unified School District students on Channel 3’s AZ Family Morning Talk Show on Sunday.

The segment was focusing the program called “Beyond Sports and Fitness” that Krigbaum uses and sees students that are eager to exercise every day for 2 ½ hours after school (except for Wednesday).

Lifestars is a running program that he has started using in this after school program.

“The goal of Healthy Lifestars is for kids to become ‘LifeStars’ by setting and achieving a series of goal setting, exercise and nutrition goals,” Krigbaum said. “The kids are rewarded for incremental accomplishments with LifeStars (a lanyard with stars). Every kid who accomplishes all the goals of the program receives a certificate designating them as a LifeStar. Channel 3 featured the kids going over some of the exercises we do after school. I also talked about the impact of the program and the growing obesity problem our children face today. Programs like this help lower the obesity rate for kids.”

Vincent Manfredi

By Vincent Manfredi

I am proud of Maricopa and its community spirit.

Our victories in the Battle of the Burbs contest the last three years is 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. This Override funds two things.

First, the Override will provide for $500,000 in classroom technology funding. In this ever-changing world we all know technology needs to be replaced frequently, but some of the computers are older than the students using them! Many times the outdated hardware and software is not even supported by the vendors! We need this investment in our education system and the Override will do that.

Secondly, the Override will provide up to 50 new teachers and certified staff for MUSD #20. Seven of those teachers will help establish a new alternative high school program, because as we all know 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, 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 Nov. 8.

Please join me in voting Yes on your early ballots or on Nov. 8 when you go to the polls.

Vincent Manfredi is a member of the Maricopa City Council.

MUSD Board President Patti Coutre. Photo by William Lange

By Patti Coutré

I truly believe that public education should be supported by our elected officials on every level, local, state and federal; and I will always vote for those who will best represent my interests.

It was no surprise to see Steve Smith’s opposition for the MUSD Override.  Per his voting record, he never has supported public education in Maricopa and will never get my vote.  It is extremely frustrating to have two local City Council candidates, Nancy Smith and Dan Frank, not take a position either in support or opposition of the MUSD Override.  How much time would it take to get the information that they need in order to take a stand?

Joshua Babb, newcomer to the political arena, was able to attend an Override Committee meeting and with a few follow up emails get the information that he needed to support the Override.  Why can’t Nancy or Dan do the same?  Do they think that education is not important to the City of Maricopa?  Do they think that because they have previously served on the Council that they should be elected to do so again?  Are they worried that they will lose voters if they take a stand one way or the other?

Maricopa does not need wishy-washy elected officials making, or not making, decisions for our City.  My concern is if either of them is elected as council member, what other future issues will come up that they don’t have the time to research or take a position on?  Education is vital to the growth of our community.  We need more businesses and we need an educated, employable workforce.  Improving our schools will help grow our economy and raise our property values.

The MUSD Override will accomplish this by putting more teachers in the classroom and improving instructional technology.  Going to the polls and voting should not be like pulling the lever on a slot machine, hoping for the “jackpot” but end up with a “bust.”

Patti Coutré is president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

Sen. Smith, in his opinion piece of Aug, 18, states that he opposes the MUSD override because our taxes are already too high and he further suggests that the district look at its “A” schools to see what can be done to improve those schools within the district that have lower grades. The one thing he does not mention is where his children attend school. I am told that they attend the Legacy School which is notan MUSD school. So, it appears he does not value the district’s schools for his family, but feels qualified to advise withholding funds to improve these schools.

Sen. Smith believes that we are Taxed Enough Already (that is the TEA in the TEA Party) and cannot see a small addition to our taxes to improve the schools where he refuses to send his children. Allow an analogy to demonstrate the foolishness of this stance. Suppose that you are already spending $5,000 a year on prescription medicines and your physician recommends a new drug that will relieve that painful symptom of an allergy you have. If that drug would cost an additional $2,400 per year, would you refuse to purchase the medicine since you are already paying enough for prescriptions? Your answer would probably be that if the medicine works, the additional expenditure is worth it.  If you want to argue against the override, tell the public why the new funds will not improve the learning in the district schools. If you cannot demonstrate that the override funds will not help, then do not recommend a “no” vote!

Now, about looking at the A schools to improve the performance of schools whose grade is less than A. The only A school in MUSD is Pima Butte ES. How will looking at an elementary school help the two middle schools and the high school improve their grades? Also, it is well established that the performance of a school can be influenced by the family incomes and parental education levels of students attending that school.  A school with a large contingent of students from affluent families has different needs than a school where a majority of the students are on free lunch.  It would appear that Sen. Smith’s recommendation has little value.

Given that the “taxed enough already” is weak, and that looking at the one A school to improve the other district schools is useless, and given that Sen. Smith’s own children do not attend MUSD school, let us all disregard his advice and vote “yes” on the override.

Murray Siegel is a resident of Maricopa.

Joshua Babb. (photo by Tyler Loveall)

By Joshua Babb

At the City Council debate on Monday, July 25, I was asked whether or not I supported the MUSD budget override. I stated at that time I was undecided I had many important questions that were not answered at that point.

I asked for a meeting with the chairman of the Vote Yes Maricopa committee, Vince Manfredi, and Dr. Steve Chestnut, MUSD superintendent, to answer some of the questions that I had on the issue. Both graciously gave up their time to meet with me and answered several questions in follow-up messages. One of the most important dealt with accountability. The question is, “How will taxpayers be assured that override revenue will do what it’s intended to do?”

I asked this because once the override is approved taxpayers shouldn’t have to wait several years to know if they made the right decision. It is important to me to keep the community informed on how their tax dollars are being spent and if it was a good investment. I was assured that the district would look at putting together a forum of communication that will keep voters informed on MUSD performance.

My next concerns were targeted at the current budgeting and planning so an override would not be necessary in seven years. Dr. Chestnut talked about working with the state to get the funding the school needed. As you and I know, the state Legislature has a history of raiding the education piggy bank to address economic downturn or balance the budget. This needs to stop and voters need to address these issues by voting out any legislator who supports raiding school funding. The state is responsible for funding schools and if it’s properly done, local communities won’t have to tax themselves to make up for shortfalls.

I am now confident in supporting the override.

There are still a few things Maricopa residents need to ask the school board, on a continuing basis and I will take the lead in doing that. I will, as a citizen or councilmember, work with MUSD and the School Board to answer these very important questions:

* “What are you doing to turn around those sixteen or so school busses that are leaving Maricopa every day?” We have a shop-local campaign – maybe we need an “educate local” campaign to convince parents and students that they’re needed and wanted here in Maricopa. Every student that attends school in MUSD brings along revenue that is needed to fund our schools and help make overrides unnecessary.
* What is MUSD long term strategy to ensure we don’t need future overrides?

We need outside-of-the-box solutions to decrease spending and increase classroom education.

Maricopa needs to stand on its own. Economic development depends on having a great local school district. At present, we are outsourcing the education of our kids to the Kyrene and Tempe districts because they have more programs and better overall ratings.

I invite all residents that have any questions for me about my views on the override to contact me and I will gladly sit down and discuss my thoughts. I also welcome any discussion with the current School Board.

I approached this question like I will any issue that I am presented with as your councilmember. I will get the facts and vote from a position of being informed rather that what seems to be popular at the moment. I hope that each of you will vote the same way.

Joshua Babb is a Maricopa resident and a candidate for city council.

By Ethan McSweeney

Soon, buses will be rumbling down Maricopa street,s and students will crowd sidewalks on their way to the first day of classes for the 2016-17 school year at district and charter schools.

Here’s what to expect:Youth-Back-to-school-MUSD

Maricopa Unified School District

With school starting Aug. 8 for MUSD schools, some district-wide changes affecting students include an expansion of before and after-school programs at elementary schools and the district’s blended-learning program, Superintendent Steve Chestnut said.

MUSD school buses will transport 3,600 students to and from school each day this school year.  Keeping buses cool for the first month can be a challenge when temperatures exceed 100 degrees, particularly on the afternoon routes. All MUSD buses have air conditioning, but the air conditioning units are only designed to drop the temperature in the bus 10-15 degrees. MUSD does not provide water to students on buses. Parents are asked to provide a bottle of water for the bus ride home in the afternoons. Another option would be to provide a reusable container that students can fill with water before boarding the school bus. Parents and community members are reminded to exercise caution when driving near schools.

Blended-learning, which teaches students through a combination of laptop-based learning and traditional instruction, will expand its enrollment capacity at Maricopa High School, the middle schools and Santa Rosa Elementary School.

MUSD is expecting 6,500 students this school year. Registration information can be found on the district’s website or at each neighborhood school.

About 25 new staff members will be added across the district following voter approval of Proposition 123, which allows Arizona to tap into the State Land Trust to give K-12 schools $3.5 billion over 10 years.

Chestnut will also be continuing in his role as superintendent of the district through at least 2018. The MUSD Governing Board approved a two-year extension of his contract last year with an annual salary of $147,000.

Maricopa High School

MHS welcomes two new administrators and a few new classes. Principal Renita Myers said a new assistant principal (Stephen Ybarra) and dean of students (Brian Winter) bring years of experience with them to the high school.

A fifth college class through Central Arizona College is added with Biology 181, and each student will have advisory time. “It’s an opportunity to look at their four-year plan,” Myers said. “And it provides more opportunity for kids to connect with their advisers.”

Another new class being offering German, the first time MHS has had a foreign language other than Spanish, Myers said.

Maricopa Elementary School

Maricopa Elementary will continue to work to instill good character habits in its students this year, Principal Jennifer Robinson said. MES teaches students character traits based on the popular book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” each morning beginning with a daily reflection question, she said.

Maricopa Elementary will also be a national board development site for teachers to obtain certification and reflect on their teaching. The certification, Robinson said, is one of the highest a teacher can obtain.

Pima Butte Elementary School

At Pima Butte, Principal Randy Lazar said he’s looking forward to another year with a continued focus on science, technology and the arts. He added they are looking for volunteers to help around the school and at school events.

Pima Butte students have been focusing on developing character traits, including caring, which Lazar said he hopes to show with a food drive during Meet the Teacher Night on Aug. 4. Cans of food and non-perishable food items will be donated to the local food bank, F.O.R. Maricopa.

Saddleback Elementary School

Saddleback plans to maintain the programs it’s been implementing in the past few years, which also include a focus on character development. “We believe that good character is one of the most valuable things our students should possess,” Principal Felicia Williams said in an email. “This seamlessly ties into parental involvement.”

Williams said Saddleback will continue with its mission of exposing students to technology throughout the day in the learning environment, and implementing its 21st Century Community Learning Center program in September.

Santa Cruz Elementary School

Santa Cruz will offer after-school programs this year, including drama, choir and color guard, for its fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, said Loraine Conley, the school’s principal. “We’re really trying to beef up our after-school opportunities,” Conley said.

Conley said she hopes to improve on communication this year at the school and to make Santa Cruz a better user of its technology. She’s excited about the growth Maricopa is experiencing this year with new families coming in. The school has also added a fourth-grade classroom.

CHARTER SCHOOLSYouth-Back-to-school-camino

Camino Montessori

Camino Montessori adds fifth and sixth grades this year following approval from the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, said Judy Webster, founder and director of Camino Montessori. With the increase in enrollment, the school is also actively searching for land and financing for a new campus, Webster said.

School starts Aug. 10.

Leading Edge AcademyYouth-Back-to-school-LE

Leading Edge is finishing construction on a two-story, 18-classroom building, including a gymnasium, on its campus to accommodate its growing enrollment. Principal Mat Reese expects 700 to 725 students this year, up from 430 last year.

The growth at the K-12 charter means the school will be nearly doubling its staff, including teachers, assistants and special education employees. Leading Edge is also be adopting a new curriculum, Reese said. School starts Aug. 9.

Legacy Traditional SchoolYouth-Back-to-school-legacy

A new principal, Amy Sundeen, will be taking the reins at Legacy Traditional School for its 10th year in Maricopa. Sundeen said the new administrative team at the school has several years of experience in Maricopa, and the charter school plans to strengthen its sports programs and work to be more involved in the community.

The first day of school is Aug. 3. Back-to-School Night is Aug. 1. Legacy is also now a fixed stop on COMET, City of Maricopa Express Transit, so students that didn’t have transportation before can now use the bus, Sundeen said.

Sequoia PathwayYouth-Back-to-school-SPA

Sequoia Pathway is undergoing major changes as it restructures its administration to have principals at the elementary, junior high and high school levels as enrollment grows. Rachael Lay is the elementary principal, Diane Silvia the junior high principal, and the high school principal is Nate Lamma.

The charter school is expecting around 1,160 students this year, up from just below 1,000 last year, with students wait-listed to get enrolled. Sequoia Pathway will adopt a new math program for grades K through nine that is more aligned with AzMERIT, and it plans on increasing Advanced Placement class offerings.

On the athletic side, Sequoia Pathway will have 11-man football this year, a change from 8-man football, and the elementary school will offer intramural sports.

Its Meet the Teacher Night is scheduled for Aug. 4. School starts Aug. 8.

This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Joshua Judd is inviting everyone to show their support by participating in Apples for the Override. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa will be taking on a decidedly apple flavor next week with a new opportunity for residents of all ages to show their support for the school district’s override bid.

Businesses participating in Apples for the Override so far:
Brooklyn Boys
Crate Coffee
Hart Computer Solutions
K’Bella Salon & Day Spa
Napa Auto Parts
Raceway Bar & Grill
Tacos ‘n’ More
Yes! Beauty Supply
Yogurt Jungle

“’Apples for the Override” is a promotion for the override that people are going to see in local businesses they go to daily,” said Joshua Judd, who is on the Vote Yes, Maricopa committee.

Maricopa Unified School District is seeking a 10-percent budget override, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Paper apples will be available at cash registers of participating businesses. Supporters of the override can can also donate to the cause and they can write their names on the apples and have them displayed in the store.

The idea for “Apples for the Override” was Judd’s after he saw the kind of attention similar campaigns received for other causes.

Judd has three children attending Pima Butte Elementary and he is a familiar face at school events and promoting school improvement.

“I grew up in Connecticut where the state’s per-student spending is double what it is here,” he said.

Judd has been involved in past override attempts but said he feels a different tone this year. In the past, he said, there has been a lack of knowledge of how the school funding system works. Now many residents see the override as “kind of local control,” he said.

“We have all political sides on this,” he said. “The mayor’s a big supporter and [Councilmembers] Bridger [Kimball] and of course Vincent [Manfredi].”

Another ongoing campaign to draw attention to the override is the “Leap of Faith,” in which supporters like Mayor Christian Price jump into the pool in work clothes.

Check out how that is going and learn more about the override on the Facebook page Vote Yes Maricopa. Businesses that want to participate in “Apples for the Override” may also call Judd at 480-330-9130. Apples will be on display starting Aug. 1.

by -
MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Devin Carson

By Ethan McSweeney

A few additional teachers and extra equipment for students are among the changes to the Maricopa Unified School District’s budget override. Governing Board will vote Wednesday to move the ballot process forward and gather pros and cons.

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.
•    2 Instructional Technology Integration Teachers
•    1 Elementary Teacher on Special Assignment
•    3 Elementary Counselors
•    1 Elementary/Middle School Librarian
•    595 student laptops ($544 each – includes tax and shipping)    $323,680
•    17 locked computer carts with charging stations ($1,530 each)    $26,010
•    1 tech support staff member (salary and benefits)            $45,000
•    Computer Licensing                              $45,000
•    Technology Equipment and Supplies                   $30,310
•    Instructional Tech Professional Development for teachers        $30,000
Source: Maricopa Unified School District

Under the revisions to what would be added with passage of the 10 percent, seven-year budget override, 50 new teachers are proposed, up from 47 teachers. Also, 595 student laptops would be purchased, increasing from 490, in additional to other small increases in technological equipment for a total of $500,000 in spending, according to MUSD.

The slight changes to the number of teachers and technology in the proposal are a result of increased enrollment in the district, which makes the 10 percent increase, said MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. The district Governing Board voted to send the override to the 2016 general election ballot back on Nov. 18, 2015.

The vote Wednesday is a procedural vote that will set a deadline of Aug. 19 for submitting “for” and “against” arguments for the ballot, Chestnut said. The Governing Board will also vote on its argument in support of the override measure.

If approved, the override would increase secondary property taxes by a rate of $133 per $100,000 of assessed value each year. The override would provide the added funds by the 2017-18 school year.

Those new hires would include 24 elementary teachers, six middle school teachers and 13 high school teachers. Thirty-two teachers of the 50 would be hired in an effort to reduce class sizes with another four teachers at the middle school and high school levels to add academic programs, according to MUSD.

Seven teachers would also be added at the high school level for a new alternative program. This program, according to MUSD, would aid students who have difficulty learning at a large high school like Maricopa High School.

Proposition 123 passage

Maricopa Councilmember Vincent Manfredi, who is the chairman of the “Vote Yes on the Override” campaign, said he isn’t too concerned that voters may not want to support the budget override after the passage of Proposition 123, which will add $3.5 billion to Arizona schools over the next 10 years, because that money is going to all school districts, not just Maricopa.

About 51 percent of Arizona voters approved Proposition 123, which was sent to the ballot to solve a years-long dispute over whether the state underfunded schools during the recession years.

“It gives money to everyone, including Kyrene [School District] and Tempe [Union High School District],” Manfredi said. “It still leaves Maricopa at a competitive disadvantage.”

Kyrene and Tempe Union, which have voter-approved overrides in place, are able to draw Maricopa students away from MUSD because those districts are able to offer more, which won’t change with the approval of Proposition 123, Manfredi said.

Passage of the override this fall, he said, would help MUSD better compete with those districts by providing the additional teachers and technology the district needs.

Maricopans haven’t been receptive to override measures in the past with voters striking down the previous six that have appeared on the ballot.

Manfredi said Maricopans often express their community pride through outlets like the “Battle of the Burbs”, which Maricopa has won.

“I see the community pride involved and it bothers me that we don’t have that same community pride in our school system,” Manfredi said.

Positions to fill at MUSD

As voters decided on the override question that would include 50 extra teachers, MUSD is looking to fill 18 open positions at its schools for the upcoming academic year.

The openings, as of Friday, include: math, chemistry and history teachers at MHS; math, language arts and Spanish teachers at Desert Wind Middle School; a special education math teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School; a fourth grade teacher at Butterfield Elementary School; and a kindergarten teacher at Maricopa Elementary School.

Four registered nurses, two speech and language pathologists and a special education behavioral counselor are also needed at the district.

Some of the open specialized positions, such as the speech and language pathologist and the special education jobs, are always more difficult to fill, Chestnut said.

MUSD also has three coaching positions open, including a varsity cheerleading head coach at MHS and a baseball coach and a softball coach at Desert Wind.

by -
Maricopa Unified School District Administrative Office

By Ethan McSweeney

Money for new teachers, a salary boost for employees and an increased bonus for staff are included in the proposed $40.6 million budget approved by the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board Wednesday for the upcoming school year.

The passage of Proposition 123 and additional inflation funding mean MUSD has about $3.5 million in addition revenue it can spend. In total, MUSD expects about $44.6 million in revenue for the 2016-17 school year, according to the proposed budget.

Arizona voters approved Proposition 123 on a tight 51-49 margin last month, which allowed the state to tap into the State Land Trust to provide schools with $3.5 billion in additional revenue.

The school district plans to hire 28 additional staff members, with new revenues from Proposition 123 and inflation paying for 25 of them at a cost of about $1.3 million. The planned hires include 13 teachers, a nurse, a security officer, a mental health counselor and others.

The proposed budget also includes a 3.9 percent salary increase for all staff members, and another $535,000 will be spent on an annual bonus for MUSD employees.

Additionally, $200,000 more will go to curriculum materials. MUSD also plans to place about $315,000 into the budget reserve, according to the proposed budget.

No one spoke during the public comment period offered before the board voted on the proposed budget at its Wednesday meeting.

The final version of the budget will go before the MUSD board for approval at its July 13 meeting. Other than a few typos that need to be corrected, the proposed budget approved by the board Wednesday will be the same budget that will go before the board in July, Superintendent Steve Chestnut said.

New MHS assistant principal
At the meeting, the MUSD board also approved the hiring of Stephen Ybarra as the new assistant principal at Maricopa High School.

Ybarra worked at Globe High School last year and was the principal for Sunnyside High School in Tucson prior to that. He has also worked as an administrator and a teacher in Chandler, Phoenix and Superior.

“His knowledge and experience will be a great addition to the staff,” Chestnut said in a statement.

Ybarra told the board that he enjoys working at school districts like MUSD that have one high school.

“When you have a one high school situation, the community is always there to support,” Ybarra said.

The board also accepted the resignation of MHS physical education teacher and former basketball coach Jacob Neill.


by -
MUSD Governing Board is deciding the budget impact of Prop. 123 funds. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

With additional funding from Proposition 123 secured, Maricopa Unified School District introduced a plan to use the cash to add 13 new teachers and other hires, as well as salary boost for employees.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut presented the proposed new spending for next year’s budget at the district’s Governing Board meeting Wednesday night. MUSD will receive more than $3.46 million in additional revenue for the next school year with $2.5 million of that coming from Proposition 123, which Arizona voters approved on a razor-thin margin last month.

More than $926,000 of the additional money would go to a 3.7-percent salary increase for MUSD employees under the proposal.

“We’re very excited to be able to propose that,” Chestnut said. “It’s the largest increase we’ve offered in many years as a result of passage of 123.”

More than $700,000 is included next year to pay for the additional 13 teachers. MUSD would need to work to fill those positions for the next school year, Chestnut said.

It’s possible additional revenue for the next school year will increase slightly in the near future above the $3.4 million, Chestnut said.

Potential new hires also include an additional security officer, a nurse, a mental health counselor and three in-school suspension teachers. Five special education staff members, including two teachers, are proposed in new spending, too.

“Our special ed. population continues to grow and get more complex,” Chestnut said. “We’re excited about the fact that we will have some cost savings this year in special education expenditures.”

Those savings will come from being able to bring 12 special education students who currently go to Casa Grande for school to come back to Maricopa, Chestnut said. The Southwest Education Center, which provides service to the students, plans to place a teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School for those 12.

The proposal also includes $535,000 for an annual stipend for all returning staff. This year’s stipend would be much larger than what was paid out last year, Board Member Gary Miller said.

A preliminary budget will be presented at the next MUSD Governing Board meeting on June 22, which will allow input to be provided on creating the final budget for the 2016-17 school year. That final budget will be introduced at the July 13 meeting.

By a 51-49 margin, Arizona voters in May approved Proposition 123, which will allow Arizona to tap into the State Land Trust to provide K-12 schools with an addition $3.5 billion over the next 10 years.

The measure was introduced to settle a long-standing lawsuit from the schools against the state Legislature. A judge determined the state owed schools up to $1.3 billion for failing to provide the required inflation funding increases during the recession years.

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

Teachers and technology have been top selling points for the “Vote Yes on the Override” campaign in Maricopa.

City Councilman Vincent Manfredi is chairman of the campaign, and he, too, emphasizes the need for more teachers and tech. Raising taxes is not his modus operandi. Maricopa Unified School District’s proposed budget override would increase what taxpayers give the school in property taxes by $11 per month on $100,000 of assessed value.

The question goes to voters in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Supporting an override is not a knee-jerk reaction for Manfredi, despite having three daughters in MUSD schools. After the district failed six times to pass an override, he took a closer look.

“I dove deep into the budget,” he said.

Through his work with the MUSD Budget Committee, he became convinced the district had cut all the fat, was down to bare bones in administration – “Some of those people are doing two or three jobs,” he said – and classes were burgeoning.

“Twenty-five is OK in a class,” he said. “But some classrooms have 30 to 35 kids. That’s not good.”

Override proposal
4 teachers at Butterfield Elementary School
4 teachers at Maricopa Elementary School
3 teachers at Pima Butte Elementary School
4 teachers at Saddleback Elementary School
2 teachers a Santa Cruz Elementary School
2 teachers at Santa Rosa Elementary School
2 teachers at Desert Wind Middle School
2 teachers at Maricopa Wells Middle School
9 teachers at Maricopa High School
2 elementary teachers on special assignment
2 instructional technology integration specialists
3 elementary counselors
1 elementary librarian
7 teachers for new alternative high school program

$334,600 for 490 laptop computers
$45,000 for additional tech staff
$38,000 for computer licensing
$30,910 for tech equipment/supplies
$30,000 for instructional technology professional development
$21,420 for 14 computer carts

As proposed, the override would give the district funding for 47 more teachers and $500,000 in instructional technology. Seven of the teachers would be for a proposed “alternative” program at the high school.

Manfredi saw from previous override campaigns using the plea “It’s for the kids” doesn’t work in Maricopa.

To give the override campaign a better chance for success, Manfredi pushed the community impact of the vote. He also started the campaign earlier.

Because of the district’s history of failure on the issue, he knew changing minds was going to be imperative.

“I’ve been able to bring some staunch No’s over to Yes,” he said. “We’ve gotten these people that have voted no six times in a row to come out and help at events.

“We have to explain it differently than it used to be.”

This time, he is using some insight gained from his time on the city council as selling points. The link between a strong school district and a community’s economic development was part of that insight.

“A good school system is like a magnet,” Manfredi said. “Communities with good school have less crime and more economic development.”

He said it is a reflection of the community as a whole. If people looking for a home are drawn to Maricopa because of its three-time win as best suburb of Phoenix, one of the first things they look at is the school system.

With around 1,300 students being bused out of Maricopa every day to override-rich schools in Kyrene and Tempe, MUSD has difficult competition and fewer resources. Still when the state passed out letter grades, MUSD raised its rating from a C to a B.

“There are so many benefits to neighborhood schools,” Manfredi said. “It’s all about community pride.”


What MUSD budget override means to students

By Jamie Cluff

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved a 10-percent, seven-year override that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, with the additional tax projected to be $132 per year on a home with an assessed value of $100,000. This override would allow the hiring of up to 47 K-12 teachers in 2017-18 to reduce the large class sizes and provide expanded academic programs for students. It would also provide more technology for instructional purposes.

The issue of money is not what matters in this override proposal. What’s at issue is students, the community and MUSD being able to provide the best education they can for their youth.

“Since it is a Saturday, and I am not at work, I can tell you that I think it should pass,” an MUSD staff member said at the March 19 Salsa Festival while a group of community members gave out information asking people to vote yes.

The students at Maricopa High School had a lot to say about the proposal once they learned how it affected the school. Shelby Hanks, a 2016 graduate, said, “Even though I won’t be here, I saw the effect this year of too many students coming in and not a lot of teachers to counteract it, so the class sizes were big… I definitely think it should pass.”

When asked, most students didn’t even know what the override was.

“I’m sad that we don’t have that now,” MHS incoming sophomore Alexius Karr said after she was informed of the details.

Carter Petty, an incoming senior at MHS, explained why he thinks the override should pass: “Large classes take away the interpersonal student-teacher relationship.”

“It will give new opportunities to Maricopa [Unified School District],” incoming senior Crystal Galavan said about the $500,000 that would go toward the instructional technologies.

The override would allow the district to hire 47 new teachers to spread around its nine schools. Butterfield, Maricopa, Pima Butte, Saddleback, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Elementary School would each get 2-4 teachers for class size reduction. Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle School would get one teacher for class size reduction and one teacher for expanded academic programs. MHS, with 1,850 students, would receive five teachers for class size reduction and four teachers for expanded academic programs.

“I wish it had come sooner,” said Anna Cardinal, an incoming junior who, if the override passes, would experience the benefit her senior year.

Jamie Cluff is a student at Maricopa High School.

These stories appeared in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Second Saturday Market is winding up for the season this week.

In a sure sign of summer, the last 2nd Saturday Maricopa Market of the season is this week while summertime activities are just getting started. For details on the following events and others, or to add your own, visit InMaricopa.com/Calendar.


A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is May 8 at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, 44480 W. Honeycutt Road, Suite 106.


Skill Drills for Pickleball starts at 10:30 a.m. for ages 55 and up at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.


Coffee with Friends of the Maricopa Library starts at 1:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Leading Edge Academy Enrollment Open House & Registration starts at 6 p.m. at Leading Edge Academy, 18700 N. Porter Road.


Little Cookers, a cooking class for ages 5-12, is 5-6 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board Meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.


Maricopa Chamber Breakfast is at 7 a.m. in the ballroom at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 Maricopa Road. Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent will explain Proposition 123.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Ak-Chin Social Services, 48227 W. Farrell Road.


2nd Saturday Maricopa Market is from 8 to 11 a.m. at Copper Sky Regional Park, 55345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Come early for fresh produce – 60 pounds for $10 – and enjoy an array vendors.

Coffee with the Chief is at 8 a.m. at Copper Sky Police Substation training room, 17985 N. Greythorne Drive.

Fossil Creek Backpacking leaves at 8 a.m. from Copper Sky Regional Park, 55345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. for an overnight trip.

Mental Health Awareness Event is from 10 a.m. to noon on the Great Lawn at Copper Sky Regional Park, 55345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The awareness event is in honor of individuals and families coping with mental illness.

Movies Under the Stars Dive-In: Minions starts around 6:30 p.m. at the Copper Sky Aquatics Center, 55345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Art filled the meeting rooms at the district offices during the MUSD Art Walk. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa Unified School District hosted the fourth annual district-wide Art Walk at the district office May 5.

It was the biggest show to date, with hundreds of pieces from all schools and all ages on display. There was also art from teachers and other staff members. First through third place ribbons were awarded in the different school levels.

High school and middle school bands and choirs performed in the courtyard behind the building.

by -
Santa Rosa Elementary School students at FMSC. Submitted photo

May 5, 85 students, teachers and parent volunteers from Santa Rosa Elementary School went on a field trip to Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) in Mesa.

The fifth grade students as well as the Student Council spent several hours packing boxes of food for needy children who live in the Philippines. For many of the students, this opportunity was their first experience with serving others.

At the end of the packing time, students are informed of how many boxes, meals and children were served by the hours spent working. Santa Rosa students were able to package 19,410 meals. This totaled 90 boxes feeding more than 53 children for an entire year.

Also, the Student Council was able to donate money to the nonprofit organization FMSC earned from Jamba Juice sales. The monies will feed four additional children for a year.

FMSC is a Christian non-profit organization.

by -

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to think about keeping children healthy while school is out.

Maricopa Unified School District provides free meals to children during the summer regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service.

This summer, meals will be served at the schools listed below.  There are no income requirements or registration.  Any child under age 18 may come to eat.  For more information, contact Suzette Moe, director of Child Food and Nutrition Programs at 520-568-5100, ext. 1034.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture partners with local organizations like MUSD to provide free meals to children when school is out for the summer.  For more information about the national Summer Food Service Program, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer.

All sites will run 4 days per week:

May 31 through June 16

Maricopa Elementary
Breakfast 7:30–8:30 / Lunch 11–12:30

Butterfield Elementary
Breakfast 7:30–8:30/Lunch 11–12:30

May 31 through July 3

Saddleback Elementary
Breakfast 7:30–8:30/Lunch 11–12:30

May 31 through June 16 – Lunch ONLY

Desert Wind Middle School
Lunch 11–12:30

by -
Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey has taken command early of Maricopa High School's Air Force Jr. ROTC program.

“This is my calling. This is my passion,” Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey said of his new position at Maricopa High School.

Kirksey is the new leader of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (Jr. ROTC). He replaces Maj. James Alonzo, who is retiring.

He said being able to “get my feet wet” by substituting the last two months of the school year has allowed him to get set up in the MHS system instead of trying to get organized in August.

Kirksey enlisted in the U.S. Air Force out of high school in 1979. He re-enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1984. He was commander of the 161st Security Forces Squadron. Kirksey was deployed as the wing senior intelligence officer in support of Operation Desert Shield, Deny Flight, Phoenix Scorpion and Southern Watch.

When he retired in 2015 he was the wing chief of staff.

A product of the Arizona school system, Kirksey has volunteered hundreds of hours at Phoenix area high schools.

“I’ve been working for kids for years,” he said.

His wife, a sixth-grade teacher, has taught in Phoenix for 23 years.

When Alonzo announced he was retiring, Kirksey felt he was in the right place at the right time to take the reins of the Jr. ROTC program in Maricopa.

Allen Kirksey. Submitted photo
Allen Kirksey. Submitted photo

Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Steve Chestnut, whom Kirksey refers to as “my boss’s boss’s boss,” called Kirksey “a very unique person.”

“He brings a very distinguished career to Maricopa High School,” Chestnut said.

Kirksey earned the Meritorious Service Medal twice. In 2011, he received the Excellence in Diversity Award, which recognizes service members who contribute to mission readiness and diversity initiatives that impact the National Guard, state and local community.

In 2014, he received the Calvin C. Goode Lifetime Achievement Award from the City of Phoenix.

He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Phoenix.

Kirksey has already accompanied 53 MHS cadets to an air show at Luke Air Force Base. Next school year, he anticipates a return to Luke to tour the F-35 and the F-15 and try out the simulators. Also on the schedule is a trip to Davis-Montham Air Force Base in Tucson to tour an A-10 Warthog, a trip to Fort Huachuca to see the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, then back to Phoenix to see a KC-135 Stratotanker. Fifteen cadets may get to go on an air-refueling mission.

by -
Photo courtesy of chaperone Merry Grace

On April 29, students from the Blended Learning Programs at Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle Schools traveled to the Disneyland Parks in Anaheim, California.

The students raised funds for this trip by selling concessions at football games, hosting rummage sales, and selling merchandise throughout the year. Upon arrival, students split into small groups to explore both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. Students returned to their bus at the park’s closing, and slept the entire time on the return trip to Maricopa.

Highlights of the trip included the new Star Wars – themed attractions and Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Celebration. The students had a great time and the Blended Learning students who are currently in sixth and seventh grade are looking forward to next year’s field trip.

“We are so proud of all of the hard work that these students put in to earn this trip,” Robyn Rice, the Blended Learning science and math teacher said. “They put in a lot of extra hours to raise the money for the buses, and they worked hard in class all year to be eligible for the trip. It was a pleasure to be able to take these students on this trip and see the joy in their faces.”

Written by Emma Schrader, seventh grade student at Maricopa Wells Middle School, Blended Learning Program.

Maricopa Unified School District teachers won the bowling trophy during the first Keeping Teachers Teaching event this year: (from left) Wendy Wear, former Arizona Cardinal Frank Sanders, Derek Picha, Steven Sorenson, Kathleen Kelley and KTT founder Darryl Gooden. Submitted photo

The inaugural Arizona Teachers Appreciation Fun Run is set for Saturday at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix, and Maricopa teachers are invited to the free event.

Created by the organization Keeping Teachers Teaching, the 2K run/walk is sponsored by Ak-Chin Indian Community. The event is free for teachers to enter, and the first 366 to register get a T-shirt.

There will be entertainment, a DJ, vendors, free food, kid-friendly activities and a performance by FootKlan.

The events run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Local celebrities, professional athletes and gold medalist Michelle Perry (2005 World Championships, 100-meter hurdles) will join teachers and participants.

Organizer Darryl Gooden, a Maricopa resident and substitute teacher, said he started a series of morale boosting events for teachers as a way to give back.

“Teachers are overworked and underpaid,” Gooden said. “A lot of them are leaving the profession. And these are good teachers. We just wanted to find a way to say ‘Thank you,’ to show them we value them, to keep them teaching.”

The first Keeping Teachers Teaching event was a bowling tournament for Arizona school districts joined by Arizona celebrities. Teachers from Maricopa Unified School District, with former Arizona Cardinal Frank Sanders, won the trophy.

For Saturday’s event, teachers will meet at the park at 300 E. Indian School Road. Parking is in Lot C, and registration is at the amphitheater.

That evening is International Jazz Day from 4 to 10 p.m. at CityScape, 1 E. Washington St. This event is also free to teachers with their teaching ID. That includes access to the VIP tent, an event poster, T-shirt, food, two drinks and a photo op with the jazz musicians.

For everyone else, there is a $20 general admission fee. Parking is available in the underground parking lot of CityScape.

“We honor veterans and first responders; I just thought it was time to show our appreciation for teachers,” Gooden said.

Visit www.keepingteachersteaching.org.