Authors Articles byJoyce Hollis

Joyce Hollis

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On Oct. 30 Maricopa’s VFW Post #12043 and American Legion Post #133 will sponsor a fundraiser for Bailey Boxes, the 2nd Annual Bailey Boxes Fun Run.

Registration for the motorcycle outing will begin at 8 a.m. at Arena Sports Grill, 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, with the last bike out at 10 a.m.

The fun run ends at Raceway Bar and Grill, 49237 W. Papago Rd., with the last bike in at 5 p.m. Autos are also welcome.

The event will feature a poker hand (high hand=$100; low hand=$50), a 50/50 raffle, door prizes and a day of fun and relaxation for all.

Fees for the fun run are $20 per rider and $35 for riders with passengers. 

Maricopa’s VFW and American Legion posts sponsor Bailey Boxes; its founder, Herb Bailey, is a disabled veteran.

Bailey Boxes are sent every few weeks to troops serving all over the world. Items in the boxes provide a touch of home for the service men and women. They include: Chap Stick, gum, sun block, granola bars, paperback books, Gatorade, beef jerky, baby wipes, socks, canned fruit, letters and photos, foot powder, nail clippers and store bought cookies, to name a few items. Donations are collected at the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce office, 44870 W. Hathaway Rd.

For information on Bailey Boxes, contact Bailey at 909-496-3658.

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Star Wars is coming to Maricopa to celebrate the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life kickoff on Saturday, Oct. 23, from 1-3 p.m.

The kickoff will feature fun, food and prizes, as well as Star Wars characters. Residents should bring their cameras.

Registration will be provided to enter relay teams in Maricopa’s first ever Relay for Life on March 25-26. Relay for Life mobilizes communities throughout the country to fight back against cancer. Teams consist of 8-15 participants, and each participant raises a minimum of $100.

All teams that register prior to Oct. 23 or at the kick-off event will receive 50 percent off the team commitment fees ($75 instead of $150).

Many team members are cancer survivors or those who want to participate in honor of loved ones who have suffered with the disease or lost their lives to it. Information about the Relay for Life will be available, as well as instructions on how to start a team and team captain’s kits.

Relay for Life organizers and honorary chairman Mayor Anthony Smith hope to see many residents, who are ready to fight back against cancer, at the kickoff.

“We are so thankful to see our community coming together to celebrate the lives of those who have batttled cancer. Remember loved ones lost empower individuals and communities to fight back against a disease that takes too much from too many,” said Relay for Life co-chair Gwen Traylor.

If you go:

What: Star Wars Relay for Life kickoff
When: Saturday, Oct. 23, 1-3 p.m.
Where: Community of Hope multi-purpose room, 18700 N. Porter Rd. (south of Pacana Park)
Information: Nancy Smith, team development chair,

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Ghosts, goblins, monsters, mummies, even a scarecrow or a jack-o-lantern or two – it’s what Halloween is all about.

Maricopans can now decorate the exterior of their homes and enter to win the city’s Community Services Department’s 4th Annual Mysterious Mansion Mayhem contest.

The rules are simple. Simply celebrate Halloween this year by decorating the exterior of your home with original, creative and spooky Halloween characters, scenes and props. Then register with the city to participate in the contest. All decorations must be visible to the public, and contestants must abide by local HOA rules.

Judging by the “witching ones” will take place on Thursday, Oct. 28, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to the first and second place winners with honorable mention going to the third place winner.

Maps for viewing the “Mysterious Mansion Mayhem” will be available Oct. 23.

Registration is now open, but it will close Friday, Oct. 22, at 5 p.m. Forms are available for downloading here, or they may be picked up at the interim City Hall, 45145 W. Madison Ave.

Completed registrations can be returned by mail to:  City of Maricopa, Mysterious Mansion Mayhem, P.O. Box 610, Maricopa, AZ 85139 or faxed to 520-568-9120 (Attn. Brenda Campbell).

For more information or questions call the Community Services Department at 520-316-6963.  

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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ECO, Inc., the local, non-profit Environmental Concerns Organization is requesting community input on the future use of a 40-acre parcel of land 10 miles south of Maricopa in Hidden Valley.

The community forum will take place on Oct. 27 from 6-8 p.m. at the Maricopa Veterans Center, located on the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway behind Rotary pool.

Invited participants will be residents from the mini-farms and Hidden Valley areas, which are adjacent to the land under consideration, the Ak-Chin Indian Community and any residents who have input to contribute.

ECO originally formed for the purpose of cleaning up illegally dumped trash in the desert; the photo shows the worst property, Vekol Wash.

The environmental group purchased the property in bankruptcy court in 1998 in order to clean and restore it. “Since then, thousands of pounds of tires, appliances, glass bottles and other junk have been cleared, and most of it recycled,” said Gina D’Abella of ECO.

The Vekol Wash, which runs diagonally through the 40-acre parcel, has been identified as a future open space, non-motorized vehicle trail. The mountains directly west of the property have been identified as a future regional park for Maricopa residents.

“This fall we are working with an ASU intern, Mariann Abrahamsen, from the School of Sustainability. We offered her various projects to choose from this semester and she chose this one,” D’Abella explained.

What should be done with the remainder of this land parcel? Residents can provide their ideas and information at the Oct. 27 forum.

For further information, contact D’Abella at 520-568-9428.

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Maricopa’s first responders were treated to purple cookies, stickers and ribbons by Against Abuse, Inc.-Maricopa yesterday in order to help raise awareness about domestic violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, focusing on a crime that crosses all boundaries: age, class, ethnicity and gender. Across this country domestic violence traumatizes victims, endangers children, harms families and threatens communities.

“These first responders put their lives on the line to help victims of domestic violence, and I just want to thank all of you for what you do,” Against Abuse representative Torri Anderson told Maricopa police and firefighters.

In Maricopa calls to police for domestic violence rank second in volume only to calls for false alarms, and, as the stress continues to increase from the economic downturn, Anderson predicts the number of calls will increase.

Often the MPD victim service-provider unit will refer people to Against Abuse for help, even driving victims to the Casa Grande shelter.

Currently, Against Abuse is working to build a shelter in Maricopa similar to the 6,000 plus square-foot location in Casa Grande.

However, that shelter is constantly full and struggles to meet the demands of the county. “This shelter in Maricopa is greatly needed,” Anderson said.

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Looking to make a difference for hard-working individuals and families in Maricopa?

English and Spanish-speaking volunteer tax preparers are needed to assist in United Way of Pinal County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Volunteers are also needed to greet clients or administrate a site.

Volunteers complete a free, six-session IRS tax law course offered in December.

This will be the fourth year for VITA in Pinal County, and the program continues to grow and change. From one site and 49 tax returns prepared in 2008, the program expanded to 16 sites and over 300 returns prepared at absolutely no charge to the eligible taxpayer in 2009.

VITA was created to put taxpayers in touch with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal tax credit designed to boost the incomes of working families, and the Child Tax Credit. One of its primary goals is making certified tax preparation affordable by training volunteers to provide accurate tax assistance free of charge. Opportunities are available on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.

“We project that there are about 3,000 taxpayers who qualify and could benefit from the program in Maricopa,” said VITA Program Manager Ricardo Banuelos. “One hour of your time can be worth $1,200 to a struggling family.”

For more information on volunteering and to request an application, call Banuelos at 520-836-0736 or contact him via e-mail at

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If you would like to win a handcrafted, log-cabin themed quilt, the opportunity is available from Maricopa’s local quilt guild, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts was ‘pieced together’ in September 2007 by Friends of the Library members Peggy Bemis, Gerry Ryan and Judy Figgins to unite others with the same passion and love for fabric and quilting.

Beginning with nine women, the Sisterhood now has 32 plus members who share laughter, food and quilting. Earlier this year the group crafted and donated a quilt auctioned off at the Seeds of Change-Against Abuse Gala. They also sponsored a quilt exhibition at the Maricopa Public Library in May, featuring about 70 works of art.

Guild members also donate quilts to charitable efforts like the Celebrate Life Family Support Center and provide comfort quilts for victims of traumatic events in Maricopa.

According to guild president Stephanie Palmer, “Quilts are joyous labors of love and passion, created for numerous occasions as well as for everyday life, and quilts always make people feel happier because of the love and caring that’s a part of every quilt.”

All proceeds from the Opportunity Quilt Raffle will be used to support the guild’s local charity projects. A generous, full size, the quilt measures 77” x 77.”

Ticket prices are one for $1, six for $5 or 15 for $10. To purchase tickets, e-mail

The drawing for the quilt will be held Nov. 6.

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Henkel Helps Get Kids Fit is offering a school the opportunity to win $25,000 to improve fitness for its students, and Maricopa’s Santa Cruz Elementary is one of 10 finalists nationwide.

Santa Cruz is the only finalist from Arizona and the only one from the entire West Coast.

“I am very passionate about physical activity and impacting the lives of the students I work with.  Our school has been given an amazing opportunity and we need Arizona’s help,” said Tracy Carey, Santa Cruz’s physical education teacher.
Beginning November 15, visit and vote for Santa Cruz Elementary. You can vote once per day, per email and anyone with a valid email address can vote. The school with the most votes wins. 
Henkel Helps Get Kids Fit was created to help schools, communities, and families nationwide address the urgent health and fitness crisis among our nation’s youth, while acknowledging the budget crisis faced by schools across the country. The award can be used for providing enhanced health and fitness education, equipment, technology, resources and services for students and their community.

Here is a portion of Santa Cruz Elementary’s winning entry, written by Carey:
“You may be wondering why Mrs. Carey feels it is so important for the students of Santa Cruz to be active and healthy. Knowing the current trend of childhood obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease among our children, she wants to be someone who can make a difference.  Mrs. Carey knows that quality physical education is only the first step.  Encouraging students to get physical and include bouts of activity throughout their school day can improve their sleep habits, increase their energy, decrease risks for certain health issues and most of all guide them in a positive direction toward a healthy adolescence and adulthood.

“Where to begin, thinks Mrs. Carey. She thinks and thinks and thinks. And then…the perfect idea comes to her. A Physical Activity Center (P.A.C.)!  Transforming an empty classroom into a place for extra physical activity–what a great idea! Students who work hard in their classes can earn time in the P.A.C. The activity center has juggling scarves, yo-yo’s, cup stacking, quick hands drills, Chinese jump ropes, fitness dice and even physical activity bingo! According to Mrs. Carey, this just the beginning of the physical activity center.

“She wants to make this room “the” place to be at Santa Cruz by adding active gaming! What is active gaming, you ask? Active gaming is integrating technology with physical activity, using things such as rhythmic dance games and virtual sport games. Technology and activity sound like a winning combination!

“’Climbing to success’ sounds like a great motto for Santa Cruz!’ Mrs. Carey exclaims. Adding a climbing wall to our multipurpose room brings an activity that promotes self-esteem, contributes to cardiovascular and muscular endurance, enhances the skills of cooperation and team-building and is super fun! Mrs. Carey can even use a climbing wall for other activities in school like spelling and math! Making learning fun and active; what a concept!

“’Recess is a favorite time of day for the Coyotes, but how can it be more active?’ considers Mrs. Carey. A basketball court, a playground with swings, slides, monkey bars and a field are not always enough. Enhancing the playground with new equipment like basketballs, scoops and balls, footballs, hopscotch, 4-square, hula hoops, jump ropes, soccer balls and Frisbees will equal more activity time. ‘Being active and healthy is within our reach!’ Mrs. Carey realizes.

“Unfortunately new and exciting ways to keep students active and healthy are not free. Mrs. Carey is faced with this sad reality. But a hero will come to the rescue! The Henkel Helps Hero will save the day so the students of Santa Cruz can be active and healthy. With the help of Henkel and $25,000, this elementary school can improve youth fitness by adding active gaming, a climbing wall and additional recess equipment. And the students at Santa Cruz Elementary will live healthily ever after!”

“Let’s bring these funds to Arizona students and improve youth fitness for the students of Santa Cruz,” says Carey.
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United Way of Pinal County is kicking off the second year of its Friends, Family & Neighbor (FFN)-Caregivers Outreach Assistance (COA) Project with a mini-regional conference in Maricopa on Saturday.

According to United Way’s Carol Giddens, the goals of the conference are to:

• Provide access to training for family child care providers, early care and education community and interested community members to access training on health, nutrition, safety and developmentally appropriate topics to enhance their child care environments
• Provide a chance for providers and individuals to network and learn about the importance of health, safety and early childhood and the important role they play in preparing a child to enter school ready to learn and succeed

“During this conference you will have a chance to attend sessions that involve nutrition, health and safety, early care and education,” said Giddens. “The training is free, and there are awesome raffle prizes and great food.”  

Kaplan, Lake Shore Learning Materials and other vendors will be available with door prizes. This is an opportunity to network with new and current home care providers, partners and vendors.

The conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9, at Butterfield Elementary School, 43800 West Honeycutt Road. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

To reserve your spot at the conference, email Giddens at today.

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Maricopa Unified School District’s Wednesday governing board meeting focused on construction at the high school and the final report of the board’s budget committee.

Ad hoc board budget committee chairman Marty McDonald outlined the three, non-binding motions the committee made at its final June 2 meeting, for a total savings to the district of $312,500.

“We were tasked with making $67,000 in cuts,” said McDonald. “We far exceeded what our task was.”

The committee recommended (16 yes, 1 no, 2 abstained) that the district contract out custodial services or restructure operations, using the model of companies offering those services to provide “a more astute business perspective with operations.” The savings to the district would be about $200,000.

“We don’t have an exact number on sourcing out,” said Superintendent Jeff Kleck. “If they (companies who provide custodial outsourcing) can cut costs in half and make money, certainly we should be able to do the same.”

Aron Rausch, director of business services, advised the district would have to go out for bid for custodial outsourcing, and that cleaning standards change. “The friendly custodian who did all things asked is gone; now you have cleaners and nothing more.”

Board president Geoff Goddard expressed his concerns about unemploying Maricopans by outsourcing jobs. “The district needs to do everything it can to keep people employed locally,” he said, adding that contracts could possibly be negotiated to make it easier to hire custodial staff displaced by outsourcing.

Additionally, the budget committee unanimously recommended restructuring the K-5 attendance clerk positions and (18 yes, 1 no, 1 abstained) not “backfilling” one library aide, the Maricopa Wells Middle School security position and the high school receptionist position.  Although volunteers are available for the high school office, Goddard said, “I think we should make that a priority to have someone there.”

Due to funding constraints, MPD may have only one school resource officer next year, probably at the high school, which could possibly necessitate a security position at Maricopa Wells.

Two other money-saving options discussed by the budget committee included ads on district buses, which could generate $20,000 to $30,000 annually, and the savings from the new bus routing software of approximately $150,000.

“The money is there,” McDonald said. “We are thankful for the opportunity to help; it was very informative.”

Kleck stated that he tentatively plans to begin Nov. 22 reviewing the 2011-2012 budget with a committee predominantly composed of community members, utilizing site councils for recommendations from each school. “It’s a good route to streamline and promote the concept of site-based management.”

On July 13 the district’s leadership retreat will focus on data and goals until noon on July 14 when staff will discuss evaluation tools.

Board members approved the extra duty stipend schedule, a retirement grandfather clause for long-time district employees and the personnel schedule, including naming Santa Rosa Principal Rick Abel as the new principal of Maricopa Wells Middle School.

Don Brubaker of Gilleland-Brubaker Architects outlined plans to begin adding high school parking spaces, 70 adjacent to the performing arts building site on Honeycutt Road and an additional 50 near the football field. When the $9 million performing arts building is completed with bond monies, another 90 parking spaces will be included.

Board member Carrie Vargas expressed her concerns about not going over budget on the performing arts project. “We have construction contingencies built in for safeguards,” said Brubaker, who indicated the next meetings will focus on sound and theatrical lighting. “I can’t guarantee, but I feel very comfortable that we’re on the right road,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity to move forward and to add to the community,” Kleck said.

According to Rausch, the next construction projects will include phase II of the maintenance building, district-wide energy controls and additional enhancements to Maricopa Wells Middle School to help change the culture there.

The next governing board meeting will be June 23 when the 2010-2011 budget will come to the board for review with adoption, including a public hearing, by July 14.

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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Character always counts. Recently that message was brought home for Butterfield Elementary staff members, and their students, in the form of a $1,500 scholarship from Fry’s Food Stores.

The monies will be utilized to enhance the Character Counts program at the school by implementing a new classroom management and discipline program called Character Always during the 2010-2011 school year.

The Character Always objective is to recognize students making good character choices through a positive discipline program, changing negative behavior to positive behavior. Students document their behavior on Character Cards so they establish ownership of their behaviors and are accountable for them through documentation. A third objective of the program is the establishment of a consistent discipline system throughout the school. Students know what is expected of them, and good behavior ultimately becomes simply the ‘right thing to do’ while good character is reinforced through recognition at school, including certificates that are sent home to parents.

Danielle Record, assistant principal at Butterfield, began working over a year ago to find program funding for her school.

“As students learn about each pillar of character, they also learn how to take responsibility for behaviors that do not coincide with the pillars (Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness, Citizenship, Respect and Caring) through positive discipline strategies outlined in the program,” said Record. “Many positive benefits have been recognized from the schools that have implemented character education programs similar to the Character Always Program: 1) as negative student behaviors decrease, quality instructional time increases, 2) as negative student behaviors decrease, student ‘best-effort’ increases, 3) systemic practices include shared cultural norms, expectations and language which increases student understanding and familiarity, and 4) home-school partnerships are increased.” 
Kim Whitmyer, the founder of Character Always, spent 10 years as a teacher, and the program came from her experiences in the classroom. Whitmyer, who spent the afternoon training the Butterfield staff, has partnered for three years with Fry’s Marketplace to make the program possible at various schools. 

“Nothing’s going into education anymore,” said Whitmyer. “Fry’s finds a way to help.”

Maricopa Fry’s Marketplace manager James Briston was on hand, along with Fry’s community relations manager Pam Giannonatti, to present the $1,500 check to the Butterfield staff and their principal, Ember Conley.

“In smaller communities, especially with this economy, we need to help each other,” said Briston.

“James and I tip our hats to every one of you,” said Giannonatti. “We sincerely appreciate what you do for the children in this community.”

Photo: (left to right) Kim Whitmyer, Pam Giannonatti, James Briston, Ember Conley, Danielle Record.

Photos by Joyce Hollis

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CARE, Inc. held its second meeting Tuesday to solidify the action plan for the citywide initiative called For Our City-Maricopa.

Residents from the business, government, volunteer and faith-based sectors of the community met to discuss some of the city’s needs and how to respond to them in a collaborative, cohesive manner

The mission of For Our City-Maricopa is built on the following question: What can we do together than we cannot do separately?

A collaborative effort will first address identifiable needs in the community. “I hear about those needs every day,” said Mayor Anthony Smith.

“It is our intention to support existing programs in the city,” said For Our City director Ernest Whitehead. “We want to create a neutral ground for people to express themselves freely because this is not political, not faith-based. We want to create a level field for leaders to come together for the benefit of the city.”

Smith noted that the growth in Maricopa is not over. “We have issues coming, unmet needs as a function of a larger city with continuing challenges. We have to develop the fabric that binds this community together.”

Some of the issues mentioned by the various community leaders in attendance were a need for increased communication from leadership, collaboration in terms of providing services like food, clothing and shelter for those in need, a greater sense of unity and community, more activities for youth and support for local schools.

“We need to make sure we include everyone in the community,” said Inez Ramirez.

Republican Club treasurer Jerry Hunt shared his experiences with a Sedona initiative to aid the homeless in that city, which provided services that included education, occupational support, housing, transportation and legal assistance.

For Our City-Maricopa will meet for breakfast on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 7 a.m. The site has yet to be determined. All community members interested in being a part of this initiative should contact Whitehead at or by phone at 520-705-9100.

“I love this town; I love the people of this town,” said First Baptist pastor Jim Johnson. “I want it to be a community that’s worth what the community wants it to be.”

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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Topping the agenda for tonight’s Maricopa Unified School District governing board meeting is the approval of the appointment of interim superintendent, Jeff Kleck, as superintendent and the approval of his new contract.

Kleck was named as interim superintendent in September after the board voted to reassign the previous superintendent, Dr. John Flores, to a post as Santa Cruz Elementary School principal in August. Flores remains under contract with the district until June 2011.

The personnel schedule, which is also up for board approval, lists the resignation/termination of Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Isaac Perez, effective Feb. 10.  Perez was the first principal of Desert Wind Middle School, having been hired to open it in 2008. He came to MWMS following interim principal Shannon Hull’s move to the athletic director’s position at the high school.

On Jan. 22 Perez was placed on “assignment to home.” Maricopa Wells Teacher Eva Safranek was named interim principal there on Jan. 26.

High school agenda items include a report by Principal June Celaya on proposed changes in the high school class ranking process, as well as the potential approval of the high school’s course of study and course catalog.

Business services will be asking for approval to select an architect for the MWMS courtyard and a construction manager at-risk for the new maintenance and warehouse facility.

Additionally, the governing board will be asked to approve the Strategic Technology Plan for the next two school years and a board operating protocol.

For the complete agenda, click here

If you go:
What:  Maricopa Unified School District governing board meeting
When:  Wednesday, Feb. 10, 6 p.m.
Where:  District Office Administration Building, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

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Stagecoach Days is back, continuing a long history of community spirit and pride. This year’s celebration is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, Oct. 8-10.

Maricopa was once known as Maricopa Wells, the Butterfield Stage Stop. In the late 19th century, travelers on the Butterfield Stage discovered close quarters, dusty trails and the threat of both Indian attacks and robberies.

An 1877 edition of the Omaha Herald advised, “Expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships. If you are disappointed, thank heaven.”

In such close quarters etiquette was important for stagecoach passengers. Some of the rules of the road in the 1870s were:

Passengers who were asked to get out and walk were expected to do so—without grumbling.

Drinking spirits was allowed, but passengers were expected to share their libations.

Swearing and sleeping on a fellow passenger’s shoulder were not allowed.

And, finally, due to the dust of the trail, greasing one’s hair was definitely discouraged.

Stagecoach Days became a celebration of Maricopa’s history and heritage. The event, which began in 1958 – 100 years after the establishment of the Butterfield Overland Express Company – started as a way to raise funds to build the Rotary swimming pool for local youth.

During the 1960s and 1970s festivities included kids and adults in western wear, horse events, a community barbeque, races, a beard contest, a barn dance and even rodeos.

This year’s Stagecoach Days, formerly Founders’ Day, will be a continuation of the annual commemoration and celebration of the 2003 incorporation of Maricopa and its history.

Events from a barn dance to a fun run and carnival rides will provide something for every age group and for the entire family.  Food vendors will be offering their specialties all weekend, and artists will display and share their work in the Artisan Village. On Saturday various groups will entertain on the main stage in the Beer Garden while local groups will perform at The Kids Corral.

Shuttles will be provided from locations throughout the city to Pacana Park on Saturday—without facing a dusty stagecoach trail or danger from attack.

Stagecoach Days events include the following:

Friday, Oct. 8
Maricopa Rotary Club Barn Dance – The Duke at Rancho El Dorado, 6 p.m.
Carnival – Pacana Park, 2-10 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 9
Carnival – Pacana Park, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Vendor Village – Pacana Park, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Artisan Village – Pacana Park, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Kids Corral – Pacana Park, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Stagecoach Rides – Pacana Park, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Beer Garden – Pacana Park, 2-9 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 10
Maricopa Mile Run – Pacana Park, 8 a.m.
Carnival – Pacana Park, Noon-5 p.m.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Brenda Campbell at 520-316-6963 or

Photo courtesy of Maricopa Historical Society

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Some diabetics are newly diagnosed; some have lived with the condition for years. Some are actively trying to control it, while others are in denial. In Maricopa, however, there is help and support for all diabetics.

On the fourth Thursday of each month Mary Gonzales, Pinal County Public Health coordinator for diabetes education, comes to the Maricopa Public Library at 3 p.m. to educate local diabetics and their family members. She also provides free, healthy snacks and giveaways during the one-hour class.

Gonzales visits six sites in the county on a rotating basis each month, talking about diabetes prevention and maintenance, and the healthy eating and physical exercise that are critical when dealing with diabetes.

“If you think you can manage by popping a pill, that’s not going to work,” said Gonzales at last Thursday’s support group meeting. She emphasized the importance of diabetes checkups, why they are needed and questions that should be asked, providing those in attendance with a diabetes health record to chart checkups and a health goal sheet to keep track of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.

Diabetics need regular dental, eye and foot care exams since this vascular disease can cause blindness and/or nerve damage in the feet. Dental problems, left unattended, can cause infection or heart disease, according to Gonzales.

“Blood pressure is as important as blood sugar,” Gonzales said, adding that the number one cause of death among diabetics is heart disease or stroke. Diabetics are also twice as likely to suffer from depression due to having the stress of dealing with blood sugar testing and changes in lifestyle. Illness and stress can cause variations in blood sugar

Next month’s support group meeting will be on Oct. 28, 3 p.m., at the Maricopa library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Rd. The topic will be diabetes medications and sick days, and Gonzales hopes to bring in a pharmacist to address questions from the group.

For more information, e-mail Gonzales at or call her at 520-866-7687.

“The important part of this class is education, which you can get from me, but also important is the support you get from this group.” Gonzales said.

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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Nearly 200 local residents enjoyed some Grape Escapes last year as part of the wine-tasting fundraiser for the F.O.R. Maricopa food bank. The event raised approximately $10,000, including $3,000 from the live auction of various local public officials.

This year’s event, the 3rd Annual Grape Escapes, will be held at the Southern Dunes on Friday, Oct. 22, from 7-10 p.m.

Primary event sponsor will once again be Courtny Tyler’s State Farm Insurance.

The evening will feature an expanded number of wines for tasting plus various upscale appetizers at the wine stations, and, of course, music.

“We will be keeping many of the key items that have been well-liked year to year. We will have some new amazing appetizers to pair with these new tasting wines. We will have great live music, amazing raffle and silent auction items, and we will repeat last year’s success of a live auction,” said F.O.R. Executive Director Wendy Webb.

Tickets can be purchased online at Before Sept 30, the price is $90 per couple and $50 per single. After Oct.1, it will be $100 per couple and $60 per single.

For those interested in a sponsorship opportunity, click here for information.

“We hope all of the changes will make it an even more enjoyable event for the community and draw an even larger number of folks than last year for the benefit of our community’s food bank, F.O.R. Maricopa,” Webb said.

Photo by Joyce Hollis

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    Approximately 30 members of the ‘Copa Seniors and Maricopa Seniors, Inc., a fundraising group, met last week to tour their new facility, the Copa Center, which will provide the seniors with a permanent home.

    One of Maricopa’s needs, identified by the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens (PGCSC), was a senior center. Other areas of need included transportation, not only to medical appointments, but also for the elderly and disabled, local jobs, assisted living facilities, as well as subsidized, affordable housing. In addition, communication about and coordination of available services is something seniors need and want.

    By 2030 the U. S. senior population (65+) will more than double to about 71.5 million, according to the Administration on Aging (AOA). That same year the 85+ population is projected to be 9.6 million, making that age group the fastest growing population in America.

    As a nation, America is justifiably concerned with its youth, its future generations of workers, parents and leaders. But what about senior citizens?  For the next 15 years, one Baby Boomer will turn 60 every 7.5 seconds, according to AOA. Maricopa’s senior population is also growing. ‘Copa Seniors, which began with 12 members in 2008, now has approximately 100 members.

    The tour of the new Copa Center, organized by councilman Marvin Brown, showcased the recently renovated vacant church located behind La Roca Night Club on Honeycutt Road. The city of Maricopa purchased the property for $170,000 and put an additional $30,000 into improvements, including carpeting and air conditioning.

    At their Sept. 21 meeting, city council approved the purchase, at a cost of $60,750, of the lot to the east of the center to provide 30 parking spaces. “Parking has been a major roadblock to the functionability of this facility,” said Mayor Anthony Smith at the council meeting.

    “The cost to acquire the lot next door is pretty much fixed, but the other costs are estimates based upon our experiences with other projects,” said assistant city manager Roger Kolman via e-mail. “The other costs are estimates based upon our experiences with other projects. The total may be more or less, depending upon bids, what kind of drainage issues the engineers discover when they go to design the parking lot, and what we find once the mobile home has been removed from the lot. So, the estimates for the part of the project on the property next door are very preliminary and are really a best case scenario that should be treated as such until the engineers have had an opportunity to do their work.

    Those estimates include the removal of the existing building and septic ($6,000), engineering and design of the parking lot ($6,000), paving and striping of the lot ($20,000) and landscaping ($2,000).

    Seniors will have the use of the Copa Center five days each week from approximately 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Youth groups and their activities will be scheduled during the remaining hours each Monday through Friday.

    “It’s all good,” said Joan Koczor, referring to the city’s decision to allow the seniors to use the facility.

    The new Copa Center has two large rooms; the first is a carpeted area with a raised platform or stage, which will be used for meetings. The second room, which is not carpeted, is quite spacious. “This will be where we have our line dancing classes,” said one of the ladies on the tour.

    A small kitchen with new cupboards and countertops will meet the refreshment requirements for the group. As yet there is no refrigerator, but the seniors are hoping to get one donated.

    “This is marvelous,” said Rita Fonder. “It’s just great. Everybody is so excited.”

    “It’s really good to get people out from in front of their televisions and get them involved,” said Marge Kavanagh. That involvement is possible through the many activities the ‘Copa Seniors social group currently provides and will be able to add now that they have a permanent location to utilize. 

    Activities include card games like poker, pinochle and bridge, as well as board games. Genealogy, arts and crafts, Bunco, weight loss classes, yoga and Tai Chi are all being scheduled for the new center, and, of course, the very popular line dancing classes.

    In addition, the seniors have both a reading club and a men’s club, and they organize travel tours for members.

    Silver Sneakers fitness classes, which are often paid for through insurance wellness plans, are held on Thursdays at 8 a.m. and Saturdays at 10:15 a.m. at Anytime Fitness. A level 2 and 3 cardio workout has been added for those who want a more rigorous workout; it meets Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. at Anytime Fitness.

    ‘Copa Seniors hold their general meetings at 9:15 a.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at Anytime Fitness, 20924 N John Wayne Pkwy. (Park in the rear and use door D7 to enter.)  The meeting is followed by games, cards and socializing. For additional information, contact Carol Grandfield at or Joan Koczor at or 520-494-7605.

    Maricopa’s seniors hope to be in their new home, the Copa Center, shortly after the first of the year.

    Photos by Joyce Hollis

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    CARE, Inc., in collaboration with Mayor Anthony Smith, introduced a citywide initiative called For Our City-Maricopa to various community leaders last week.

    Residents from the business, government, volunteer and faith-based sectors of the city met to discuss some of the city’s needs and how to respond to them.

    Jon McHatton, former chaplain of the state legislature and president of CARE, Inc., presented background on the types of initiatives undertaken by cities like Page, Sedona, Tempe and Chandler. According to McHatton, each city has its own particular focus, dependent on the passions of its leaders.

    The vision of For Our City and its intent is the support of existing programs and organizations while looking at community endeavors that require innovative programs and solutions to respond to residents’ needs, or, as McHatton mentioned, “whatever need has fallen through the cracks.”

    “We have lots of rooftops, roads and infrastructure,” said Mayor Anthony Smith, “but we don’t have places for people to mix and socialize. It’s the social and community environment that really makes a place thrive.”

    “This is about neither religion nor politics,” said McHatton. “It’s a civic collaboration, based on passion and vision for services to all people.”
    Maricopa Police Department Chaplain Ernest Whitehead will serve as the director of For Our City-Maricopa. “Particularly in these economic times, there is no better time to work together to meet the needs of our community,” he said.
    The next step is the establishment of a functioning host committee. Leaders from throughout the community are invited to meet Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Maricopa, located at 18705 N John Wayne Pkwy. to consider ideas and possible action plans. If you are interested in being a part of this initiative, please RSVP to or call Whitehead at 520-705-9100.

    “We want to work to increase volunteerism in Maricopa and collaboration among residents from all neighborhoods,” said Whitehead. “We hope to provide an opportunity for people to come together for the greater good: one Maricopa.”

    Photo by Joyce Hollis

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      The primary focus for Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board Wednesday evening was the Nov. 2 override election, and information both staff and community members need to know about it.

      Business director Aron Rausch presented the facts regarding the override, its history and both revenue and deficits affecting the district’s overall budgetary future.

      Originally passed on May 17, 2005, override funding, if not renewed, will be reduced by a third this year, two thirds next year and will expire the third year. This is a 6.67 percent initiative, which means that homeowners pay $84.17 per $100,000 of assessed valuation (assessed valuation is down 20-23 percent). That amount can be written off state taxes, leaving an actual homeowner contribution of about $4 per month. Renters would pay nothing.

      If passed, the override would generate $1,934,300 in district revenues annually for the next five years, bringing in a total of $9,671,500.

      “The board kept its promise to keep the rate low enough to ask for, but not too much,” said Superintendent Jeff Kleck.

      Why the need for an override? According to Kleck, “It’s not so much about adding staff, curriculum and things like that. It’s more to help try to stabilize, and to keep the ship from tipping.”

      The district currently has 6,019 students, down 400 from last year, which is a loss of $1.3 million. The high school’s numbers are up (1650 approximately), but not those at other schools.

      “I think we’re experiencing some of the things Mesa is experiencing,” Kleck said. “I know we had folks bailing out during budget discussions this summer, and some young families have had to bail out on homes. It’s the same in Kyrene and Tempe as well.”

      Fewer students equal less money from the state, which bases funding on average daily attendance, but special education is funded at only 17 percent; costs over that come from the regular student education budget. Arizona’s state deficit is $1 billion for 2011 and $700,000 for this year (depending on the Nov.2 election), according to Rausch.

      Census monies will not be available until the 2011-2012 school year, and the Ak-Chin grant is only for two years and for specific positions. It will end in 2011-2012. The state, which has cut $1 million each year in education funding, will also withhold dollars from the federal jobs act allocation.

      Utility costs are on the increase, and funds are not available for the district to acquire new technology or to purchase new textbooks, typically purchased on a subject matter cycle. “The state keeps updating AIMS standards, however,” said board member Tracy Davis. Because textbooks do not correlate with all the new standards, teachers must find supplemental materials.

      “We may need to cut next year’s budget by $2-3.5 million, depending on the legislature,” Rausch explained.

      “We took a huge hit this year, and what bothers me is that the public doesn’t know that we’re not the only ones (school districts). Administrators are doing one, two or three jobs; staff can’t take much more, and we’ll lose good people,” said board member Carrie Vargas.

      “How many teachers or administrators can we afford to lose?” asked board president Geoff Goddard. “We’re thin already.” Currently there are 30 district administrators, including school sites and the district office.

      “That’s my kids and your kids going to those schools,” said board member Tim White, regarding the proposed override. “The bottom line is we have to step up.”

      Rausch, Kleck and Human Resource Director Tom Beckett will be bringing override information to every school’s staff. They began with Pima Butte Elementary on Wednesday. Override election pamphlets are available at the district office, at schools and on the district website. To view the information, click here.

      The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election is Oct. 4; Oct. 22 is the last day to request an early ballot.

      Photo by Joyce Hollis 

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      With attendance estimated at about 1,800 over a five-hour period, Saturday’s Kids Day Maricopa had the most successful response in its three-year event history.

      Organized by Dr. John Donohue, D.C., it celebrated not only the 115th birthday of chiropractic but also “chiropractors and kids working together for a healthier future.”

      The event featured 100 volunteers and 13 volunteer families, organized by Eagle Scout candidate Cade Koozer. Twenty different groups and individuals provided health, safety and environmental information, and Mayor Anthony Smith was a guest speaker.

      Ace Hardware was the primary financial sponsor with donations from Arena Sports Grill, Baskin-Robbins, Brooklyn Boys Italian Restaurant, the Card Corner, Orbitel Communications, Penascos Mexican Restaurant and Raceway Bar and Grill.

      “We had so many more businesses involved than ever before,” said Donohue.

      Sgt. Pepper and GooBurr, Smokey the Bear and McGruff the crime dog were all on hand to entertain kids and parents alike with messages about stranger danger and fire safety. MPD Sgt. Hal Koozer kept busy fingerprinting scores of children who were then photographed by Amy Jamieson Photography.

      In addition, there were performances by Desert Sun Performing Arts, Desert Star Gymnastics, PALS (peers as leaders), ATA Kids Karate and magic performed by Robert Stephens.

      Giveaways and prizes plus free food were a part of the celebration inside. Outside, children and their parents could have car seat safety checks or view and sit in police cars, fire trucks and the new, interactive Maricopa Fire Department fire safety house.

      “This is what happens when you bring the community together,” Donohue said. “If it helps one kid, you’ve done the job, but I believe it’s helping more than one.”

      Photo by Joyce Hollis (Smokey the Bear photo submitted)

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      Maricopa Public Library has new hours, new exhibits and will be the recipient of the proceeds from the recent, successful Friends of the Library book sale.

      About 12,000 individuals visited the library in August with 570 new library cards issued. Volunteers clocked 188 hours.

      The library, which is getting a new, centralized reference desk, now has the following hours:

      Monday and Wednesday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
      Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed Sundays and holidays)

      The early bird got the book on Sept. 11th as the Friends of the Maricopa Public Library wrapped up another successful semi-annual used book sale at Santa Rosa Elementary School. Proceeds of the sale amounted to $1,252.30, plus another $94 from the sale of cookbooks, book bags and bookmarks. That sum will go to support programs and purchase materials for the public library.

      Hundreds of books were offered for sale, including modern fiction, romance, reference, westerns and science fiction. Cooking, crafts and children’s books were also available.

      March will be the next regularly scheduled Friends of the Maricopa Public Library used book sale. Anyone who has used books to donate should drop them off at the library. Members of the Friends group will pick them up, sort and store them for the next sale.

      In addition, the Friends stock a used book shelf at the library where books can be purchased at bargain prices.

      In the afternoon, following the book sale, the Maricopa Historical Society celebrated the opening of their latest exhibits at the library. A tribute to the Quadrille de Mujeres (a ladies’ equine drill team) and memorabilia and photos from Maricopa’s past Stagecoach Days are now on display and will be for the next few months in the library’s meeting room.

      “Several members (both past and current) of the Quadrille precision drill team shared their stories, and it truly was a memorable event,” said Friend and historical society member Geri Ryan. “Everyone should take time and stop in to see the beautiful displays!” 

      The next meeting of the Friends of the Maricopa Public Library will be Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the library. Everyone interested in the library is invited to attend.

      The Maricopa Historical Society meets on the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the library. They welcome anyone who is interested in history, especially the history of Maricopa, to join them. The Society would be pleased to hear from residents who may have artifacts they would be willing to lend or donate. Contact Pat Brock at 480-821-0604 or

      Photos by Joyce Hollis

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      Like the long-running TV series, the M.A.S.H. Coalition is alive and well and wants to involve residents in addressing substance abuse prevention in the Maricopa area.

      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.

      The coalition has a new coordinator, Dawniele Castellanos, a Maricopa resident since 2006. Castellanos has a master’s degree in social work from California State University, Long Beach. She has held social work positions in the following areas: crisis management, hospitals, adoptions, family counseling and foster care. Married and the mother of four daughters, Castellanos is an avid reader and has a local photography business.

      “No matter what I do in life, I am a social worker at heart,” said Castellanos. I care deeply about people, their lives, what has happened, their future. I believe that if change is made in one person’s life; if one thing they do is different because of an encounter we have had, then that is work well done.”  

      Mary Witkofski is the chairman of the coalition, and JoAnne Pinto from Against Abuse, Inc. is the project director for the coalition’s recent, federal Drug-Free Communities Program grant. Funds in the amount of $125,000 have been awarded to the coalition and are available each year, renewable for five years.

      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.

      “Building up a strong core of volunteers in essential. Great programs exist in Maricopa, but no one is aware of them,” Castellanos said. “Some of the programming M.A.S.H. would like to launch this year includes a substance free graduation party, increased involvement in the youth program and alcohol and drug prevention programs.  Fortunately, the sky’s the limit!” 

      M.A.S.H. will hold its next general meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20, in the CAASA Youth Center, located in the Oasis Life Church building at 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway, behind Great Western Bank.

      Parents, student, business people and community members are urged to participate to make Maricopa a safer community for all by working to curb underage drinking and drug use.

      For additional information, contact Castellanos at

      Photo by Joyce Hollis

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        When you are a police officer, there’s a chance you’ll be partnered with someone whose ‘bark is worse than his bite.’ In Officer Melissa Drane’s case that’s a good thing, since she is Maricopa Police Department’s only K-9 officer, and her partner, Officer Kasper, is a Belgian Malinois.

        At the end of October Drane will have 20 years of service with various city, state and tribal departments. She spent 10 years as a detective, three of them working undercover narcotics. Drane has been a K-9 handler for four years with a little over a year in Maricopa with Kasper.

        “Kasper and I had about three weeks of bonding time before we started our (eight week) training, so we established a pretty good working relationship right away,” said Drane. “Bonding time is essentially constant time spent as a team to build trust and learn each other’s temperament and personality.”

        What duties does a K-9 unit perform? According to the MPD reports from the past four months, Drane and Kasper have participated in traffic stops when Kasper was used to do a sniff search for drugs, residential searches for drugs and/or paraphernalia, holding groups of undocumented Mexican nationals until additional deputies or the Border Patrol arrived, searching for a missing elderly woman and clearing business sites following alarm calls.

        Kasper lives with Drane, “absolutely an animal lover,” and her two other dogs, but he requires stricter boundaries. “He doesn’t get free run, partly to keep his work drive high. If he gets too comfortable at home, he won’t want to come to work!”

        Drane says that K-9 handlers are taught their dogs are “tools” of the trade, but she doesn’t know many handlers who consider their dogs anything but a real partner, 24 hours a day. “These dogs will give their lives, without hesitation, for their handlers; no other “tool” of our trade will do that.”

        Kasper is trained to protect Drane and keep an eye on her at all times.  Sometimes, when she is on her lunch break, eating inside an establishment, or even getting gas, people complain that she is leaving her barking dog inside a hot vehicle with the windows rolled up.

        Nothing could be further from the truth as the K-9 truck has two dedicated air conditioners with thermostats monitoring the temperature (70-74 degrees) and a heat alarm hooked up to a pager Drane wears on her belt.  Should the pager fail, lights and sirens go off on the truck, and a fan comes on inside it.

        “I am always asked if Kasper is barking so much because he’s hot,” said Drane. “Kasper is barking because he can’t see me. When I am out of sight, he barks. He is very protective of me, our home and the K-9 truck, so when someone gets too close, he goes on the offensive and is prepared to defend his territory.”

        A K-9 handler will generally retire in that position, unless they choose to take another type of assignment. Once the K-9 is unable to work due to age or health issues, he is retired out to the handler and finally gets to become a full-time pet. Currently MPD allows the handler to maintain that position for the natural life or career of the animal. If the K-9 dies or is killed in the line of duty, the position will reopen with a new K-9, but the previous handler can apply for that assignment.

        In February Drane was named the local VFW post’s police officer of the year, nominated by her department for going above and beyond the call of duty, putting in countless hours off the clock to help launch the city’s first K-9 unit.

        At the ceremony MPD Chief Kirk Fitch described Drane: “She has a tremendous super positive attitude and is a fine example of the type of officers in the Maricopa Police Department.”

        For Drane the worst thing about being a K-9 officer is easy: “pooper scooping and cleaning the kennel.”

        She found it difficult to name a single best thing about her job. “There are so many things I love about it. To me, this is the best assignment in the law enforcement field.”

        Photo courtesy of Maricopa Police Department 

        A version of this article appeared in the September issue of InMaricopa News.

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        All types of books in various genres at bargain prices will be offered this Saturday to suit the reading tastes of Maricopa book lovers, both young and old.

        The Friends of the Maricopa Library are sponsoring their semi-annual used book sale at Santa Rosa Elementary School. The sale begins at 8 a.m. and lasts until noon. Many genres sell out quickly, so patrons are encouraged to arrive early.

        Hundreds of books will be available. Looking for modern fiction, romance, mysteries or cookbooks? They will all be on sale, as well as non-fiction, how-to books, westerns, science fiction and more. Most importantly, the low, low price is $8 per grocery bag. The group provides the paper grocery bags, so patrons can fill them with as many books as they want.

        Children’s books and single paperbacks will be on sale for 75 cents each. Single hardback books will be priced at $2. Videos, DVDs and CDs will be offered as part of the $8 per bag sale price.

        In addition to selling used books, the Friends will have available for purchase their cookbook “Home Cookin’ from Maricopa, Arizona” for $5 and the city’s definitive history book, “Reflections of a Desert Town,” by Friends member Patricia Brock for $25.

        The Friends is a non-profit group dedicated to supporting the Maricopa Public Library. Last year’s book sales helped defray costs associated with the winter and summer reading programs and the purchase of DVD shelving. The Friends were also able to bring authors Conrad Storad and Jana Boomersbach to speak at the library.

        Interested in joining the Friends and supporting the library? Applications will be available at the book sale.

        If you go:
        What:  Friends of the Maricopa Library semi-annual used book sale
        Where:  Santa Rosa Elementary School, 21400 N. Santa Rosa Drive (in Ranch El Dorado off Smith-Enke Road at the Province entrance traffic signal)
        When: Saturday, Sept. 11, 8 a.m. until noon
        Cost: Free admission; $8 per grocery bag of used books (children’s books sold individually)

        From 2-4 p.m., following the book sale, the Maricopa Historical Society invites you to the opening of their latest exhibits at the Maricopa Public Library. A tribute to the Quadrille de Mujere (a ladies’ equine drill team) and memorabilia and photos from Maricopa’s past Stagecoach Days will be on display. Drinks and cookies will be served.

        These exhibits will be on view in the meeting room during library hours for the next few months.

        Saturday is the day to go out and support the Maricopa Public Library.

        Photo by Joyce Hollis

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        Sequoia Pathway Puma Cheer will be hosting a spaghetti dinner on Saturday to raise funds for their trip to national cheerleading competition in Dallas.

        The dinner will be at Raceway Bar & Grill, 49237 West Papago Rd., on Sept. 11 from 6-9 p.m.

        Proceeds from the dinner will benefit Puma Cheer and also the 100 Club, an Arizona organization that aids families of fallen police officers and fire fighters. “The cheer coaches have taught the girls ‘when you get, you give back,” and the squad has decided to donate a percentage of every fundraiser to a local charity,” said parent volunteer Trecia Estes.

        Speakers at the fundraiser will be Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, Maricopa Fire Chief Wade Brannon, Pathway Principal Rachael Lay and newly crowned Miss Graham County, Leisel Innes, who was the cheer coach for Pathway’s squad at NCA summer camp. The cheer squad will also perform.

        Pathway’s Senior Competition Puma Cheers are heading to Dallas in January for the National Cheer Association’s national competition on Jan. 8-9. As the only Maricopa junior high school competing at Nationals, the girls have set their sights on bringing home the first NCA Nationals awards to their hometown.

        The entire Pathway cheer program is 100 percent volunteer-based and focuses on the program not only as sport training but also as a way to build a sense of self and community in the girls.

        Pre-sale tickets for the dinner are $7 per person or $20 for a family of four ($5 additional per family member after four). Tickets at the door are $10 per person or $25 for a family of four ($7 additional per family member after four).

        To order tickets or for additional information, email or contact any Puma cheerleader. Any and all donations for Pathway Cheer can be directed through Sequoia Pathway Academy at 520-568-9333.

        If you go:
        What: Pathway Puma Cheer spaghetti dinner fundraiser
        When: Saturday, Sept. 11, 6-9 p.m.
        Where:  Raceway Bar & Grill, 49237 West Papago Rd.
        Tickets: $7 per person (pre-sale) or $10 per person at the door (family rates listed above)

        Submitted photo

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        The Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board will meet tonight at 6 p.m. at the district office administration building.

        In addition to travel, donations and various reports, the board will be asked to approve the resignations of 30 classified and certified employees, a list of 280 returning classified employees, as well as reductions and eliminations in the extra duty stipend schedule.

        Business Director Aron Rausch will provide the monthly financial report. A public hearing regarding the 2010-2011 budget is scheduled for June 23 with board budget approval and adoption set for June 30.

        Rausch will also discuss energy management, specifically the areas of heating and cooling, lighting, electrical, water and fuel, and the regulations the district will employ with the aid of students and staff members.

        Superintendent Jeff Kleck will report on district construction and the leadership retreat scheduled for July 13-14.

        Dr. Kym Marshall, head of Exceptional Student Services, will review and discuss student discipline policy related to Senate Bill 1197.

        Board members will be asked to approve a list of long-time district employees (hired prior to July 1, 1991) to be grandfathered under the district’s former retirement policy with a potential buyback of accumulated leave for full-time employees.

        In addition, the board will be asked to approve the new extra duty stipend schedule, which eliminates stipends for middle and high school student council and yearbook advisors, high school department heads, drama, dance, chorus and class sponsors, middle school assistant coaches and elementary Academic League coaches.  Varsity and junior varsity coaches in all high school sports would receive a $100 reduction in their stipends per sport.  According to board information, “these changes are part of the overall plan to counter the reduction in funding from the State of Arizona.”

        Action items for the June 26 delegate assembly will be discussed, and the board will instruct its delegate how to vote on various issues and proposals for 2011.

        To see the complete meeting agenda, click here.

        File photo

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          In today’s world catch phrases, slogans and passwords are commonplace. At Maricopa Wells Middle School the new word for today – and for tomorrow – is ‘imua.’

          ‘Imua’ is a Hawaiian word, which means “look to the future.”

          “It’s more than a word; it’s a philosophy, and it fits here,” said Rick Abel,  the school’s new principal.

          Maricopa Wells has faced some challenges in the past, including being in its second year of corrective action, primarily for low test scores in math among lower socio-economic students. Four principals in the last year also added to the school’s instability.

          This year, however, Rick Abel, who spent five years as principal of Santa Rosa Elementary, is at the helm. He is assisted by Kevin Ames, who is new to the district but who brings a great deal of experience in student intervention.

          About half of the school’s 39 staff members are new to the district. “We’re really fortunate to have such great hires,” said Abel.

          Maricopa Wells is looking to the future and establishing the climate of the school in three areas: the physical site, procedures and programs, and student and staff perceptions about their school.

          The campus, which has always had classroom doors opening directly onto a large expanse of gravel, now has grass, with more being added in front of the office and between classroom wings. Three 20’x 20’ sunshades are will be installed this month, and a 40’x 40’is scheduled to be erected outside the cafeteria/gym by semester’s end. Two outside drinking fountains on the basketball courts and athletic fields are being added.

          In terms of programs and procedures, the district office and curriculum director Krista Roden will be working with the school on student intervention and professional development for teachers. “The more knowledge they have, in return, the more knowledge the students will have,” she said at a recent governing board meeting.

          Like Desert Wind Middle School, Maricopa Wells is now on a block schedule. Classes, which are approximately 80 minutes long, allow time for more activities and projects. The schedule adds 20 minutes more per day for math, which equates to 60 additional hours during the school year. Math and language arts classes meet daily, and science and social studies meet every other day. Student passing time between classes is now reduced, and teachers have a longer planning time with their teams.

          Abel calls himself a lucky guy.“One of the rules I learned long ago was to surround yourself with good people. I am in that situation again and feel very fortunate to be here.”

          He credits previous members of the staff, including Thad Miller, Eva Safranek, Treva Jenkins, Robyn Rice, Keith Gibson and Donna Wittwer, for the progress that took place before he even considered the position.

          One of Abel’s staff members recently told him she was ready to quit last year after the first week. “But now,” she said, “I’m ready to be here the whole year.”

          “We’re looking ahead,” says Abel. “It doesn’t do much good to look back.”

          He says the Maricopa Wells staff will take the kids they have, find out where they are and “push them.” With more time on academics, Abel’s vision is “every child learning every day.”

          “We have a long way to go,” Abel admitted, “but it’s about growth and a positive climate and impact for both students and staff.”

          At Maricopa Wells “imua” is a word that signifies change. More than a word, it’s a commitment to improvement and a brighter future for the school.

          Photo by Scott Bartle

          A version of this article appeared in the September issue of InMaricopa News.

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            “Most superhero stories start with a meteor shower or a nasty insect bite, but mine actually starts with a kiss.” 

            This is the opening line of a new, young-adult genre novel called “Being Jamie Baker,” written by Maricopa author Kelly Oram.

            Protagonist Jamie Baker, 17, gains “a slew of uncontrollable superhuman abilities” after an accident. She has to deal with her romantic interest, Rocklin High’s quarterback Ryan Miller, while trying to retain her anonymity and protect her powers from media exposure.

            Oram says she has always loved to write but became obsessive about the hobby when she quit working to stay home with her first child. She started out writing fan fiction stories about celebrities or television shows and, eventually, decided to try creating her own characters.

            “The young-adult genre has always been my favorite to read, so, when it came time to write a novel, there was never any question that I wanted to write for teens,” said Oram.

            “Being Jamie Baker” was born from a desire to write a story about a girl with superpowers. “I’m a sucker for superheroes. While you can find hundreds of teen novels about vampires and werewolves, if you want a good old-fashioned superhero story, you pretty much have to look to comic books.” Oram said.

            Her first draft took roughly seven months to write. Coming up with a story and its characters were just the beginning of a long writing and publishing process.

            Oram was in the writing query letters to publishers and agents phase at a time when her husband was doing some graphics work for a multi-media company called Bluefields. They were looking to get into book publishing and were seeking mainstream material, preferably aimed at young females—the “Twilight” crowd. Oram’s husband gave them her manuscript, and they wanted to publish it, allowing her to be part of the creative process because they are a smaller publishing house.

            From writing the very first sentence to seeing the book released has taken nearly three years. “It has been as frustrating as it has been exciting, and there were more than several times when I wanted to call it quits. But, I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see all of my hard work come to life. I’ve learned so much and grown so much as a writer.”

            Born in Mesa, Oram recently returned to Arizona after living in Los Angeles for six years. She and her family, husband Josh (to whom the book is dedicated), Josh Jr., Jackie and a baby boy expected this month, moved to Maricopa a year ago in May to be close to siblings and parents.

            When she’s not chasing after children or writing, Oram said, “I read. I read, and I read, and I read. I love reading as much as I love writing. To me the two go hand in hand. In fact one of my favorite quotes is by Stephen King. ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.  Simple as that.’”  

            I’m very excited to start all over and see what I can come up with next,” said Oram, but first there will be a new baby. Then, she adds, “maybe a vacation.”

            To learn more about “Being Jamie Baker,” go to the website.

            Submitted photo

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            Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board will meet Wednesday evening to hear several reports from district staff, to discuss agenda items for a joint meeting with the city and to approve next year’s school calendar.

            Fred Laguna, director of transportation, will present an update on his department’s buses, drivers and schedules.  A review of district grants will be provided by Grants Manager and Finance Director Karen Honeycutt, and Dr. Kymberly Marshall, director of Exceptional Student Services, will be updating and discussing assistive technology grants.

            In addition to the standard approval of travel, donations and the personnel schedule, the board will discuss the first reading of polices GCQA and CDQA.

            A legislative delegate and alternate will be approved to represent the governing board at the Arizona School Board Association’s delegate assembly in June.

            Scheduled for March 18, the board will meet with the Maricopa City Council; items for that agenda will be discussed and approved.

            Board members will be asked to renew a contract for services from Waste Management and a bid award for unleaded fuel at a two cent per gallon discount from QuikTrip Corporation.

            The 2010-2011 calendar will be back for board approval after being tabled at the last meeting to enable the committee to review the number of early release days for elementary students and the timing of parent conferences in relationship to the quarters’ ending dates. 

            The new calendar indicates early release days every Wednesday for elementary students and the first and third Wednesdays of each month for middle school students. Individual schools would announce parent teacher conferences if this calendar is accepted, which has a student start date of Aug. 2 and a last day of school on May 24.

            For the complete meeting agenda, click here.

            If you go:

            What:  Maricopa Unified School District governing board meeting
            When:  Wednesday, March 10, 6 p.m.
            Where:  District Office Administration Bldg., 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

            Photo by Joyce Hollis

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            Maxine Honie, who lives in Rancho El Dorado, has a family emergency, and she is asking Maricopans to help.

            Honie and her family are Native Americans, originally from the Four Corners area, but her sister, Emily Benally, lives in Utah.

            Benally was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early February this year. She had to quit her job as a dietician and nutritionist at the Montezuma Creek senior center because she is undergoing chemotherapy treatments at a Farmington, N.M., hospital.

            Honie says her sister desperately needs help with travel, healthcare and medical expenses. Donations are being accepted at any Wells Fargo Bank under account #7555553911.

            “Any help that any of our fellow community members can give will be greatly appreciated,” said Honie. “Thank you all, and God bless you.”

            Submitted photo