Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
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Raquel, a.k.a. Rocky, is a sixth-generation Arizonan who spent her formative years in the Missouri Ozarks. After attending Temple University in Philadelphia, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and has been in the newspaper business since 1990. She has been a sports editor, general-assignment reporter, business editor, arts & entertainment editor, education reporter, government reporter and managing editor. After 16 years in the Verde Valley-Sedona, she moved to Maricopa in 2014. She loves the outdoors, the arts, great books and all kinds of animals.

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Maricopa’s 15th annual Salsa Festival is March 23 from 2 to 8 p.m. at Copper Sky Regional Park.

What: Salsa Festival
When: March 23, 2-8 p.m.
Where: Copper Sky Regional Park
How much: Admission free, salsa-voting kit $1, parking $5 (free shuttle from Butterfield and Santa Rosa elementary schools), Little Pepper Zone $5

There will be competitions not only for best salsa but also best tacos. Salsa chefs again compete in mild, hot and unusual categories, with overall top prize earning $1,000. Category winners receive $500, and the celebrity judge’s choice earns $250.

Salsa chefs can enter for $10 for the first entry and $5 for additional entries. Salsa booths will be set up throughout the festival grounds.

The taco competition is new this year, and judging will take place inside. Chefs will compete in beef, chicken and pork categories. The overall winner earns $1,000. Category winners receive $500. Best booth wins $100.

Taco chefs can enter for $200 and $5 for each additional category. They are encouraged to have a minimum of 500 tacos to sell. According to the rules, they can sell any taco, taco sample, salsa and guacamole for $2 each.

Kids can play in the Little Pepper Zone, and adults can enjoy an adult beverage in the beer garden. There will be food vendors and booths for crafters, businesses and organizations.


2 p.m. – Salsa turn-in to judges, People’s Choice voting begins
2:20 p.m. – Community Performance
2:40 p.m. – Piñata Bust
3:00 p.m. – Ballet Folklorico de Ajo
3:50 p.m. – Community Performance
4:10 p.m. – Piñata Bust
4:30 p.m. – Cuacualti Folklore Group
5:00  p.m. – Ballet Folklorico Quetzalcoatl
5:50 p.m. –  Hot Sauce eating contest
6::30 p.m. – Voting closes
6:30 p.m. – Libre Wrestling
7:30 p.m.-  Awards on the Main Stage, Hall of Fame Induction

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

East Valley Cardiology was helped by City of Maricopa officials in cutting a ribbon at its new Maricopa office: (from left) Jo Patty, Jessica Valenzuela, Aliza Siegel, Councilmember Rich Vitiello, Patricia Joseph, Linda Burdick, Dr. James Ganem, Councilmember Marvin Brown, Dr. Robert Hanson and Councilmember Vincent Manfredi. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After being in operation 29 years in Chandler, East Valley Cardiology opened a second office in Maricopa March 18. The office is open Monday-Thursday at 20924 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite D4-B.

“This is going to be a tremendous community,” Dr. James Ganem said. “We are so excited about providing high-quality health care and high-quality services. We’ve been taking care of you guys for a long time, and we’re just happy to do it here.”

Ganem said to start, the office will have one provider and operate four days a week. But the office has space for a second provider.

Ganem credited office manager Linda Burdick with readying the new office space, which includes four exam rooms, space for vein and vascular studies, echocardiograms and a treadmill. She has worked with him since 1990.

“One of the things we’re offering is full testing, and I think that’s important,” Ganem said. “Most of the offices down here, you come, you see the doctor, but you’ve got to go to Chandler or Phoenix to get your testing.”

The doctors would also like to see a hospital come to the area. EVC is involved in both Banner and Dignity networks.

“We’d like to provide some in-patient care and testing,” Dr. Robert Hanson said. “We can’t do nuclear stress out here. You need a nuclear room with lead walls. But we’ve got everything else.”


Maricopa hosted a kickoff meeting to find solutions to SR 347 traffic. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With bumper-to-bumper traffic and frequent collisions on State Route 347 making it the hottest topic for Maricopans, there are plans afoot to study improvement alternatives to the roadway in both Pinal and Maricopa counties.

Monday, representatives of the City of Maricopa met three hours with counterparts from Pinal County, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Federal Highway Administration and Wilson & Company to kickoff the studies.

“This study is just so important to this area,” said Charon Hill, MAG project manager.

Amy Moran, senior project manager for Wilson & Company, which has completed transportation studies for the City of Maricopa, said the purpose of the studies is to develop alternatives and evaluate strategies.

Alternatives named by residents include adding lanes and building overpasses. Ken Smith of HDR said the current realities of SR 347 will stymie economic growth in the area.

Andy Smith, general manager of Pinal Regional Transportation Authority, updated the group on the current lawsuit aimed at the funding of voter-approved improvements. The Goldwater Institute sued the Arizona Department of Revenue, Pinal County and PRTA on behalf of the Arizona Restaurant Association over Prop 417, which passed in 2017 as a sales tax to fund transportation projects.

Though the Arizona Tax Court ruled in favor of the ARA, the PRTA has submitted its paperwork to the Arizona Court of Appeals and is awaiting response from the Goldwater Institute.

Meanwhile, the county is still allowed to collect the tax, which has brought in about $13.6 million. Smith said that was within $100,000 of expectations.

Moran said the new studies are meant to help build consensus on SR 347 decisions.

“We recognize there have been a ton of studies done on this corridor,” she said.

However, two invitees not attending the kickoff were the Gila River and Ak-Chin communities. Hill said she would make new efforts to get them involved in future meetings.

That includes the next gathering, planned as a corridor vision workshop in April.

Concerns voiced at Monday’s session included safety issues, future costs and maintenance, failure to align with what stakeholders and the public want, building to standard, educating the public, how long improvement will take to create and how long they will last.

Carlos Lopez of ADOT noted activity on the proposed Interstate 11 is also expected in April with a draft environmental impact statement. David Maestas, transportation manager for the City of Maricopa, explained meetings on I-11 had been delayed until now by the government shutdown.

Andy Smith said it was important to remember the possible impact on SR 347 of any changes to other corridors, whether it is Interstate 10 and its access roads or future roadways like I-11, which is expected to take southern Arizona to the west side of the Valley and up to Las Vegas.


Thermometers will display into the 80s this week as the sun will shine most of the time, according to the National Weather Service. Light sprinkles and showers are possible Wednesday and Thursday.

Today is sunny with a high near 82. Tonight will be clear, with a low around 53.

Tuesday expect sunny skies with a high near 84. Tuesday night will become partly cloudy with a low around 55.

Wednesday is expected to be mostly sunny with a high near 81 and breezes 5-15 mph. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Wednesday night will have a chance of sprinkles with a slight chance of showers before 11 p.m., then a slight chance of showers after 11 p.m. with a low around 50. Winds of 5-15 mph may gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20 percent.

Thursday a chance of sprinkles is expected between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., then a slight chance of showers after 2 p.m. The day will be mostly sunny with a high near 71. Chance of precipitation is 10 percent. Thursday night will be partly cloudy with a low around 46.

Friday sunny skies will return with a high near 73. Friday night will be mostly clear with a low around 48.

The weekend will remain mostly sunny with a high near 76.


Danae Ruiz of Maricopa scored her 1,000th college career point this season at ERAU and was named to an NAIA All-America team. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


Danae Ruiz was nonplussed when a teammate’s mother spread the word Ruiz had been named to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) 2019 Division II Women’s Basketball All-America team.

“I wasn’t prepared for that,” said Ruiz, a junior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott.

A 2016 graduate of Maricopa High School, she was a founding member of the ERAU women’s team. Now she is the first athlete from the women’s or men’s basketball teams to gain the NAIA nationwide honor. A guard, she was named to the NAIA Third Team.

An annual leading scorer for the Eagles since her freshman year, Ruiz had a drama-filled season. She came out of the chute cold and couldn’t quite get her game together. Then she lost her starting spot.

“It was a rough, bumpy road,” she said.

Teams put more pressure on Ruiz than ever before, even staying in her face beyond the arc. New head coach Michael Trujillo decided she would fare better coming off the bench. She had to learn to take that in stride and just think about the playing minutes and not the starts.

“Mentally, I had to grow. Physically, I had to grow,” she said. “And I had to find a creative way of doing things.”

Despite starting only five of the 28 games this season, Ruiz led the Eagles scoring with 12.4 points per game, a total of 348. She let opponents come at her, resulting in 107 points from the free-throw line.

It was her trademark way of getting back up and fighting, something she has been doing since at least freshman year of high school. Before the family returned to Maricopa, she had a basketball coach telling her she would never play college ball or even be an impact player on high school varsity.

“I like to prove people wrong for some reason,” Ruiz said. “When we came back to Maricopa, I had a coach who believed in me and helped me develop my shot.”

By her junior year at MHS, Kati Burrows was the coach for a single season and guided Ruiz and the Rams to the state title. She also instilled a high-level work ethic that continued the next season under coach Melvin Mitchell and helped prepare Ruiz for the style of ball she would play at ERAU.

She also credits her parents for “always encouraging me to keep going” in very different ways. Anna is the softie while Gabe pushes her to toughen up.

This year Ruiz was again named All-California Pacific Conference First Team. For the first time, she was named Cal Pac Player of the Year. During the season, she scored her 1,000th college point. She is also on the ERAU Honor Roll as a forensic psychology major.

Her college preparations had her enrolled in a variety of advanced-placement classes at MHS. At ERAU, she found the coursework a little easier than expected and found a way to balance classes and the travel demands of women’s basketball. She was even on track to graduate early but took on two minors to extend her time.

The Eagles have become a sisterhood, Ruiz said, and she has been pushed into a leadership role, making sure the other women on the team are organized and on the same page. Those were not skills she had expected to acquire but are now part of her toolbox.

While she has been on the path to a career in forensic psychology since day one at ERAU, she is also looking for post-college basketball opportunities overseas.

Friends of the Maricopa Public Library are hosting the annual Spring Used Book Sale in the parking lot.

March 16 there will be a large variety of books for all ages, DVDs, CDs, audio books, large-print books, box sets and more. Proceeds help Friends, a nonprofit organization, support the library’s free programs.

Buy books by the plastic bag, paper bag or box.

Plastic Bag of Books:
Hardcover $6
Paperback $3
Mixed $4

Paper Bag of Books:
Hardcover $8
Paperback $5
Mixed $6

Box of Books:
Hardcover $10
Paperback $7
Mixed $8

DVDs, CDs and audiobooks are 5/$3 and 10/$5. A single hardcover is $1.50, and a paperback is 75 cents.

Also scheduled to be on hand are the Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa, who will be collecting donations for care packages to deployed service members, F.O.R. Maricopa, Maricopa Master Gardeners, Girl Scouts, Pet Social Worker/Tails of Hope with furry friends, and Library Initiative for Teens (LIFT).

The Beignet and Coffee Shack will also be available with refreshments.

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

A sprint triathlon, triathlon relay, duathlon and more are part of Sunday's memorial events to honor the late Pete Masiel and Deb Grosbusch.

It’s been a year since Maricopa lost Pete Masiel and Deb Grosbusch in an Oregon traffic accident. In 2018, family and friends gathered at Copper Sky for a memorial marathon and Zumba event in their honor. This year, the legacy continues.

The inaugural Maricopa Memorial Events is set for Sunday, March 17, starting at 7 a.m., and will include an array of challenges.

“We’ve decided to take it a little further and do an annual event,” said Shannon Reindl, a friend of Masiel and co-organizer of the MME. “Basically, it’s in their memory this year but it’s also a memorial for other people that we’ve lost in the community.”

The day’s events include a sprint triathlon individual, a duathlon, sprint triathlon relay, Splash & Dash and Zumbathon, all at Copper Sky on St. Patrick’s Day.

The sprint triathlon consists of a 200-meter swim, a 15K bike ride and 5K run. The duathlon is a 5K run followed by a 15K bike ride followed by another 5K run. There are also “virtual” options available for those who want to try it on their own.

The Splash & Dash is for two age groups, 7-10 and 11-15. The duathlon is for ages 13 and up, while other events are for adults. The triathlon is in age categories of 17-35, 36-50 and 50+. Entry fees are $15 for the Splash & Dash, $50 for the individual triathlon and $75 for the triathlon relay.

The Zumbathon has no age restrictions, and the entry fee is $2 and a canned food donation.

Learn more or contact the organizers at See the event on Facebook at

Pete Masiel. Submitted photo

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Photo by Jim Headley


The least expensive home sold Jan. 16-Feb. 15 sold in an online auction by the owner/agent in January. A two-story, four-bedroom, no-frills house, it is nearly 12 years old with basic desert landscaping front and back.

  1. 21808 N. Liles Lane, The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado

Sold: Jan. 28
Purchase price: $154,000
Square footage: 2,195
Price per square foot: $70.16
Days on market: 7
Builder: Meritage
Year built: 2007
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2.5
Community: The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado
Features: Master bedroom downstairs, walk-in closets, large kitchen, water softener, tile flooring throughout lower level
Listing Agent: Don Juvan, Gentry Real Estate
Selling Agent: Don Juvan, Gentry Real Estate

  1. 40215 W. Green Court, Desert Passage ……….. $159,900
  2. 35978 W. Costa Blanca Drive, Tortosa ………… $160,000
  3. 42515 W. Hillman Drive, Rancho El Dorado … $164,000
  4. 42359 W. Sunland Drive, Rancho El Dorado … $168,000


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Photo by Jim Headley

The most expensive home sold in Maricopa from Jan. 16 to Feb. 15 was a brand-new spec home by Fulton Homes in the Sycamore section of Glennwilde. Sporting tons of upgrades, from faucets to hardware, it has four bedrooms on one level and was on the market less than two weeks. Though having no landscaping yet in the backyard, the home is 2,500 square feet and comes with a three-car garage.

  1. 41840 W. Granada Drive, Glennwilde

Sold: Jan. 30
Purchase price: $340,598
Square footage: 2,517
Price per square foot: $135.31
Days on market: 13
Builder: Fulton Homes
Year built: 2018
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3
Community: Glennwilde
Features: All-new features with upgrades, dimmable task lighting, multiple ovens, energy efficient, huge great room, covered patio
Listing Agent: Linn Adair, Fulton Home Sales
Selling Agent: Jennifer Schumacher, Century 21 Arizona Foothills

  1. 16944 N. Palo Verde St., Palo Brea………………………………………..$335,000
  2. 41858 W. Almira Drive, Glennwilde………………………………………$307,500
  3. 40936 W. Hopper Drive, Homestead North………………………….$300,000
  4. 40810 W. Parkhill Drive, The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado………$300,000

With a new suit for prom on the line, senior Antonio Gonzales won Maricopa High School’s second annual Mr. MHS contest Friday in an eight-man field. Guest judges and the audience judged the contestants on talent, swimsuit, evening wear and interview in a light-hearted take on a beauty pageant.

Gonzales entered the contest “to have a good time,” which seemed to be true of all involved.

While Gonzales won a suit from Nick’s Menswear, first runner-up Brandon Korittky and second runner-up Nathan Wallin received $100 off a new suit. Aiden Jaegar was named People’s Choice.

Also entertaining wee Anthony Lee Morris II, Alex Hurley, Lucas Dial and Kade Kruse.  Judges were Vice Mayor Henry Wade, Superintendent Tracey Lopeman, Principal Brian Winter, Miss City of Maricopa Ashley Lynn and teacher Chuck Cloud. Teachers Jenn and Tyler Miller hosted.

The event is a fundraiser for MHS programs.

Heather Blakely(from left), Alicia Hills and Robin Bennett of the Letters to Soldiers Club. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

For nearly nine years, U.S. servicemembers stationed around the world have been receiving packages from Maricopa.

The Letters to Soldiers Club sends cards, letters and care boxes to deployed troops, most of whom are strangers. It all started as an after-school project.

“Back in 2010 I kind of created the opportunity to send support to the troops,” said LTS founder and Villages resident Heather Blakely. “At my son’s school [Legacy], we would get together about once a week during the school year and write cards and letters.”

The project evolved as the school conducted donation drives, and soon care packages were being assembled. Letters to Soldiers became a year-round activity.

“I have a couple of organizations online that I’ve known for years. They usually provide the names,” Blakely said. “Some of them are family and friends. At some of the vendor events here in town, I’ve been able to connect with a couple wives whose husbands are currently deployed, so it’s nice to represent the locals.”

The organization achieved its nonprofit status in 2018. To do so, it needed a board. Blakely reached out to one of her former tennis student, Alicia Hills, and to Robin Bennett, who had allowed LTS to bring its cards to Maricopa Community Church as part of a crafts project.

Hills’ father and grandparents were in the military. “It’s always something that’s held a high value, very honorable to me,” she said. “I have cousins that are in the military as well. I just think if I were in their shoes and in a foreign country, it would be nice to have those comforts of home and the assurance that people are thinking of you.”

Bennett, too, has had family in the military, and her son was a military contractor in Kuwait.

“He told me when a box came, even his box came where the soldiers got their boxes, and they are all over those boxes,” she said. “It’s just a piece of home.”

Blakely said becoming a nonprofit opened opportunities to gain more fundraising avenues and grants.

“And it gives it some legitimacy to what you’re doing because they know that you have to go through checks and balances on the other side,” Hills said.

“Otherwise, it comes out of her pocket,” Bennett said.

With a goal of shipping 20 packages a month, LTS also seeks more local businesses and organizations as sponsors. A large box costs $18.45 just for shipping. The group attends many vendor events in town, including Salsa Fest and Merry Copa, to gain sponsors and collect donations.

“And that’s something we want to do more of,” Hills said, “through getting our name out in the public to the community and letting people know, ‘Hey, we’re here to support your deployed loved one.’”

The website includes a list of most-requested items on its contact page. Those include baby wipes, baby powder and beef jerky. Western Kentucky University even donated small towels. Last year, LTS sent out 106 care packages to service members.

For Halloween, the club hosted “Treats for Troops” with dentist Karen Kramarczyk offering a $1-per-pound buyback of donated excess candy. During Veterans Day weekend, a box-packing event at Blakely’s house finished with 40 packages.

The club partners with the Casa Grande school district and has groups within Maricopa schools participating. The Maricopa High School National Honor Society has provided letters to soldiers and some boxes.

While the club does not release the names of service members for operations security, it wants to build up its list of troop members. Blakely said they want to have that on the website by the end of the year, “so they can contact us, and we can get their names out to those who want to support.”

Besides those deployed, the club wants to reach out to Maricopa’s service members who still may be stateside. They sent packages to both Maricopans currently at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Hills said LTS supports veterans through the Tucson Honor Flight Program and has a soft-spot for K9 military working dogs and their handlers.

“The postal service, on an APO address, gives you a $2 discount on the large size,” Bennett said. “That’s a nice thing for the postal system to do.”

“Generally, if you send to one service member, they share with about five,” Blakely said. “So, the larger the better, so there’s more to share.”


How to participate

  • Craft handmade cards, write hero letters, color pages
  • Donate care-package supplies
  • Host a packing party
  • Contribute toward shipping costs ($18.45/large flat-rate box)
  • Sponsor a box ($50 covers shipping, fill and personalized hero note)
  • Follow “Letters to Soldiers Club” on Facebook
  • Visit for examples of art
  • Participate through AmazonSmiles:

Add your deployed Marine, Airman, Soldier or Sailor to the LTS Club beneficiary list at

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

The City of Maricopa Police Department, Victim Services Unit was awarded a grant through Ak-Chin’s State-Shared Revenue Program (Prop 202) in the amount of $16,910 in partnership with Maricopa Unified School District.  The grant will provide a high level of service from crisis intervention and support in the education system for victims of crime and children with adverse experiences in Maricopa.

The funding will be used to:

  1. Increase on-scene response having Victim Advocates available on stand-by pay during the weekends. This is estimating 30 percent of victims served will receive services through on-scene response at the time of the incident.
  2. Provide training to elementary school staff at Butterfield and Maricopa elementary schools on mindfulness and trauma informed classrooms through a professor at ASU School of Social Work.
  3. Provide trauma sensitive classrooms through Calming Corners at Butterfield and Maricopa Elementary School.

Mary Witkoski, MPD’s Community Program manager, reflected the strong support the police department has provided in both assessing the needs of the district and applying for the funds. “This is a very effective partnership, and I’m glad we could help in securing this important grant.”

Krista Roden, MUSD’s director of Teaching and Learning, said, “The safety of our students is and will always be a top priority of the District.  We are excited to partner with MPD to respond to the evolving needs of our students.  The professional development will extend the reach of trauma informed practices to our most vulnerable students and expanding Calming Corners offers a safe space inside classrooms where students can regroup and process feelings of anxiety or other intense emotions that could disrupt their day.”

Chevron signage went up at the former Shell station by Signs Plus of Phoenix. Photo by Jim Headley

The former Shell station with non-functioning fuel pumps at the corner of John Wayne Parkway and Garvey Avenue underwent a transformation this week.

Fuel dispensers were removed, and the canopy and signage switched to Chevron by Signs Plus in Phoenix. The Maricopa Shell LLC property also includes Dairy Queen.

Owners had submitted applications for the improvements last year. It was granted a commercial alteration permit in January to re-install fuel dispensers and a sign permit in February.

The limited liability company is owned by Madanial J. Patel and Harshad Patel Ratnakalabahen of Scottsdale.

Financial advisor Mike LaVallee said the state formula will artificially inflate projected tax rates on a possible bond for Maricopa Unified School District. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The growth of Maricopa Unified School District mirrors that of many other districts in Arizona recovering from the Great Recession. And that could lead to a communication problem with voters.

MUSD is preparing to ask those voters for a bond to relieve the pressure on an already-overcrowded high school. Over the past five years, the district’s valuation has grown 5.34 percent.

However, the 10-year growth average is only 0.82 percent. By state statute, the 10-year historical average must be used in voter pamphlets to project the growth in assessed value in the tax-impact schedule.

“That’s a big disparity,” said financial advisor Mike LaVallee, a managing director of Stifel, Nicolaus & Company. “Even though you’re adding growth now, it’s not making up for what you lopped off 11-12 years ago.”

Using the 10-year average will produce a tax-rate impact that LaVallee said will be artificially high.

As an example, LaVallee showed the 10-year growth average creating a tax rate of 88 cents on a $50 million bond. For the owner of a home valued at $100,000, that would be an annual cost of $88.24. However, LaVallee said a “more realistic scenario,” based on the five-year average, would be a tax rate of just 55 cents, costing the same homeowner $55.49 instead.

“By law, we have to, in the voter pamphlet, talk about 1A, ‘Here’s what the state says it’s going to be.’ Then we would explain, ‘No, really, it’s going to be 1B for these reasons, X, Y and Z,’” said board member Torri Anderson. “That makes sense. Frustrating, but it makes sense.”

LaVallee called himself a K-12 specialist, but he also worked with the former Maricopa Fire District on bond elections before the city incorporated. He also worked with MUSD previously on refinancing debt and bond elections.

The assessed valuation history of the district “is so important as it relates to bonding capacity and tax-rate calculations,” he said. Bonding capacity is determined by the assessed value.

In 2009-10, before the recession fully impacted the area, the full cash assessed value was $441,000. By 2013-14, it was down to $224,000. Then the district grew again.

Now, the most recent estimate from Pinal County has the assessed valuation at $390,000, a growth rate over last year of 10.88 percent.

“That’s a very healthy growth number,” LaVallee said.

The limited assessed property value, on the other hand, determines all tax rates, including bonds. It is called limited because it is restricted by formula.

“If somebody’s property value grew market value year-by-year 8 percent, the tax value can only grow by 5,” LaVallee said. “Every property, existing homeowner, existing business can only grow tax value by 5 percent a year, even if they grew at 10 or 7 or 12. It will keep carrying over every year, but it will be capped at 5 percent.”

He said the message to the community needs to recognize what the voter pamphlet will show but explain what the real rate will be. He said that kind of outreach will be up to a pro-bond committee.

Legacy Traditional School winners of the Great Communicator Lincoln Speech Contest (from left), third place Alanna Mullins, second place Filimon Kednmarey and first place Emily Enriquez.

Twelve students at Legacy Traditional School participated in the school’s Great Communicator Lincoln Speech Contest on Wednesday.

The top was “What are the Benefits and Challenges in Creating a Sustainability-Minded Global Society?”

Emily Enriquez finished first, Filimon Kednmarey was second, and Alanna Mullins was third. The three received medals and certificates. The top two qualify for regional competition.

The students were required to research and write their speeches, explaining the issues and how focusing on sustainability can affect the economy, education, the food industry, the environment, business, advertising and architectural, fashion and technology design.

Previous art display at City Hall.

Maricopa City Hall Arts Committee announced a Spring Gallery show, “Maricopa In Bloom,” for local visual artists.

This is a juried gallery of artwork selected by arts advocates and professionals. Work will be on display April through June. Anticipating the move from Arizona winter to spring, the committee is looking for colorful works for this upcoming gallery. The exhibition name Maricopa in Bloom is left to the interpretation of the artist.

Deadline for submittal is Feb. 28. The show is open to high school ages and up.

Go to and then click on departments/human resources/resource center/city of Maricopa arts on display policy (new). There you can read the policy, instructions and download the application for submittal.


Photo by Jim Headley

Moisture is expected to continue for the Maricopa area through Saturday morning. Rain will even be heavy at times tonight and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Bundle up and stay dry.

Today rain will continue with a high near 53. The day will be breezy with a west-southwest wind 10 to 15 mph, and gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch are possible. Tonight, there will be rain before 3 a.m. turning to showers. The low is expected around 39 with south-southwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent.

Friday a 50 percent chance of showers is forecast. The day is forecast to be partly sunny with a high near 51 and breezy with a southwest wind 5 to 15 mph and gusts as high as 20 mph. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch are possible. Friday night a 10 percent chance of showers is forecast before 11 p.m. The evening will be mostly clear with a low around 30.

Saturday is likely to be sunny with a high near 54. Saturday night, expect mostly clear skies with a low around 31.

Sunday will have mostly sunny skies and a high near 61. Sunday night will be mostly clear with a low around 36.

Next week is expected to start out sunny with a high near 65.


Maricopa High School's 24PinTech repairs and refurbishes tech devices. They are asking Maricopans to donate old tech they no longer need at a recycle event Saturday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

It’s a great time to get rid of your old devices. The information technologies program at Maricopa High School is hosting its annual technology recycle day Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Senior Lucas Dial, a service technician in the department’s student-run 24PinTech, said the program is again partnering with Arizona Students Recycling Used Technology (AZStRUT). They welcome all tech materials except “large old-style CRT monitors,” printer ink and toner or other hazardous materials.

Most of the donated devices will be put to use in the information tech program on campus once they are refurbished by the students. Anything that cannot be used at MHS will go to AZStRUT, which then donates the equipment to schools and nonprofits.

The tech students it’s a taste of real-life tech support employment.

“We get experience talking to people and refurbishing equipment,” Dial said. “We’ve written up procedures for it.”

Students and teachers can use 24PinTech to repair their devices free of charge. The program, comprised of juniors and seniors with IT certification, charges only for any needed parts. The instructor and advisor for the program is Brad Chamberlain.

Anyone wishing to recycle old tech Saturday can follow the signs from the office (45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.) to the teachers’ parking lot.

Lucas Dial is a certified service technician for 24PinTech.

The third annual Copa Shorts Film Festival is Feb. 23-24 at two locations. The weekend includes free workshops, a table reading and food trucks.

Films were submitted locally, from across the country and from around the world. As short films they are limited to 20 minutes in length.

“We have so many well-rated films,” organizer Shelley Gillespie said. “We have more films ranked 9 or higher (out of 10) than the past two years.”

Food trucks will be available both days of the festival, and those not attending the festival are welcome to drop by for a bite, too. The food trucks scheduled to participate Grandma’s Navajo Frybread, which will be on location both days, La Petite Provence, which specializes in French desserts, The Lemongrass Shack (Cambodian street food) and, possibly, When Pigs Fly.

Saturday, the films will be by high school and middle school students, including seven films made by Maricopans. They will be shown in the Performing Arts Center auditorium at Maricopa High School.

The Black Box Theatre at the PAC will be the site of Saturday’s workshop, as well:

10 a.m. – “Money for Low-Budget Films” with Ben Juhl and Jason Ryan
11:30 a.m. – “Makeup SFX on a Budget” with Aeni Domme
1 p.m. – “Enhancing Your Movie with Music” with Brent Michael Davids

Register for the free workshops at

MHS students from DECA and National Honor Society will help run the festival. DECA also created shirts for the event.

“DECA are going to do amazing things for us,” Gillespie said. “We know they’re really solid. They’re hard-working. They’re thinking about business, and that’s helpful.”

The film blocks start at 2:30 p.m. with high school films that are ostensibly rated PG-13, followed by middle school films and general-audience high school films.

Sunday, the action moves to Maricopa City Hall. There will be a silent auction on display starting at 11 a.m. The film blocks start a noon featuring movies by professional filmmakers. The second block includes a table read by local actors of a screenplay, followed by the screening of the filmed version.

Tickets are sold by block, day pass or VIP.

The Wrap Party is at 7 p.m. with entertainment by musician Beth Lederman and presentation of awards. Because the night coincides with the Academy Awards, there will be a red-carpet Oscar Night celebration, and attendees are encouraged to glam it up.

Admission to the party is $25.

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Senior Jayla Johnson, junior Tayler Coleman and sophomore Shakira Gillespie head upcourt at Millennium.

The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team wrapped up their extended season in the quarterfinals of the 5A state championship bracket Thursday.

Facing Arizona’s top team, the Millennium Tigers, the Rams fell 71-35. It capped a 21-9 year for Maricopa.

“They fought the entire time. In following them throughout our season, that’s one thing that hasn’t stayed consistent,” first-year head coach RaShawn Calvert said. “In going into games, we start bad and then pick it up. Tonight, I can definitely say they fought from start to finish.”

With four players over six feet tall, the formerly 6A Millennium was physically daunting and aggressive, leaving Maricopa with awkward match-ups. The Tigers ran to a 24-8 lead in the first quarter. Though Maricopa stuck with them in the second to trail 40-21 at the half, Millennium went on a 22-6 tear in the third.

Calvert said she was proud of her team’s accomplishments, saying no one picked them to end up in the quarterfinals. The Rams also saw what they need to do to get to the next level.

“It’s working on everything. It’s getting mentally prepared, physically prepared,” Calvert said. “We saw the best. We saw No. 1 [Millennium]. No. 2 [Gilbert] was in our region. We know what we’ve got to prepare for. We know our weaknesses. We know moving forward what we’ve got to work on.”

Maricopa is losing six seniors, including last season’s Region Player of the Year Jayla Johnson. However, a contingent of juniors and sophomores also saw plenty of playing time this season and stepped up as leaders when necessary.

In Monday’s semifinals at the Wells Fargo Arena, Millennium will face No. 12 Casteel while Gilbert takes on No. 3 Horizon.

Part of the cast of "Mary Poppins Jr." at Legacy Traditional School. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Chimney sweeps, penguins, bankers and a magical nanny have been seen scampering about Legacy Traditional School as the charter prepares for its big spring musical extravaganza.

This year, it’s “Mary Poppins Jr.”

The production is set for Feb. 22-23 and March 2. Musical Director Michelle Wagner has assembled more than 100 fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders into a singing and dancing troupe. Parents are also a vital link for organizing the production, which is a major fund-raiser, and getting the kids in terrific costumes.

“The cast is incredible,” Wagner said.

The production is a junior version of the 1964 Disney musical that was converted into a Broadway show in 2006, filled with familiar tunes and based on the books by P.L. Travers.

While several cast members have a few musical productions under their belts, seventh-grader Adelin Robinson is a new performer who landed the title role with her voice.

“At first I didn’t really want the role. I was so scared to do an audition in the first place,” Adelin said. “But after a while, it took a lot of confidence and I was able to try out.”

Adelin Robinson is Mary Poppins and Tanner Webster is Bert.

The story is a tale of the Banks family, which can’t seem to keep a nanny for two mischievous children, Jane and Michael. Mr. Banks has prioritized his work at the bank ahead of his family, but the arrival of a mysterious nanny sets his home life on end.

“I love coming up here and being Mary Poppins, a strict but kind nanny. It’s just amazing,” Adelin said. “I really love the songs and the music. At first, one of the songs had a note that had to be held for a really long time, but now I can hold it.”

Eighth-grader Caleb Ortiz plays George Banks. He has previously been in productions of “Aladdin,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Peter Pan.” He is also in the junior high choir and has appeared in smaller junior high musicals.

“Mr. Banks means business. He doesn’t like fooling around. He doesn’t like these kids coming in and bothering him. He’s just trying to work and do all his stuff,” Caleb said. “I don’t really like being mean so when I go to being nice it’s fun.”

Last year, eighth-grader Tanner Webster soared as Peter Pan. In “Mary Poppins,” he plays the lively role of Bert the chimney sweep.

“Bert is really fun to play,” Tanner said. “He’s super happy and he’s always very kind to other people. And at the same time, he is able to have fun, but he cares about others, and I think that’s a very good characteristic.”

The part includes a lot of action, and Tanner has been having fun with it.

“I love singing and dancing. His dancing is like really all over the place, super crazy and fun, and I really like that,” he said. “I do take inspiration from [Dick Van Dyke], but I do think it’s important when you’re playing a role to make it your own.”

Ryah Wilkinson, an eighth grader, plays Winifred, the matriarch of the Banks clan. She was previously seen in “The Little Mermaid” and “Peter Pan.” She has also performed in elementary concerts and is a member of the junior high choir.

“She’s a bit strict but she’s also nice,” she said of Mrs. Banks. “She likes to deal with things in an orderly fashion and make sure everything goes well.”


The Banks family (from left) Ryah Wilkinson, Morgan Lee, Tak Harris and Caleb Ortiz.

Fifth-grader Morgan Lee is happy to get into costume to play young Jane Banks, and she’s concentrating hard on the dance steps.

“I want to get the dancing right,” Morgan said. “All the choreography is kind of hard to memorize.”

For Takaru Harris, a fifth grader playing Michael Banks, the bed in the nursery has been more of a challenge. “The way they set up my bed is I have a pillow, and when I lay down it flies out. It’s difficult to lay down, and my back hurts because I have to stay up.”

Among others in the cast are Maya Pulliam as Katie Nanna, Logan Woods as Robertson Ay, Cydney Williford as the Bird Woman, Taylor Girard as Neleus and Diana Harris as Miss Smythe.

Showtime is 6 p.m. each night, with a 2 p.m. matinee March 2. Tickets start at $5. Contact the school at 520-423-9999.


Rachele Reese

After high school, Rachele Piñero Reese was a bit adrift.

In college, she studied for a basic general education degree in Puerto Rico “because I had no idea what I wanted to do in my life.”

She was also struggling with what she later found out was attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Severe ADHD,” she said, “so I had to learn how I could learn. They didn’t even know what ADHD was, so it’s not like I was diagnosed. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t focus. So, it took a group of people, including my parents, to keep me confident in my skills to learn.”

So, she empathizes with students with learning issues but doesn’t accept excuses. And she wants high schools to do a better job of leading students to discover where their skills can take them in the job market.

“One of the things that I have always noticed is the fact that when you finish high school, the advisor can give you a test and then say, ‘These are your skills,’” Reese said. “But there is really no real-life idea of what that job is going to look like.”

Now with a master’s degree and working as an assistant principal at Leading Edge Academy, she has been chosen to be the principal for the upcoming A+ Charter Schools for junior high and high school students. The school is being organized to emphasize project-based education, job marketability, higher education and life skills.

Reese has been involved in Maricopa education since 2000. She started as a substitute at Maricopa Unified School District for middle school and high school language arts, English Language Learners and Spanish during a tumultuous time at MUSD. While teaching, she was training as ELL coordinator for the district.

“High school is a big challenge, and I want to take that challenge,” she said.

Rebekah Krueger, the business manager of Arizona Charter Solutions, Leading Edge Academy’s management company, has known Reese 11 years and thought she was just the person to start up a charter high school.

“She’s just so enthusiastic,” Krueger said. “She’s passionate about education. She’s lived there in Maricopa many years, and her experience speaks for itself. And she’s fun to be around.”

During Reese’s third year at MUSD, the district experienced hypergrowth. She went from testing 200 students to testing 800. She had to train a group of people to help so the district could make adequate yearly progress. At the time, she worked out of the old elementary building at the Honeycutt Avenue campus.

When Santa Cruz Elementary opened in Tortosa, she went there as assistant principal, working one year with 1,000 students. When the academic coach was promoted to principal at the new Saddleback Elementary, she took Reese with her as assistant.

A year later, Maricopa Wells Middle School was having administrative issues, and Reese split her time between duties at Saddleback and doing teacher evaluations at MWMS.

“She is probably the top individual I’ve ever dealt with as far as evaluating teachers and instructing teachers,” said Mat Reese, who was an MUSD principal at the time and later married Rachele Piñero.

Maricopa Elementary was in corrective action academically and having discipline problems. When the principal was moved out, Rachele Reese went to MES as an assistant principal. Two weeks later she was the interim principal and in charge of a turnaround.

“We had a year to turn it around,” she said. “I met with staff and I made the analogy of a huge ship that needs at least 30 miles to turn around completely. We don’t have 30 miles; we have about a mile to turn it around. Typically, there are going to be casualties.”

That meant a “reduction in force” of 18 employees. That was the beginning of the end of her time at MUSD.

“I know there are people who don’t like my approach because of the turnaround aspect of it,” Reese said. “You can’t go in and pat people on the back and say, ‘You’re doing a great job,’ if they’re not.”

She said she had heard the excuse for low scores at MES centered on the high population of Native American and Hispanic students.

“I had to go in and build those kids up because those kids thought they were dumb,” she said. “I’m Hispanic myself, and I’ve always thought anybody can learn. If you just believe in yourself, you can do anything.”

Putting her hyperactivity to work, she also insisted on a better physical environment at the school, even getting out the paint roller to paint the cafeteria to be more inviting.

“What she did at Maricopa Elementary was phenomenal,” Mat Reese said. “She got that school from three points from an A. In six years they didn’t even approach a C.”

After Superintendent Jeff Kleck resigned, she said she “saw the writing on the wall” and turned in her resignation as well. She became a turnaround principal at Gila Bend. There were some improvements during her two years there but also decades of political baggage.

After taking a break, she took a part-time position helping Mat Reese create the local Leading Edge Academy charter school and began helping Laura Newcomb gain accreditation for her Autism Academy in Tempe. When Leading Edge opened, she became full-time staff. She has been with Leading Edge three years.

In 2018, Reese was named Maricopa Latin Heritage Person of the Year during the City’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.

When Newcomb and Kreuger floated the idea of another charter high school, Reese told them Maricopa would be the place to do it.

Kreuger said they felt the kind of project-based high school they were envisioning was needed, and Reese’s knowledge of the city was vital.

“She can hit the ground running.”

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

From Feb. 7, 2019. Photo by Kyle Norby

High school girls’ basketball teams have extended their seasons as the Sequoia Pathway varsity upset No. 4 Jefferson Prep in the Canyon Athletic Association quarterfinals.

The Pumas won 47-39 Monday night to advance to the semis of Division 2. Aleina Estrada scored 24 points for Pathway, bringing her season total to 371.

Kymani Bledsoe put up 12 points, and Jasmin Nafarrate scored seven and had 5 offensive rebounds. Alicia Lewis scored three, and Destiny Rosales had two.

The Pumas, seeded fifth, next play Saturday against top seed Desert Heights at Valley Lutheran High School at 6:15 p.m.

In the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team plays tonight at Marana High School in the 5A round of 16. The Rams are seeded ninth. Marana is eighth. Game time is 7 p.m.

Other Maricopa teams that qualified for the playoffs bowed out early. The Pathway boys’ basketball team lost to top-ranked Eduprize-Gilbert, 102-28, in the CAA round of 16 on Friday. In AIA play, the MHS girls’ soccer team lost to Casteel in the first round 4-0 Saturday.

Art tools become still life: Tiffany Yazzie brought photos of the grandmothers who taught her to weave along with her tools. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The latest series of “Inside the Creative Mind” began Saturday with presentations by Navajo weaver Tiffany Yazzie and art instructor Kristal Melody Hoeh. The series, produced by Maricopa Arts Council, looks at the creative process as described by local artists. Yazzie and Hoeh focused on the engineering aspect of their art, from planning to tools. Yazzie explained the difference between traditional and contemporary Navajo weaving while Hoeh talked about the pros and cons of various painting and drawing media. The event was at Maricopa Public Library.

Jayla Johnson leads the Rams past Independence. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Overcoming a cold start, the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team won its play-in contest against Independence, 54-41.

The Rams scored just six points in the first quarter, but team defense kept them close to the Patriots until the shooting started to coming together.

“Our defense was our offense tonight,” MHS head coach RaShawn Calvert said. “As much as we could create and keep our intensity up and stay positive even though things weren’t falling for us, our defense brought us the energy and carried over and created some points for us.”

Senior Jayla Johnson led the Maricopa scoring with 19 points, eight of her team’s 15 points in the second quarter as the Rams moved past the Patriots for good. Independence was ranked 24th to Maricopa’s ninth.

The Rams got scoring out of nine players.

“It was a decent prep. Every game, I think, is a prep,” Calvert said. “Every team has something different to offer. We’re all fighting for the same thing. Whether it’s the last team in the state or the first team in the state, everyone’s coming with their best play, their best players, everything that they’ve got.”

MHS had sloppy moments, and Calvert said that just wouldn’t do deeper in the playoff bracket.

“We’ve just got to know the little mistakes we made here isn’t going to make the cut for the playoffs,” she said. “We’ve got to clean it up and get prepared for what’s next for us.”

Though injured late in the game, senior Italy Brookshire scored 10 points. Brooke Smith had six point, Jade Placer five. Shakira Gillespie and Destinee Chavis scored four apiece. Tayler Coleman had three, Kat Gores two, and Jene Brown one.

The girls now wait to find out their opponent in Round 1 of the 5A state bracket, which is played Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the high seed.

by -
Photo by Jim Headley

The most expensive home sold in Maricopa from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15 was a large, lakeside home in Province that had been on the market 10 months. It sold for $9,900 under its list price and was quickly placed on the market for rent. It includes solar for minimal electric bills and a gorgeous back patio with a hot tub.

  1. 42483 W. Blue Suede Shoes Lane, Province

Sold: Jan. 1
Purchase price: $440,000
Square footage: 3,102
Price per square foot: $141.84
Days on market: 293
Builder: Meritage
Year built: 2006
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 4
Community: Province
Features: Luxury gourmet kitchen with steel appliances, bamboo floors, 12-foot ceilings, three-car garage, guest casita
Listing Agent: Jill K. Dames, Realty ONE Group
Selling Agent: Annette Sharp, HomeSmart

  1. 20193 N. Winter Escape Court, Province…………………………………….$300,000
  2. 21838 N. Scott Court, Rancho El Dorado……………………….……………$292,000
  3. 20038 N. Cordoba St., Tortosa……………………………………………………$287,500
  4. 42478 W. Constellation Drive, Province…………………….……………….$275,000

Item appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Photo by Kyle Norby

The least expensive home sold in Maricopa from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15 was a three-bedroom in Sorrento that last sold at the end of 2016. It has been off-and-on the market and used as a rental. It sold for its list price. Originally listed in August, it was almost sold in December but financing fell through before closing.

  1. 17881 N. Ischia Road, Sorrento

Sold: Jan. 10
Purchase price: $166,900
Square footage: 1,371
Price per square foot: $121.73
Days on market: 154
Builder: D.R. Horton
Year built: 2008
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Community: Sorrento
Features: 8,000-square-foot lot, RV gate, vaulted ceiling in family room, custom blinds, reverse osmosis drinking system
Listing Agent: Ted A. Anderson HomeSmart Success
Selling Agent: Brooke Jordan, My Home Group Real Estate

  1. 44063 W. Neely Drive, The Villages at Rancho El Dorado …….$168,000
  2. 41334 W. Bravo Drive, The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado…………$169,500
  3. 42188 W. Noreen Road, Santa Rosa Springs…………………………$169,999
  4. 21424 N. Reinbold Drive, Rancho El Dorado………………………….$171,500

This item appears in the February edition of InMaricopa.

On Senior Night, Maricopa High School girls basketball senior Italy Brookshire, Jene Brown, Jayla Johnson, Destinee Chavis, Jade Placer and Divere Brown joined coach RaShawn Culvert in celebrating a winning year and their 19th victory with two games left in the regular season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

It’s been a winning season that is just turning tougher as the playoffs approach.

Ranked eighth in Arizona’s 5A conference, the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team has two games left to play with the state bracket on the line. Their final opponents of the regular season, Casteel and Gilbert, have both defeated the Rams this year.

“It’s going well, but we’ve got more goals we want to reach,” head coach RaShawn Calvert said. “We’ve got to take them one at a time and hopefully come away with the win and then lead into the playoffs.”

Teams ranked in the top eight at the end of the season automatically qualify for the state bracket. Teams ranked nine through 24 must go through the play-in tournament to earn a place. The Rams are 19-5 overall.

“They came in with goals they wanted to set, goals they wanted to reach,” Calvert said. “Regardless of changes with new people, for the most part it’s been the same group. We just had to figure out a way to get as far as we wanted to get.”

They are third in the 5A San Tan Region behind Gilbert and Casteel. Gilbert is ranked second in 5A statewide. Tuesday, Maricopa won its final home game, a 46-33 victory over Higley.

Calvert said team chemistry has improved throughout the season.

“Just playing together offensively, knowing each other, I think that’s improved the most,” she said. “New players, new coach at the same time, you got to get to know them, they got to get to know me. But chemistry has gone really well and has improved, I’d say, every single game.”

Of the five teams that have defeated the Rams this year, three were 5A teams, one was 3A Chinle, and O’Connor is in 6A. All but one have winning records, the outlier being 5-19 Campo Verde, which faced the Rams when they were dealing with injuries.

Consistency has been a sticking point for Maricopa.

“Whether it’s defensively or executing our plays, we’ve got to get more consistent, especially against the tougher teams,” Calvert said. “That’s what it’s going to come down to if we want to get the win.”

The girls next play Casteel (13-10) on the road Friday at 7 p.m. The Colts previously defeated the Rams, 43-28. Maricopa ends the regular season Feb. 5 at Gilbert (18-5), which earlier defeated the Rams, 73-40. How the Rams perform in their final two games will impact their ranking and the state bracket.

Maricopa Unified School District was informed in December 11 teachers achieved National Board Certification.

Certification consists of four components

  1. An assessment of the teacher’s content knowledge.
  2. A portfolio showcasing student work samples and how the teacher provides feedback and reflects on student learning.
  3. Two videos of the teacher in the classroom, showing lessons taught and the interaction with and among students demonstrating the depth of teaching and learning.
  4. A portfolio of “reflective” work demonstrating what the teacher does outside the classroom that translates in the classroom, from collaboration to using assessments to inform instruction and learning.

Often referred to as the “gold standard” of achievement, NBCT certification asks educators to demonstrate standards-based evidence of the dynamic instruction that takes place in their classrooms. Each teacher spent time evaluating their own instructional strategies and worked purposefully to adjust their practices to better meet the needs of their students.

MUSD’s newest National Board Certified teachers are:

Butterfield Elementary School

Inez Ramirez has been an employee with the school district since 2007 and has been at Butterfield since the 2012-13 school year. She is a first-grade structured English immersion (SEI) teacher.

“Mrs. Ramirez is an amazing teacher who challenges herself, her students and others to improve and succeed. She is always looking for ways to help our school be the best it can be. She is an essential member of our Butterfield staff.” ~ Principal Janel Hildick

Maricopa Elementary School

Janet Stensgard has been in the district since 2004 and has taught at Maricopa Elementary for the past seven years. She is an instructional coach/specialist providing resources and instructional support to fellow teachers.

“Mrs. Stensgard strives to impact our school culture on a deeper level ensuring scholars and teachers are successful. Janet supports teachers by working to create professional development based on their needs and the needs of our scholars. She is an asset to our school’s growth and success as a Leader in Me Lighthouse school.” ~ Principal Jennifer Robinson

Taryn Cummings began her career with MUSD in 2011. She has taught at Maricopa Elementary School for seven years. Currently, she teaches fifth grade.

“Taryn seeks out new strategies and feedback to help support her scholars and their learning, pushing on them to provide evidence and explain their thinking. She also openly shares and collaborates with other colleagues elevating teaching and learning across our campus. She is an asset to our school’s growth and success as a Leader in Me Lighthouse school. An outside the box thinker, she challenges herself and others to be the best every day.” ~ Principal Jennifer Robinson

Maricopa High School

Aidan Balt is an eight-year veteran at Maricopa High School. This year she is teaching ninth-grade Honors English Language Arts (ELA) and Advanced Placement (AP) Literature.

“Ms. Balt is a shining example of support and collaboration and shares her expertise with her peers as a mentor and master teacher.” ~ Principal Brian Winter

“I was in Ms. Balt’s class in my freshman year. She was the best teacher I had ever had and going to her class was the highlight of my day. I learned so much from her and gained my love of language in her class. Ms. Balt completely deserves this certification and I’m not at all surprised that she got it.” ~ Student Abby Poland

Jenn Miller has been committed to the district and MHS for 16 years. This year, she is teaching English 2 Honors and is a mentor and master teacher. Mrs. Miller is also a favorite of her students, and they lined up to share what she means to them:

“The best thing that Mrs. J. Miller has done for me is that she helped me accomplish my goals of becoming a better writer and reader in my life.” ~ Alana Daniels

 “I have never had a teacher like her (in a good way) and I absolutely love being in her class. She is an amazing teacher. I learn something new every day, and not just about English. I feel privileged to be in her class.” ~ Abby Poland

“The best thing about Ms. Miller is her sole dedication to seeing every child succeed in her class. She will look over the need of the student and help them individually to make certain that they do their best.” ~ Hannah W. Paul Gindiri

“The best thing about J. Miller is that there was never a moment where I didn’t think she cared. There was never a moment that I thought I wasn’t good enough to be in her class. Even when I would get the slightest bit of doubt, she would tell me that I was enough. She never let me question myself. That’s what the best thing about J. Miller is.” ~ Hannah Bailey

Katherine Persitz has been a mainstay of Maricopa High School and the district for the past nine years. She teaches 11th and 12th grade ELA and Journalism and is an Arizona Master Teacher as well. You can tell she is making a positive impact on her students.

“Ms. Persitz impacted my education by really giving me the feeling that she cares about not only me but all of her students, and our personal lives.” ~ Bryce Wildermuth

 “The best thing about Ms. Persitz is that she is always so caring and willing to help students. I love Ms. Persitz!” ~ Chayla Holloway

Maricopa Wells Middle School

Treva Jenkins is a 12-year veteran teacher and has spent every year at Maricopa Wells.

“Ms. Jenkins is a long-time staff member at Maricopa Wells Middle School, a district mentor, and she runs our Panther Ambassador program here at Wells. Her experience and understanding of all students is a great example of how to be an excellent educator.” ~ Principal Thad Miller

Jennifer Cameron has been with MUSD for seven years and has called Maricopa Wells home for the last two.

“She is a district mentor who has an immense background in multiple areas of education. That experience and knowledge is what makes her so great for kids, while also being helpful to our entire staff here at Maricopa Wells Middle School.” ~ Principal Thad Miller

Jacqueline Hahn has been with the MUSD for six years and has been part of the Maricopa Wells team for the last two.

“Mrs. Hahn is a part of our Leadership Team here at Maricopa Wells, while still heading up our Site Council committee on campus. Her educational and real-life experience allows her to apply those concepts in everyday practice for her students.” ~ Principal Thad Miller

Pima Butte Elementary

Shelly Fisher has been an MUSD teacher 13 years and a teacher at Pima Butte for 12 years. Mrs. Fisher teaches third grade; however, she’s also taught first grade and second grade, too.

“I appreciate Mrs. Fisher’s dedication and commitment to do the best job teaching each and every day. Mrs. Fisher has high expectations for all of her students and strives to see that each student in her classroom succeeds.” – Principal Randy Lazar

Staci Oliver has been a teacher for the Maricopa Unified School District for 12 years and joined the Pima Butte family 11 years ago. Mrs. Oliver teaches third grade and previously taught fourth grade.

“Mrs. Oliver praises her students often for a job well done and encourages her students to praise each other. She ensures that her students are engaged in her lessons and when she notices that a student may need more direct guidance and support, she takes the time to get a student back on track.” – Principal Randy Lazar

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.