Authors Articles bySteven J. Cooke

Steven J. Cooke

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Mayor Kelly Anderson and Maricopa’s City Council recently approved the transfer of Orbitel Communications, LLC’s operating license to IH Orbitel, Inc and MCG Capital Corporation.

Under the agreement current Orbitel partners Rick Anderson and J.R. Spalj will be selling their stake in Orbitel to MCG Capital. All management, administration, customer service and technical employees will continue to be based in Maricopa with additional jobs opening in coming weeks.

“This is bringing more jobs to Maricopa and more capital resources so Orbitel can locally grow with Maricopa, providing state of the art communications,” said Orbitel Communications President Keith Kirkman. “We have found a partner committed to local service by local employees, with the depth of resources to continue building outstanding telecommunications services for our city.”

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Orbitel President Keith Kirkman sees the company’s transfer as a move resulting in more capital resources and more jobs for Maricopa.

Orbitel Communications, LLC was the city’s first cable operator and is a leading provider of cable, high-speed Internet and telephone service. When Orbitel first came to Maricopa in 2001, it was seen by many as a daring move since, at the time, the city’s future was uncertain. The area was being developed with 2,000 homes. It was hard for the city to get cable and high-speed Internet service providers to invest in Maricopa.

“Rick Anderson and J.R. Spalj have always had a vision for Maricopa,” said Kirkman. “They stood on a vast desert over five years ago where CVS now is and pioneered a cable television, Internet and telephone company that is now Maricopa’s finest. They shared the vision of the early developers who saw the great potential of this area.”

MCG Capital is a publicly traded business development company with a market capitilization worth a reported $1.2 billion. It provides capital to support the growth and value creation strategies of small to mid-sized companies.

Kirkman said the transfer process should be complete by the end of February.

Photos by Aaron Thacker

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Maricopa Wells Middle School celebrated the opening of its brand new home with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 29.

The ceremony featured performances by the school’s choral group, dance troop and spirit line as well as guest speakers. Mayor Kelly Anderson spoke at the ceremony as did Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Dr. John Flores.

Featured speaker Patricia Brock, a retired Maricopa Unified School District educator and Maricopa historian, explained that the school is named after the first location of Maricopa, which was called Maricopa Wells and located about eight miles northwest of the school. Maricopa Wells was among the state’s three original settlements. At the time, Maricopa Wells was known for its reliable water source and abundance of food. Brock said there is a great history and legacy attached to the name Maricopa Wells, so the students should feel very proud they chose it as the school’s name.

Throughout the event, event host and school principal Stephanie Sharp emphasized what a special moment in time it was and how lucky the students were to be a part of it. She told the students this is Maricopa’s first middle school and they are the first group of students at the facility. “Years from now you can bring your own children here and say ‘This is my school. I helped name it. I helped move furniture into it.'”

Sharp emphasized the importance of the moment because she wants students to take ownership of their school and take care of it. She wants the students to have pride and understand this is part if their legacy. “We have teachers here at the middle school who went to Maricopa High School and they have said how proud they feel to come back and teach,” she said. “I want my students to feel the same.”

Students and teachers echoed that sentiment.

“We’re the first students here,” said seventh grader Orlando Tolano, 12. “It feels tight, you can say, because no one else has been here before.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the students have tremendous pride and are very thankful to be here,” according to Mike Russoniello, a seventh grade science teacher at the school. “They [understand] Maricopa finally gave them a building specifically for them. It’s great for them to have their own campus and their own identity.”

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Spomenka Bilaver and her children, 7th grader Marijan, 13; 4th grader Jelna, 9; and Bruno, 3; look at the 7th graders science projects, “Eco-columns,” during the open house portion of the Maricopa Wells Middle School Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Jan. 29.

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Maricopa Wells Middle School Spiritline boosted morale at the school’s ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 29.

Before the new campus opened Jan. 8, the school borrowed space from the city’s elementary schools and high school.

“We were housed between the elementary school and the high school in their gymnasiums,” said Sharp. “It used to feel crowded now [at the new facility] it actually feels empty. There is so much space.”

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony and performances, parents were given a chance to walk around and tour the new campus.

“It’s big and spacious,” parent Mike McDill said. “It’s state of the art. I like it.”

“My son says he loves it. He loves the space,” said Adriana Torres, parent of an eighth grader. “I like it. For just starting a couple of months ago, [the school] is doing a great job.”

With the new facility up and running, Sharp said she is ready to continue with her other goals for the school. “I would like to see the school develop a pre-college preparatory program,” she said. “I would also like to see the school become an excelling school. We are currently a high performing school.”

Sharp explained that “excelling school” and “high performing school” are distinctions given by the State based on how they perform on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards tests three years in a row. The test covers areas of reading, writing and mathematics.

Sharp said the school is on track to achieving its “excelling school” designation.
“Academically we are very much on target.”