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MWMS

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A Maricopa Wells Middle School student film was a winner at the Show Low Film Festival this weekend.

“Kindness Equals Calm” was the Best Student Film award. The festival took place Oct. 12-14 in Lakeside featuring both short and feature films by independent filmmakers from around the world. The three-day event featured workshops from professionals, guest speakers, VIP events, and an awards ceremony.

The students who produced “Kindness Equals Calm” are Kaden Rogers (director), Zoie Zimpleman (actress, screenwriter), Thomas Abel (actor, storyboard editor), Rori Gosiak (head writer), Joseph Abel (camera 1) and Aubrey Pick (actress, assistant to the director, screenwriter).

The film is a comedy about a group of young people who embark on a weekend journey to Camp Shinebright with their overly enthusiastic therapist, played brilliantly by MUSD Butterfield Elementary teacher Liz Zimpleman.  The film was created during the 2017-18 school year as part of Blended Learning instructor Joe Szoltysik’s film class.

The students received their award on Sunday at the Hon-Dah Resort Casino Banquet Hall in Pinetop.

 

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For the third year, the Maricopa Wells Middle School Dance Team performed at Arizona Diamondbacks Dance Day on Sept. 23.

“The students danced with excellence and positively represented Maricopa Schools with their performance and with their behavior etiquette,” instructor Yvonne Palm said. “I am so proud of the students on this dance team and their accomplishments in this performance.”

The student also enjoyed the baseball game as the Diamondbacks hosted the Colorado Rockies. The MWMS Dance Team is comprised of 21 members.

Photo by Angelica Ramis

The 11th annual Kids Day Maricopa, a free event presented by A1 Health & Wellness Clinic, took over Maricopa Wells Middle School Saturday. Kids entertained and were entertained. First responders brought their vehicles to be examined, including a helicopter, Wildman Phil brought reptiles and other critters, families tried a variety of crafts and enjoyed a petting zoo, special guests appeared, dancers, cheer squads and karate students demonstrated their skills, and there was much more. Click photo to enlarge.

Back to School

From left: June Celaya, Thad Miller and Brian Winter

By Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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The students in the Maricopa Wells Middle School 20+1 Blended Learning programs wrote, produced, and performed original short stage plays based on well-known fairy tales. The students took fairy tales and rewrote them to create original “Fractured Fairy Tales.”

The sixth-eighth grade students performed their plays at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center March 27-28.

In all, the audiences were treated to 32 original plays written and performed by the students. All of the plays were set to digital backgrounds that were created by the students. Rather than build sets, the project required the students to create digital backgrounds that were timed to change with the dialogue and setting of the play.

It was a first-time experience for many of the students to be on stage. They also received help from the MHS Theater Tech department and teacher Kevin Piquette, and parents helped with costumes.

Thad Miller became principal at Maricopa Wells Middle School this year. Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Thad Miller has spent his entire professional career at Maricopa Unified School District. And his 20-plus years as an employee were preceded by 13 years as an MUSD student.

“It was a small farming town back then, but we always had high expectations,” said Miller, who attended Maricopa Elementary School.

Miller, a 1986 MHS graduate, moved with his family to Maricopa from Maryvale when he was 5 years old.

After receiving his teaching certificate from Arizona State University, Miller returned to Maricopa to teach middle school science in 1997.

“It was a pride thing,” Miller said of his decision to teach in Maricopa. “I wanted to help the community I came from, and that’s the way I still feel.”

He spent 15 years coaching middle school football, basketball and other sports on the same fields and courts he played on in high school.

“I grew up Maricopa Rams,” said Miller, who still sports his iconic, red, Converse sneakers every Friday.

Miller has been married to fellow MHS alumna Pauline Miller for 20 years, and their seven children have all attended MUSD schools.

In 2012, Miller began easing into administration at MWMS as a part-time teacher on special assignment focused on discipline, while still teaching science courses, before becoming a full-time assistant principal there.

Miller worked nearly a decade under former MWMS Principal Rick Abel.

Photo by Mason Callejas

“He was a great mentor for me, and we had a great situation. And it just so happened things went the way they did this year and changes were made,” Miller said.

District officials transferred Abel from the middle school to Maricopa High School last fall after MHS principal Renita Meyers resigned.

Miller said the transition was tough on students and staff – as it was not the first temporary change in administration that semester. Months before Miller was named principal, he had been placed at MHS to fill the slot of another assistant principal for a short time.

Miller’s return to MWMS helped staff and students better adjust to the transition, he said.

“It was one of those things where you don’t like change, but there is no reason to sit around and whine and complain. Our solution is to work together and move forward, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Miller said.

The former teacher, coach and disciplinarian said he practices positivity in every encounter with students in an ongoing effort to build relationships.

Abel said Miller has always been a “student-focused” educator.

“As a classroom teacher he had great management skills, and I think it’s the same in his administrative role,” Abel said. “Kids understand what they are expected to do, and he’s consistent with working with them.”

Among the changes at MWMS this school year, students welcomed 270 sixth graders back to campus, growing the student population to nearly 850, Miller said.

Additional challenges came from parents criticizing the school online, claiming student behavior is not properly addressed by administration. Miller said there is no major discipline problem at MWMS, though parents and guardians are welcome to visit him to express concerns.

“Passionate parents are who I like dealing with. They may have complaints at times, that’s OK.” Miller said. “I’m here to solve those complaints and make things better.”

Photo by Mason Callejas

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

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The Innovacia team of Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick and Alexis Herrera from Maricopa Wells Middle School won the Arizona regional of Future City competition and a free trip to Washington, D.C. Submitted photo

The MUSD middle school 20+1 programs finished first and second place in the Arizona Regional Future City Competition.

A team of students from Maricopa Wells Middle School, who named their city Innovacia, won the Arizona Regional Future City competition. The team has won an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Nationals Future City competition on February 16-21. The team members are Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick and Alexis Herrera. Their engineering mentor is Robb Witte. The teachers are Robyn Rice and Joseph Szoltysik.

A team of students from Desert Wind Middle School, who named their city Juntos, finished in second place. The team members are Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle and Kaden McKenzie. Their engineering mentor is Steve Hull. The teachers are Shannon Hull and Jennifer Szoltysik.

In addition to winning the first- and second-place awards, teams from Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle Schools won several other awards at the competition. The 20+1 students from Maricopa Unified School District won 8 of the 16 society awards given at the Arizona Regional Competition.

Desert Wind Middle School’s Juntos team of Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle and Kaden McKenzie placed second in the regional. Submitted photo

Maricopa Wells Awards:

1st Place: Innovacia – Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick, Alexis Herrera

Best City Essay: Veneti Visione – Thomas Abel, Kaden Rogers, Zoie Zimpleman, Robert Hahn, Elin Dayley

Best City Model: Sottena – Matea Bernales, Brianna Coronado, Dimitri Freeman, Lauren Jurado, Jacobey West

Best Short Video: Sottena – Matea Bernales, Brianna Coronado, Dimitri Freeman, Lauren Jurado, Jacobey West

Award of Distinction: Nanahi – Amelia Gross, Dylan Hahn, Victoria Richardson, Aleyhia Marshall, Tanis Palmer

Best Land Surveying Practices: Vicoso – Elena Antunez, Maverick Miller, Bailey Rigby, Sawyer Coatney, Milo Coatney

Best Design for Sustainability: Orimos – Rori Gosiak, Alexander Grace, Emma Kulinowski, Natalie Weeks, Joshua Kulinowski

Community Awareness Award: Innovacia – Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick, Alexis Herrera

Most Innovative Structure: Veneti Visione – Thomas Abel, Kaden Rogers, Zoie Zimpleman, Robert Hahn, Elin Dayley

Walton Sustainable Community Award: Veneti Visione – Thomas Abel, Kaden Rogers, Zoie Zimpleman, Robert Hahn, Elin Dayley

Desert Wind Awards

2nd Place: Juntos – Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle, Kaden McKenzie

Best Future Transportation System: Juntos – Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle, Kaden McKenzie

Best Team Effort: Toro de Barcelona – Jailynn Cannon, Molly Jorgenson, Sadie Titus, Baily Martinez, Stephany Villanuevos Carrasco, Emma Huffaker

Most Innovative Design: Juntos – Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle, Kaden McKenzie

 

Evana Santee. Submitted photo

The Maricopa Unified School District hired from within to fill a vacant administrator position at Maricopa Wells Middle School.

Out of 33 applicants, a hiring committee recently chose current Maricopa High School Dean of Students Evana Santee to fill the role of assistant principal. She will begin at MWMS when school resumes from winter break Jan. 9, according to district documents.

Santee came to the district this school year from Desert Heights Academy in Phoenix.

“In the short time she has been here, she has made a noticeable impact at the high school and she has demonstrated her strong commitment to our students,” said Tom Beckett, MUSD human resources director.

The New Jersey native moved to Arizona last year with her family. She began teaching 11 years ago and has since held a variety of teaching and administrator positions, according to her online biography.

At MWMS, Santee will be the primary administrative support for Principal Thad Miller who has been managing the school with a vacant assistant principal position for nearly two months, Beckett said.

Santee replaces former Assistant Principal Mallory Miller, who resigned Oct. 3.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the younger population of students to help prepare them academically, emotionally, mentally and socially for their high school experience,” Santee said Wednesday. “I’m excited to collaborate with Principal (Thad) Miller to support MWMS staff, students and parents.”

MUSD posted an advertisement on its website Tuesday for Santee’s current position at MHS. The high school is also currently interviewing candidates for an assistant principal.

The district governing board will vote to approve Santee’s new position Nov. 29. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.


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Submitted photo

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

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

Mallory Miller. Photo by William Lange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Michelle Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thad Miller to return to MHS Monday

Maricopa Wells Middle School

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

Rick Abel

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

Abel could not be reached for comment.

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

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

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

Maricopa Wells Middle School

The Maricopa Police Department is investigating an anonymous threat sent to a Maricopa Wells Middle School student yesterday.

MPD Spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said the alleged threat was vague, but included “somebody coming to the school with firearms.”

Alvarado said the message was sent through a social media app that allows messages to be shared anonymously.

After the threat was reported to police by a school resource officer, MPD increased its patrols around the middle school and assigned its Detectives Division to investigate.

MPD interviewed the student who received the threatening message as well as “some other people that we thought may have been involved,” Alvarado said.

But so far the team has been unable to substantiate the threat or identify a suspect.

“We’ve tried to contact the social media app provider and tried to get information from it – who sent the message – but so far they have not been willing to help,” Alvarado said.

MWMS Principal Rick Abel said MPD and the Maricopa Unified School District are working together to identify the sender.

“Our No. 1 responsibility is keeping kids safe and we continue to take the necessary steps to meet that goal,” Abel said.

The name of the app used to facilitate the threat could not be confirmed by Alvarado. However, multiple message-sending apps for both Apple and Android smart phones have the capability for users to send anonymous messages, including the popular app “Sarahah.”

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Hannah, Ariana and Jasmine explain Penny Wars at MWMS. Submitted

There is a war going on at Maricopa Wells Middle School.

 

Not to worry, it’s all a benefit for F.O.R. Maricopa’s food bank.

Penny Wars was organized by the National Junior Honor Society, setting the eighth grade against the sixth and seventh grades.

 

“I came up with the idea because I knew kids would actually participate and donate money because it’s a competition,” said Society President Ariana Vaida, an eighth grader at the school.

 

Each grade level has a jug in the front office. To gain points for the team, they add pennies or dollar bills. To decrease points for the other teams, they put silver coins in their jugs. Each denomination of coin is worth a certain amount of points.

 

“But they all know the money we raise goes to the food bank,” Ariana said.

 

The Penny Wars started Sept. 6 and end on Friday.  Then they will count the points to determine the winner.

 

Ariana, secretary Jasmine N. and Hannah Paul Gindiri created this video to explain the activity.

 

Penny-Wars-flyer