Authors Articles byJoyce Hollis

Joyce Hollis

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Newly elected board members Scott Bartle and Patti Coutre, as well as newly appointed member Torri Anderson, will participate in their first board meeting Wednesday evening. They will join Geoff Goddard and Carrie Vargas as MUSD governing board members.

On Jan. 5 members participated in a board retreat to review roles and responsibilities, ethics and their relationship with the superintendent. With that knowledge in mind, one of the five will be elected president of the board at Wednesday’s meeting. A vice president will also be elected.

In addition to the election of officers, the board will hear Dr. Ember Conley’s overview of Butterfield Elementary School’s demographics, data and goals.

Superintendent Jeff Kleck will provide information on the district’s five-year plan, as well as a report on the acceptance of vendor gifts by district personnel.

Galileo testing benchmark data for grades 1-5 for both fall and winter will be offered as information to the board by Lynnette Michalski, Director of Assessment and Accountability.

The newly formed governing board will discuss and possibly approve the use of a hearing officer for teacher termination and student expulsion hearings, and approve insurance broker services for the district.

In addition, the open enrollment capacity for all schools in the district will be presented for board approval.

To see the complete meeting agenda, click here.

Photo by Michael K. Rich

Related story:  School board transformation complete

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The Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board met Wednesday to take a look at both its meeting agenda and number of monthly meetings, and to review the administration’s reduction in force determination form, a document that may be used to identify teachers laid off due to budget cuts.

Director of Assessment and Accountability Lynnette Michalski presented some proposed changes to the present agenda, including the addition of a summary report by the superintendent, governing board activity reports and moving approval of the minutes to the consent agenda.

“My goal was to streamline the process,” said Michalski. 

Board president Scott Bartle stated his intent for the agenda was to pare it down to state-mandated requirements. “The intent is to give us more flexibility.”

“If we strip down too much, we run the risk of not providing information to the public,” said board member Carrie Vargas.

“I don’t want transparency to go away,” added board member Geoff Goddard.

The board, in a 4-1 vote, ultimately moved to change the policy to read “the order of business may be as follows” instead of the previous “shall be as follows.”

In terms of reducing board meetings to one per month, Vargas was “vehemently opposed” to that, saying that to do so “is a disservice to the community.”

Vice-president Torri Anderson earlier suggested taking work sessions out of regular meetings and holding them separately or before a meeting. Policy was left at two meetings per month with the superintendent and the board president to determine the type of meeting(s) needed.

Evaluating teachers

Superintendent Jeff Kleck presented Exhibit GCQA-E, a form for determining reduction in force of professional staff. The document, which does not require board approval, will be used to rank teachers in terms of planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, professional responsibilities, teacher certification, teaching experience and degree(s) held.

“We probably will experience some reductions in force,” said Kleck. “This is the administration’s way of carrying out policy.” According to Kleck, reduction in force should be known by March 1 with teacher documentation available by mid-March.

“I think the timing is bad,” said Goddard, indicating he would like to see the form used earlier as a basis for teacher observations.

“I don’t think this is a surprise to anybody; it’s not different than what they saw at the beginning of the year,” Kleck said. “Interviews, evaluations and the RIF policy all have a one to one correlation.”

During the call to the public, teacher Jessica Ansley said she believed “it (the exhibit document) is a good tool to use.”

Questioning that it accounts for only one lesson taught, Ansley explained she doesn’t base a student’s grade on one test. “But that’s what this would do.”

“I think we need to tread lightly and be sure teachers know what we’re doing,” Vargas said. “I think we need to look carefully and intently at this.”

If several RIF candidates have the same point totals, Kleck indicated that national information tells what abilities teachers in the top 75th percentile have that the lower 25 percent do not possess.

Kleck stressed that teaching ability is a critical component in determining reduction in force. “Administration is trusted by the state of Arizona to make that determination. Trying to decide who stays and who goes—I don’t think anyone would want to do that,” he said.

Next year’s form will change after the state decides on new evaluation content, including a future performance piece to indicate how students are improving.

The board expects to approve notices of non-renewal of contract on April 13, offering teacher contracts for the 2011-2012 school year on May 11.

“We will do our best to be as fair as we possibly can and make sure that we have the information we need to have the best teachers in the district,” Kleck said.

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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The Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board will hold a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday at the district office administration building at 6 p.m.

In addition to approving donations, expense vouchers and travel, the board will review board operating protocol, including board and superintendent communications and each party’s expectations of same, meetings, preparation for meetings and after-meeting agreements, as well as site visits and emergency information arrangements.

Policy BEDB-Agenda will have a first reading, which includes the order of regular, special and emergency meetings, as well as executive sessions.

Superintendent Jeff Kleck will receive direction in regard to reducing the regular meeting schedule to one meeting per month.

A reduction in force determination form for professional staff will be presented for the governing board’s review. The form can potentially be used to rank teachers should layoffs become necessary after next year’s budget is analyzed.

The form itself is based on a points system in the following areas: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, professional responsibilities and additional information pertaining to a teacher’s certification, teaching experience and degree(s) held. Teacher contracts are presently scheduled to be offered on May 11.

MUSD is seeking employee insurance vendors for medical, dental, prescription, vision, life and employee assistance programs for 2011-2012. A request for proposal for these services would be on a five-year maximum contract basis with vendor and governing board approval for renewals after the first year of service.

A strategic planning session for the district is scheduled in conjunction with the regularly scheduled Feb. 23 board meeting.

For the complete Wednesday meeting agenda, click here.

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In order to celebrate Earth Day 2011, Recycling Association of Maricopa (RAM) and its director Gina D’Abella, in partnership with Environmental Concerns Organization, Inc. sponsored a recycled art contest to encourage residents to recycle trash instead of throwing it away.

Objects submitted were judged in student, adult and group categories, as well as one Best of Show award.

Lloyd Clark took “Best in Show.” He used soda cans, cardboard, plywood and a hanger to create his “Airplane.”

The adult category winner was Nancy Smith, who created a “Pop Can Cow Magnet” with a soda can, paper, a magnet and felt. In the student category Dexter Hawley, a kindergarten student at Santa Cruz Elementary School,won for “Robot,” which he crafted with paper, cardboard and soda cans.

Kids of the Ak-Chin Indian Community Library in grades 1-7, under the direction of librarian Jeffrey Stoffer, won for the best group project again this year. They utilized newspaper and wood to create a 51-inch “Recycling Container.”

Judging criteria included recycling content, artistic style, creativity and artistic impression. Emphasis was on a good use of mixed media and post-consumer materials combined with color and graphic elements presented in an original manner reflecting effort on the part of the entrant(s).

Each category’s winners received a certificate of accomplishment and gift cards from local participating businesses. Contest sponsors were the Shops at Stage Stop Marketplace:  Cotton Blossom Flower Shoppe, First Lady Fashion Boutique, Game Stop, Desert Star Gymnastics & Sports, Premium Perfume Oils, Barajas and Lavida Hair Boutique.

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Calvary Chapel Maricopa and First Baptist Church of Maricopa will celebrate the risen Lord this Easter Sunday at Pacana Park.

Since 2006 Calvary Chapel Maricopa has hosted an early morning ‘SonRise’ service in Maricopa. The first service took place in the Villages park; the next year it moved to the brand new Pacana Park, which is still the site for the event. According to Calvary Chapel Pastor Chris Ward, the event has featured several national recording artists such as Steve Grace and Phil Wickham.

This year is the first for another church co-sponsoring the service. First Baptist Church of Maricopa will also be participating, and the event is open to people from all churches and walks of life.

The event will begin at 6 a.m. with a Spanish translation available. Residents are welcome to invite their friends and neighbors. They may bring a lawn chair or use the bleachers at the park. A small continental breakfast will be served afterward, and communion will be served as part of the service.

“Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus is something that the whole community can appreciate,” said Ward. “There’s something about the rising of the sun that brings hope and encouragement to people. We celebrate the rising of the Son on this day and invite everyone to join us.”

For further information, contact Ward at 520-568-5400 or at

If you go:

What: 6th Annual ‘SonRise’ Easter service
When: Sunday, April 24, 6 a.m.
Where: Pacana Park

Submitted photo

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The Easter Bunny will come hopping down the bunny trail, Porter Road that is, making a stop at Pacana Park on Saturday, April 23.

The bunny will be a special guest at the 6th annual Easter Egg Hunt hosted by Community of Hope Church.

The event begins at 10 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m. Egg hunts will take place every 15-20 minutes for children from one year of age through fifth grade. In addition to the egg hunts, there will be games to play, bounce houses to jump in, refreshments and a petting zoo. Bring your camera since the Easter Bunny will be available for photos with the kids.

All of this is “absolutely free,” according to Community of Hope’s pastor, Rusty Akers, who added that all the fun is “open to the entire community of Maricopa.”

At last year’s event over 10,000 pieces of candy were taken away by diligent hunters. Don’t forget to bring an Easter basket, or something to put your eggs in.

Donations of non-perishable food items will also be accepted for the F.O.R. Maricopa food bank.
“The weather should be awesome, the petting zoo will be ready, the Easter Bunny has promised to be on hand, and, yes, there will be candy…let the fun begin!” said Akers.

If you go:

What: Community of Hope’s 6th Annual Easter Egg Hunt
Where: Pacana Park, 1900 N. Porter Road (east soccer field)
When: 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., Saturday, April 23
Cost: Free

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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Butterfield Elementary School played host to community readers Monday as part of the 12th Annual Read to Kids Day, but the stars were dogs, Luke and Zoey.

Patti Rulli and her dog, Luke, were on hand to read to kindergarten students about something they could see firsthand—a collie.

“This dog really likes books,” said one young man, who tried to get the dog to smile for the camera.

Rulli and fellow dog handler Bill Townsend, with his dog Zoey, are regulars at Butterfield, working with special needs students there.

Both dogs are certified in Reading Educational Assistance. They lay quietly on the floor, surrounded by kindergarteners who petted them over and over while listening to the stories.

Volunteers like MUSD Curriculum Director Krista Roden, dressed in a pink Mother Goose costume, read to students in Butterfield’s five kindergarten classes. Participating teachers were Kayla Colling, Jacque Irwin, Amber Jensen, Benita Polidore and Jennifer Seaman.

Other readers included Maricopa Mayor Anthony Smith, Maricopa Police Chief Kirk Fitch and Assistant to the City Manager Patrick Melvin.

Melvin read “The Grouchy Ladybug,” a story about a self-important bug with no manners who was always trying to pick a fight.

“With kids you really have to get the animation right,” said Melvin.

The purpose of the annual Read to Kids Day is to create a love for reading while building strong vocabularies in young children through kindergarten.

United Way, the sponsoring organization, donates a book to the child’s classroom or library for every book a volunteer reads. In addition, every child receives a book to take home.

 See the readers in action in the slideshow:


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Photos by Joyce Hollis

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Maricopa High School’s Air Force JROTC program, the 23rd in Arizona, will begin in January, staffed by Major James Alonzo and Master Sergeant Dishon Gregory.

Alonzo, at age five, emigrated with his mother from the Philippines to Hawaii to join his father, an aircraft mechanic at Hickam Air Force Base. A graduate of Mid Pacific Institute and the University of Hawaii, Alonzo was commissioned through the AFROTC program.

Most of his 20 years of service have been in Alaska as Air Force liaison to the Alaskan Congressional delegation and directing an Air National Guard refueling group’s formation.

Married with five grown children, Alonzo comes to Maricopa from North Pole High School where he started an AFJROTC unit.

Gregory joined the Air Force in 1989, deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, served two additional tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and two assignments in South Korea.
After 21 years of service, Gregory is retiring to join the new AFJROTC program at Maricopa High School as an instructor.

Submitted photos

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The Friends of the Maricopa Public Library are now accepting applications for their 2011 Scholarship Award in the amount of $1,000.

All high school seniors living in the Maricopa Unified School district are eligible to apply.

This is the first year the Friends have offered a scholarship to seniors who will be continuing their education.

“We are very pleased to be offering this scholarship to a deserving senior student,” said Friends president Nancy McTighe.

Students at Maricopa High School can obtain their application through the counselor’s office.

Students attending other schools can pick up an application at the Maricopa Public library or by contacting the scholarship committee at Friends of the Library, P.O. Box 663, Maricopa, AZ 85139 or via email at

Applications must be submitted by April 15 for consideration.

The Friends of the Maricopa Public Library is a non-profit group dedicated to supporting library services and programs. To encourage the enjoyment of reading, lifelong learning and community involvement, the group raises funds through its semi-annual, used book sales and recruits volunteers as active members for the Friends’ programs and service to the Maricopa Public Library.

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M.A.S.H. is hosting the 1st Annual Drug-Free Graduation Party at Maricopa High School on May 24. The coalition wants to involve local residents in helping with this event.

Combining food, fun, music, games and a movie, the post graduation event will begin at  11 p.m. and will run until 6 a.m. Donations of food, funds and/or raffle items are being sought. In addition volunteers will be needed as chaperones and to assist in planning the party. Business sponsors would be greatly appreciated. 

“We want to make this a fun and meaningful event,” says coalition chairperson Mary Witkofski.

Founded in May 2006, the M.A.S.H. (Maricopa, Ak-Chin, Stanfield, Hidden Valley) Anti-Substance Abuse Coalition exists for non-profit community service. Its mission is to provide resources, promote citizen involvement and create innovative ways to prevent and reduce substance abuse, particularly underage drinking.

Substance abuse prevention is both ongoing and an essential task, to which the M.A.S.H. Coalition is completely dedicated.

Who makes up the coalition? Volunteers. Parents, grandparents, educators, interested community members are all invited to be part of the coalition and to help make Maricopa a safer community for all by working to curb underage drinking and drug use.

“Building up a strong core of volunteers in essential,” said M.A.S.H. coordinator Dawnielle Castellanos. “Great programs exist in Maricopa, but not everyone is aware of them.”

Come and be part of the M.A.S.H. Coalition ( and take a stand against substance abuse. Meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the M.A.S.H. office, located at 20046 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 101 (behind Penascos).

A planning meeting for the Graduation Party has been set for Tuesday, March 8, at the M.A.S.H. office at 7 p.m. Get involved and help make this year’s grad party a night to remember .
For further information or to provide post-graduation party support, contact Castellanos at 520-568-4769 or at Non-perishable donations may be dropped off at the M.A.S.H. office from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or call Castellanos for pick up.

File photo 

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Helping to make Maricopa’s domestic violence shelter a reality, 280 guests enjoyed Mardi Gras in Maricopa Saturday at the 6th Annual Against Abuse-Maricopa Seeds of Change Gala.

This year’s event, held at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort, featured a sit-down dinner, live and silent auctions, music and the comedy of Susan Vass.

Mardi Gras masks and beads were abundant, and Amy Jamieson was on hand to photograph partygoers.

Seven items were part of the live auction. Orbitel president Keith Kirkman had the winning bid for the king-sized quilt, handcrafted and donated by the Maricopa quilt guild. Kirkman is donating the quilt to the shelter when it is built.

Greg and Brenda Campbell took home the Mission-style dining set and matching hutch, as well as the Tom Lehman golf shoes. The Harrah’s New Orleans trip package went to Ron and Gina Linville, and Dallas and Kathy Paulsen took home a new La-Z-Boy recliner. In all, the live auction raised $6,350 for the shelter.

Area businesses and individuals donated more than 80 silent auctions items for the event, and attendees went home with everything from wine baskets to jewelry to movie tickets, a flat-screen TV, books, a curio cabinet and much more. The silent auction garnered a grand total of $6,980.

The one-carat diamond necklace raffle raised another $2,000 for the shelter.

This year’s “Mardi Gras” celebration made approximately $40,000, although totals are almost complete. That amount, plus monies from previous galas, will enable Against Abuse to build the 6,700-square foot women and children’s domestic violence shelter in Maricopa, hopefully within the calendar year. Ground was broken for the shelter in the fall.

The shelter project started with a group of 15 women, headed by Torri Anderson, wanting to do something to address domestic violence in Maricopa. The 1st Annual Against Abuse Inc. Seeds of Change Gala was held in February 2006, raising more than $60,000 and establishing a building fund.

“I am thrilled with the success of this year’s Mardi Gras Gala and ecstatic with the response we had,” said Anderson. “This community is just amazing. The committee did a great job, and Harrah’s went out of their way to make the gala a first class event.”

“We are happy to provide a wonderful social event, an opportunity for networking, and, of course, the chance to raise funds for the shelter.” 

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Mardi Gras and Vieux Carré, the French Quarter, are coming to Maricopa Saturday at the 6th Annual Against Abuse, Inc. Seeds of Change Gala at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a reception, featuring music by JazZona, and a chance for guests to bid on the approximately 60 silent auction items on display. Amy Jamieson Photography will be available for event photos, and a special New Orleans-style dinner menu will be served at 7:30 p.m. followed by the comedy of Susan Vass.

Five items will be up for bid at 7 p.m. with auctioneer Keith Stump, and credit cards will be accepted for all items. The live auction items include a Mission-style dining table with six chairs and a hutch, as well as a recliner from the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries. Harrah’s has donated a two-night Mardi Gras stay in New Orleans, including a $150 Bash Steakhouse gift certificate, both good through mid-July.

A handmade Lone Star Log Cabin quilt, crafted and donated by the ladies of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts, the Maricopa quilt guild, will be part of the live auction. The quilt measures 100″ x 100″ and will cover a king-sized bed and or be a full bedspread for a queen-sized bed. Guild members selected the pattern and fabric in July and worked on cutting and piecing it for three months.

Proceeds from the tickets for Saturday’s event, which are $75 per person, silent and live auction items and the raffle will go toward the establishment of the Maricopa women and children’s shelter. Each $75 provides one night’s shelter for a mother and her children.

The Maricopa shelter project started with a small group of 15 women, headed by Torri Anderson, wanting to do something to address the domestic violence issue in Maricopa. They met with Against Abuse Inc. in 2005 and decided to organize the 1st Annual Against Abuse Inc. Seeds of Change Gala in February 2006, raising over $60,000 and establishing a building fund.

The name “Seeds of Change” comes from the history of Maricopa’s farming community and the change that planting seeds can make in a field. The committee’s hope is that they are planting positive seeds for the future of domestic violence survivors.

Tickets for Saturday’s Mardi Gras event are available by calling Anderson at 520-560-3665. Fewer than 25 tickets are still available.

“This event is all about Maricopa; it’s for Maricopa and by Maricopa,” said Anderson. “We are so grateful to the local businesses and individuals who have continued to support us.”

Photo courtesy of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts

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Maricopa Seniors, Inc., will present their third Home-Garden and Business Expo on March 12th to give residents an opportunity to learn more about business and services available in and around Maricopa.

Fun, food and information will all be part of the afternoon’s festivities from noon to 4 p.m. at the Maricopa High School courtyard.

“Recognizing that more than 300 home-based businesses in Maricopa do not and many will not ever have store-front locations, Maricopa Seniors for the third year is sponsoring an opportunity and venue for many of these home-based businesses to expose their services and talents,” said event organizer Helen Brown. 

“In the past, we had landscaping, cosmetics, food vendors, solar energy, financial advisors, shutters-blinds, pet care and crafters.  It runs the gamut.” 

Maricopa Seniors are hoping to provide space for many vendors at the Expo and to elicit great community support in terms of attendance.

Booth space is available through Feb. 19. Prices are $30 for a 10×10, $50 for a 10×20 and $70 for a 10×30 space. Tables are not included.

For more information, contact Doris Fightmaster at 520-316-6607 or Helen Brown at 520-868-6111.

If you go:
What:  2011 Maricopa Seniors Home-Garden & Business Expo
When:  Saturday, March 12, noon to 4 p.m.
Where:  Maricopa High School courtyard, 45012 Honeycutt Ave.
Cost:  Free (food and beverages sold on site)

File photo

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Maricopa Girls Scouts, kindergarten Daisies, Brownies and Juniors took a global journey at Santa Rosa Elementary School Saturday morning as part of World Thinking Day 2011.

Each year the girls participate in activities, games and projects with global themes to honor their sister scouts and Girl Scouts in other countries. This year’s event included learning opportunities about Thailand, Jamaica, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Ireland, England and the United States.

Each of the troops chose a country and created an informational display about the people, food, geography and products of that locale. The girls rotated through the displays by troops, sampling the foods of each country, playing a game and taking notes on what they learned. They each received a pin for their vest or sash relating to the country studied.

“The best part is learning interesting information about all the countries,” said scout Shannon Coutre.

Thinking Day began in 1926 as a way of creating a special day for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world to “think” about each other and appreciate their sister scouts. In 1999 the name was changed from Thinking Day to “World” Thinking Day. It is always celebrated in February.

The annual event serves as a reminder that Girl Scouts USA is part of a larger, global community of nearly 150 countries with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

Photos by Joyce Hollis 

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Find your treasure and fight cancer. That’s the motto for Resale for Life, a huge rummage sale scheduled for Saturday.

Maricopa’s first Relay for Life event, which begins at 6 p.m. on March 25 and runs until 6 a.m. the following day, is dedicated to fighting cancer.  At least one member of each of the 38 teams will be walking over the course of the 12-hour event because ‘cancer never sleeps.’

Teams each have from 8-10 members. Five are high schools teams, and 26 represent local businesses and/or government.

“The event‘s focus is to raise $25,000 to help fight cancer and to honor at least 50 survivors and caretakers with a reception,” said team development chair Nancy Smith. 

Saturday’s rummage sale is part of that fundraising effort.

Community members are invited and encouraged to attend the Resale for Life, to find treasures while fighting cancer.

The sale begins at 8 a.m. and lasts until noon on Saturday at the Community of Hope Church parking lot, 18700 N. Porter Rd. (just south of Pacana Park).

If you go:
Resale for Life
When: Saturday, Feb. 5; 8 a.m. until noon
Where: Community of Hope parking lot, 18700 N. Porter Rd.

File photo

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Three years ago Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church converted from a mission to a parish. To celebrate that anniversary, the church will host its 4th annual festival and carnival the weekend of Jan. 28-30.

Mission Saint Francis de Sales made its transition to Our Lady of Grace in 2007, and Fr. Marcos C. Velasquez became its first pastor. Under his leadership the church has continued to grow, focusing on parish and community outreach.

The festival is the church’s largest fundraising event to support its building fund. Maricopa residents are invited to participate in the festivities, and general admission is free.

Sun Valley Rides, LLC, will provide a midway, including several large rides, carnival games and kiddie rides.

The parish is pre-selling passes, good for unlimited rides on any one specific day, for $15 per person until noon on Jan. 28. The passes are available at the church office Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. During the festival, day-ride passes will cost $25 per person at the door.

Parish organizers will host several booths and exhibits. Games, food booths, a talent show, bounce house, inflatable slide and obstacle course, basket raffles, a silent auction and kids’ games will all be part of the festivities.

Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. “Come Back Buddy” will perform a Buddy Holly Review.

In addition, there will be a raffle with a chance to win $2,500.

Those individuals or bands interested in the talent competition should contact Patti Coutre at 520-568-4605 for details.

If you go:
  Our Lady of Grace 4th Annual Anniversary Festival and Carnival
Where:  45295 W. Honeycutt Ave. (across from Maricopa High School)
When:  Friday-Sunday, Jan. 28-30
• Friday: Jan. 28, 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
• Saturday: Jan. 29, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
• Sunday: Jan. 30, noon–9 p.m.
Cost:  Free admission; all-day ride passes $15 per person prior to the festival, $25 at the door

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Alexis Vega is a normal Maricopa preteen. She loves reality television shows, make-up, picnics, crafts and music, but, most of all, she is happy to be home from the hospital today, her 11th birthday.

Until summer 2008 Alexis was a very active little girl. Then she came down with a rare bacterial infection manifested by blisters and flu-like symptoms. After many, many tests and doctor visits, Alexis’s blood work showed immune deficiencies. She was diagnosed with ALL Childhood Leukemia on July 21. After a month of chemotherapy, her cancer went into remission, but that was just the beginning of her treatment regimen.

Weekly chemo treatments continued until late February 2009, along with some ER visits and hospital stays. Everything was proceeding well—until Jan. 5 of last year. Alexis relapsed just eight months shy of the end of her treatment. Hair loss, ER visits, side effects, new chemo drugs, needles, doctors—her leukemia was back.

“It was just one thing after another, but Alexis is a real trooper,” says her mom, Mia. “She’s a fighter who keeps us grounded and looking forward. She never complains, and her only real downturn was when she contracted Valley Fever and was in ICU on breathing tubes for two weeks.”

That setback caused an eight-week delay in Alexis’s treatment.

“Her prognosis is great. The doctors are very positive and expect a full recovery,” Mia explained. The goal is for Alexis to end sixth grade cancer free.

This week Alexis has been in the hospital again for five days for chemo and maintenance. She has six more such stays ahead of her and a year of maintenance clinics to check her cell count. She also has regular physical therapy treatments at the Peterson clinic in Maricopa.

When she’s well enough, Alexis is back in her fifth grade classroom at Legacy Traditional School to “visit with friends and feel normal.” Otherwise, she is considered a homebound student.

Mia was a second grade teacher at Legacy, but she was forced to take the year off to be with Alexis during her hospital stays and treatments.

“We’re surviving,” said Mia, “but it’s hard with the medical expenses and transportation costs on only one income.”

Alexis’s father, Raul Vega, is a DPS officer. Her older brother Anthony is a junior at Maricopa High School. Grandmother Sylvia Sanora comes from Ajo about twice each month to help with laundry and other things the family needs.

The Sanoras set up a fundraiser for Alexis at Human Tribe Project to support her emotionally and to help the family financially. For every $20 necklace purchased, $15 goes directly to Alexis’s family to help with her medical expenses. For more information, log on to and search Alexis Mia Vega or email her grandmother at

As she turns 11 today, Alexis is thrilled to be home from the hospital, at least for a time (she was released on Saturday).

Alexis has two dogs, Piggy and Weeny, but she wanted another one for her birthday. A puppy named Bella was her early birthday present last week. “She’s in love with dogs,” said her mother.

However, Alexis Vega’s very best birthday present is being home with her family and pets today.

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PublishAmerica recently announced the release of Leamon (Bud) C. Ryan’s autobiography “Time Capsule,” which provides memories from Ryan’s youth to present time.

“My autobiography is written from the heart, revealing my innermost feelings,” said Ryan. “I wish to share my autobiography with heartfelt convictions; a dim light brightened by the sunshine of my soul.”
Ryan was born in 1932 in a log cabin with an earthen floor, deep in the hills of Kentucky. Today he writes, not only for himself, but to enrich the lives of others.

”Time Capsule” is the story of events in Ryan’s life as he grew up a country boy during the Depression Era.

A former commander of Maricopa VFW Post 12043, having served in Korea from 1950 to 1954 as a naval petty officer on the USS Eldorado, Ryan was last year’s Arizona state Buddy Poppy contest display winner. He has been writing poetry for years, and PublishAmerica released his book of poetry, “The Sum of Autumn,” in May 2010.

“It has been an extreme pleasure to work with this talented and dedicated author,” said PublishAmerica Public Relations Director Shawn Street.”

“As a small boy I have vivid memories of the poverty suffered in my native Appalachia, which, in reality, still exists today,” Ryan said. “I trust the purchase of my book will give you insight into my life as it unfolds, seen through the eyes of a small boy.”

For ordering information, please visit

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Thanks to an Ace Hardware Helpful Hands grant, Maricopa High School got a $2,000 facelift over the weekend. It was the only high school in Arizona to benefit from the grant.

On Saturday morning, Mike Richey, owner of Maricopa’s Ace Hardware, his paint department manager, Donna Wallace, MHS Principal June Celaya, assistant principal Aaron Harris, other school staff members and a group of students all pitched in to repaint the school’s multi-purpose room lobby, an adjacent classroom area and the restrooms. As an additional part of the project an accent wall in each of the teachers’ workrooms will be painted at a later date.

“This is an exciting time as we enhance the beauty of our campus,” said Harris, extending his thanks to Dean of Students Krista Barrett, the MHS Link Crew and DECA students for volunteering as part of their community service hours for graduation.

“We are honored to receive this special gift from Ace Hardware,” said Celaya. “A newly painted multi-purpose room will help us continue our commitment to providing our students with the best learning environment possible. Our staff will also be pleased to see the accent walls painted as they add a warm, inviting feel.”

Partnering with local retailers, Ace is providing a $2,000 paint makeover to one deserving high school in each of the 50 states. The company developed the Helpful Hands campaign to give high schools a fresh start by creating environments to motivate learning and invigorate both students and teachers.

“Often when the economy is down and budgets are cut, physical improvements to schools are overshadowed. In the face of this, it’s Ace’s goal to reestablish pride in our community with a fresh coat of paint,” said Ace’s home expert, Lou Manfredini. “The paint makeover at Maricopa High School will be more than just a splash of color for the school. It will mark a new beginning.”

In May, Ace asked consumers to fill out a school nomination form, indicating why their school deserved the paint makeover. Gordon Ponticello, a maintenance staff member, completed an application for MHS; in October it was selected as the Arizona Helpful Hands makeover destination.

“We’re just glad to do this,” said Richey. “It’s another form of our community outreach.”

Photos by Joyce Hollis

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Want to enjoy 2011 as a safer, slimmer, healthier person?

Two series of classes, one provided locally by Maricopa Seniors, Inc., and the other by the Casa Grande Regional Medical Center, will address personal safety and legal rights, as well as weight loss and nutrition.

The Maricopa Seniors 2011 first annual Health and Safety Speakers Series will be held on four Mondays, Jan. 10 and 24, and again on Feb. 7 and 28. The series will be held at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Experts in their respective fields, ten speakers will address personal and fire safety, identity theft, fraud and ways to protect individual legal rights. The experts will also stay after the general sessions to meet attendees and answer their personal questions.

The classes, open to all ages, are free. To register or for additional information, contact Therese Starkey at 520-568-8945 or by email at
The event is presented by Maricopa Seniors, Inc. in partnership with Maricopa High School.

Casa Grande Regional Medical Center (CGRMC) is offering a nutrition class, “The Healthy Weigh to Weight Loss,” on Saturday, Jan. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Discovery Room at the hospital, 1800 E. Florence Blvd. 

Participants will learn how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, determine BMI (body mass index), calorie needs and energy expenditures. An emphasis will be placed on healthy food choices, portion control and behavior modification tips for permanent weight loss.

Part of a series of nutrition classes, this class and others will be held on the second Saturday of each month. The goal of the series is to provide participants the knowledge and tools to make better food choices to improve their health.

All classes will be taught by a registered dietitian. Future topics include “Eating Hints for Cancer Patients,” “Heart Healthy Nutrition” and “Diabetes Overview.”

Classes are free, but space is limited. To register or for additional information, contact Jackie Huston at 520-381-6416 or by email at

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Maricopa’s Legacy Traditional School’s top speller Vanessa Sheehan took 4th place in county competition and her fellow student, Whitney Solomon, took 3rd.

The Pinal County Spelling Bee was held at Vista High School in Casa Grande. About 63 contestants from 21 schools competed for top spelling honors.

Solomon is a sixth grader at Legacy, and Sheehan is a seventh grade student. Sheehan won the district bee in the fifth round.

Cade Lamb, an eighth grader from Queen Creek’s Legacy campus, placed sixth.

“We were really excited to have our students placing so high,” said Katie Gjurgevich, Maricopa Legacy fourth grade teacher and spelling bee coordinator.

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Mobile On-site Mammography (M.O.M.) and the City of Maricopa team up every year to provide breast cancer screening to the community.

M.O.M. will be at the Maricopa City Hall on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 24 – 25, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The full-field digital mammography and CAD computerized readings are open to all members of the local community for their safety and comfort.

It’s time to make an appointment now.

If you are interested in getting a mammogram, schedule an appointment by contacting M.O.M. at (480) 967-3767 or (800) 285-0272. Have your insurance information handy when you call, and bring the following items to your appointment: medical insurance card, doctor’s name and address.

The cost of services varies based upon insurance coverage. There is available insurance coverage with Blue Cross Blue Shield and other select carriers. Non-insured patients pay $167 (includes the radiologist reading). Patients should consult their insurance plan for coverage.

The recommended baseline for mammograms is age 35 to 40; women should have a mammogram annually after age 40. Patients under age 30 must provide a doctor’s referral.

In Arizona breast cancer is the leading form of cancer among women. An estimated 2,800 women will be diagnosed, and 600 will die of breast cancer in Arizona this year. One out of every eight women has breast cancer.

M.O.M. is focused on providing high quality mammography service with its professional, experienced staff, who use the latest mammography technology. M.O.M.’s goal is to provide onsite breast cancer screening services to all women in the cities and rural communities of Arizona.

For more information on Mobile On-site Mammography, visit their Web site.

If you go:
When:  Monday or Tuesday, Jan. 24 or 25
Where:  City Hall parking lot, 45145 W. Madison Ave.
Time:  8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Cost:  Insurance coverage or $167 for non-insured patients
(Open to all women in the Maricopa area)

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MHS is taking a proactive approach to a potential problem through a 20-question, anonymous survey on bullying and other forms of violence.

The survey was developed to get students’ perspectives on bullying, sexual harassment, staff involvement for prevention, multi-media harassment and their overall safety on campus.

According to Tara Roy, freshman counselor at Maricopa High School, student responses will be used to identify challenge areas.

“We hope to implement some prevention and intervention strategies in the areas our students identify as needing attention. We will also be evaluating our current programs and making changes to address our students’ concerns.”

Bullying is an increasingly serious problem, taking on new forms through the use of the Internet and cell phones. Some studies show that 25 percent of American children experience direct or indirect bullying daily.

Bullying can involve any number of behaviors, including sexual harassment of another student, teasing, excluding a student, calling a student names, physically pushing or attacking, threatening or hazing, spreading rumors, damaging or stealing belongings, or demanding money.

“Bullying and all forms of harassment don’t just affect students and families. They affect the entire culture of a school,”  Roy said.

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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Maricopa Seniors, Inc. offers local residents and their friends an opportunity for fun and cash prizes during Bingo sessions held twice each month at the Villages clubhouse.

On the first Monday morning of each month the doors open at 10 a.m. with the first game called at 10:20 a.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the first Thursday session, with play beginning at 6:20 p.m. This month’s sessions will be held on Jan. 3 and Jan. 6.

An average game takes about 10 minutes before a winner is declared. The entire session lasts about two hours.

Admission is $10 per person, and additional games may be purchased at the door.

Seating is limited to 40 individuals, and a minimum of 10 players is needed to avoid cancellation. Bingo is open to anyone age 18 or older.
“So far, we’ve had 30 people, combined, at our first two sessions, and we’ve given away $253 in prize money,” said Peggy Chapados, Maricopa Seniors bingo organizer.

The group’s jackpots are calculated using a 60 percent/40 percent split, based on the number of attendees. The more people who play and the more extra games purchased, the higher the jackpots.

The last game, called Double Action is a cover all, meaning all the squares have to be filled. The winner or winners receive 50 percent of the income from the sales of just this game.
“Bingo is a great and inexpensive way to enjoy oneself and help support the worthy causes of Maricopa Seniors, Inc.,” Chapados said. The group’s projects include the Infinity Card, Call for Help pendants, the annual Home & Garden Expo and various health and wellness series for seniors.

Advance registration is required at or by contacting Therese Starkey at 520-568-8945 or to reserve your Bingo seat.

If you go:
Maricopa Seniors, Inc. twice monthly Bingo
When: First Monday each month at 10 a.m.; first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.
Where:  Villages clubhouse, 20991 N. Butterfield Pkwy.
Cost: $10 per person (additional games may be purchased)

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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Kids from all over the area have the opportunity to participate in a Maricopa High School cheer camp on Monday, Jan. 17.

The camp is open to elementary through middle school students from ages 6-15.

For a $35 per child fee, each camper will receive a t-shirt, lunch, snacks and several hours of cheer instruction from the Maricopa High School varsity cheerleaders. Most importantly, students will have the chance to talk to the MHS cheerleaders and ‘hang out’ with them.

Proceeds will go toward the cost of the MHS cheerleaders’ trip to California for regional competition in March. Independent and corporate sponsors are welcome and would be appreciated.

Camp cheerleaders will be showing off the basic routine they learn at the varsity boys’ basketball game at Maricopa High School on the following Saturday, Jan. 21.

To register for the camp, contact Coach Alex at

Be a future MHS varsity cheerleader; come and see what it’s all about.

If you go:

What:  MHS Cheerleading Camp
When:  Monday, Jan. 17; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Main gym at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
Cost: $35 per child, ages 6-15

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For Our City-Maricopa’s community-wide, December clothing drive provided jackets, pants, jeans, shirts and backpacks for students in need.

Residents, businesses, churches and volunteers all came together to outfit Maricopa’s “homeless” students in the Maricopa Unified School District or at any other local school.

These students are not on the streets; they are living with others, doubling up in one home, residing in cars or with friends. These disruptive living situations legally define students as “homeless” as part of the McKinney-Vento Act.

“We are so thankful to this community for its continued generosity,” said Micki Schroeder, MUSD Homeless Education Program liaison. “Please know that these jackets will all be handed out this year. With such an abundant supply, they will go to both our homeless education children, and to any Maricopa child who may have a need for a new or gently used coat.”

Schroeder estimates the drive brought in 215 jackets, 77 pairs of jeans, 18 pairs of shoes, 33 pairs of pants or shorts, 22 backpacks and 24 uniform tops, along with mittens, hats and scarves. A large, anonymous financial donation will be used to purchase socks and undergarments.

“We have had countless individual donors,” Schroeder said.

Donations can still be dropped off at the school district office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. For more information, contact Schroeder at 520-568-5100.

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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Animals and children are the subjects of photos, billboards, even entire advertising campaigns. Their antics make us laugh and sometimes bring tears to our eyes.

At Maricopa Wells Middle School a unique program called P.A.W.S. (Pairing Animals with Students) links animals and kids in a mutually beneficial way — thanks to program founder and teacher Kimberly Frankel.

To say that Frankel loves animals would be an understatement. Growing up in Arlington Heights, Illinois, she had dogs, cats, hamsters, mice, birds, rabbits and even frogs. At age 7 she began horseback riding lessons, competing in horse shows just a few years later.

When her parents moved to Arizona, Frankel took classes in early childhood education as well as a two-year degree in Equine Science from Scottsdale Community College, interning in equissage in Virginia and becoming a certified equine sports massage therapist. Back in the Chicago area, she pursued her career providing therapy for show horses, race horses and pets. However, her income was not steady so she became a dog groomer.

“I really loved working with animals, but after a few years I missed working with children and decided to go back to school for my degree in elementary education,” said Frankel.

In 2006 Frankel moved to Maricopa, bought a home and began her student teaching at Pima Butte Elementary School. She completed her master’s degree while substitute teaching in the Maricopa Unified School District and was hired as a language arts teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School in 2008.

As a first year teacher she received permission to start a program to teach students about animals and decided to call it P.A.W.S.

Frankel credits Mia, her adopted pit-bull/greyhound mix who is almost 16 years old, as the inspiration for the program.

“In caring for her over the years, I have learned so much and gained a wealth of knowledge about proper healthcare and nutrition for pets. I wanted to start the class not only because I was inspired by Mia, but because I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take my knowledge and passion about animals and share that with my students.”

Frankel noticed that anytime she would tell a story about Mia, her students wanted to talk about their pets, often asking her questions about how to properly care for them.

P.A.W.S. teaches students proper animal nutrition, grooming and basic healthcare, along with knowledge of specific breeds and training tips. Students also are introduced to future college options and career opportunities that involve working with animals.

An afterschool program funded by a 21st Century grant, P.A.W.S. is now in the middle of its third year. Enrollment continues to increase with 30 students currently in the program. Considering that there is a substantial time commitment for both Frankel and the students, the level of involvement demonstrates the popularity and overall success of the program.

P.A.W.S. classes are available at Maricopa Wells four days each week, Monday through Thursday. Daily instructional offerings alternate between domestic animals and large breed or farm animals with a specific day focused on equine science. Students also learn about marine life and ocean animals.

Guest speakers, a pet sitter, a pet social worker, an animal trainer, a dog groomer, a K-9 officer and a therapy dog tester and certifier, have all shared their knowledge and training with P.A.W.S. students.

Frankel also arranges occasional family days throughout the year to allow parents the opportunity to get involved in their children’s love of pets.

Over the course of the program, the students have taken field trips for horseback riding lessons, to the Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium, several animal shelters, a dairy, local farms and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. In February, Arabian Horse Times featured the students and the P.A.W.S. program in its magazine and sponsored their bus trip to the horse show.

In addition to learning about animals and their care, the program offers students a chance to give back to pets and their community when P.A.W.S. holds fundraisers to help local animal rescue organizations. Currently the students are helping Please Rescue Me run by local resident Grace Reed. They bring in donations of animal-related items like toys, feeding bowls, collars, leashes and food and are now helping to find homes for shelter dogs.

“I believe it is extremely important to teach my students about giving back to their community, and to show them how wonderful it feels to help an animal in need,” Frankel says.

“There is so much for my students to learn; I wish we had more time. My dream, my ultimate goal is that one day the program can be offered during the school day as an animal science elective.”

To volunteer with P.A.W.S. or get information about the program, contact Frankel at or at 520-568-7100, ext. 3050.

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Members of the Optimist Club of Maricopa brightened the holidays for Pinal Gila Community Child Services Head Start students in Maricopa.

There are 40 students, 20 girls and 20 boys, in the local Head Start program. The 3-5 year olds attend classes at the new center located at 44931 W. Edwards Ave.

“I’ve taught children of all ages, but this is the group I like the best,” said Head Start teacher Sherri Frohling.

Optimist Club members gathered on Tuesday, Dec. 14, to prepare the gift bags for the children, containing candy, toys, fruit and other small items.

Grace Gomez and Renate Chamberlin distributed the gifts the following Thursday morning, eliciting smiles and thank yous from the children.
The gift giving is an annual project for the Optimists. “Our focus is on needy children,” said Chamberlin, the club treasurer.

The Optimist Club of Maricopa meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 7-8 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Maricopa, 18705 N. John Wayne Parkway. Guests are always welcome.

For more information about the Optimists, call 520-568-4931.  
Photo by Joyce Hollis

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The Christmas tree that looked so beautiful and fresh when you bought it the day after Thanksgiving has lost some of its luster—and a lot of its needles! 

What do you do with it? Are you finding yourself looking for a way to dispose of your tree?

As a special service to residents, the city of Maricopa will again provide a way to dispose of Christmas trees while keeping Maricopa beautiful and free of fire hazards.

A Christmas Tree Drop-Off site has been designated at West Garvey Ave. and Honeycutt Road  (on the west side of SR 347).  Residents will have 30 days to drop off their trees (no brush), starting Dec. 26 through Jan. 31. The service is free.

Only Christmas trees will be accepted, and all ornaments and other decorations should be removed.

For more information, contact Brian Duncan, Senior Code Compliance Officer,   at 520-494-2393  or

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Maricopans don’t usually see snow, but Tortosa residents did on Saturday during the first annual Tortosa Winterfest.

Held in the main park at Tortosa, adjacent to Santa Cruz Elementary School, the event began at 10 a.m. and lasted until 2 p.m. with plenty of snow for everyone.

The Tortosa Homeowners Association, managed by Capital Consultants, organized the outing, bringing in snow for a large play area, and a snow slide with inflatable sleds. Children, many of whom had never seen snow before, quickly learned the mechanics of snowball making and throwing.

A vendor fair with arts and crafts and various items for sale was available for the adults, and other vendors provided food for those in attendance.

Photo by Joyce Hollis