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Want to hear some great live music? Love to see student performers? Come on out to the MUSD Music-a-Thon V from 3-8 p.m. on May 4.

“The Music-a-Thon is an event we look forward to every year that showcases all the hard work the students put forth,” Tanya Hobt, music director at Maricopa Wells Middle School, said. “We are very fortunate to have such talented students that work tirelessly all year for this event. The music programs in the Maricopa Unified School District continue to grow every year, and we love to perform and share the music with our wonderful community.”

Music-a-Thon is a yearly event that features all of the bands and orchestra from Grades 6-12 in MUSD. This event will feature over 300 students in seven bands and three orchestras, and combined performances from Desert Wind Middle School, Maricopa Wells Middle School, and Maricopa High School.

Roger Wagner, director of instrumental music at Desert Wind Middle School, said, “We are in our fifth year of this event and it has become a must see for music fans and our community. The beauty and power of our students performers in combined Band and Orchestra cannot be matched.”

The conclusion of this year’s concert will be the Maricopa High School Fight Song, Rams Fall in Line, conducted by Maricopa Unified School District’s own superintendent, Dr. Tracey Lopeman.

“We’re excited to show what MUSD Music can do, as well as invite our yearly special guest to see our programs and conduct our students,” said Ivan Pour, director of instrumental music at Maricopa High School.


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Andrew Polidore (center) is a Maricopa middle school student and USA Hockey player. Photo by Maria Correnti

Andrew Polidore and his 12U AAA Arizona Bobcats team have been invited to play hockey in Canada.

The team is traveling to compete in the Tourno International de Hockey Pee Wee Quebec tournament Feb. 12-24 against teams from all over the planet.

Polidore, a 12-year-old eighth-grade honor student who attends Almentia Academy and Desert Wind Middle School in Maricopa, has been playing youth hockey in the United Arab Emirates since he was 7.

He is the son of Benita and Anton Polidore of Maricopa.

“We play a lot of games in Chandler and in Scottsdale,” Andrew Polidore said. “It is a hassle getting out the door in the morning.  I have to make sure I have all my stuff.”

He recently participated in a “shoot-out” at Norte Dame College. It is an event for scouts to see young players perform.

The Bobcats practice at The Ice Den in Chandler, playing after school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and weekends.

“I played hockey four years overseas in the UAE,” he said. “It was good competition, but I needed some better competition, so we came back here. I spent a year on the House Team, and my second season, I went to the Bobcats.”

Andrew Polidore

Players on the team mainly live in Chandler and Scottsdale.

“They come from all around Arizona. We have 18 on the team,” he said.

Talented teams are chosen from across the United States, China, Australia and “many more countries beyond there.  It’s a very good tournament with high-level teams,” he said.

Andrew said he plans to stay in hockey through high school and college, with a goal of gaining a college hockey scholarship. He dreams of playing in the National Hockey League.

“We haven’t figured out what we’re going to do for high school yet, but next season I’m going to try out for the Coyotes. It’s high-level tournaments,” he said.

Hockey can be a rough-and-tumble sport. Andrew said at 12 it is rough but not as hard as it will become when he moves up.

“In Bantam you get to hit and rough around. In Pee Wee you don’t get to hit – it’s a penalty if you hit. It’s going to be harder in Bantam, but I think I’m prepared for it,” Andrew said.

One advantage he has over his competitors is speed.

“I’m very fast. I play right wing on the second line,” he said.

This is his first year playing with the 12U AAA Arizona Bobcats.

USA Hockey has issued a travel permit to the team, making them eligible to participate in the Canadian tournament.

It is an invitation only tournament with a selection of some of the best Pee Wee hockey players in the world.

“I want to win in Canada and I want to meet people on good, higher-level teams,” he said. “I want to see where I and my team place against those teams. I want to see if we have anything to improve on when I go to Bantam. I think Quebec is one of my steps to the NHL.”

His father Anton said Andrew is always improving and growing as a hockey player.

“To get him to the highest level, we need to work together as a family and make sure everyone is doing their deeds,” he said.

His mother Benita said Andrew is very passionate about hockey. “It is an investment in his future. He wants to play college,” she said.

Both parents always attend his games and practices.

“I have a life outside of hockey and I want to do a lot of other things. I want to go into a field of science – forensic science. I also want to do engineering,” he said.

Andrew said he looks up to his parents as his heroes in life.

“They have helped me through every step to get to hockey,” he said. “My parents were always supportive during those times. It’s my parents I always look up to even though they don’t play hockey.”

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Gabriella Fisher (MUSD photo)

As far as Desert Wind seventh-grade Blended Learning student Gabriella Fisher can remember, her mind was “constantly swimming with all sorts of stories and ideas.” She had notebooks full of her short stories and she enjoyed sharing them with her friends.

“It’s always been a struggle for me to remain in reality, but in my writing I can go anywhere I want,” she said.

As a fifth grader in the Maricopa Unified School District at Pima Butte Elementary School,  she started writing a story called “Inferious” one day when her class had a substitute teacher. The story was “mainly about a high school girl who gets captured by a secret organization known as Covax and discovers that there is an entire other world that she never even knew about, filled with demons, magic, and adventure. She meets all of these new people, good and bad, and for a long time she struggles to decide who she can trust, especially after learning about her true identity.”

She stated, “I passed it around to some of my friends and before long nearly everyone in class was bugging me for the next chapter.”

Even with her dozens of ideas and countless short stories, “Inferious” became popular and really stuck out as something that she should continue to write.

Writing the rest of the story took another year and a half, but, according to Gabriella, that was the easy part. “Once you get writing it is the best feeling in the world. My fingers just fly across the keyboard as I get to watch the story come to life.”

Editing, publishing and marketing “Inferious” followed. That process was stressful for Gabriella and not nearly as fun as writing. The final step was coming up with the pen name, R.J. Carestia.

“R.J. stands for Riley Joanne, which was the name of a character in one of my very first short stories about a published author who was 13. Carestia is my family name on my mom’s side, my great-grandma’s maiden name.”

“Inferious” was officially published on Dec. 1. It is available to download on Kindle for $2.99 and the paperback version can be purchased on Amazon for $12.95.

Maricopa High School and Desert Wind Middle School choirs performed a winter concert Thursday to a packed house at the Performing Arts Center.

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Submitted photo


Desert Wind Middle School Orchestra participated for the first time in the ABODA (Arizona Band and Orchestra Director’s Association) Fall Orchestra Festival on Friday.

The event was at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert. Desert Wind Orchestra gave a quality performance and earned praise for their fundamental skills and energy. They received excellent feedback for continuing to develop technique for beginning and intermediate players.

These sixth, seventh and eighth grade students followed their performance with a clinic from Cindy Petty, the artistic director and conductor of the East Valley Youth Symphony, artistic director and conductor of the Oregon Arts Orchestra, and managing director of Concert Productions for Music Celebrations International. The clinic focused on continuing to develop fundamental skills in intonation and styles of bowing.

Roger Wagner, Desert Wind Orchestra director, received direct feedback on what students were doing well and what to continue to focus instruction on.

“Fall Orchestra Festival was a great opportunity for our students to hear other orchestras, perform on a fantastic stage and receive feedback from Arizona’s best string teachers,” Wagner said. “This was also a first for our program. Our students put in a tremendous amount of work to prepare and perform for Festival in Quarter 1.”

In addition to their performance, Desert Wind Orchestra was able to listen to Maricopa High School Chamber Orchestra’s performance.

Orchestra will be joining Tiger Band and Symphonic Band for the Desert Wind Winter Instrumental Music Concert on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center. The first concert of the year will feature a reprise Orchestra’s music prepared for Fall Festival. Admission is free, but the memories are priceless. Thank you for supporting Desert Wind Performing Arts.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Desert Wind Middle School’s Blended Learning students weren’t just playing around. Since the start of school, they have been brainstorming, designing, marketing and analyzing the cost of an original toy. Thursday, they displayed their creations for a packed house at Toy Expo 2018, where family members and other visitors voted on their favorites.


Back to School

From left: June Celaya, Thad Miller and Brian Winter

By Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

This is the third in a series of columns on the school principals in Maricopa.

June Celaya, principal at Desert Wind Middle School, brings 33 years of educational experience to her job. Although she grew up in Philadelphia, she got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, respectively. She has taught multiple subjects in middle and high school and was a magnet school coordinator. Celaya was principal at Maricopa High School before moving to the principal’s office at DWMS three years ago.

She is most proud of adding a second performing arts teacher at her school, which caused the program to double in size, as well as adding another Blended Learning Program. She looks forward to implementing Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) next year. Her personal credo is that diversity brings opportunity to a school and that a teacher can inspire any student to be a successful learner.

The principal at Maricopa Wells Middle School is Thad Miller, a native Arizonan whose K-12 education was obtained in Maricopa. He is an ASU graduate and obtained a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University. Before becoming an administrator, Miller taught science in the middle grades and in high school in MUSD.

He is very pleased the goals established for MWMS year have been realized and work towards academic improvement continues with strong staff support. Miller anticipates continuing with high academic and behavioral expectations as part of the school’s goals next year.

“The new ELA adoption should be a great benefit for our kids,” he said.

He believes a positive relationship is being built between students and faculty that will lead to future success.

Brian Winter is the Maricopa High School principal for the 2018-19 school year. He was born and raised in Minnesota and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from state universities there. He has 30 years’ experience in education in various positions including administrative assignments in Oregon and Arizona.

He takes great pride in the fact MHS has tested every 11th grade student on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and all 12th graders on the ACT standardized college admissions test. This testing was done at no cost to the students due to a grant obtained by the school. His goal as the new principal is to build a connection with every student, whatever it takes.

Murray Siegel has a doctorate in Math Ed and 42 years of teaching experience.

This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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March 8, the Desert Wind Middle School Symphonic Band earned a rating of excellent in the Arizona Band and Orchestra Director’s Association Regional Elementary/Junior High Band Festival. This event, held at Mesquite Junior High School in Gilbert, featured many of the East Valley’s finest Junior High/Middle School bands.

Desert Wind’s Symphonic Band earned praise and superior scores for their control of tempo, consistency in intonation, and their quality, characteristic sounds on their instruments.

Following their performance, these seventh- and eighth-grade students received great feedback from clinician Bill Patterson, Arizona music educator and past ABODA president. The clinic focused on expanding their dynamic and expressive capabilities as an ensemble in their performance of their repertoire, as well as concepts to focus on in future performances. Symphonic Band also received recorded comments from Patterson and two other clinicians – Jon Gomez and Ann Haenfler.

In addition to their performance and clinic, Symphonic Band heard performances from four outstanding groups from other area schools (Willis Junior High School Symphonic Band, Kyrene Aprende Middle School Seventh-Grade Band, Kyrene Altadeña Middle School Eighth-Grade Band and Desert Ridge Junior High School Eighth-Grade Rattler Band).

Roger Wagner II, Desert Wind’s instrumental music director, said,”Symphonic Band’s performance represents the tremendous effort our students have put into building the Band program and continuing the pursuit of musical excellence at Desert Wind. We are incredibly proud of the hard work our students have put in and we look forward to continued growth.”

Symphonic Band will be joining the Desert Wind Orchestra, Tiger Band and Maricopa High School Orchestra for the MUSD Art Walk on May 3 at 6 p.m. in the MUSD District Office and all of the Desert Wind, Maricopa Wells and Maricopa High School bands, choirs and orchestras at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 12, for the fourth annual MUSD Music-a-Thon – featuring special guest Mayor Christian Price.

Submitted photo

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The Innovacia team of Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick and Alexis Herrera from Maricopa Wells Middle School won the Arizona regional of Future City competition and a free trip to Washington, D.C. Submitted photo

The MUSD middle school 20+1 programs finished first and second place in the Arizona Regional Future City Competition.

A team of students from Maricopa Wells Middle School, who named their city Innovacia, won the Arizona Regional Future City competition. The team has won an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Nationals Future City competition on February 16-21. The team members are Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick and Alexis Herrera. Their engineering mentor is Robb Witte. The teachers are Robyn Rice and Joseph Szoltysik.

A team of students from Desert Wind Middle School, who named their city Juntos, finished in second place. The team members are Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle and Kaden McKenzie. Their engineering mentor is Steve Hull. The teachers are Shannon Hull and Jennifer Szoltysik.

In addition to winning the first- and second-place awards, teams from Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle Schools won several other awards at the competition. The 20+1 students from Maricopa Unified School District won 8 of the 16 society awards given at the Arizona Regional Competition.

Desert Wind Middle School’s Juntos team of Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle and Kaden McKenzie placed second in the regional. Submitted photo

Maricopa Wells Awards:

1st Place: Innovacia – Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick, Alexis Herrera

Best City Essay: Veneti Visione – Thomas Abel, Kaden Rogers, Zoie Zimpleman, Robert Hahn, Elin Dayley

Best City Model: Sottena – Matea Bernales, Brianna Coronado, Dimitri Freeman, Lauren Jurado, Jacobey West

Best Short Video: Sottena – Matea Bernales, Brianna Coronado, Dimitri Freeman, Lauren Jurado, Jacobey West

Award of Distinction: Nanahi – Amelia Gross, Dylan Hahn, Victoria Richardson, Aleyhia Marshall, Tanis Palmer

Best Land Surveying Practices: Vicoso – Elena Antunez, Maverick Miller, Bailey Rigby, Sawyer Coatney, Milo Coatney

Best Design for Sustainability: Orimos – Rori Gosiak, Alexander Grace, Emma Kulinowski, Natalie Weeks, Joshua Kulinowski

Community Awareness Award: Innovacia – Joseph Abel, Rylee Tarcola, Morgan Witte, Aubryana Pick, Alexis Herrera

Most Innovative Structure: Veneti Visione – Thomas Abel, Kaden Rogers, Zoie Zimpleman, Robert Hahn, Elin Dayley

Walton Sustainable Community Award: Veneti Visione – Thomas Abel, Kaden Rogers, Zoie Zimpleman, Robert Hahn, Elin Dayley

Desert Wind Awards

2nd Place: Juntos – Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle, Kaden McKenzie

Best Future Transportation System: Juntos – Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle, Kaden McKenzie

Best Team Effort: Toro de Barcelona – Jailynn Cannon, Molly Jorgenson, Sadie Titus, Baily Martinez, Stephany Villanuevos Carrasco, Emma Huffaker

Most Innovative Design: Juntos – Isabella Ebner, Boston Hamerick, Conner Manning, Emmy Balgaard, Sara Earle, Kaden McKenzie


Diego Villareal and Sara Earle were honored by Maricopa Rotary at an Oct. 25 meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board as Students of the Month. Pictured behind them are Rotarians Alma Farrell and Joanne Ortega and MUSD board President Patti Coutre. In back are school board members Joshua Judd, AnnaMarie Knorr, Gary Miller, Superintendent Steve Chestnut and school board member Torri Anderson. Photo by Michelle Chance


Outstanding students in the Maricopa Unified School District were highlighted for their academic efforts during a school board meeting Wednesday night.

Maricopa Rotary Club Youth Coordinator Alma Farrell and Joanne Ortega presented Maricopa High School senior Diego Villareal and Desert Wind Middle School Sara Earle with Rotary Students of the month for October.

Farrell said Villareal is an honors student with a 3.861 grade point average.

“His guidance counselor nominated him for this award,” Farrell said. “She reports that she admires his diligence to do his work and as well as the respectful and kind demeanor that he has.”

Villareal is a member of the National Honor Society, is involved in the school’s Book and Media Club, and active in his church as a youth pastor, Farrell said.

Earle, DWMS eighth grader, was lauded by school staff in Farrell’s report for her sense-of-humor and her work ethic.

“Not only does she excel in each subject area within the Blended Learning program, she goes above and beyond teacher expectations for a student,” Farrell quoted one teacher as saying.

Earle is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and the Tiger volleyball team.

The MUSD Governing Board also approved the early graduation of MHS senior Andrew Bounsone during the meeting.

Bounsone’s guidance counselor Chris Lathan requested the board approve Bounsone’s December graduation.

Lathan said Bounsone, who was not present at the meeting, intends to walk during the graduation ceremony in May before enlisting in the military.

“One of the reasons he wants to graduate early is because he’s going to be servicing in the Army, so one of the things he would like to do is work and get extra money and work out a little bit and get himself ready for basic training,” Lathan said.

Board Member Gary Miller clarified with the board that Bounsone would still be eligible to attend prom in the spring.

The board voted unanimously to approve Bounsone’s early graduation.

Johnny Bochat and Mike Waterman do much of the physical labor as Desert Wind Middle School prepares not only for a new school year but also the addition of sixth graders. Photo by Michelle Chance

The halls within Desert Wind Middle School are virtually empty in June. Besides the few classes of children attending summer school, the building can feel vacant by the afternoon.

Lined against its olive-hued walls are hundreds of desks. Most classrooms are emptied, chairs pushed to the side.

It’s the time of year most students don’t see at school – staff rearranging entire classrooms, scrubbing glue off of floors, mopping and buffing them to a sparkle.

But not all is quiet.

A bluesy guitar riff echoes through the school lobby.

The sounds don’t come from the music department, but instead from within the facilities office.

Inside is Site Lead Custodian Mike Waterman, whose fingertips strum the strings of a black guitar. His audience of one is Night Custodian Johnny Bochat.

It’s a rare time the two break from the labor their summer duties require.

The pair is responsible for keeping the school operational and clean throughout the year.

 “We do anything they need to make the thing move smoothly,” Waterman said.

And in the summer that means a lot of heavy-lifting around the large 48-room campus that will soon house nearly 700 students once school starts in the fall, Waterman said.

In August, the custodial team will add 14 previously unused rooms to their daily cleaning routes due to the influx of sixth grade students from district elementary schools.

To prepare, the two-man team is in charge of rearranging the entire school before kids return.

“Something that might have been a computer lab this year is now going to be something else this year,” Waterman said.

So while shampooed carpets and polished linoleum floors dry, the men move furniture from one end of the building to the other.

More classes to clean, and even more students to clean up after, mean Waterman and Bochat will receive a new fulltime custodial co-worker once school begins.

“It’s still going to be a lot for three people,” Waterman said.

Although the workload is heavy, the duo still finds time to lead interesting lives.

Bochat is a native Maricopan who loves working with his hands and spending time outdoors. In the past, he combined his love of craft and adventure when he lived in Alaska working as a mechanic. Soon he will vacation in Prescott to pan for gold.

Waterman is the unofficial in-house artist known as “Miko Ceviche.” Administrators and staff hang his acrylic paintings in their offices, often switching and trading them out between each other.

It’s a work culture the two men said they love.

“I’m with these people more than I am with my family,” Waterman said. “You work eight hours a day with (them) and they become your family after a while.” 

Mike Waterman’s paintings are seen at various locations with MUSD and he plays a mean blues guitar, too. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa Wells Middle School

Although school has ended for most, principals and staff are still on campus over the summer preparing for the 470 additional sixth grade students at Maricopa Unified School District middle schools.

The move comes after the voter-approved override allowed the district to hire more teachers. That includes teachers across all six of MUSD’s elementary schools, which have housed sixth-grade students for the past four years.

With increased need for additional space in elementary, MUSD approved the move in January.

Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel said 270 new students will take their seats in classrooms in the original sixth-grade wing of the school when classes start in August.

In 2013, the sixth graders were in the middle school but were shifted to elementary schools.

“They had talked about possibly closing a middle school, so they moved the sixth graders back. There was room in the elementary schools at that point in time,” Abel said.

Both MUSD middle schools remained opened, however, and as enrollment numbers grow, principals say they are ready to welcome sixth graders back to campus.

June Celaya, principal of Desert Wind Middle School, said she has also been working to ensure the transition from elementary to secondary is easier on staff and the 200 incoming sixth graders.

“I’ve rearranged the entire school and how teachers are in classrooms,” Celaya said.

Desert Wind Principal June Celaya stands on the stairs that will soon become familiar to sixth graders. Photo by Michelle Chance

Sixth and seventh grade students will be housed in the school’s second story; eighth graders will fill the classrooms downstairs.

Although the younger students will sometimes travel to the first floor to attend their elective classes, Celaya explained the separation will allow for the transition into the middle-school environment to be slow.

Sixth graders will attend five classes a day, mostly upstairs with their cohort of friends and teachers.

Celaya said that although parents might fear the change from elementary to middle, it gives the students an opportunity to grow.

“Throughout the rest of the year they find their way, and they find their voice, and they start to define who and what they want to be,” she said.

Sixth-grade teachers will also “adopt” their first period-classes and become mentors for those students, Celaya said.

Maricopa Wells sixth graders can expect four classroom options, Abel explained.

A breakdown of those options are:

  1. Blended Learning Classroom

“We will have about 50 of the kids in a blended learning setting and there will be one-to-one technology for those kids on campus,” Abel said. “It’s kind of a preparatory program to go in to what we used to call the 20+1 program at the middle school campuses.”

  1. Four-Teacher Cohort

“We will have a group of four teachers working with probably 100 to 115 kids and those four teachers will each teach one of the four core classes. That gives the kids a chance to move from teacher-to-teacher,” Abel said.

  1. Two-Teacher Cohort

“We also will have two teachers, each of them will teach two of the core subjects,” Abel explained, adding “About 50 to 55 kids there.”

  1. Traditional Classroom

“We had a number of parents who were interested in the traditional classroom which is one teacher teaching all of the core classes,” Abel said.

Classroom sizes are expected to range from 25 to 28 kids per class at Maricopa Wells, Abel said.

Both schools are adding nine teachers each – many of whom worked at district elementary schools.

“They are experienced teachers and they know how our system works, so that will make the transition a little easier, I hope,” Abel said.

Desert Wind Middle School. Photo by Michelle Chance