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.

Construction workers have a cooler but windy week ahead at the Heritage Academy campus. Photo by Jim Headley

Rest easy, as Maricopa is in store for a cooler week, according to the National Weather Service. The week starts in the 70s and 80s. Temperatures will be rising towards the end the week, so enjoy the cool weather while it lasts.

Today will be mostly sunny but cool, with a high near 76 and winds around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Tonight will be mostly clear, with a low around 51.

Tuesday will have more sunny skies with a high near 83 and winds 15 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph. Tuesday night the sky will become partly cloudy with a low around 52.

Wednesday will return to mostly sunny with a high near 74. Wednesday night will be partly cloudy with a low around 50.

Thursday the sun will shine with a high near 83. Thursday night will remain mostly clear with a low around 55.

Friday will be warmer and sunny, with a high near 90. Friday night will remain mostly clear with a low around 57.

Expect highs into the 90s through the weekend and wind gusts up to 20 mph.

Photo by Jim Headley

The area reached 100 degrees yesterday but don’t expect those hot conditions to continue, according to the National Weather Service. A cold front will move into the central deserts later today, dropping highs into the low 90s. Much cooler temperatures are expected Friday as the mercury falls into the low 80s. Friday should be the coolest day for the rest of this week. No rain is expected in the area today with the passage of the dry cold front.

Today will be mostly sunny with a high near 93 and breezy, with a south-southeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west-southwest 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph. Tonight will remain mostly clear with a low around 55.

Friday is forecast to be sunny with a high of just 81 and winds 10 to 15 mph gusting as high as 20 mph. Friday night will be mostly clear with a low around 54.

Saturday will be sunny with a high near 87 and winds 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Saturday night will become partly cloudy with a low around 59.

Sunday, look for mostly cloudy skies and a high near 87 with winds 5-15 gusting as high as 25 mph. Sunday night will remain mostly cloudy with a low around 55.

Next week look for continued highs in the 80s but it will be a little windy. No precipitation is in the forecast for early next week.

Mobile Elementary School District Superintendent Kit Wood (center) with board members Delores Brown and Patricia Blair, who volunteer at the remote, rural school known for its small class sizes. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“In the middle of nowhere” is the phrase often used to describe Mobile Elementary School District. Arizona Department of Education defines Mobile Elementary as “very small, rural.”

“We’re very small. We’re close-knit. We have high expectations, high standards that are well known.” Superintendent Kit Wood

The school has an enrollment of 29 students. Only six of those students live in district. It has three full-time teachers and two part-time teachers. The students-to-teacher ratio is 4.8: 1.

A K-8 school with no eighth graders currently enrolled, Mobile Elementary sits just north of State Route 238. Roughly 15 miles west of Maricopa and 28 miles east of Gila Bend, the school is not close to anything but its residents.

The school bears a Maricopa mailing address and the Maricopa telephone prefix of 568. Though annexed by the City of Goodyear 12 years ago in anticipation of a master-planned community that never happened, it is more than an hour’s drive from the municipality.

The biggest benefit of annexation has been having a Goodyear fire station directly across the street from the school, that street being 99th Avenue.

If House Bill 2139 becomes law, the elementary district might be consolidated with schools in Goodyear, a move it has been fighting for years. The reason? They like the tiny school exactly as it is, its small size considered an advantage for its students.

“Some of the benefits, of course, are the small class size, the personal relationship they can have with their teacher, the staff and all the students,” said Kit Wood, who has been superintendent 14 years.

Classes are divided in K-2, 3-5 and 6-8.

“Our kids don’t get lost in a classroom.” Board member Delores Brown

“They stay with the same teacher for a number of years,” Wood said. “The teacher doesn’t have to spend six to eight weeks getting to know that student’s academic level. They come in knowing their history and their family background.”

Apache Junction’s Rep. John Fillmore (R-District 16) sponsored HB 2139, which would force elementary districts and high school districts to consolidate by 2024. He points to the administrative costs of having separate districts near or overlapping each other’s boundaries.

“When people have said to me that schools need more money, I’ve always had the quick comeback they have enough money, and that what we need to do is have them spend it a little bit more wisely,” Fillmore told the Senate Appropriations Committee in April.

Most often, the smaller the school, the higher the percentage of administrative costs.

In financially auditing the district for fiscal year 2016, the Auditor General’s Office found Mobile School spending much more per pupil on administration compared to other small schools. Released in April 2018, the critical report included six recommendations, only one of which had been completely fulfilled by the time of a follow-up in December.

Total per pupil spending 2018
Mobile                 Peer                      State
$40,995               $18,597               $9,929

Auditors found that in 2016, Mobile Elementary, with its annual double-digit enrollment, had administration expenses of $17,178 per student compared to its peer group average of $2,987. The report found that was “partly because it served fewer students than peer districts, on average, and therefore, costs were spread across fewer students. However, the high costs were also the result of the District employing a full-time superintendent with a relatively high salary.”

Wood’s response was to outline a plan to phase out the superintendent position after the hiring and training of a head teacher/special education teacher.

The follow-up by Vicki Hanson, director of School Audits, indicated the crossover phase during fiscal year 2019 would “likely result in higher administrative costs” while both superintendent and head teacher are on staff.

Mobile Elementary students receive art instruction from artist Kristal Hoeh.

Mobile Elementary does not share boundaries with other schools. When its students reach high school age, or even middle school age, they can choose from various schools. Being in the city closest to Mobile despite being in another county, Maricopa schools receive some of the Mobile students. Others have gone to Mountain Pointe. Some have even attended Ira Hayes. Years ago, they were bused to Casa Grande.

The audit suggested the district pay tuition to a nearby district to educate its students. The school was called out for overpaying an hourly employee, misreporting the number of students transported and having poor oversight of its lease agreement, among other items. Implementation of changes are noted as being “in process.”

With a transient population, enrollment is now too low for the district to receive state funds (Wood estimated it would need an enrollment of 35-40 to qualify), so it relies primarily on property taxes. Enrollment is also too low for the school to be assigned a letter grade, because publicized test results could be almost matched to specific students.

However, for the second year, the school qualified for results-based funding. In FY2018, that amounted to an extra $8,100 (or $400 per student). Butterfield Elementary was the only MUSD school to do likewise.

“You don’t get that unless your students are performing well on the test,” Wood said. “So, although they can’t publish our results, we are doing well as far as the assessments.”

What’s not in the financial paperwork is the unincorporated area’s tendency to lean on the school as a center of the community. Board members feel the school and community are misunderstood.

“We’re not gun-toting hillbillies who live here,” board member Delores Brown said, adding several in the community have master’s degrees. She tutors students, touting those who have seen more success since transferring to the school, and is one of the school’s strongest volunteers.

Wood called board members the “most dedicated, committed board I’ve ever worked with.” Board President Patricia Blair has tutored younger students in the past and put her efforts into building up the district library.

“She has been, for all the years I’ve been here, a strong supporter of our library,” Wood said. “We have a really great library, especially for the size of school we are. She has organized that library, she has catalogued things. She is the heart and soul of that library.”

Blair said the wide variety of books ranges from pre-K to 12th grade.

“We’re very small. We’re close-knit,” Wood said. “We have high expectations, high standards that are well known, so we can address when things happen that are inappropriate or unacceptable, or they’re not meeting the expectations of general student behavior, take care of it quickly and then just go on.”

The superintendent said all its teachers are highly qualified with endorsements and certification in their areas. The teachers average 10-plus years of experience. Besides the three full-time classroom teachers, there are part-time teachers for art and physical education.

“We have a very lean staff. We all do multiple tasks and have multiple responsibilities,” Wood said. “We do not receive state funding. All of our funding comes from property taxes. And that’s always a challenge.”

Staffing is also difficult at the remote school. The challenge is to find someone of quality to come to Mobile and fit in, though teachers have been willing to drive long distances for the job. It is still looking for a music teacher.

Mobile’s biggest expense is staffing. It has a starting salary of $40,100. Its average teacher salary is $50,038. By comparison, the peer average is $50,510, and the state average is $48,951.

Besides the random financial audit, Mobile Elementary also undergoes the annual performance audit to which all district schools submit. The most recent report showed the administration costs were down to $12,155 per student. That is still well above the peer average of $3,064, which increased.

Mobile had only nine students per administrative position compared to 33 in peer schools and the state average of 66. The report showed no financial stresses. It was particularly low-stress in capital reserve (more than three years’ worth), operating reserve (17.2 percent and increasing), steadiness of school enrollment and meeting its budget.

A Rural Education Achievement grant gave the school the ability to purchase technology in the form of classroom and library computers. The grant is $15,000-$18,000 per year for the tech program.

There have been past efforts by Valley districts to consolidate Mobile Elementary, but the small school effectively gave them the raspberry. Until now, as Blair noted, a district did not have to be consolidated unless it wanted to.

HB2139, on the other hand, would force the issue, making independent districts a thing of the past.

“Over the past decades a variety of unification and consolidation efforts, committees and proposed legislation have been brought forward in the state of Arizona,” Wood said. “If this bill is successfully passed and signed into law, Mobile ESD would comply with the requirement for a feasibility study and then work with the Maricopa County Education Services Agency and others regarding study results and findings.

“We will await the results of this legislative session.”

But they aren’t happy about it.

“It just makes the other schools larger and classrooms bigger,” Blair said. “To me that’s not a good idea for the kids.”

“They don’t have the support because the teachers don’t have the time to give them the support,” Brown added.

“Our kids don’t get lost in a classroom.”

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Melodee and Patrick Breazeale. Submitted photo


When Patrick Breazeale Jr. of Homestead received his master’s degree from Grand Canyon University April 26, he was right behind his mother.

Melodee Breazeale, too, earned her Master of Science in the same field, psychology with an emphasis on industrial and organizational psychology. A resident of Rancho El Dorado, she works from home for Chase Bank while Patrick works for the State of Arizona.

Both Breazeales graduated summa cum laude.

“Needless to say, two heads are always better than one, and both of us helped each other when we might have got stuck on any one area or class,” Melodee Braezeale said. “There were some pretty funny events in some of the classes, so this will be a memory for both of us going forward.”

Melodee Breazeale has an associate’s degree in administration of justice. She and Patrick both have bachelor’s degrees in business management. Melodee received her bachelor’s degree from GCU in 2016, and Patrick did the same in 2017.

Melodee’s employer allotted her $7,500 per year toward tuition for her graduate program. That allowed her to take four classes a year. Though she started her master’s program ahead of Patrick, he was able to take more classes at a time to finish in the same graduating class with his mother.

“I am so proud of my son to carry on and get his master’s degree, and I am still pinching myself that I got through my classes with a 4.0,” she said.

On graduation day, she was teary-eyed walking across the stage to receive her degree.

“But I had to stop when I heard, ‘and her son… Patrick Breazeale Jr,’” she said. “I stopped walking, turned around, and I got to watch my son shake hands and get his degree. I could not have been more proud of my son at that time!”

After the event sank in, Patrick called his mother later, saying, “This is not very common, right?”

Melodee’s parents are Hal and Shyrlee Cole of Province.

Submitted photo

MES students perform for parents and guests at Leadership Day. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

Young scholars at Maricopa Elementary School presented their annual, end-of-school-year Leadership Day on Friday, showing off what they’ve learned this year as a “Lighthouse School” that extols the virtues of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The morning includes special guests, classroom tours and spotlights on Special Olympians, perfect attendance and the Walk of Fame.

Maria Alvarado has gone full circle at Maricopa Unified School District, attending MUSD schools since preschool and now coming back to teach second grade at Santa Rosa Elementary. Photo by Jim Headley

Maria Alvarado may be a new teacher, but she knows Maricopa Unified School District inside and out. She started preschool at MUSD and graduated from Maricopa High School in 2013.

“I think it’s a unique perspective going from a student in this school district to being a teacher,” she said. “It’s very different.”

She said as a student she didn’t understand what was happening behind the scenes at school, how much concern the teachers had for the students and “how everything works.”

Coming back, she said, it has been interesting being on the flipside of the coin, “to be the one responsible for my kiddoes.”

In her second-grade classroom at Santa Rosa Elementary, the motto has been “We learn from our mistakes.” That has even expanded to “We learn from each other’s mistakes” as they work together to learn the material.

Alvarado returned to MUSD after college for a semester of student teaching at Maricopa Elementary School at the end the 2017. When a full-time, real-deal teaching position opened in the middle of the school year, she landed the job. She replaced a second-grade teacher at Santa Rosa in January 2018.

“That was a toughie,” she recalled. “They had their own system going when I got there.”

Her dream was to teach fourth or fifth grade, so she was uncertain about taking on second grade, where some of the students did not yet know how to read or were limited in their ability. A year into her teaching career, she has determined her students should be able to read on their own by second semester if they were going to have any chance of success as third graders.

Photo by Jim Headley

“My second graders are on their own right now. First quarter, I’m done reading to them. That was a struggle when I took over half-year. So many of my kids were not there. Now that I’ve had them myself for a whole year, I feel more comfortable with where they are.

“One of my kiddoes came in with eight words. He still fluctuates, but he’s between 60 and 80 words a minute. That’s just a huge jump.”

“Ms. Alvarado’s sheer excitement about students reading is enough to make anyone believe in public education,” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said. “She inspires students and peers alike to adopt a life-long love of learning.”

Alvarado was 3 when her parents, Salvador and Adriana, moved to the rural area south of Maricopa. In third grade, she was a student at Santa Rosa herself. Her long-range goal now is to become a principal.

“Her value is not just in her influence on her students,” Lopeman said. “Ms. Alvarado’s history with the district is unique; she’s homegrown MUSD. She has watched and been part of the evolution of this district since she was a child and is the bridge to maintaining the spirit of MUSD and moving us into the future.”

A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Alvarado had been planning to be a pediatrician since she was in middle school. Schoolteacher? Not on the list. There was no history of teachers in her immediate family, but she tutored in high school and understood at that time she liked teaching.

The mother of the student she was tutoring called her to thank her for the work she had been doing. “She was telling me, ‘Thank you so much. My son went from a D student to B’s.’ She was ecstatic. She was crying and really emotional. It was like a really good feeling.”

At NAU, Alvarado was taking classes toward becoming a pediatrician and was earning a 4.0 grade point average. She started tutoring a roommate majoring in chemistry and realized she was not only good at teaching but really enjoyed it.

Sharing her mixed feelings with her counselor, she was encouraged to enroll in a “Teaching Math and Science” course. That required creating lesson plans and learning how children learn. She was soon convinced she needed to change her major.

“I called my mom, and she was upset. She started talking about, ‘This is your dream. Think about how much more money you’re going to be making.’ She made me cry because she was being realistic.”

Then she called her father. “I was more scared of my dad. And my dad stayed quiet. And then he goes, ‘Yeah, I knew since you were little you were going to be a teacher.’”

Student teachers are not paid, so it was practicality that moved her to take the post with MUSD so she could live at home. To then be hired was a matter of getting “lucky twice,” she said.

Though her early study had been related to middle and high school students, she soon switched her interest to K-5.

“A lot of the concepts I was asked to understand as a middle schooler I was lacking on foundational skills that should have been taught in lower grades,” Alvarado said. “I felt like if I started at middle school with these kids, I wasn’t making the biggest difference and making sure they understood those foundational things.”

While still learning the best teaching practices herself, Alvarado said what happens in the classroom goes beyond books and computers.

“The hardest part is teaching them the things that technically we don’t go to school to learn, like confidence, how to be proud of your own self and your own work. That boosts you to keep trying.”

She tells of giving her students a question on a practice test that had most of her students choosing Part A and only four choosing Part B, the correct answer.

“And one of them wanted to move over. I said, ‘You need to be careful. Are you going to follow everybody or are you going to pick your answer because you know that’s what you think is right?’”

Alvarado said that is a dilemma for students even in upper grades, the need to “go with the flow” even when they know the facts.

Her students have fluctuated in number between 19 and 24. They have taught her it’s possible to be lively and energetic about anything, and there is plenty of movement going on in Ms. Alvarado’s classroom.

Her second graders also like to be empowered to create their own goals and ideas of how the class will reach those goals. As they prepared for the School City test, the students came up with methods to review.

“I’ve never been so proud of a person as I am proud of my kids,” she said. “Sometimes I feel I’m being too mean or holding them to too high of expectations, but, when I see it pay off over time, I know I’m not.”

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Photo by Jim Headley

The least expensive home sold in Maricopa from March 16 through April 15 was a cozy, two-bedroom, 17-year-old house in Rancho El Dorado. It went for $100 over its original asking price. It included a landscaped yard, new air conditioner and fresh paint.

  1. 43535 W. Colby Drive, Rancho El Dorado

Sold: March 29
Purchase price: $160,000
Square footage: 981
Price per square foot: $163.09
Days on market: 32
Builder: Shea Homes
Year built: 2002
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 2
Community: Rancho El Dorado
Features: New carpet, upgraded kitchen cabinets, covered patio, landscaping with flagstone
Listing Agent: Eileen Shapiro, Long Realty Partners
Selling Agent: Karen Braaten, Judson Real Estate

  1. 45526 W. Windmill Drive, Maricopa Meadows ……………….. $167,900
  2. 46025 W. Windmill Drive, Maricopa Meadows ……………….. $169,000
  3. 42326 W. Farrell Road ……………………………………………………. $169,900
  4. 36134 W. Olivo St., Tortosa ……………………………………………. $169,900

    This item appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Senior Tylen Coleman was the first surprise for Maricopa High School at the state championships with a record-setting discus throw Saturday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Two unexpected finishes put gold medals in the hands of two Maricopa High School athletes while a third won silver and bronze at the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II Track & Field Championships Saturday in Mesa.

Senior Tylen Riley-Coleman, who had already been on the medal stand earlier in the week with a fourth-place finish in shot put, pulled off a massive upset in the discus. His second-flight throw of 172-08 was more than 20 feet farther than his previous best of 150-09 and more than three inches farther than his closest competitor in the finals.

“I don’t know where that came from,” said Coleman, who had yelled in elation after hearing the measurement. “I’m just blessed.”

In the first round of competition Saturday, he had been more than thrilled with a throw of 163 feet, which came between two fouled attempts. But the second-round throw catapulted him to the top of the medal stand, an unfamiliar position for the football star.

“I don’t know what to do with myself,” he said.

Even in practice, he said, he had not gone beyond 150 feet with the discus. In fact, shot put has usually been his stronger event. Parker Bays of Ironwood Ridge had been a heavy favorite but finished third.

By scoring a personal best in the discus, Coleman set another school record. He also holds the MHS record in shot at 52-9.

At any other time, MHS senior Logan Taylor’s result in the hurdling events would not have been surprising, but Saturday was not like any other time.

Taylor, the school record-holder in both the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles, had finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in those events in last season’s state championships. His goal was gold this year.

That seemed to get scuttled this week when he opened a gash on his right knee that required 20 stitches. His family and head coach Corey Nelson left it to him to decide if he would compete in the state meet.

Taylor is known for challenging himself and did so again in the 110-meter hurdles, shouting out as he crossed the finish line in front. Main rival Jadon Pearson of Williams Field had crashed out midway through the event and did not finish.

“I wanted to run my best race,” Taylor said. “It was probably going to be the last one, so I wanted to make sure it was good. I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

It was also one of his better times, in 14.64, just off his best of 14.56.

The knee, however, did not hold up through his effort in the 300-meter hurdles. Though he leaped out to an early lead, he struggled down the stretch to finish sixth in 41.07 (his top time is 39.09). His father helped him off the ground at the finish line and to the trainer’s tent for treatment.

Meanwhile, MHS’s sprint master Jacob Cowing, who earned gold last year as part of the Rams 4×100-meter relay team, had his hands full with Trayvion White of Sahuaro. In the 100-meter dash finals Saturday, Cowing matched White stride for stride but finished second at 10.78 behind White’s 10.73.

In the 200-meter dash, White, Jacob Samford and Cowing all finished within a fraction of a second. White won in 21.65, while Cowing came third in 21.95. After picking up his medal, he had his right thigh wrapped in ice.

Overall, Maricopa’s boys’ team scored 27 points in the state meet, a top five finish.

The girls’ team did not score points but had two make a good showing Saturday. Senior Kayla Boich was 12th in the high jump finals at 5-00. Sophomore Shakira Gillespie finished 15th in the long jump at 15-10.5.

Antonio Gonzales, an MHS senior, leads "Fiddler on the Roof." Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

A hearty, energetic and often very touching rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof” opened Thursday at the Maricopa Performing Arts Center.

The latest production of the Maricopa High School Theatre Company hit all the big, showstopper expectations as well as the intimate notes of family, love and faith. The cast of over 100 was accompanied by an under-stage orchestra of student and adult musicians.

There’s solid story-telling, there’s singing, there’s dancing, there is a faux dream and a living nightmare. It’s a heck of a show.

“Fiddler” inherently lives or dies on the shoulders of whoever plays Tevye the dairyman, around whom everyone in the Russian village of Anatevka seems to revolve (literally at one point). In this case, senior Antonio Gonzales is at his best, carrying his scenes with authority and conveying the complexities of a simple man being tossed about by changes he cannot control.

He and Emma Schrader as Tevye’s wife Golde have some particularly strong sets together. They are a poor couple with five daughters, three of whom are of marriageable age and are portrayed by three of the company’s most accomplished actresses. All are excellent.

Aidyn Curtis as the oldest daughter Tzeitel must accept an arranged marriage to a much older but well-off Lazar Wolf (Douglas Moulton) or defy her father for a poor tailor she has loved since childhood (Brandon Korittky). Kjirsten Lemon as Hodel falls for a scholar with revolutionary ideas (Ricky Raffaele), which does not please Papa at all. Taryn Story as Chava commits the almost-irredeemable sin of marrying a Gentile (Derek Blakely), a break from faith and tradition that Tevye cannot bear.

Korittky as Motel the tailor rounds out four years as arguably the troupe’s most reliable character actor. He’s terrific here. Mary Brokenshire is a scene-stealer as Yente, as is Fallon Fruchey as long-dead Grandma Tzeitel.

The set is top-notch, effectively using small parts to convey larger scenes. The Fruma-Sarah entry with Astraya Ellison in the very funny dream sequence is a tour de force. The live orchestra was a good call on the part of director Alexandra Stahl. It was also transforming to have the actors choreographed into dancers by MHS dance teacher Alexandra Biggs.

Performances continue Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., plus a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.

Jacob Harmon is the new business director for MUSD.


Maricopa Unified School District is receiving $22.3 million dollars plus 40 acres of land from the state’s School Facilities Board (SFB) for a second high school.

The status of the land is a question mark.

“We do not have it defined. We do not have it located,” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman told the governing board Wednesday. “We are in the process of securing our representation so that we can be properly represented when we go out and discuss purchase and donations.”

She estimated the proffered 40 acres might be appropriate for a “starter high school” that had been discussed during capital-improvement talks. The new high school is estimated to be 125,000 square feet. The original cost is $179.69 per square foot.

“When we make application for a building-renewal grant, there’s a process and policies,” Facilities Director Scott Fall-Leaf said, leading to a brief explanation of new SFB policies regarding roofing and HVAC. The latter includes a flow chart that MHS has not yet submitted to.

SFB funding, which Lopeman described as “statutorily eligible new construction, renovation and repair projects,” is familiar to MUSD.

Jacob Harmon, the district’s new business director, said past projects at MUSD funded by SFB amounted to more than $122 million. That includes about $2 million in land from 2001 to 2008 and $115.6 million for the construction of eight schools between 2001 and 2011.

Currently, the district has two projects being paid for by SFB.

Facilities Director Scott Fall-Leaf (left) and Business Director Jacob Harmon

Fall-Leaf said a sewer line is being repaired at Maricopa Elementary School. SFB is giving $47,630 to that project. At the high school is the more involved project of a submersible pump and water well repair. SFB awarded MUSD $530,600 for that project.

The district has noted the possible need for a second high school since at least 2008, when a developer tried to donate 60 acres to the cause just before the housing bubble burst and the Great Recession stopped all development. This year, with the current high school over capacity, “possible need” is now a certainty and wheels have been put in motion to build a second high school sooner rather than later. While the high school is being planned, MHS is putting in portable classrooms on the east side of campus.

School land between the baseball and softball lands is prepped for portable classrooms to be used next school year.

Sequoia Pathway varsity softball celebrates an undefeated season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After playing a perfect 14-0 season that wrapped Tuesday, the Sequoia Pathway varsity softball team is top seed in the Canyon Athletic Association Division 2 state tournament automatically in the final four.

At home Tuesday, the Pumas defeated South Ridge 22-2. This season, they outscored their opponents 239-26. Pathway played in the CAA’s Landmark Conference. CAA is primarily comprised of charter schools.

In the state tourney, the Pumas will play either Sequoia Charter or Imagine-Superstition on Friday at Salt River High School.

Last season, Sequoia Pathway was 7-6. The turnaround was driven by this year’s seniors, who were honored after Tuesday’s contest. They include Deserae Garcia, Alicia Lewis, Jasmin Nafarrate and Brenda Peck.

Garcia, a co-captain, led the team in hits with 23, runs scored (27) and doubles (nine) while batting .609.

“She is the leader on the field and in the batter’s box,” head coach Matt Gallagher said. “There is no one I want hitting in a clutch situation than Deserae Garcia.”

Nafarrate, who batted .407, has been a team captain for four years, the last three of which she has been catcher.

“There is something that is just awesome when your catcher can throw to second base from her knees,” Gallagher said. “Nobody runs on that.”

Lewis batted .545, scored 16 and drove in 16 while playing a steady first base.

The Pumas had only two close games this season. One was an 8-6 win at Desert Heights; the other a 3-1 win over Imagine-Superstition.

Crews start construction of pickleball courts at Copper Sky. Photo by Jim Headley

Almost a year ago, pickleball aficionados in Maricopa learned they would at last realize their dream of having dedicated courts for their sport.

The City of Maricopa set aside more than $400,000 for six pickleball courts. This week, crews began construction next to the skate park at Copper Sky.

Ironically, Rocky Myers, the face of the drive for more pickleball, was not in town when the announcement was made in May. It took him and his fellow players by surprise.

“I was flabbergasted,” he said. “You could have picked me up off the pavement.”

No Pollyanna, however, he’s keeping his expectations grounded. He has been keeping a watchful eye on the process as the City prepares to follow through on the promise of the budget.

The plans are not everything he would like to see, like the ability to host state-level tournaments.

“I’m real excited to get the courts, but it’s disappointing,” he said. “We need at least 10 courts for a tournament.”

As planned, there is room for only six courts between the skate park and the tennis courts. Each court has a 44-by-20 feet playing area inside a fenced area of 64-by-34 feet, “to execute all possible shots” including around the post, Myers said.

He started his campaign for pickleball courts three years ago as the popularity of the sport become more apparent. Up to this point, the city tried to accommodate players by restriping basketball/volleyball courts inside the multigenerational complex and allowing players to use tennis courts, which Myers said was not ideal because of the different net dimensions.

The plans include a 10-foot-wide, covered walkway between courts to create shade for benches and a place to rest. The perimeter is expected to be an eight-foot chain link fence.

Maricopa artists invited to participate

The inaugural Art for the Heart Festival is set for May 4 on the Great Lawn at Copper Sky.

If You Go
: Art for the Heart Festival
When: May 4, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
How much: Free to attend; $60 to exhibit
Info: 520-568-8100, ext. 4136 

Hoping to fill the void left by the dissolution of Art on the Veranda and Maricopa Arts Festival, a Maricopa High School program is coordinating the community art show. Graphic Design teacher Maria Pour said they want to have as many Maricopa artists as possible participating.

The coordination is in the hands of SkillsUSA students. That program mandates they be involved in creating and running a project that benefits a nonprofit, and the usual approach is to host a clothing drive or a food drive.

“But we wanted something that relates to us, to graphics and art,” Pour said.

So, the young organizers are putting their skills to use in ways that have “real-world application,” she said. Art for the Heart invites artists from all media to display and sell their works at the festival. Pour said 75 percent of proceeds will go to the American Heart Association, the rest to cover overhead.

A 10-by-10-foot booth space is $60, and artists can bring their own tables. Painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, textiles and more are welcome from artists of all ages.

MHS had participated in Art on the Veranda, and Pour understood the challenges involved hosting a community art event. She has 15 students helping to staff Art for the Heart, from creating the plan to designing the logo or handing out water.

The additional challenge is participation, both by artists and art-lovers. Previous organizers have provided her with names of area artists, and she also seeks to reach out to Ak-Chin and Gila River artists.

Arizona Educational Foundation awarded Pima Butte Elementary with an A+ School of Excellence recognition.


Pima Butte Elementary received the prestigious A+ School of Excellence Award from the Arizona Educational Foundation.

It was one of just 52 schools statewide recognized this year and the only school in Pinal County. The award is in place for three and a half years. Earning the distinction, which has been around since the 1980s, was no easy task.

During a meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board, Principal Randy Lazar held up the 33-page application comprised of 53 questions requiring answers of 600 to 1,500 words each. It was completed over four months by staff and parent volunteers.

“It was a long, drawn-out process,” he said. “Not just a one-time thing. It was like preparing for the Boston Marathon.”

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the school was evaluated on student focus and support, active teaching and learning, climate, parent involvement, community building and leadership. The award, she said, spotlights successes “happening at Pima Butte every single day.”

Pima Butte Elementary is also an A-rated school by the Arizona Department of Education.

Lazar credited the hard work of his staff, pointing out many of the teachers had been with the school 10 or 12 years.

“For a school to remain successful, you need a consistent staff, and that’s what Pima Butte has had over the years,” he said. “Not only a consistent staff, a dedicated staff.”

He said many of his teachers were at school before and after classes, on weekends, during breaks and during the summer.

“All of their hard work has led to this award this evening,” he said.

Principal Randy Lazar

Playing sisters in “Fiddler on the Roof” are (from left) Hannah Panter, Taryn Story, Aidyn Curtis, Kiki Lemon and Alexia Esquivel. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

What: “Fiddler on the Roof”
Who: MHS Theatre Company
When: April 25-26, 7 p.m., April 27, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center auditorium, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $10/general admission; $7/staff & students
Info: Purchase tickets online

The big spring musical this year for Maricopa High School Theatre Company is a big Broadway show.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is April 25-27 at 7 p.m. plus a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.

This production will have music performed live by MHS orchestra members and teachers. While teacher Alexandra Stahl directs the play, MHS music director Ivan Pour conducts the music.

Stahl said she’s wanted to direct the musical since she was 18. “It’s beautiful, and it has good themes,” she said. “It’s a beast of a show.”

One of the longest-running shows in Broadway history, “Fiddler” is memorably scored by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick with a book by Joseph Stein. Among the well-known tunes are the title song, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Tradition,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset.”

In the story set in 1905 Russia, a poor, Jewish couple Tevye (played by Antonio Gonzales) and Golde (Emma Schrader) are struggling to get by while their daughters are coming of age to marry. Yente the matchmaker (Mary Brokenshire) sets up the oldest daughter Tzeitel (Aidyn Curtis) to marry the wealthy but old butcher Lazar Wolf (Douglas Moulton). Tevya agrees to this, not knowing Tzeitel is in love with childhood friend Motel (Brandon Korittky).

Other cast members:
Hannah Panter – Bielke
Alexia Esquivel – Shprintze
Chance Batton – Mordcha
Kade Cruse – RabbiSimon Ty – Mendel
Ashton Chrosniak – Avram
Julie Goodrum – Nachum
Fallon Fruchey – Grandma Tzeitel
Astraya Ellison – Fruma-Sarah
Miles Starks – constable
Zephanie Colppeman – Shaindel
Alex-Ann Velasco – the fiddler
Alex Hurley – Sasha
Joey Russoniello – Yussel

Tyler Hanks, Kasey Cowert, Aleyna Call, Brenna Fitzpatrick, Ash Porras, Eonna Mooney, Zariah Marsh, Lindsey Coms, Olivia Kurpaska, Mia Gross, Destiny Shane, Emme Borthe, Katie Hanks, Scotland JanFrancisco, Morgan Cutrara, Gracee Clark, Emma Carr, John Jackson, Alex Haywood, Haley Raffaele, Nick Perez, Faith Ayala, Princess Jimenez

Meanwhile, second daughter Hodel (Kjirsten Lemon) is falling for Bolshevik tutor Perchik (Ricky Rafaele), and third daughter Chava (Taryn Story) has befriended gentile Fyedka (Derek Blakely). The breaks from traditional behavior cause tumult in the family. Meanwhile, the Russian authorities are pushing to drive out all the Jews.

The cast is peopled with several young performers who have qualified for the International Thespian Society National Competition and are familiar talents from previous productions. Learn more about them here.

Antonio Gonzales plays Tevye the dairyman in “Fiddler.” Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“It just inspires me,” Stahl said, “because I think of it as in today. There’s the whole theme of Tevye disowning his daughter, and I think of parents today who have gay kids. So, it breaks my heart, but it’s definitely a very real thing that happens in society today.”

Many of the cast members had at least heard of “Fiddler,” and Stahl did not have trouble selling them on the production.

“There’s a lot of really good roles,” she said.

Community members, too, have told her they are champing at the bit to come see the show, “so I’m hoping we do it justice.”

Tickets can be purchased at the box office the day of show or purchased online here.

Seniors Brandon Korittky and Aidyn Curtis rehearse for “Fiddler on the Roof.” Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Aidan Balt

Maricopa High School teacher and National Board Certified Teacher Aidan Balt was invited by The Atlantic Magazine to the fifth annual Education Summit in Washington, D.C., on May 14.

She will be participating as a speaker on a panel with other teachers from across the nation, discussing teacher advocacy and the profession of education. The conversation will run for about half an hour and will be moderated by one of the top Atlantic journalists.

The program is free and open to the public, and The Atlantic is expecting around 300 educators, policymakers, students, business and community leaders, and journalists to attend. The program will also be live-streamed.

The event receives financial support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Amgen Foundation, VIPKID, K12, and the College Board. The editorial team at The Atlantic maintains complete independence in putting together the Education Summit. Join the conversation on social media: #atlanticEDU. You can find information on the event and the full list of speakers at:


Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

American Legion Post 133 in Maricopa marked the 100th anniversary of the post-World War I founding of the American Legion with a flag-raising, food and displays at the Maricopa Veterans Center on Saturday. Col. Chuck Millar, the Hidden Valley Fire Department and Maricopa Fire/Medical Department had vehicles on display, and there was a bounce house for the kids. The first American Legion caucus was March 15-17, 1919, in Paris, France, and a charter was granted by the U.S. Congress in September. Today the Legion has more than 2 million members in 13,000 posts.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Community of Hope Church will host its 15th annual Maricopa Easter Egg Hunt April 19 at the church, 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave., from 5 to 9 p.m.

This year, the hunt is changing days, times, and location. There will be carnival games, inflatables, face painting and, of course, the Easter Bunny will be on hand for pictures. All of this is free of charge and is open to our entire community. This year, COH will also combine the event with Food Truck Friday and will have seven trucks on hand to purchase a meal on site.

Leading Edge Academy is sponsoring inflatables for the hunt.
Find the hunt on Facebook at more information about Community of Hope Church, visit or call 520-252-6381.

Legacy Traditional School has plans for an addition.


Legacy Traditional School received a permit for a commercial addition on its campus at 17760 N. Regent Drive and a grading permit. The charter school is adding a 3,760-square-foot classroom to an existing building at a value of $564,000.

Leading Edge Academy started work on adding a 30-by-40-foot shade structure valued at $2,500 on its campus at 18700 N. Porter Road.

Circle K at 41433 W. Honeycutt Road received its permit for new signs at a cost of $29,000. Pearson’s Enterprises is constructing the convenience store.

Walgreens, at 21274 N. John Wayne Parkway, replaced six HVAC units in a project valued at $19,556.

Earthwise Pet, moving into office space that formerly housed a veterinary office at 20924 N. John Wayne Parkway, received a commercial tenant improvement permit for its work in the building. The work is valued at $80,000.

Bo Knows Auto LLC, an automotive repair business, moved into the former Tommy’s Auto at 19282 N. Maricopa Road. It is owned by Carlos Barajas.

Student Choice High School also received a permit for improvements at 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 107, to create 1,400 square feet of open classroom space. The project is valued at $35,000.

Heritage Academy received a permit to make onsite improvements for grading, paving, water, sewer and storm drain to 10 acres at 41004 N. Lucerian Lane. The school is building on property owned by Our Lady of Grace. The project is valued at $2.3 million.

Maricopa Wellness Center, 41600 N. Smith-Enke Road, Suite 3, received a permit to create a new office layout in a 1,272-square-foot shell building.

The City of Maricopa received a permit for grading improvements at the site of a proposed new fire administration building, 45695 W. Edison Road.

Sacate Pellet Mill is now in the development-review-permit phase for its alfalfa pellet mill and warehouse at 38743 W. Cowtown Road. It is owned by Red River Cattle LTD.

Seasons at Palo Brea, part of Richmond American Homes of Arizona, received a free-standing sign permit for 44248 W. Palo Olmo Road.

D.R. Horton received a temporary use permit for a model home complex in Tortosa Parcel 8.

This item appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

What: World Long Drive & Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun
When: April 12, 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
April 13, 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
April 14, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
April 15, 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
April 16, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (televised 1-3 p.m.)
Where: Ak-Chin Circle Field, 16000 N. Maricopa Road
How much: Free

The World Long Drive is back.

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun is April 12-16 on the field at Ak-Chin Circle next to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The competition starts with an Open Division of 32 and a Women’s Division of 16. Last year, Will Hogue of Tennessee won the Open Division with a drive of 421 yards, and Phillis Meti of New Zealand won the Women’s Division with a drive of 380.

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is partnering with World Long Drive Association for the event. Competition starts at 7:30 a.m. each day. By the last day, April 16, there will be eight men and four women competing in the finale, which will be televised live on The Golf Channel from 1 to 3 p.m.

“This year we have an extra day of qualifying,” Ak-Chin Southern Dunes General Manager Brady Wilson said.

Golf fans can come out and watch for free and enjoy shaded stadium seating. Wilson said there is a lot of excitement in the early rounds, when up to four competitors are driving golf balls at the same time.

This year, the event has moved from May to April, putting it first on the tour.

“We’ve had a whole year to plan to make sure it’s pristine,” Wilson said. “We’ve really produced a great venue.”

He said the agronomy team of Dan Payson and Wes Hamer have the grid looking great. He credited Brittany Sourjohn with the smooth running of last year’s event and said she has been excellent at dealing with the many moving part that make up this year’s Smash.

Organizers also need volunteers for grandstand attendants, runners/floaters, hospitality, retail and player registration. Volunteers must be age 18 and up. Contact Amanda at

The five-day competition is two events. One is a regional qualifier for the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in Oklahoma in Aug. 30-Sept. 4. Anyone can try out, Wilson said. The other event is the Smash in the Sun Tour Event.

In addition, there will be a Masters Division on Saturday for age 45 and up.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Jason Nelson spoke about the ways kids get in trouble on the Internet. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Protecting children from predators, bullying, sexting, identity theft, human trafficking and other Internet and social media-related trouble was at the focus of a presentation by City of Maricopa Fire Inspector Jason Nelson on Saturday morning at Leading Edge Academy. Nelson presented information on the latest trends and scams battled by cybersecurity measures. Maricopan Diana Schalow explained how her daughter Angela Russo was murdered after finding dates online.

Heartbeat Tap Ensemble at Spice of Life. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

“Spice of Life” senior variety show took over the Maricopa Performing Arts Center Saturday night with dancing, singing and comedy in a show directed by Arlene Strandberg and emceed by Rosemary Morton. Maricopa’s Helen Brown again coordinated the event.

Volunteers for Church of Celebration's service week include Kevin Marcus, April Martinez, Khloe Marcus, Ben Gores, Brenda Abel, Shauna Perez and Matthew Perez. Photo by Victor Moreno
Submitted photo

Watch for a week of do-gooding this April. Church of Celebration will have members of all ages out in the community doing service projects.

The third annual event is April 7-13, with projects scattered throughout the week.

“It’s kind of a balance between organized projects and random acts of kindness,” said Family Life Pastor Ben Gores.

He asked Mayor Christian Price what service projects COC could complete, and the mayor returned with a long list from the parks department. So, members have projects at Copper Sky and Pacana Park as well as City Hall, where they will be painting fire curbs.

“We want to establish a culture of giving back,” said volunteer Matthew Perez. “We want to love people like Jesus did – friend or stranger.”

One of their “classic” acts of kindness is passing out water bottles to anyone who needs one at both city parks. They have also handed out free doughnuts to commuters waiting for lights coming out of Rancho El Dorado and The Villages.

“People give you a funny look. But when they hear doughnuts, they’re all about it,” Gores said.

Volunteer April Martinez said she has been among those handing out doughnuts at the side of the road.

Submitted photo

“It’s so fun to bring joy to someone on their commute to work,” she said. That included handing out two boxes on a school bus.

Previously, they did work at Against Abuse, picked up trash on State Route 347, handed out dog treats at the dog park, weeded yards and planted a box garden for the Maricopa High School culinary program.

“We want to be a church that doesn’t just tell people that we love them,” Gores said. “We want to show people that we love them. We want to go where people are in everyday life.”

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Amber Liermann, an MHS counselor, operates CopaCloset with volunteers. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

On the Maricopa High School campus this year, students have had a resource for supplies and clothes when asking for help might otherwise be awkward.

CopaCloset opened in September. It is supported by donations from the community.

MHS counselor Amber Liermann operates CopaCloset with volunteers, distributing donations of clothes, shoes, hygiene products, food, jackets and school supplies to any student or teacher in need.

“If we have a kid coming to school in the winter without a jacket, because they don’t own one, they can come in here, and we’ll let them pick one out, and its free,” Liermann said.

CopaCloset averages 20 students per week. Some students who have been helped in the past have returned to volunteer or even donate items.

“A school parent volunteer, Karen Fortunato started volunteering in February and has been a huge help,” Liermann said.

She said the high school will get calls from middle schools and elementary schools in the district asking after specific items for their students, too, and CopaCloset supplies what it can.

CopaCloset is in a small space in the west end of a mid-campus building. Shoes, tops and jackets line one wall, when they are in supply. Jeans and other clothes are stacked at the back. School supplies and nonperishable food items are distributed on tables. But not everything is always available.

Students tend to go through jackets quickly. Food and supplies don’t sit around long, either.

Sometimes families are going through a private economic crisis while others have long-term financial issues. That includes families of teachers. Liermann said they are all welcome to see how CopaCloset can help.

Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey (ret.) of the MHS Air Force Junior ROTC said his cadets have made CopaCloset one of its projects this year.

“It’s a great, great program,” he said.

For more information about CopaCloset or to learn how to donate, call MHS at 520-568-8100.

Carlos Schulz of Professional Firefighters of Maricopa at Fire Station 571. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Professional Firefighters of Maricopa are hosting their inaugural Custom Car Show April 6 at Copper Sky.

What: Custom Car Show
Who: Professional Firefighters of Maricopa
When: April 6, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Bowlin Road
How much: Free admission; $25-$35 to enter car
Info:; 623-826-2816

The event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Great Lawn, benefits Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children and Firefighter Charities.

“We’ll be collecting toys and monetary donations through the car show to help with other medical costs,” said engineer Carlos Schulz of Maricopa Fire/Medical Department. Firefighters are asking for new, stuffed toys to give the children of the Foundation.

Firefighters Charities provide temporary relief for families displaced by fire “until help from the Red Cross kicks in,” he said. The relief fund also assists families who may have had a death or a hardship.

The car show will have 25 class awards and five specialty awards. Entry is $25 for pre-registration or $35 the day of the show. There will be a $5 discount for anyone donating a new stuffed toy on the day of the event.

Schultz said specialty awards will be Best of Show, People’s Choice Award, Best Paint, Best Interior and Kids Choice Award. The event will be DJ’d, and there will be a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, food trucks and giveaways. The first 100 cars to enter receive a dash plaque.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa Music Circle

The most impressive concert yet by Maricopa Music Circle chamber orchestra will be performed on Saturday evening at the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center.

Who: Maricopa Music Circle
What: Masterworks – Music for Spring
When: April 6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road
How much: $15
Info:, 520-316-6268

Majesty, beauty, mystery – and humor – combine with limpid melody, sumptuous harmony and riveting rhythms in a program called Masterworks devoted to some of the most profound and beloved music ever written. And just about every work programmed is a first performance ever for Maricopa.

Major works anchor each half of the program. The complete overture to Cosi fan tutte ushers in a full operatic suite drawn from Mozart’s great operas in the first half, flanked by Gershwin’s Our Love is Here to Stay, a group of short works by Claude Debussy, including the gorgeous Romance, a suite of folk-songs, and Fritz Kreisler’s lovely Schön Rosmarin for violin solo and orchestra.

Part Two begins with the ethereal and very lovely The Swan by Saint-Saens, then moves on to feature Modest Mussorgsky’s towering Pictures at an Exhibition, complete. Originally composed by Mussorgsky to pay homage to the works of renowned Russian painter and architect Viktor Hartmann, Pictures paints images in sound of many subjects, all framed by a memorable Promenade melody as viewers walk through the gallery. The music evokes images of an old castle, children at play, chicks in their shells, a plodding oxcart, forbidding catacombs, a witch’s hut that walks on chicken legs and, of course, the majestic, grand Great Gate of Kiev. Readily acknowledged as one of Mussorgsky’s three greatest works, Pictures at an Exhibition marries the inspirations of the visual arts with ‘pictures in tones’ by one of music’s most beloved composers.

Now beginning its 11th season, MMC is unique because it performs standard orchestral music and popular favorites entirely without a conductor. Its instrumentation morphs regularly as new performers come on board – producing a rich, colorful and true symphonic sound – and every MMC performer from flute to bass clarinet serves as coach several times each season.

Adult tickets are $15 at the door (cash, check or card), with tickets for children under 12 at $10. Light refreshments for the audience and performers will be served as a post-concert reception, offering a perfect chance to mingle with the musicians.

The main entry to Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino and Hotel mirrors traditional Ak-Chin design elements. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is celebrating both its 25th anniversary and the grand opening of its 2,000-seat Events Center on Thursday.

The new Events Center has hosted two concerts already and will accommodate comedian Dave Chappelle for two shows this weekend. The room is part of a $100 million expansion, most of which is now complete. The casino opened in 1994 at a much smaller scale.

The new construction work has included a spa, new restaurants, a new 229-room hotel tower, an expanded gaming floor, a fitness center, a parking garage and a connecting bridge to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Still being completed is a remodel of the swimming pool.

Native American firm Thalden Boyd Emery is the architect of the expansion. Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is owned by the Ak-Chin Indian Community and managed by Caesar’s Entertainment.

Michael Kintner, director of marketing and operations, said the Events Center will have risers for the seating at the back of the main room when the full space and stage are used. But the center is also to be used for conferences.

“There are six different way to break out for meetings,” he said.

As in the new restaurants, Oak & Fork and Chop Block & Brew, décor and artwork in the center and the rest of the expansion was inspired by the Ak-Chin or other Native American cultures. The works of Ak-Chin artists are included.

For example, the colorful ceiling in the main entry to the casino incorporates design elements from classic patterns in Ak-Chin weavings. To emphasize that point, the lobby has basket weavings by Sally Antone and Janice Miguel Perez on display.

The new hotel tower brings the total number of hotel rooms to 529. Kintner said Harrah’s Ak-Chin would still welcome an additional hotel or motel in Maricopa like the La Quinta that is proposed for Copper Sky. Casinos tend to overbook rooms because no-shows are common. When the hotel is sold out, it is difficult to tell their guests they will have to go to Chandler or Casa Grande for the night.

“That would give us a place to walk people to when we’re sold out,” he said of the proposed hotel.

Deciding on the number of rooms for the new tower came down to balancing demand with the business’s willingness to spend. The new rooms have a slightly larger floor plan and a blue-and-gray color scheme. The 300 rooms in the original tower have a brown-and-gold color scheme.

Since opening the new tower, Harrah’s Ak-Chin has been busy.

“So far, we’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Kintner said. “Our numbers are a little on the higher end of what we expected.”

The Spa and the fitness center give the establishment an opportunity to reach a different kind of clientele. The Spa has four rooms, including a couple’s room, a dedicated esthetics room and two utility rooms. All rooms come equipped with a sink, towel caddies and candles. There is light therapy, manicure/pedicure room, a salon for hair treatment and makeup, changing rooms, a shower and lockers.

“A gym is something we’ve been lacking since I’ve been here, which is going on 14 years,” Kintner said.

When the hotel was just 150 rooms, two of the rooms were combined into a workout area but were taken back as demand for rooms increased. A fitness room was again prioritized during expansion plans as a need for guests at the hotel for business conferences. The fully equipped fitness room offers a high-rise view of the Sonoran environment.

The casino’s eateries are now comprised of Chop Block & Brew, Oak & Fork, Agave’s Restaurant, Copper Cactus Grill, The Buffet (which has expanded into the space formerly occupied by a steakhouse) and Dunkin Donuts (which has moved to a different location off the casino floor).

The upgraded Oak & Fork opened in December 2017 as a small-plate wine bar pairing fine wine with steak, chicken, lobster, lamb and other selections. Chop Block & Brew, also upgraded, opened in August 2018, serving lunch and dinner, with steaks, burgers, prime rib and seafood along with a full bar with craft beers. Lately, CBB has also been serving breakfast starting at 7 a.m. to temporarily fill in the gap left by Agave’s, which was impacted by construction.

The gaming floor gained around 35,000 extra square feet of space, and the gift shop has also gained more room. The Lounge continues as a smaller entertainment area.

As far as gaming, the casino now has much bigger poker room in a dedicated location to hold World Series of Poker events. “Before, we played ‘hide the poker room’ for the past seven years,” Kintner said. And the Bingo hall, which was an outbuilding in the parking lot, is now in a spacious, second-floor room. It is the only Bingo hall in the Caesar’s organization.

The Total Rewards program has changed to the Caesar’s Rewards program. It is essentially just a name change to “leverage the power of the brand,” Kintner said.

When it is completed, the new swimming pool will be zero-entry (also called beach entry) on the west side. It will have a newer and bigger swim-up pool bar, a larger deck, three spas, a pool shower, upgraded audio and lighting, remodeled restrooms and 12 private cabanas with misting fans, TVs, safe, fridge and furniture.

Poolside rooms will have gated, extended patios that lead directly from the room to the pool.


Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa Lions Club drew a record 128 golfers for its annual golf scramble at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado Saturday. Sponsors also lined up to help support the event, which benefited an array of charitable causes. That includes the Against Abuse shelter, F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank, Feed My Starving Children, vision testing and hearing aids, Relay for Life and more. Electrical District 3 again made its “cherry picker” available for a ball drop, which saw hundreds of numbered golf balls dropped and the winner determined by which ball was nearest a colored golf ball. The winner received hall the proceeds of ticket sales for the ball drop, while the other half went to Lions’ projects.


Starting April 2, Pinal County Air Quality begin issuing only 3-day open burning permits. All permits will expire by May 1, and Pinal County will suspend the issuance of all open burning permits on April 27.

Burn permits allow for the disposal of plant material by open burning during limited daytime hours.

Additionally, State law prohibits open burning in Area A from May 1 thru Sept. 30. The Pinal County portion of Area A includes Apache Junction, Queen Creek, Gold Canyon, San Tan Valley and portions of Florence.

The annual cycle of rising temperatures will quickly dry seasonal vegetation, leading to an acute wildfire risk in the desert and upland areas of the County.

The suspension on burn permits will continue until the summer monsoons arrive and mitigate the dual risks to public safety and public health.

Additional information on the Pinal County Air Quality program can be found at or by calling the Pinal County Air Quality Division at 520-866-6929.


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“At Children’s Learning Adventure, we help instill a love for learning in our students through fun and interactive activities. These activities allow students to discover and explore areas they are interested in, while learning about something new. Working collaboratively with parents, Children’s Learning Adventure is committed to developing students into lifelong learners.” – Rick Sodja, CEO

At Children’s Learning Adventure, students are always gearing up for a new adventure! When school is out, it is ‘in’ to join the fun. Each school break and summer camp offers a specialized, uniquely designed curriculum that encompasses STEAM learning and literacy. Each theme is developed to engage students of all levels in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics.

To help students develop into lifelong learners it is important for them to get “plugged in”’ and stay engaged in their educational development throughout the whole year, both inside and outside of their school environment. Children’s Learning Adventure has created six programs, from infant care to after school to promote and help students of all ages grow and learn.

To learn  more  about  Children’s  Learning  Adventure or Summer Camp in Maricopa, call 1-877-797-1417 or visit