Authors Articles byMichelle Chance

Michelle Chance

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Homestead construction


As construction on residential housing ramps up in Maricopa, the city is considering ways to make the process easier for developers.

Last year the city received 500 residential building permits, and recent projections predict major growth ahead.

During a city council work session March 20, the Development Services Department presented the city’s current procedure: An eight-application process that usually entails two years of meetings and sub-steps before a builder receives a building permit.

A team of planners began brainstorming how to consolidate timewasting steps and documents about a year ago.

The result was a color-coded flow chart that details the city’s process used since pre-recession Maricopa as well as updated steps the department has identified and streamlined.

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said even with improvements, development processes are inherently complex across the nation.

“As a rule, the process is complicated,” Scribner said.

The process is detailed in a digital timeline that essentially serves as a snapshot of what developers could expect during the pre-development stages.

Some of the department’s major consolidation in the process affected the construction and inspection portion of the process.

SMARTGov, the city’s digital terminal for permit viewing and submittal, is a big part of that, according to Senior Planner Rodolfo Lopez.

“(Developers) don’t have to resubmit some of those documents unless something is changed or modified,” Lopez said. “This process streamlines it a lot quicker.”

The city has been teasing a redesign of its website and Mayor Christian Price indicated he’d like to see the process timeline posted on the city’s digital front page once the online update is completed.

Development Services is expected to compose a similar timeline for commercial development, which entails an even more complicated process.

Vice Mayor Peggy Chapados said the digital flow chart could decrease the number of complaints the city receives from commercial builders regarding perceived delays in the process.

The commercial development presentation is expected sometime in the future.

“The more information we get out there, the better,” Price said.


Dirt is being moved on the lot of a future Burger King at Edison Pointe.

Hundreds of people lined the new sidewalks of Edison Pointe’s first retail grand opening last week as Goodwill opened its doors March 16. The event drew two Maricopa High School students who decided to spend one night of their spring break camping at the used-retail shop’s front doors. Other tenants slated to open this month include Planet Fitness and Ross Dress for Less. Project Manager John Scholl confirmed Monday Dollar Tree is one of Edison Pointe’s newest retail stores.

Dunkin Donuts, Wingstop, a nail salon and other tenants could open on the westside of the development in late spring. This summer, Burger King is projected to open by mid-June. A sit-down breakfast restaurant and an auto service center are currently finalizing contracts with Vintage Partners. Those establishments would be constructed on the southside of Edison Pointe.

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A citywide, free program aims to assist its homebound residents through phone calls and social visits.

The You Are Not Alone (YANA) program launched in 2015 and has since saved lives, said Mary Witkofski, Maricopa’s community programs manager.

Maricopa Police Department volunteers make weekly phone calls to participants. If contact is not made after three attempts, an emergency contact person is notified.

That’s what happened one Fourth of July two years ago when a woman was not answering a volunteer’s calls.

“The emergency contact, thank goodness, lives down the street,” Witkofski said. “He went (to her house) and actually found his mother laying on the floor.”

Emergency responders transported her to a local hospital where she eventually recovered.

Situations like these, Witkofski said, are reasons YANA is effective; and in cases where an emergency contact person cannot be reached, YANA volunteers will enlist the help of MPD.

In addition to the weekly calls, volunteers connect with participants by making quarterly, planned visits to their homes.

Witkofski said the volunteers socialize, play card games and have conversations with the residents.

Volunteers pass a fingerprint and background clearance and then go through training. MPD volunteers are mandatory reporters to adult protective services and have learned to identify signs of late-life domestic violence, abuse, depression, identity theft and scam.

Vice Mayor Peg Chapados, a senior advocate through Maricopa Seniors Inc., said YANA is a valuable resource for seniors living alone “because it’s a way to ‘stay connected’ and let people know that there is always someone who cares about their well-being.”

Generally, program participants are over 65 and live alone or are alone during the day and have limited mobility.

“(YANA’s purpose) is to maintain their independence, not take it away from them and I think that’s an important piece,” Witkofski said.

Age is not necessarily a qualifying condition, however. Those who have disabilities or are at home recovering from a procedure and are alone during the day are also are eligible for the program.

Qualified, part-time residents are also eligible to enroll while they are living in the city.

The program currently has 19 enrollees and Witkofski would like to see more.

“We definitely have room for growth,” she said.

YANA partners with community and social service agencies like the Maricopa Public Library’s All Access Homebound Delivery, COMET transit, Age-Friendly Committee and the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens to provide additional resources for its participants.

The program came about after the city conducted a human-needs assessment which identified a gap in senior assistance.

Witkofski said participants who are hearing impaired can opt for a weekly text message instead of phone call.

520-316-6800, ext. 1234

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

MUSD board discusses options. Photo by Michelle Chance


After two days of interviews, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board emerged from executive session Wednesday night to announce three superintendent finalists.

Heather Cruz, Tracey Lopeman and Cort Monroe will return March 23 for final interviews.

Those interviews could include a marketing presentation by finalists, with follow-up questions from board members on a variety of subjects.

Cruz is an assistant superintendent at Litchfield Elementary School District. Lopeman is an assistant superintendent at Alhambra Elementary School District. Monroe is an assistant superintendent in Queen Creek Unified School District.

Board members indicated the presentations could give them an idea of how they could potentially handle future board meetings.

In February, the board selected six candidates out of a pool of 30 applicants to interview.

MUSD prompted the search after the Board announced it would only renew former Superintendent Steve Chestnut’s contract through the end of this school year.

Chestnut left MUSD March 9 after the Scottsdale Unified School District recently hired him as deputy superintendent.

The public will have the opportunity to meet the candidates during a Q&A forum March 26 at 7 p.m.

MUSD is expected to announce a finalist for the superintendent vacancy after the community forum and subsequent executive session March 26. Contract negotiations would occur soon afterward.


Dr. Heather Cruz is currently the assistant superintendent for Special Services and Community Relations in Litchfield Elementary District, Phoenix. As such she supervises all Special Education functions, oversees Public Relations and Marketing, and Human Resources.  She has also served as the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services in Litchfield from 2007-11 and as the Deputy Superintendent in the Peoria Unified School District from 2011–16.  She has experience in areas of curriculum, bond and override elections, employee evaluations, strategic planning, federal programs, and technology. She received her Doctorate in Education in May of 2010 from Arizona State University – West Campus and a Master’s of Music degree in 1995 from Northern Arizona University.  She is the current President of the Arizona School Administrators (ASA) and has served in several positions in ASA since 1999. She is involved in various community outreach organizations such as the Homeless Youth Connection and has served on the Board of Directors for the Southwest Valley YMCA. She states that she has a passionate desire for student success and does not believe that success is defined only by test scores.

Dr. Tracey Lopeman has served as the Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Planning, Implementation, and Accountability for the Alhambra Elementary School District in Phoenix.  In this role she has supervised the development and implementation of the 5 year strategic plan for the district.  Prior to serving in this position, she was the Principal of Alhambra Tradition School from 2002-2014 and the Executive Director of Leadership Development from 2014 -2016.  She has also taught various subjects at the Middle School level in Alhambra and she mentored principals as a Mentor for the Beat the Odds Institute Center for the Future of Arizona from 2008-2017.   Dr. Lopeman received her Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State (ASU) and a Master’s of Education from ASU in 1996.  Dr. Lopeman states that she sees obstacles as opportunities when it comes to public education and she enjoys the challenges that accompany educational complexities.

Dr. Cort Monroe was awarded a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University in 2014 and received a Master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State University in 2001. He is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Student Support in Queen Creek Unified School District in Arizona.  Prior to that he served as the Director of Student Services in the Higley Unified School District from 2014-2015 as well as the Principal in Cortina Elementary School in Higley from 2009-2014 and the Principal of Pedro Guerrero Elementary School in Mesa School District from 2003-2006.  He has also taught at the elementary level in Gilbert, Payson, and California.  He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Phoenix and has been an adjunct professor at Chandler Gilbert Community College.  Dr. Monroe is a member of the Brigham Young University McKay School of Education Phoenix Arizona Chapter Alumni Board, Phi Delta Kappa International, Mercy Gilbert Hospital Volunteer Interview Board, Boy Scouts of America, the Arizona Schools Administrators Association, and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.   He has experience in mission and vision planning, instructional leadership, management operations, resource allocation, strategic planning, and budgeting.

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

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


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Photo by Michelle Chance

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

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

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

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

Vratil said she preferred not to comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathryn Sinkevitch will be tried for the murder of her former boyfriend. PCSO photo


The trial date has been vacated for the woman accused of killing her ex-boyfriend in his garage in 2016.

Kathryn Sinkevitch’s first-degree murder trial was set to begin May 8 but might not be heard until November.

Defense attorney Bret Huggins requested the trial be moved due to a capital case he is representing around the same time as Sinkevitch’s original trial date.

Judge Kevin White granted the motion after prosecutor Shawn Jensvold made no objection. Jensvold said a date in November is possible.

Sinkevitch, 34, of Tempe, was charged with the murder of 31-year-old Michael Agerter in December 2016. Agerter had a child with Sinkevitch and was reportedly seeking custody of the newborn.

Agerter’s family was present in court, the child in the care of others outside the courtroom.

Throughout the brief hearing, Sinkevitch frequently turned and smiled at those sitting in the gallery when cries of a child were heard echoing down the hall.

Jensvold told White Agerter’s family is requesting the release of his vehicle, which is still in police custody. Huggins said he does not anticipate objections on his part concerning the vehicle’s release.

The case is subject to cyclical reassignment of rotating judges this year, but White said he may “keep the case.”

Sinkevitch will appear in court April 9 at 1:30 p.m. when the trial date may be re-set.

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Brad Kammeyer. Photo by Michelle Chance

Brad Kammeyer, 55, began painting two years ago. Since then, his portfolio has grown to over 731 pieces.

He paints nearly every day. On Sundays, he sometimes begins and finishes up to four original oil paintings.

A large, panoramic landscape of a cabin nestled at the foot of snow-capped mountains took Kammeyer 2.5 hours to complete.

His inspiration derives from visions inside his mind.

“I see a picture all of the time until I paint it,” Kammeyer said. “I’ll see dragons and, until I paint a few dragons, they won’t go away.”

Kammeyer’s passion is also what brings him joy. A handyman by trade, Kammeyer said he’s always wanted to paint, but never thought he’d be able to.

That’s until 27 months ago when he bought art supplies and got to work.

“I found a picture I had of a frozen tree and just tried to paint it. I didn’t know what I was doing,” Kammeyer said.

“Painting no. 1” by Brad Kammeyer

His “Painting no. 1” was practice that led the way for hundreds of wildlife scenes, southwest and forest landscapes, as well as floral portraits.

Kammeyer has since displayed his large collection at events around the city and has lectured at the Maricopa Public Library. Most recently, Kammeyer was named Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship’s featured artist during an exhibition March 8. His work is on display at MCE for the month.

“I have so much inside that’s trying to get out, and that’s all I can think about,” Kammeyer said.

Kammeyer has lived in Maricopa for 13 years and is originally from Idaho.

Butterfield Elementary School Assistant Principal Alan Gofron was game to be used by students and teachers in support of a fundraiser. Photo by Michelle Chance

Teachers and students taped a local elementary school administrator to a cafeteria wall Friday.

Butterfield Elementary School Assistant Principal Alan Gofron adhered to the wall for 2.5 hours March 9 by duct tape donated by parents.

“This is a great opportunity to be up here and I’m taking one for the team,” Gofron said.

The lunchtime stunt was a humorous show of support for students who recently participated in the national fundraising effort Jump Rope for Heart.

Butterfield PE teacher Steve Sorenson said students raised $7,072 over the three-week event. Proceeds go to the American Heart Association.

Top fundraisers assisted teachers in the event, including second-grader Brooke MacDonald, who raised more than $600.

Gofron said he’s proud of the students for supporting a great cause.

“I’m at a loss of words right now, but I’m hanging in there,” Gofron said.

Butterfield students raised more than $7,000 for the American Heart Association. Photo by Michelle Chance


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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.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Steve Chestnut’s early departure was approved Wednesday. His last day on the job will be March 9.

The MUSD Governing Board met in a brief executive session with its attorney March 7 to discuss changes in Chestnut’s contract, which would have ended July 1. The board also approved Chestnut’s $5,000 performance pay as required by law.

Chestnut requested he be released form his contract in early March to begin work at his new post. Scottsdale Unified School District hired Chestnut as its associate superintendent last month amid upheaval at that district’s highest level.

His first day at SUSD will be March 12.

Chestnut has worked for MUSD since 2012. In recent years, Chestnut was named a finalist in larger districts’ job searches but stayed on with MUSD after the interviews didn’t produce contract offers.

MUSD’s decision last year to extend Chestnut’s contract only through July prompted a superintendent search that began in January.

The Board is expected to interview six candidates March 13-14. The finalist will be announced March 26.

During the brief vacancy, around 15 of Chestnut’s “broad range” responsibilities will be split between administration cabinet members, said MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett.

Beckett will also coordinate the Board’s meeting agendas. The board meets again March 28.

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Among local teachers wearing red Wednesday in support of better pay in Arizona schools were Brian Burkett, Tyler Miller and Jason Goodwin. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Maricopa public school teachers joined a statewide movement Wednesday in protest of low teacher pay.

 “This is not an indictment of our local schools; it’s an indictment of Arizona as a whole.” — Jason Goodwin, Maricopa teacher.

“Teachers definitely need to stick together. We need to make education better for our students,” said Maricopa High School drama and theatre teacher Cynthia Calhoun.

Calhoun and other public school educators wore red March 7 in participation with the social media-driven event known as “Wear RED for ED.”

Online organizers describe the movement as a show of solidarity, first inspired by a nine-day, statewide teacher strike in West Virginia that led to a wage increase.

Brian Burkett teaches government and economics at Maricopa High School. He wore red to support public educators whom he said are “underpaid and underserved” by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

“To attract and maintain quality teachers, (the state) is going to have to pay us better,” Burkett said. “We are one of the lowest-paying states in the country.”

Arizona ranked last in the nation according to a report published in 2017 by the National Education Association that compared teachers’ salaries in the United States in 2015-16. Instructional staff ranked 49th.

Public school teachers received a 1 percent “raise” last year by the state. However, it’s often not viewed as a wage increase at all by educators like MHS AP history and government teacher Jason Goodwin, but instead a debt owed to them after the state reallocated education funds elsewhere during the recession.

Teacher Cynthia Calhoun. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

“I’m wearing red today because in Arizona our pay is so low. It doesn’t matter what district you’re talking about. This is not an indictment of our local schools; it’s an indictment of Arizona as a whole,” Goodwin said.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board voted last year to increase salaries for all employees by 3 percent and successfully passed an override measure in 2016 that afforded the district 50 additional teachers.

But, even with a raise, retention is still an issue as many teachers struggle to make ends meet.

MHS AP world history teacher Tyler Miller remembers watching dedicated teachers leave the industry during his rookie year in the classroom.

He believes the Red for Ed movement will spark discussions that could end Arizona’s educator exodus.

“People teach because they love teaching, but at a certain point they have to have enough income to make it fiscally possible to survive,” Miller said. “That’s a conversation that we need to have.”


Reporter Joycelyn Cabrera contributed to this story.

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Archaeology & Heritage Awareness Month

More folklore than fact has been attached to a mine site in the Estrellas that has been called a "lost Spanish mine." Photo by Mason Callejas

Embedded in Arizona is a history rife with facts, folklore and fantasy.

“The structure is one of the more substantial mining structures that I’ve seen. Some people put some hard work into this and the fact that it’s still standing is a testament to their will and their determination to eke out a living based on mining operations.” — archaeologist Aaron Wright

The Wild West was alive long before statehood, and that allure of lawlessness, fame and fortune birthed romantic tall-tales that have survived the test of time.

“One of the things that folklore does is it helps us get a good feeling of our heritage, a good feeling of the legacy that we enjoy,” said Maricopa Historical Society Vice President Denny Hoeh. “And what makes us a person sometimes is some of that background.”

Maricopa is no stranger to lore. An Internet search for historic sites has led many down a dirt path and up a rigorous hike into the Sierra Estrella to test the legend of a “lost Spanish mine.” The area is about an hour’s 4-wheel drive from the city along rough, saguaro-filled, desert trails.

The site contains a mine and well with by a one-room stone house amateur history sleuths claim is one of the oldest, non-religious, colonial structures in the state.

The legend seems to have been first documented by an author who wrote about it in the 1930s.

Excerpts from John D. Mitchell’s “Lost Mines and Buried Treasures Along the Old Frontier” and short stories by other local authors of Mitchell’s time have been cited in historical theories people have about the abandoned site.

Mitchell’s version refers to it as “Don Joaquin and his Lost Mine,” attributing the site to a so-called Don Joaquin Campoy, a Spaniard who allegedly built it with help from Pima and Maricopa Native American tribes in the mid-19th century.

The fable claims Campoy extracted gold from his mine and buried the treasure in a nearby cave.

Mitchell’s book is prefaced by the author’s research methods, claiming “this is not a book of fiction,” but a work of research gleaned from Native American oral history, Spanish and church records and the author’s own credibility documenting stories in the Southwest.

Other questionable theories surrounding the stone structure have alleged its construction occurred even earlier by the Spanish in the 1700s. However, no mining or other records outside modern mid-century writings by Mitchell and others exist.

An Arizona archaeologist recently agreed to travel to the site with InMaricopa and examine the claims.

On the way, desert trails lead adventurers to the base of the Sierra Estrella on Bureau of Land Management property.

The hike is rigorous, but access to the site above is possible so long as explorers follow cairn stone piles and trail markers carved into boulders.

The house emerges from the side of the mountain like a diamondback, with it’s dry-laid stones camouflaged like fossilized scales against its surroundings.

The house with three stone walls and one of mountain siding is sheltered above by saguaro skeletons, wood boards and one iron pipe. Inside, a jar seals notes written by visitors.

One author promotes responsible adventuring in the area to preserve the site he pens as “the oldest structure in Arizona.”

Analysis of the site by archaeologist Aaron Wright of Tucson-based Archaeology Southwest concluded the claim was about “300 years off” from being historically accurate.

Wright examined the home, well, mine and artifacts scattered throughout the area. Altogether, Wright said the home site was constructed around the same time as the mine and well, but its builders used technology and materials not available to those in the 1800s or earlier.

“We have a lot of evidence that it’s early 20th century,” Wright said, sitting at the base of the stone house.

That places the house’s construction around or just decades before Mitchell’s first published account of it, contributing to the mystery shrouding the identity of the site’s builders.

Wright chalks the lost mine stories up to folklore – a common product of the ‘culture of the West.’ However, he said, the site is still an impressive example of statehood-era prospecting and mining.

“The structure is one of the more substantial mining structures that I’ve seen. Some people put some hard work into this and the fact that it’s still standing is a testament to their will and their determination to eke out a living based on mining operations,” Wright said, adding there is not much evidence to support the mine ever producing much, if any, gold.

Hoeh said folklore is usually peppered with bits of truth, and these stories are important to people because it provides them a sense of connection to those who may have lived and worked before them.

“Things like the old Spanish Mine and the house that is up there that’s built of rocks, it becomes a symbol that you can hold and touch that may be able to help people and give people a better feel for the legacy and heritage that we have in this area,” Hoeh said.

No matter where the legends of the mine originated, or how much of it is rooted in truth, Wright said the site and the area surrounding it is an important part of local history.

“Where we’re at has a lot of history to it, and building upon that history from the O’odham and Pee-Posh people, you do have Arizona history on a small scale here in the Sierra Estrella,” Wright said.

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

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Brandon Harris. Submitted photo

Maricopa High School named its new head football coach this week, pending board approval.

District Athletic Director Brian Winter confirmed Brandon Harris, 47, will lead the varsity team in the upcoming school year.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board will officially vote to approve the new hire March 28. Harris replaces Chris McDonald, who was recently hired as Basha head football coach.

“Brandon is an excellent communicator and motivator,” Winter said. “He had a very successful and extensive coaching career at both the high school and collegiate level. He will be a great addition to MHS.”

Harris’ resume includes high school head coaching positions in Arizona, New York and most recently, Florida’s University School of Southeastern University.

He’s held administration and assistant coaching positions at Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler, was passing game coordinator at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix and offensive coordinator at Desert Vista High School, among others.

Harris played for University of Idaho and later professionally with the Sacramento Surge in the World League of American Football.

Harris has co-owned RedLine Athletics training facility in Chandler since 2015.

An Arcadia resident and Southern California native, Harris is no stranger to Maricopa. He owned a home in The Villages in 2007 before he relocated to Buffalo, New York, for a head coaching position at Canisius High School, which won a state championship in 2009.

He now plans to move back to Maricopa.

“(MHS) just needs someone that really wants to be there, and I want to be there,” Harris said.

The new head coach began watching tape and evaluating his new players recently. Harris said he wants to work with the existing culture at MHS to continue creating excitement on Friday nights.

Most importantly, he said, is his goal of encouraging the personal growth of his players.

“I’ve coached and been part of six state title championship teams, and three of them are my own as head coach” Harris said. “We’re going to do that, but they need to win in the classroom, win in the hallways, win in their own personal life, and then winning will take care of itself.”


Photo by Michelle Chance

The third annual “For the Love of Chocolate” Fun Run and Walk kicked off at Copper Sky Saturday with an early morning jog and, of course, chocolate. The event is the yearly fundraiser for nonprofit Sun Life Family Health Center.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Fifty local vendors set up pop shops at the annual Spring Fling Craft and Vendor Event at Maricopa Community Church on Hathaway Avenue. The event featured hot food, raffles, door prizes and live music. The church hosts arts & crafts event as fundraisers in spring and fall.

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Jake Neill

A familiar face in Maricopa High School sports was officially re-hired this week.

The Maricopa Unified Governing Board approved Jacob Neill as its new district athletic director Feb. 28.

Neill previously coached MHS basketball for four years. He left in 2016 when he was hired as assistant principal and athletic director for Poston Butte High School.

Becoming an administrator was not just a professional goal, but something that runs in his blood.

“I’m from a family of educators,” Neill said. “A good portion of my family have worked in the school system from admin assistants on up to administrators.”

He’ll soon take the place of Brian Winter, who will be MHS principal next school year. Winter originally hired Neill in 2012.

“To come back with Mr. Winter in the principal position is one of the draws back to (MUSD) because he has a vision and I’m excited to get behind him and do what we need to do to improve Maricopa High School,” Neill said.

Some of the new AD’s responsibilities will include overseeing sports programs at the junior high level and ensuring the high school’s “facilities are on par with what other 5A and 6A schools are to make our students’ experience as good as it possibly can be,” he said.

Neill lives in Laveen with his wife Jess – a fourth-grade teacher – and their 3-year-old daughter Izzy.

Shawn Main. PCSO photo

Testimony concluded Friday in the two-part Chronis hearing surrounding the blunt-force trauma death of 3-year-old Tiana Capps in 2015.

The defense team for Shawn Main, the woman charged with Tiana’s murder, called the special hearing months ago to require the state to establish probable cause in the death-penalty case.

Pinal County Sherriff’s Office Homicide Detective Michael Benedict testified March 2. The first portion of the hearing was held in January with testimony from a medical examiner.

A portion of Benedict’s testimony expanded on an allegation of a note allegedly written by Main the day after Tiana’s death. Prosecutors previously alleged the letter exonerated Main’s wife Maria Tiglao and the children’s biological mother, Tina Morse.

The three adults lived together with Morse’s four children in unincorporated Maricopa. Tiana was pronounced dead at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center Nov. 19.

Deputies allegedly discovered the note at Main’s residence Nov. 20 after they responded to a missing person’s call from Tiglao, according to court documents.

Written on lined paper, the note reads in part:

“To whom it may concern:
November 2015
I, Shawn Main, take full responsibility in the death of Tiana Capps. She would never have died if I sought medical attention the first night she was falling. Whether I thought it happened from her acting out on purpose or not, had I not let my pride get in the way, she would still be here alive. Neither Chris Tiglao nor Tina Morse had any knowledge of what was happening when Tiana was falling over and over. Nobody else had any contact with her so that leaves me responsible for her alleged sexual abuse as well. I am not worthy of keeping my life when she never had a chance to live hers.
Shawn Main”

After searching the property, Benedict said deputies found Main in a detached garage.

At that time, Benedict was in Tucson at Tiana’s autopsy.

“I received a text message from patrol while I was at the autopsy that Ms. Main had tried to take her own life,” Benedict said. “She was being transported to the hospital.”

Benedict further testified that photos taken of Main included “pretty substantial injuries to her forearms.”

Main eventually recovered from her injuries and was interviewed at her home Dec. 5.

In response to a counter by the Defense Attorney Chester Lockwood, Benedict testified Main had stayed consistent in her explanation of the bruising on Tiana’s forehead during all three police interviews prior to all three women’s arrest on Dec. 24.

Benedict said Main never evaded questioning by detectives.

Prosecutors have until March 12 to file a memorandum with the court regarding the Chronis hearing. The defense is expected to file a response a week later. The state can submit a rebuttal by March 23.

Possibly delaying the upcoming trial is Main’s “major surgery” that has yet to be successfully scheduled, Main’s defense said in court.

The four-week trial is set for July 31.

Main will appear in court for a pre-trial hearing April 2, pending a confirmed surgery date.

Workmen install new AC units at First Baptist Church. Photo by Michelle Chance

One of Maricopa’s oldest places of worship received an upgrade Thursday.

First Baptist Church replaced three ageing air conditioning units with help from a local business. The historic church was built in 1954 and has overcome many obstacles over the years.

First Baptist survived a fire in 2016. It also would have been demolished if early designs for the State Route 347 overpass had been approved.

The church was remodeled after the smoke and flames, and a new plan was drawn up for the bridge to bypass the church.

The most recent impediment facing the church now is the upcoming heat. First Baptist’s 17-year-old AC units that cool the congregation below were deteriorating.

“It was at a point where something needed to be done,” said Bruce McLaughlin

A crane and a crew of six uninstalled and replaced the old units March 1 at around half the cost of a typical installation.

Pastor Kevin Treacy met McLaughlin, owner of McLaughlin Air Conditioning and Heating Service, when he needed service to his personal AC unit at his home over the holidays.

That’s when McLaughlin said he volunteered to service the church’s units.

McLaughlin is not a member of the First Baptist congregation but said he wants to be “all about the community.”

The local business owner said he and his company are not seeking recognition for the help and said although they cannot assist everybody in need, “We do give a discount to some of those organizations that are very impactful,” McLaughlin said, adding, “We like to help out.”

Pastor Kevin Treacy said the high-efficient, electric units will save the church money and keep the congregation comfortable.

“We obviously have things that go on here due to the age of the building, but by God’s grace he continues to provide for us,” Treacy said.

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District may need second high school

MUSD board members look at predictions of serious enrollment growth. Photo by Michelle Chance

A report on enrollment growth from a Phoenix-based consulting firm prompted cautious optimism from school leaders Wednesday.

Rick Brammer and Don Graves with Applied Economics presented their projections to the Maricopa Unified School District Feb. 28.


The consultants estimated the district could see between 4,100 and 5,800 students added to MUSD in the next decade. They attribute their projections, in part, to Maricopa’s resurrected housing growth and likely demographics.

“It’s accelerating quickly, but in the next three to five years, it’s really going to explode,” Brammer said, adding growth will be off-set by charter schools.

Unlike many parts of the metropolitan area, the demographic characteristics of the population continue to reflect a high concentration of young families and school-age persons, according to the report.

Within five to seven years, the firm predicts the MUSD’s high school population will increase by 95 percent.

“That’s pretty frightening,” Board Member Torri Anderson said, “the fact that we’ve only got one high school.”

Maricopa High School hit an all-time enrollment high this school year and added a credit-recovery option called Ram Academy in the fall.

Board Member Patti Coutré said the report’s projections are not surprising.

“It confirms what we’ve anticipated and have been trying to put our head around,” Coutré said.

Rick Brammer. Photo by Michelle Chance

At the elementary level, the report predicts that in the next five years, new housing developments will impact enrollment growth at Saddleback and Santa Cruz elementary schools.

Brammer suggested the board may have to consider redistricting those areas or adding facilities to accommodate new students.

District Business Services Director Aron Rausch is expected to present a list of properties to the board at a future meeting where the board will discuss the likelihood of constructing a second high school.

Discussion for the project’s funding was suggested through a possible bond on the upcoming November ballot. Rausch and MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said, if approved, the bond would have to be submitted to the County Election Department by mid-August.

“Of course, the district would need to do significant work in preparation and also seek Board approval prior to announcing our intent to ask voters for a bond,” Beckett said.

The district discussed making temporary solutions for additional space at MHS by adding modular buildings on a parking lot adjacent to its baseball fields and possibly sending Ram Academy students to class in a leased store-front or at the District Administration Building in the future.

However, the board said any proposals discussed will be more confidently debated after Rausch’s property analysis is submitted in the coming weeks.

Leading MUSD through anticipated growth will be at the forefront of its future superintendent as its current top administrator begins a transition to his new position months ahead of his prior contracted last day on the job.


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MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Devin Carson

Current Superintendent Steve Chestnut could leave Maricopa Unified School District as soon as March 9. The board previously approved his contract through July 1, but his new employers at Scottsdale Unified School District want him sooner.

The board will meet in executive session March 7 at 5 p.m. to discuss those changes in his contract.

Chestnut will begin at SUSD March 12 or 19 amid district-level controversy and lawsuit surrounding its officials.

The SUSD Governing Board placed Superintendent Denise Birdwell on administrative leave in February for an alleged conflict of interest scandal. The district approved administrator Amy Fuller as acting superintendent in a late-night Tuesday meeting.

Chestnut acknowledged SUSD has “a lot of challenges” but is looking forward to the professional opportunity.

“I have loved my five-and-a-half years in Maricopa, I love this community and it’s bittersweet,” Chestnut said.

If Chestnut’s early departure is approved, he will leave behind a brief vacancy in office. The board is expected to offer a contract to a new superintendent March 26.

Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said Chestnut “has split up his duties among the cabinet” to fill the possible two-week leadership gap. Knorr said the board would have a formal statement on the issue after its meeting March 7.

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The Sun Life Chocolate Run is Saturday at Copper Sky.

The annual event that pairs people’s love of chocolate with exercise returns to Maricopa this month.

Sun Life Family Health Center will host the third annual “For the Love of Chocolate” Fun Run at Copper Sky on March 3.

Beginning at 8 a.m., participants can choose to run or walk the 1-mile or 3-mile course. A runner’s brunch will be available prior to and after the race as well as photo booths to capture the memory of the event.

Finishers will be rewarded with a bag of chocolate goodies, a chocolate donut medal and an event T-shirt.

Top three 5K finishers in various age groups will also receive winners’ medals.

Pre-registration costs $35 for the 1 mile/walk run and $40 for the 3-mile walk/run until March 2. A mail-in payment method is also available. Race-day registration is $40 per person for the 1-mile run/walk and $50 for the 3-mile run/walk.

“One of the things that people can keep in mind is Sun Life is Pinal County’s nonprofit community health center, and the run is a fun way to support a local nonprofit,” said Renee Louzon-Benn, director of community outreach.

It’s also a way to enjoy chocolate, which, in moderation, is considered a healthy treat, she said.

“(Chocolate) has health benefits, and we thought chocolate is fun and people enjoy it, so why not bring people, exercise and chocolate all into one event?”

Participants can pick up race packets March 2 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Sun Life Family Health Center, 44572 W. Bowlin Road. Packets can also be retrieved the morning of the event beginning at 7 a.m.

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

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Ronald Bragonier. PCSO photo

The indictment against an accused sex offender could be challenged if the case is remanded to a new grand jury, according to court documents.

Ronald Bragonier, 55, pled not guilty to a six-count indictment Dec. 15. 

Grand jurors accused Bragonier of various counts of sexual conduct and molestation crimes against a minor between April and November of last year, including the furnishing of obscene materials.

Indictment Charges:

  1. Dangerous Crime Against Children in the first degree – Class 2 felony
  2. Dangerous Crime Against Children in the first degree – Class 2 felony
  3. Dangerous Crime Against Children in the first degree – Class 3 felony
  4. Dangerous Crime Against Children in the first degree – Class 2 felony
  5. Dangerous Crime Against Children in the first degree – Class 2 felony
  6. Furnishing harmful items to minors – Class 4 felony

Todd Nolan, Bragonier’s attorney, has until March 20 to file the remand motion. That’s also the day Bragonier is scheduled to appear in Pinal County Superior Court for a change of plea/trial setting.

State law says,

“A defendant may challenge a grand jury proceeding only by filing a motion for a new finding of probable cause alleging that the defendant was denied a substantial procedural right or that an insufficient number of qualified grand jurors concurred in the indictment.”

The Maricopa Police Department arrested Bragonier Nov. 28 on suspicion of sex crimes against a minor that allegedly occurred for months and crossed state lines last year.

Bragonier remains in custody in Pinal County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

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Arthur Eric Magana and Gustavo Olivo are charged with murder. PCSO photos

The teens charged with the murder of 20-year-old Wyatt Miller appeared separately in court Monday in a hearing two months ahead of their trial date.

Co-defendants Gustavo Olivo and Arthur Magana are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery in the 2016 shooting death of Miller in an incident south of Maricopa.

Attorneys for the defendants are prepared for an April 10 trial, but that date could be pushed back due to the heavy trial case load for the judge assigned to the case.

Judge Kevin White said he has three capital cases going to trial around the same time, including Olivo’s and Magana’s trial.

Magana’s attorney, James Soslowsky, is currently in the middle of representing a separate murder trial. He said Magana’s case could still be ready for the April trial, pending what could be a major change to the case.

“There’s a couple of issues that I need to take a look at,” Soslowsky said. “One primary concern for the trial date is whether or not I’m going to be filing a motion to sever.”

That motion would create separate trials for the defendants. State law requires counsel to file the motion 20 days before trial.

Soslowsky requested the case return to White’s court room in two weeks, when the attorney said he would be better prepared to discuss a possible change in the trial date. John Schaus, Olivo’s attorney, later made the same request of the judge.

White scheduled a status review hearing for both defendants March 12 at 1:30 p.m. The judge said a possible alternate trial date could be May 1.

“That’s just a consideration and not something I’m pushing for,” White said.

Witness and evidence lists have been building in the case since September.

Prosecutors named three Department of Public Safety forensic scientists and an officer as witnesses five months ago. Document evidence submissions included law enforcement reports, DNA examination report, latent print examination report, controlled substance examination report and a serology examination report.

In January, forensic scientist Aaron Brudenell was added as a witness expected to testify as a firearms expert. Brudenell’s firearms examination report and another report by a detective on the case were also submitted as evidence.

An investigator joined Shaus in Olivo’s case “to assist in preparation of this case” in December.

White approved Goodyear-based DiCarlo Associates LLC, a private investigation company that “has done over 250 criminal defense cases…including approximately 15 capital murder cases” since 2004, according to court documents.

Schaus has requested reimbursement of reasonable expense incurred through the firm’s hiring which costs $45 per hour.

Miguel Figueroa

The man accused of killing his wife, Olivia Figueroa, with a sword in 2016 was absent for his court date Monday morning.

Representing Miguel Figueroa during the status review hearing in Pinal County Superior Court was public defender Mark Benson.

“Your honor, on the next matter, I do not have a client here,” Benson told Judge Kevin White Feb. 26.

Figueroa has been in custody inside Pinal County Jail since his arrest in 2016. When White prompted the attorney for explanation on his client’s absence, Benson said it was not due to illness or other similar circumstance.

Benson said he was told by law enforcement that Figueroa did not wish to appear in court.

“According to them, the sheriffs, (Figueroa) said, ‘I have trial in May. I’ll show up then,” Benson told White

However, the judge’s upcoming docket is slammed with upcoming trial dates near the time of Figueroa’s. Benson and prosecutor Kristen Sharifi agreed Monday to meet March 12 to discuss “revisiting” Figueroa’s trial with his client present in court.

Attorney and prosecutor had also met with White in his chambers prior to the hearing to discuss the matter.

“Based upon our conversation in chambers, I will speak to Miguel,” Benson said. “I will get him (here) in two weeks so we can discuss the trial setting,” Benson said.

In January, court documents reveal Figueroa’s attorneys, Benson and Scott Johnson, motioned for a Rule 11 psychological evaluation for their client that was later granted.

Benson said he recently submitted the evaluation to the court. White said Monday morning he has since reviewed the report. The results of the evaluation have not been made available to the public.

A grand jury re-indicted Figueroa Dec. 20 on the same four charges from 2016: first-degree murder, kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault.

He pled not guilty to all counts nine days later.

Figueroa is scheduled to appear in court ahead of his trial for a status review hearing March 12 at 1:30 p.m.

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Chaienne Zoller and Kyle O'Hare were leaders of a brief student protest and tribute to high school students and staff gunned down in Florida.

Maricopa High School students have demanded gun law reform after participating in a demonstration on campus last week.

Students walked out of their classrooms Feb. 22 in tribute to students and staff who were killed in a recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The local demonstration was one of many that have taken place at schools nationwide. It has prompted students to call on adults for action.

“I don’t think it’s right and I think personally they need to fix it,” said 18-year-old MHS student Kyle O’Hare. “I’m not saying you can fix everything in the world, but try, add more things in, be more strict with gun laws.”

Students used their voices to take leadership of the impromptu protest Thursday. O’Hare and classmate Chaienne Zoller, 17, took leadership of the event after they said some students were not taking the matter seriously.

Zoller said she directed students to participate in a moment of silence for each of the victims gunned down in the attack after O’Hare said a prayer.

“I basically told them, ‘You guys do this every morning for the people who fought for our country; let’s do this for 17 minutes for people who just went to school,” Zoller said.

Students have said they’ve been criticized by adults they know for speaking out but said spreading awareness of their stance is worth it.

After the demonstration, Maricopa Unified School District announced it would hold a school safety forum March 1 at the District Administration Building.

The community meeting will take place inside the Governing Board Meeting Room and will feature a panel of local leaders and public safety personnel who will participate in a discussion with students and parents.

Representatives from other area schools have been invited to attend.

One adult who has voiced his support of students’ right to be heard is MHS Principal Rick Abel.

Students said before he asked them to return to class Thursday, he thanked them for a respectful demonstration, calling their compassion “a sign of maturity.”

“As a member of the MHS Staff and our community, I am very appreciative and proud of the efforts of our students yesterday. We are all saddened by the events that took place in Florida. Our students found a positive way to express our support for the families involved in that tragedy. They were respectful and were great representatives of Maricopa. Our work now is to do all we can to make sure that our campus is safe. Our best safeguard is the willingness of our students to say something if they see or hear something. We are all in this together,” Rick Abel said in a written statement.

Students said they are planning another walk-out at MHS in the future and signing petitions for school safety nationwide.

“We’re not just sitting here; we want change, and people have lost lives and now we’re sick and tired of it,” O’Hare said.

Reporter Joycelyn Cabrera contributed to this story.

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The Maricopa Rams started the 2018 season in a home tournament Thursday. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa High School Softball fell at home, 12-2, against Florence Thursday during the team’s season opener at the annual Krystin Diehl Tournament.

It was the first game led by new head coach Jason Crawford. He joined MHS in August as an English teacher.

A day ahead of the game, Crawford said the team’s biggest challenge is its nerves.

“We have been working hard the entire off season for this moment, and now that it’s here, I need to keep the girls’ from getting too nervous and losing focus of our goals,” Crawford said.

The team was plagued with pre-season jitters during its scrimmage Saturday, Crawford said, and despite moments of confidence on the mound and behind the plate Thursday, Rams softball couldn’t shake the butterflies for a win.

Rams varsity softball is a young team this year — made up of mostly underclassmen and only a handful of juniors and seniors.

Crawford said he’s looking to his older players to mentor their newest players on the field.

With the first game under their belt, Crawford said the team is “working out those kinks of youth and inexperience.”

Rams softball faces off against McClintock High Friday at 4:30 p.m.

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This story has been corrected from a previous version to indicate Mr. Crawford is an English teacher.

MUSD Governing Board

A month ahead of naming its new superintendent, Maricopa Unified School District whittled down a list of prospective future leaders vying for the position.

Out of the 30 hopefuls who applied, the MUSD Governing Board selected six superintendent candidates to interview. The decision came after three hours of application screenings in executive session Wednesday night.

The board will meet the candidates, anonymously announced as “A, C, D, E, H and J,” during 90-minute interviews March 13-14.

The Board directed Arizona School Board Association Karen Gasket to compose 10 interview questions based on topics they’d like to see covered.

Possible topics include: Exceptional Student Services and behavioral health, employee mentoring and professional growth, evaluation and restructuring of district organizational chart, future planning and growth, teacher retention, principals/superintendent relationship, district goals, student achievement, curriculum and education trends, technology, public safety partnerships and fiscal management.

At least four finalists are slated to be announced in open session after the March 14 interview date, according to a search timeline approved by the board in December. Final interviews will be conducted March 23.

The public will have the opportunity to meet finalists during a Q&A community forum at the District Administration Building March 26 at 7 p.m.

Comments from the public regarding the candidates will be documented and considered during a private deliberation between the board after the public forum at 8:45.

That finalist will be announced publicly by the Board after its private meeting March 26 in open session.

MUSD’s search comes as its current superintendent prepares to transition to a position with Scottsdale Unified School District.

As associate superintendent, Chestnut will work with board members who, Wednesday, met in a special meeting to decide the fate of Scottsdale’s embattled superintendent, Denise Birdwell.

“I, at this time, will make a motion that in consideration in the best interest of the district Dr. Birdwell be placed on temporary, paid administrative leave,” said SUSD Board President Barbara Perleberg during the meeting.

The motion passed unanimously.

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Maricopa High School students staged a quiet and brief protest of gun violence. Principal Rick Abel addresses the crowd in front of the high school:


Maricopa High School students walked out of their classrooms Thursday morning in a student-organized memorial to victims of school gun violence.

“I wanted to do it in tribute for all students who lost their life due to not having the knowledge about guns or knowledge of procedures,” said 17-year-old Faith Mead.

Mead is one of the 450 students who participated in what district administrators have called an “observance” at 10 a.m. on school grounds.

The students filled the high school’s front court yard near the flagpole to observe a period of silence and an opportunity for prayer honoring those killed last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, according to Maricopa Unified School District Human Resources Director Tom Beckett.

“Once Maricopa High School staff became aware that the observance was going to take place, they worked with student leaders to provide a safe space to gather on school property,” Beckett said.

Before asking students to return to class, Principal Rick Abel told students:

“We share in your grief. We respect what you’re doing. And we all have our own prayers about the situation. Our biggest job is to keep you safe. You have a voice. This is a good way to use that voice. We hope you continue to use it in a respectful fashion because that’s how positive change takes place.”

Beckett said administration, student resource officers, counselors and staff were present at the memorial. He said all students returned to class after the conclusion of the observance.

The event is one of many walk-outs organized by high school students nation-wide.

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The Maricopa varsity Rams take the field for the first time Wednesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Baseball’s season opener started at home Wednesday against Tempe High during the school’s annual Matt Huffman Tournament.

The tourney began Wednesday afternoon between Dobson and Poston Butte and runs through Saturday.

Rams head coach Andrew Pollak said he’s excited about the many players on the team with the potential to have a big year, some of them including his returning seniors.

“They’ve been through the program for four years now, and they could’ve easily chosen to leave town and go to a different school, but they stayed here and have done a good job representing our city,” Pollak said.

Four-year varsity player Carter Paine is slated to be No. 1 on the mound this year across from the Rams’ leader behind the plate, catcher Mason Williamson.

Belcher twins, Taylor and Tyler, will also return. Both pitchers and fielders, they are among those who Pollak said will have a “huge impact” on the field this year.

Senior Kevin McDill will return to the mound and the outfield for the Rams, and Andres Gusse is the team’s “tremendous first baseman,” Pollak said.

The team’s retention of quality players is what Pollak said is a testament to the program and its division.

“We play really good competition,” Pollak said. “We don’t have any cupcakes on our schedule.”

Rams play Poston Butte Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and finish the tourney Saturday with a game at 12:30 p.m.

Post-tournament play begins March 1 at home against Sierra Linda.

Tyler Belcher started for Maricopa against Tempe. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

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