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MUSD

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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David Onquit gets the advantage in Wednesday's dual meet. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School varsity and junior varsity wrestling hosted Sierra Linda and North Canyon in a dual meet Wednesday and came out ahead.

Both Rams who faced two opponents had a split night. In the 160-pound class, senior David Onquit led his North Canyon opponent until he was suddenly pinned with just 6 seconds left. He turned around to defeat his Sierra Linda opponent by decision.

Hunter Taylor also lost to North Canyon but took down his Sierra Linda opponent in the 182-pound class.

Also posting wins for Maricopa were Esteban Santillan by fall (120 pounds), Jonathan Childers by fall (126), Reed Colton by fall (132), Matthew Blodgett by decision (138), Patrick Garcia by major decision (145), Connor Paine by fall (152), Nicholas Mooney by fall (170) and Jaikub Cook by fall (220).

The Rams finished ahead of Sierra Linda 58-15 and North Canyon 60-18.

It’s not unusual for a large corporation to experience technical difficulties, but the communication issues at Maricopa Unified School District this week had a dark source.

“We noticed extreme spikes of data usage and pockets of data being dropped onto our network with traffic that was not supposed to be there,” district spokesperson Mishell Terry said.

Schools reported intermittent phone and Internet outages, and the tech department monitored network traffic to find the hack. The intrusion affected communications district-wide.

By Thursday, the Internet was running again but the district was still troubleshooting issues with the phones.

“CenturyLink teamed with our technology crew to make network changes in order to block the attack,” Terry said. “There are still some glitches in our phone lines due to the changes to our network.”

The source of the hack?

“We haven’t identified the software used for the attack.”

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Band seniors get a selfie with director Ivan Pour at the end of the concert. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School’s bands performed the annual Pass in Review concert, featuring symphony, chamber orchestra and marching band playing music from their competitions this semester and tunes of the season. The department also honored its senior performers.

Pima Butte Elementary is again an A-rated school. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

They don’t just teach students.

How did they do that?

Butterfield Elementary’s successful strategy to rise from a C to an A school:

  • Revamp the master schedule
  • Use data results to set grade-level and school-wide goals
  • Use results-based funding to equip third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students with 1-to-1 laptops
  • Reconfigure classes to better prepare students

Learn more about Butterfield’s turnaround in the next issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa’s A-rated elementary schools can teach other educators how to improve their schools.

Butterfield Elementary had the most dramatic improvement, moving from a C to an A. It is the first A-rating for the Maricopa Unified School District school. Butterfield was not a “bad” school a year ago. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman pointed out its C rating was just five points away from a B.

Similarly, other elementary schools in the district were only a few percentage points from the next grade up this year.

Maricopa Elementary was 0.5 from an A. Santa Rosa Elementary 0.89 away from an A. Santa Cruz Elementary was 1.88 away from an A. Saddleback Elementary was less than 3 points from a B.

“I think the district as a whole is really doing well,” said Betty Graham, who teaches fourth grade at Pima Butte Elementary. “They’re working wonders, going up and up and up.”

Pima Butte, like the high-achieving charter school Legacy Traditional, is more old-hat at receiving A ratings, but it had to rise above a B last year after missing an A by just 4 percentage points through the more demanding AzMerit test. With ratings reliant on results of AzMerit, there was a lot of pressure on third, fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers.

“That A rating didn’t come easy,” PBES Principal Randy Lazar said. “It was a lot of hard work on behalf of our teaching team as well as the assistants with our students and also the support of our parents. It was a collective effort by our entire team.”

“We prepare with our rigorous curriculum each and every day in preparation for the big event,” said fifth-grade teacher Jessica Ansley.

Lazar said a brand new language arts curriculum and a relatively new math curriculum have helped create a very comprehensive academic experience and prepare the students for AzMerit or any other test.

Pima Butte was an A-rated school before there was an A rating. The state’s first rating system gauged schools on whether they met or exceeded the standard. PBES was an “excelling” school. When the grade ratings began, eyes lit up on campus.

“We were going to get an A, I remember that,” Graham said. “That’s what was on our minds, the kids’ minds, everybody’s mind. We were going to do it. They had an A; we were going to get it.”

Ansley called it teaching vigorously bell to bell.

At Pima Butte that means “lots of repetition,” third-grade teacher Denise Palmer said. “There’s no down-time, really. Coming from second to third grade is a big transition for these kids, so from the first day in, we’re hitting the ground running.”

The students do hit the books, but they also experiment with what they’ve learned in the classroom through hands-on activities. Positive reinforcement works wonders in galvanizing students to achieve.

Lazar said his main advice for other Arizona elementary schools trying to rise to a higher grade is to focus on student growth.

“We get our test results from the spring and then look to see how did each student perform,” he said. “If we have students that scored minimally proficient, that’s the group you want to put a lot of attention on the next school year. The way the state calculates the letter grade is when you have kids grow. It’s a growth model as far as earning the points.”

Meanwhile, he said, it is also important to maintain kids who are already at proficient or highly proficient.

A voter-approved override helped fund carts of technology in Netbooks and Chromebooks. The new equipment allowed the students to get more practice in the basic use of a computer. Lazar said that is key when taking the online-based AzMerit.

“Our whole focus last school year was just doing the best we could to prepare our third, fourth and fifth graders for AzMerit,” Lazar said. “Also what helped – AIMS Science, which is given in fourth grade, we were able to earn points for that, so that was factored in.”

There is also a lot of communication between teachers at different grade levels, Palmer said. Teachers share ideas that worked or didn’t work, they share information on the best approach for certain students, and they share ideas among campuses within the district.

Graham said she goes back to her students’ third-grade teachers to compare notes as a way to measure how students are progressing.

“And we’re very competitive, in a good way,” Graham said.

Pima Butte has approximately 465 students enrolled, about 100 of whom live outside the school’s boundaries. Because the override allowed the creation of new teaching positions, every classroom is in use.

MUSD Board Member Joshua Judd, a teacher in another district, said Pima Butte is the reason his children attend MUSD and are involved in Maricopa. “Pima Butte pulled my children into the city,” he said.

“We do what we need to do, and we do it in a fun and engaging way,” Ansley said.

There is no time for “filler.” Coloring days, extra recesses, non-curriculum videos – not at Pima Butte.

“My kids know,” Palmer said. “They will tell you, ‘Gotta do the work before we can have the fun.’ That’s the way it is. That’s how life is, isn’t it?”


This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

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Three schools in Maricopa have earned A-ratings from the state as announced this fall, and other schools showed marked improvement.

A
Butterfield Elementary (MUSD)
Legacy Traditional School (charter)
Pima Butte Elementary (MUSD)

B
Leading Edge Academy (charter)
Maricopa Elementary School (MUSD)
Santa Cruz Elementary School (MUSD)
Santa Rosa Elementary School (MUSD)

C
Camino Montessori (charter – closed)
Desert Wind Middle School (MUSD)
Graysmark Schools (charter)
Maricopa High School (MUSD)
Maricopa Wells Middle School (MUSD)
Saddleback Elementary School (MUSD)
Sequoia Pathway Academy (charter)

D
Stanfield Elementary School (SED)

 

A = Excellent: Distinguished performance on the statewide assessment, significant student growth, high four-year graduation rates, students are on track to proficiency or overall performance is significantly higher than the state average.
B = Highly Performing: High performance on statewide assessments and/or significant student growth and/or higher four-year graduation rates and/or moving students to proficiency at a higher rate than the state average.
C = Performing: Adequate performance but needs improvement on some indicators including proficiency, growth or graduation rate.
D = Minimally Performing: Inadequate performance in proficiency, growth and/or four-year graduation rate relative to the state average.
F = Systematic failures in proficiency, growth and graduation rates and/or performance is in bottom 5 percent of the state.



“We are excited to earn an A rating for our wonderful school. This A rating represents the dedication and care of each and every one of our staff and our students’ hard work. I am so proud and excited for our students, staff and community to have another A school in Maricopa.” – Butterfield Elementary School Principal Janel Hildick

“Pima Butte is ecstatic about receiving the 2018 ‘A’ rating. This achievement was due to the tireless effort and dedication of our teachers, the hard work of our students and the support of our families. We are extremely proud of this recognition.” – Pima Butte Elementary Principal Randy Lazar



DROPOUT RATES

Sequoia Pathway Academy          0.18%
Desert Wind Middle School        0.69%
Maricopa Wells Middle School   2.58%
Maricopa High School                  4.51%


GRADUATION RATES (2017)
Percent graduating in four years from Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy

MHS                      SPA
                                                                 350 Grads             97 Grads
Total                                                          76%                        97%
Economically Disadvantaged               77%                        96%
Male                                                           71%                        97%
Female                                                       81%                       96%
White                                                         81%                        94%
Hispanic                                                    80%                       100%
African-American                                   65%                        *
Native American                                     54%                        *
Asian                                                          73%                        *

*Sample size too small


Source: AZED Oct. 5



This information appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Butterfield Elementary showed off its new banner designating it as an A-rated school. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

How did they do that?

Butterfield Elementary’s successful strategy to rise from a C to an A school:
*  Revamp the master schedule
*  Use data results to set grade-level and school-wide goals
*  Use results-based funding to equip third through fifth grade students with 1-to-1 laptops
*  Reconfigure classes to better prepare students

Arizona Department of Education announced school letter grades during Fall Break at Maricopa Unified School District. For at least two campuses, that resulted in a buzz of emails, texts and phone calls to make sure everyone heard the news they had achieved the top rating.

Pima Butte and Butterfield elementary schools were given A ratings. Wednesday, the district and governing board formally recognized their achievement during a board meeting.

Butterfield Elementary had the most dramatic improvement, moving from a C to an A. It is the first A-rating for the school. To be sure, Butterfield was not a “bad” school a year ago. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman pointed out its previous C rating was just five points away from a B.

Similarly, other elementary schools in the district were only a few percentage points from the next grade up this year.

Maricopa Elementary, which achieved Lighthouse status, was 0.5 from an A. Santa Rosa Elementary 0.89 away from an A. Santa Cruz Elementary was 1.88 away from an A. The only MUSD elementary with a C, Saddleback Elementary was less than 3 points from a B.

“I think the district as a whole is really doing well,” said Betty Graham, who teaches fourth grade at Pima Butte Elementary. “They’re working wonders, going up and up and up.”

Pima Butte, like the high achieving charter school Legacy Traditional, is more old-hat at receiving A ratings, but it had to rise above a B last year after missing an A by just 4 percentage points. With ratings reliant on results of the AzMerit testing, there was a lot of pressure on third, fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers.

“That A rating didn’t come easy,” PBES Principal Randy Lazar said. “It was a lot of hard work on behalf of our teaching team as well as the assistants with our students and also the support of our parents. It was a collective effort by our entire team.”

Lazar said his main advice for other Arizona elementary schools trying to rise to a higher grade is to focus on student growth.

“We get our test results from the spring and then look to see how did each student perform,” he said. “If we have students that scored minimally proficient, that’s the group you want to put a lot of attention on the next school year. The way the state calculates the letter grade is when you have kids grow. It’s a growth model as far as earning the points.”

Butterfield Principal Janel Hildick expressed a similar sentiment for Wednesday’s honor.

“It’s not just about how many students are passing but how effective we are as teachers, how our students are growing. This year we scored 49.3 out of 50 possible points for growing our students.”

Teachers credited improvements to the voter-approved override, which allowed for more technology and more teachers to reduce class sizes. Funds helped buy carts of technology in Netbooks and Chromebooks. The new equipment allowed the students to get more practice in the basic use of a computer. Lazar said that is key when taking the online-based AzMerit, which is the state standard.

The district’s high school and two middle schools received C ratings.

Learn more about Pima Butte Elementary’s success strategy in the upcoming December issue of InMaricopa.

Pima Butte Elementary is again an A-rated school. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Roger Wagner directs music at Desert Wind Middle School. Photo by Kyle Norby

 

For Desert Wind Middle School music teacher Roger Wagner II, classes are about more than sick beats and woodwinds.

In addition to teaching kids how to play instruments and compose music using digital tools, Wagner II is also helping develop their social and life skills. For Wagner, who is also assistant marching band director at Maricopa High School, and his wife Michelle, music teacher at Legacy Traditional School, music is part of daily life.

Wagner received his bachelor’s degree in music from Grand Valley State University in Michigan and began teaching in Maricopa in 2013. At that time, Desert Winds had around 90 kids in band and orchestra. The school’s choir was defunct. Further, he learned many elementary schools in the Maricopa Unified School District didn’t have any music education.

“They could realistically could go K through 12 without having a music class,” Wagner said.

Wagner immediately set out to revamp the school’s music programming and restart its choir. He estimates more than 300 students now participate in the school’s band, orchestra and choir.

Working toward his master’s in music education from Arizona State University while teaching at Desert Wind, Wagner began developing his modern music class in 2014. The class gave him an opportunity to experiment with a new kind of music education for his students.

“When you get in your car and you flip on the radio, you’re probably not listening to concert band,” Wagner explained. “There’s a cognitive dissonance not only for me internally, but for the profession about what’s the future.”

Photo by Kyle Norby

Wagner happened to be in the right place at the right time and met the brand manager for Ableton Live, a company that produces tools for creating and arranging music digitally. At first just using Ableton’s software, which the company gave to him through an educational partnership, Wagner began creating a course that would help prepare students to create and play their own music.

“In music education, we call that [course] more of a music industry sort of thing,” Wagner said. “What we’re working towards is having almost a little boutique record label.”

At first Wagner didn’t have instruments for the class, so he began by making instruments from reclaimed materials, what the unpretentious teacher preferred to call “trash.” Eventually, he was able to secure a number of guitars from a tax credit and later ukuleles as well. After reducing the class size slightly, he had enough instruments for each student.

“I’ve seen him grow that program considerably since he’s been here with the integration of technology,” said Desert Wind Principal June Celaya. “I think some of that is because he uses some really cool assessment approaches so that kids can really evaluate their own personal growth with it and how they’re playing.”

Celaya noted Wagner has also been very successful in engaging the community by partnering with ASU, CenturyLink and others. He also worked to integrate school music more deeply into Maricopa, helping make the band a fixture at parades and other public events.

Bella Ebner. Photo by Kyle Norby

While his integration of technology and contemporary music have done much to help him build his school’s music programing, his passion and humor are still key to his success as a teacher and music director.

“It’s really cool because he’ll use fun analogies when teaching us about intonation and notes and stuff like that,” said eighth grader Bella Ebner, who is also president of the school’s Band Club. “He just likes to make sure that we’re all on the same page and that we’re all getting better together.”


This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Kyle Norby
Photo by Kyle Norby

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Bernadette Russoniello

 

By Bernadette Russoniello

Career and Technical Education, known as CTE, is education’s best-kept secret.

CTE programs across the state and country focus on preparing students with a combination of academic knowledge, technical skills and work-based learning that prepares students for the next step in their career and education plan. CTE focuses on “soft skills” that industry and employers require and find lacking in many high school and college graduates.

All CTE programs must be primarily work-based; these requirements make the courses highly interactive and engaging for students while providing authentic experiences for school, community and industry-involved learning. Additionally, all CTE programs must lead to industry-recognized certifications or an industry-identified skill set to give students a boost in applying for and landing jobs.

Statistically, CTE produces results. Graduation rates for CTE concentrators (students who complete a two-year program) exceed 98 percent compared to 68 percent for all Arizona students. There’s also an alarming trend of disconnected youth – young adults with no career or educational goals – accounting for nearly 11 percent of adults ages 18-24. CTE programs help connect with these students before they leave public education without a plan.

Maricopa High School offers students a variety of Career and Technical Education options. Many courses are state and national award-winning programs, modeling innovative strategies and learning experiences for students. Programs offered at MHS include Air Force ROTC, automotive technologies, computer repair and networking, culinary arts, digital photography, graphic design, marketing, sports medicine and technical theatre.

Additionally, MHS students have access to additional CTE programs through Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology. CAVIT courses provide certifications and dual enrollment credits from CAC. These opportunities include cosmetology, dental assisting, fire science, law enforcement, massage therapy, medical assisting, nurse assisting and veterinary assisting.

At MHS, students who complete at least two years of Air Force JROTC enlist at higher rank in the U.S. armed forces. Automotive students earn student ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certifications. Computer repair and networking students complete the CISCO Academy and A+ Certification. Culinary Art students become ServSafe food managers in addition to recipients of the standard Food Handler card. Graphic Design students work to become Adobe-certified associates. Marketing students utilize Google Ad Words and Google Analytics certification in addition to regular work hours and sales experience through their student-based enterprise. Sports Medicine students certify in CPR and First Aid as well as Emergency Medical Responder.

Maricopa High School CTE programs seek the participation and involvement of local business and industry to advise program focus. If you have questions about the programs or would like to offer your expertise and guidance on program advisory boards, please reach out.

Bernadette Russoniello is the Career and College coordinator at Maricopa High School. She can be reached at BRussoniello@MUSD20.org.



This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Deborah Kohls teaches English Language Learners in second grade at Maricopa Elementary School. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Michelle Chance


Deborah Kohls teaches second-grade English Language Learners (ELL) four hours every day at Maricopa Elementary School.

MES has four Structured English Immersion (SEI) classrooms that provide smaller class sizes and more resources for children learning a new language.

Kohls said the program is vital to the community. Kohls said she had a message to political leaders who’d like to see the tax pulled.

“One of the things that I think our country was founded on was a free, public education for everyone, and it was to make things equal for everyone. And if you’re pulling resources and money from us you’re not making that possible anymore,” Kohls said.

The majority of ELL students in Kohls’ class are Spanish speakers. The teacher instructs only in English and said children usually show immense progress by second quarter.

“When they’re amongst other kids who are growing at their same rate, their confidence is boosted,” Kohls said.

Photo by Mason Callejas
Deborah Kohls. Photo by Mason Callejas

SEI classrooms face challenges other than funding

The program at MUSD’s high school has its differences from the SEI classes at lower grade levels.

Emily Panter, fluent in English and Spanish, is the only SEI teacher at MHS and said she has trouble motivating older students to perform well on tests, adding many of them feel more comfortable with their friends in SEI and fear transitioning out.

“I really explain to them how it’s to their own benefit to put in the effort,” Panter said.

Additionally, she said the class often has an isolating effect on her students, who are separated for half the school day from mainstream classrooms.

And, though the program provides high schoolers more technology resources, Panter said the state needs to change requirements to ensure small class sizes.

“In order to have an SEI classroom, you have to have 20 students within three grade levels, which I’ve always had that, but not enough to make it two classes,” Panter said.

Of Panter’s 26 students this year, 23 are Hispanic. The biggest challenge in class, Panter said, is the majority of students speak the same native language – and continue to prefer speaking it in class over English.

Last year, the SEI class at MHS was split between ability levels, with 20 basic English learners in Panter’s morning class and six intermediate level learners later in the day.

“The afternoon class always did better because it’s easier to separate them,” Panter said. “If you’re going to have this structure, it really needs to be super small.”

Emily Panter is the only SEI teacher at MHS. Photo by Michelle Chance

How are students placed in SEI classes?

Students are required to test in instances when their registration paperwork indicates they speak a second language at home, Panter said. Other times, teachers will refer students to testing.

Based on results, students are labeled pre-emergent, basic, intermediate or proficient. The first two categories require four hours of daily SEI study; intermediate requires two.

Destiny Cruz and her classmate Graciela Brambila, 15, spend four hours every school day under Panter’s instruction. For the past four years, Panter has developed the curriculum based on state standards and what her students need to succeed.

They take lessons on writing, reading, grammar and listening and speaking in English. Panter’s instruction includes lectures and lessons through technology platforms.

“For me, it was very hard the first day. It’s difficult because I don’t understand everything,” Brambila said.

Brambila and Cruz help each other in their traditional studies, like math, outside of their SEI classroom, where teachers usually do not instruct in Spanish.

MUSD desegregation funding divisive issue



This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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Destinee Cruz and Graciela Brambila spend four hours in Structured English Immersion each day. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance


Destinee Cruz is a sophomore at Maricopa High School with a life like most teenagers. She has a large circle of friends and is dedicated to her studies.

Born in Arizona, she moved with her family to Mexico at a young age and spent the next 13 years immersed in the culture and language.

Cruz’s return to the States, her birthplace, was met with obstacles inside the classroom, like navigating favorite subjects in a different language. But the challenge doesn’t keep Cruz from working toward her goal.

“I came back to study English,” she said.

Maricopa Unified School District receives $1.29 million annually to assist English Language Learners like Cruz.

That funding recently came under fire by state politicians, arguing the tax that delivers desegregation dollars to school districts like MUSD should be killed.

The debate began as the state shifted the funding responsibility from taxpayers statewide to those in districts that receive desegregation money. The change resulted in increased secondary property taxes for Maricopans.

That tax funds the program and salaries of 25 teachers who instruct ELL students.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Senate Bill 1529, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey and passed by the Legislature in May, alleges secondary property taxes “levied pursuant to this subsection do not require voter approval.”

State Rep. Mark Finchem (R – LD 11): “This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from one funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights.”

MUSD could join in a lawsuit with Pima County and Tucson Unified that would ask a judge to rule on the legality of the state’s action to change the desegregation funding source without a vote of the people.

Pinal County and the City of Maricopa have expressed solidarity with MUSD as news of the tax source broke – going so far as to publish a seething press release in August, stating in part: “The State Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional. The City of Maricopa, the Maricopa Unified School District and Pinal County did not raise your local property taxes. The state Legislature and the Governor did.”

No matter the funding source, the program remains active. And teachers in non-SEI classrooms who have ELL students said the program is invaluable.

Desert Wind Middle School instrumental music teacher Roger Wagner criticized the view of some politicians that desegregation funding should be ousted altogether.

State Sen. Steve Smith (R – LD 11): “[Desegregation funding] is a bad tax that the local level should eliminate and get rid of it altogether.”
“Beyond it being a tax issue, I think you may also have potentially a discrimination issue,” he said.

Wagner, one of thousands of Arizona teachers to support the #RedForEd movement earlier this year, expressed frustration with the governor and the Legislature, who have touted increasing teacher salaries – while also working to shift the burden of desegregation tax to the local level.

“You can’t light a house on fire and call 9-1-1 and be the hero,” Wagner said.

The faces of MHS desegregation funding



This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

submitted photo

 

A Maricopa Wells Middle School student film was a winner at the Show Low Film Festival this weekend.

“Kindness Equals Calm” was the Best Student Film award. The festival took place Oct. 12-14 in Lakeside featuring both short and feature films by independent filmmakers from around the world. The three-day event featured workshops from professionals, guest speakers, VIP events, and an awards ceremony.

The students who produced “Kindness Equals Calm” are Kaden Rogers (director), Zoie Zimpleman (actress, screenwriter), Thomas Abel (actor, storyboard editor), Rori Gosiak (head writer), Joseph Abel (camera 1) and Aubrey Pick (actress, assistant to the director, screenwriter).

The film is a comedy about a group of young people who embark on a weekend journey to Camp Shinebright with their overly enthusiastic therapist, played brilliantly by MUSD Butterfield Elementary teacher Liz Zimpleman.  The film was created during the 2017-18 school year as part of Blended Learning instructor Joe Szoltysik’s film class.

The students received their award on Sunday at the Hon-Dah Resort Casino Banquet Hall in Pinetop.

 

The MUSD Governing Board examined the duties and proposed salary of the new position of facilities/operations director in what ended up a split decision.

Setting salaries for newly created positions has been difficult for Maricopa Unified School District.

Torri Anderson

The district had posted a job opening for a “Coordinator of Communications and Social Media,” and then had to increase the compensation to get more qualified candidates. Tuesday, the issue was a revisit of the proposed pay for a “Director of Facilities & Operations.”

Board member Torri Anderson was emphatic that the base salary range of $76,650-$89,051 was too high. The full compensation package would cost the district $95,800-$111,400.

“We need to prove to the public that we need this position,” she said. “To start out at the top is concerning me.”

MUSD had a facilities director before the recession and budget cuts. Anderson said the facilities/operations director position should be re-created, but the board should come back later and adjust the salary as they did for the communications coordinator.

“I could swallow $65,000-$75,000 as the range,” Anderson said.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said he compared all the salaries for facilities directors in the range of school districts with 5,000 to 10,000 students. He said the 2016 number showed the median starting salary of $67,000. But, he said, MUSD is competing for employees with districts that can pay over $80,000.

“I’m fairly confident that you all, just like I do, want to see the very, very best candidate,” he said. “To get that, we have some serious things that we need to be addressing at this point in time, and we need somebody who’s going to hit the ground running.”

Saying she had already received many phone calls about the salary, Anderson said she feared it would impact the yearly Auditor General’s report, saying MUSD overpays its administrators. “I don’t need that headache at the grocery store.”

Board member Joshua Judd said he, too, had received “a lot of push-back” from community members and staff over the proposed salary. He also said he was concerned about the broadness of the job description.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the job does entail a lot. The director would be in charge of maintenance, custodial, grounds and safety such as installing appropriate locks and cameras.

“We’re positioning this to get some experience so that we are not starting at the entry level,” Lopeman said.

Board member Patti Coutré said she agreed with Beckett and Lopeman. “We have to put forth that investment to get a quality person.” She likened the position to putting in future infrastructure.

Joshua Judd

“Things are starting to fail on our new buildings that aren’t new anymore,” Coutré said. “

MUSD’s high school has already approached capacity. That and other growth indicators are signs the district may need new buildings in the next 5-10 years.

“I believe we are positioned right now with potentially coming to our voters asking for a bond issue for facilities,” Beckett said in making his case for hiring an experience facilities director.

Board members agreed the position is necessary.

“It’s definitely needed,” Board member Gary Miller said. “It’s definitely important to invest in the front end.”

Ultimately, Anderson and Judd were not convinced. They voted against the personnel line item in the 5-3 board approval.

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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.

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Submitted photo

For the third year, the Maricopa Wells Middle School Dance Team performed at Arizona Diamondbacks Dance Day on Sept. 23.

“The students danced with excellence and positively represented Maricopa Schools with their performance and with their behavior etiquette,” instructor Yvonne Palm said. “I am so proud of the students on this dance team and their accomplishments in this performance.”

The student also enjoyed the baseball game as the Diamondbacks hosted the Colorado Rockies. The MWMS Dance Team is comprised of 21 members.

A vague threat posted anonymously Monday night, apparently on Facebook, caused a larger police presence on the Maricopa High School campus this morning.

Maricopa Police Department cleared the campus overnight after parents used the department’s mobile app to alert them to the post.

MHS Principal Brian Winter sent a message to parents at 5:30 a.m. notifying them of the situation and noting that school would remain open.

“Although we are unable to determine the credibility of the threat, keeping you informed is our priority,” he stated.

The post used a 2012 evidence photo from the Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida, showing a hand holding a gun, an image from Martin’s cell phone. The superimposed phrase “MHS kids better not —- with me tomorrow” was followed by a smiley face emoji.

Winter asked students to leave their backpacks at home today. “Bags and large purses brought to school will be checked and stored with administration.” Students who stayed home were not penalized for the absence.

“We are still investigating this matter,” MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said. “We have reached out to FBI, the Mesa Fusion center and other intelligence-gathering agencies.”

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Photo by Brady Stamps

Maricopa High School hosted a comprehensive college and career day for all 12th grade students Sept. 18. The day began with a College and Career fair.

Photo by Brady Stamps

More than 35 representatives from colleges, universities, trade schools, the armed forces, and local business hosted tables with information and takeaways for the students. Students then progressed into a rotation of events including: College Applications, FAFSA and financial aid support, interview tips and basic employability skills, as well as specialty workshops from various career presenters ranging from Insurance and City Government to careers in automotive technology and agriculture.

The following colleges and universities supported students with Application Day: Arizona State University, Northern University, University of Arizona, Grand Canyon University, Central Arizona College, Yavapai College, Prescott College, Universal Technical Institute, and New Mexico State University.

Community representatives included: Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and Jamie Westmiller, Ahwatukee Realty with Shylo Carr, Courtny Tyler with State Farm, Tena Dugan and Napa Auto Parts, City of Maricopa, Maricopa Police Department, Maricopa Fire Department, Sandra Zires with CAC and the SUNDT trades program, Veronika Mosely with CAC Health programs, and Carrie Vargas with Miss City of Maricopa and Miss Arizona Scholarship Program.

The military was represented by recruiters from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corp, U.S. Army, U.S. Army National Guard, and U.S. Air Guard. Additional guests included Eastern Arizona College, University of Advancing Technology, Eastern and Western New Mexico Universities, Southwest University of Visual Arts, Ottawa University, the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, Benedictine University and Commercial Divers, Inc.

Students appreciated the opportunity to spend an entire day immersed in these highly relevant topics. Senior Anthony Morris appreciated the event: “I learned how to write a college [admissions] essay and a lot about FAFSA.” Senior Latayvia Ross would like to see more events including a job fair and “more days like this.”

 

Patti Coutre and Ben Owens will have seats on next year's MUSD Governing Board.

 

A longtime board member and one newcomer will fill two vacancies on the local school board, according to county documents.

Incumbent Patti Coutré and Ben Owens were elected to the Maricopa Unified School District by appointment Wednesday.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors canceled the regular general elections for certain political subdivisions, including MUSD’s, where candidates were vying for unopposed seats.

The Board approved a resolution effectively electing the candidates during a meeting Sept. 5.

It will be Coutré’s third term behind the dais. Coutré previously served three of her eight years on the board as president.

Coutré thanked the community for choosing her to represent them during her last two terms.

“My goal is, and always has been, that every student receives the best education and is fully prepared for their future whether it is college, career, military service or life,” Coutré said in a statement.

Owens, an active MUSD parent and volunteer, said he’s excited to bring a parental perspective to the board in January.

“I believe that we’ve got a great school district and I just want to help us be the best district in Arizona,” Owens said.

A North Dakota native, Owens and his family have lived in Maricopa for the past four years.

Owens will take the seat of Vice President Gary Miller, who announced he would not seek re-election earlier this year.

The MUSD Governing Board discusses desegregation funds. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

School district leaders could join a lawsuit against the state Legislature.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board discussed the possibility during a meeting Aug. 22.

The issue revolves around desegregation funding changes initiated by the state without including a vote by the people.

It resulted in increased secondary property taxes for Maricopa homeowners. Read more about that here.

MUSD, the City of Maricopa and Pinal County published a joint press release alleging the unconstitutionality of the new law.

Future action against the Legislature would likely happen in partnership with another school district.

Tucson Unified School District also receives desegregation funding. It voted unanimously last week to authorize a lawsuit.

Should the suit be filed, both plaintiff districts would face declaratory judgment action litigation, according to MUSD Board Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt.

That means a judge would determine whether the secondary property tax increase is – or is not – legal.

Board Member Torri Anderson said she’d support MUSD joining suit if Tucson files.

“On the constitutional side, me as a taxpayer, I want to pursue that,” Anderson said.

The impact to local homeowners is central to the controversy.

The desegregation tax alone would cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

However, Lowell-Britt said the overall estimated difference in the secondary property tax from last year to this year is projected to be only $0.12 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

City Manager Rick Horst, who attended the school board meeting Wednesday, said this is due to market behavior that mitigate the deseg tax.

Anderson argued the lowered projected cost figure on tax bills doesn’t lessen her belief that the law was enacted illegally.

MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the $1.29 million in desegregation funds the district receives “ensures we meet the needs of our beautiful and diverse student population.”

The district has received deseg funds since 1994 after a complaint the year prior alleging access and equality issues for limited English proficient students.

That money pays 25 teacher salaries and other programs for English Language Learners.

 

Sgt. Hal Koozer models uniform for MPD's new Community Response Team. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

A discussion that began earlier this year, after a shooter entered the halls of a Florida school and killed 17 students and staff members, evolved into possible action Wednesday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board and the Maricopa Police Department discussed installing video cameras on school campuses.

Those cameras would stream live feeds 24/7 directly to MPD’s dispatch center.

The proposal is contingent on a $300,000 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applied for in July by the police department.

Sequoia Pathway Academy is also reportedly partnering with MPD and MUSD in the quest for that money from the Department of Justice.

“Everything on that video feed is evidence – it belongs to the police department and is stored with MPD once it becomes an investigation,” Stahl said.

Fearing a “police-state” operation inside schools, MUSD board members expressed some hesitancy on the camera topic.

Stahl explained MPD does not have the resources to monitor the feeds. Live recordings would only be accessed when the dispatch center was alerted to an emergency.

Recordings would be stored in the cloud and deleted after 48 hours.

Local schools would not be alone in turning to surveillance video for safety solutions, Stahl said.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida installed additional security cameras on campus after the mass shooting.

In March, MPD and local schools hosted a school-safety forum to answer community questions. Beefing up campus safety has been discussed in meetings that have dotted the agendas of Stahl and MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman throughout the summer.

Those brainstorm sessions produced other ideas on how to spend the grant money in addition to the cameras.

The development of a cell phone app would give students the option of anonymously texting the police department in the case of suspicious activity.

Grant money would also likely fund the installation of classroom door locks, according to Lopeman and Stahl. But digital and mechanical measures weren’t the only solutions discussed.

School and police leaders will add manpower to school safety measures. Law enforcement muscle is commonly sought by districts through Student Resource Officers who provide education and protection on campus.

With city and school funding tight, there is only one SRO at MUSD – and the COPS grant does not support staffing.

“We started brainstorming a new program,” Stahl said. “It’s called the Community Response Team.”

Five officers, led by MPD Sgt. Hal Koozer, will soon cycle through neighborhoods that house schools nearby.

Stahl said the team will provide a quick response to campus emergencies. The team will also visit children at bus stops and make surprise appearances at lunchtime to encourage trust between students and officers.

Their presence around town will increase once Maricopa feels relief from summer temperatures, Stahl said.

The schools should learn whether their effort to receive grant money was successful sometime in October, Stahl said.

If MUSD is awarded the money, Lopeman said students, parents and staff will have a say within the Safety Committee, which is planned to convene in the next 90 days.

 

 

Submitted by Rep. Mark Finchem

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

On Aug. 15, a news release was circulated by the City of Maricopa that claimed, “The Arizona Legislature Increased your Taxes,” going on to say, “the Arizona Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 1529, which significantly changed school funding in selected districts across the state.” At least the press release got that part right, but a significant element of the truth was conspicuously missing.

For decades school districts have received “Desegregation supplemental funding” from both local property taxes (by way of the Primary Property Tax) and from the State General Fund. SB 1529, moved the desegregation supplemental funding from the Primary Property Tax load, to the Secondary Property Tax load, making those school districts who have been collecting Desegregation supplemental funding from the state, accountable for the use of the money to school district residents affected.

When the Legislature first began supplementing local school districts with gap-funding it was an arrangement to ease the strain on local budgets caused by the taxpayer approved 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and the arrangement was to be temporary. Over the years, the urgency to solve segregation was replaced with a sense of entitlement continuation, even though the money was intended to end segregation. In the case of MUSD, the only reason the State has funded desegregation is to address Maricopa’s property tax collection, that is over the 1 percent tax cap. Those school districts that are not over the 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and are under an OCR order to desegregate have never received money from the State, (Phoenix Union is an example). This a problem because the Pinal County and City of Maricopa governmental bodies have made it a problem with their spending habits.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, LD-11 Representatives Vince Leach and Mark Finchem asked about questions generated by the State Auditor General posed to then MUSD School Superintendent Steve Chestnut, “Where is $1,000,000 annually sent to MUSD going; what are you spending it on since after all of these years you have not achieved ‘unitary status’ (desegregation?” His response was short and illustrative of the condition of financial management in many school districts. He simply said, “I don’t know.” In fact, the Superintendent had to check with the Office of Civil Rights to find out how the money was supposed to be spent.

If desegregation has not ended, one is left to ask the tough question, why not? Is it a lack of political will? Or is it that desegregation has been achieved, but the school districts want to keep the tap open and taxpayer money flowing without accountability?

The News Release [also] claims, “The State Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional.” This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from on funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The truth is that with SB 1529, Arizona’s poorer, rural counties are no longer be asked to pay for the inability of allegedly segregated school districts to achieve desegregation, called “unitary status’ by the DOJ, OCR. It is important to emphasize, the money has been set aside for the highly specific purpose of desegregation. And while the News Release claims, “The responsibility for this new tax lies with the State Legislature and the Governor,” the real responsibility lies with the body that spends the money, not with the one that provides the funding.

The salient question for the residents of the City of Maricopa to ask is, “Why has MUSD desegregation not been achieved, is it because of a lack of political will to make the changes needed to desegregate?” Could it be that desegregation has already been achieved and the money is now redirected to another use? Or is it just shear incompetence on behalf of those who are supposed to be stewards of the public funds?

SB 1529 has corrected an inequity, namely taxation without representation. Arizona City residents don’t want to pay MUSD taxes for desegregation when they have precious few dollars for their own children education. It is indeed curious that the Board of Supervisors should have been told by their staff that not all the Desegregation Districts have a 1-percent cap tax problem, and that no state money flows to them thru the supplement, but only to those districts that are evading the vote of the voters that came from SB 1080, a vote to limit taxation on property to 1 percent.

Might it have something to do with the county rate of 3.75 percent (among the highest in the state) and the City of Maricopa at 5 percent (very high if not the highest city rate), leaving only 1.25 percent for CAC and MUSD to fight over?  We, of course, know they don’t–so all collectively go over the 1 percent cap-leaving the shortage for the rest of the state taxpayers to make up.  And the State gets the blame because local taxing jurisdictions can’t or won’t curtail spending?

The time has come for residents of the district to hold their locally elected school board officials, City and even County elected officials accountable for what they are doing with the tax dollars that they have been entrusted with.

Additional information can be found at http://www.arizonatax.org/sites/default/files/publications/position_papers/deseg_handout_1.pdf


Mark Finchem, a Republican, represents LD 11 in the Arizona House of Representatives.

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The City of Maricopa issued a statement that lashed out against state lawmakers this week, blaming the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey for tax increases expected to show up on the next property tax bill for Maricopa homeowners.

The raise in secondary property taxes in Maricopa will cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value, according to a City Hall press release published Aug. 15.

The release was published on behalf of the City of Maricopa, Pinal County and Maricopa Unified School District, said City Manager Rick Horst.

What does the tax do?

The local tax pays for desegregation funding utilized by MUSD to hire qualified teachers, implement extra support for English Language Learners and other programming.

Nearly 20 Arizona school districts receive this money to aid in compliance with an order from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to remediate alleged or proven racial discrimination, according to statute.

MUSD has received desegregation funding since approximately the late 1990s, according to one school official.

The new law shifts the cost burden, previously assigned to taxpayers statewide, to homeowners who live in school districts that receive desegregation dollars.

It’s an issue complicated by Arizona’s complex tax system that mandates a 1 percent property tax cap. The state used to backfill those funds cut off by the cap. Now it’s up to resident homeowners.

Local pushback against the tax

The city says the shift in responsibility is unlawful because voters didn’t get a say.

Nancy Smith (City of Maricopa photo)

“The state Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional,” the press release stated.

Mayor Christian Price deferred comment on the subject to Councilmember Nancy Smith.

Smith said Pinal County, the City of Maricopa and Arizona school districts, including MUSD, will analyze the possibilities of legal options to appeal the tax.

Other alternative solutions include restructuring school funding and more dialogue with state legislators.

“We simply ask our state Legislature to come to the table with us to increase communication and allow us to help solve complex issues,” Smith said.

Smith has been a vocal critic of the Legislature, which, she said, often balances its budget “on the backs of towns, cities, counties,” and now school districts.

Smith said those decisions by the state force local governments to determine how to adapt increased costs passed down to them, often taking the form of tax increases.

“We believe it is disingenuous when we hear statements that indicate that our state budget has been passed without raising taxes, when in truth a portion of their budget has been passed to local governments,” Smith said.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved the tax unanimously during a special meeting Wednesday – with some reluctance. 

 “I join with my fellow electeds in the City of Maricopa and Maricopa Unified School District as far as protesting this particular new tax,” said Supervisor Anthony Smith, husband of Nancy Smith. 

State lawmakers double down on tax legality

Senate Bill 1529, signed by Ducey and passed by the Legislature in May, alleges secondary property taxes “levied pursuant to this subsection do not require voter approval.”

State Rep. Mark Finchem (LD 11) maintained the tax’s legality in an opinion piece sent to InMaricopa Thursday.

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

“This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from one funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights,” Finchem wrote.

Desegregation funding has long been a thorn in many state lawmakers’ sides, with previous, unsuccessful efforts to alleviate the state’s funding portion in the past.

“This issue was on the table long before the now very successful 20×2020 was finalized,” said Rep. Vince Leach (LD 11) regarding Ducey’s teacher salary-raise plan included in this year’s state budget.

Leach suggested lowering local government spending and tax rates to fix the problem.

Sen. Steve Smith

State Sen. Steve Smith (LD 11) questioned how districts spend the money and whether those funds are necessary.

Smith said a solution to the tax debacle is simple: Strike out desegregation funding.

“It’s a bad tax that the local level should eliminate and get rid of it altogether,” Smith said.

MUSD: Desegregation funds crucial to success for every student

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman

District officials said the funding keeps classroom sizes manageable, provides

programming that aids in closing student achievement gaps and is necessary for teaching positions that primarily serve English Language Learners.

The district receives approximately $1.29 million annually in desegregation monies that fund the salaries of about 25 teachers throughout nine schools, according to Superintendent Tracey Lopeman.

“It would be devastating if we lost that funding,” Lopeman said.

Photos by Michelle Chance

Breakfast treats and coffee, donated by Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, greeted Maricopa High School teachers as they returned to campus July 17. New Principal Brian Winter took to the lecture hall stage early Tuesday morning to discuss school goals, including improving the culture and perception of MHS. Administration and staff are beginning a new school-year calendar, with the first day of school beginning for students July 23.

 

Most children in Maricopa schools will return to class sooner than usual this year. The Maricopa Unified School District approved a calendar change that will send students back to campus July 23.

The first day of school for charters Sequoia Pathway Academy and Legacy Traditional School will also be July 23. Leading Edge Academy begins Aug. 6.

MUSD

Along with adopting a new calendar that will give students two weeks off each in the fall, winter and spring, the district this year will also implement a new English Language Arts curriculum in each of its nine schools.

Maricopa High School

The district’s only high school welcomes 20 new teachers to campus, along with Principal Brian Winter and Assistant Principal Michelle Poppen. MHS offers three new courses: Anatomy and physiology, statistics and probability, and an intervention program for algebra 1. New Athletic Director Jake Neill, who oversees sports for the entire district, will help introduce swimming as a fall sport at MHS.

The high school’s credit recovery program, Ram Academy, begins its second year of instruction.

Maricopa Wells Middle School

Jason Szoltysik is the junior high’s new assistant principal.

“He brings many years of educational experience, and he is going to be great for our students and overall campus,” said Principal Thad Miller.

Butterfield Elementary

Four new teachers join the Bobcats this school year. The elementary is in the third year of its Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) discipline system. Principal Janel Hildick said Arizona State University will train Butterfield staff how to implement calming corners, “which help students who may be suffering from anxiety or emotional stress.”

Maricopa Elementary

Designated as a “Leader in Me” Lighthouse school this spring, MES adds four new classrooms, which is expected to decrease class sizes. The majority of teaching staff returns, and its administrators are hoping veteran educators will help newer teachers implement the “7 habits of highly effective people” and Leader in Me program in each classroom.

Pima Butte Elementary

A number of teachers got a head start this summer training on the materials for the district’s new ELA curriculum, according to Principal Randy Lazar. The school adds a new second grade teacher, a Title 1 paraprofessional and an academic coach. Pima Butte will share Teacher on Special Assignment Elizabeth Allison with Santa Rosa Elementary.

Santa Rosa Elementary

The grade school follows Butterfield’s lead in implementing the PBIS discipline program. “The goal of PBIS implementation is explicitly teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them,” said Principal Eva Safranek.

Santa Rosa welcomes back the WATCH D.O.G.S. program for the second year. The Dads of Great Students initiative provides fathers opportunities to be involved in their children’s education.

NOTE: Ram Academy, Desert Wind Middle School, Saddleback Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary did not submit school updates.

Charter Schools

Leading Edge Academy

Expected to reach full capacity, LEA and its 815 students welcome a new music teacher from Maryland, a full-time math coach and a new special education teacher. The elementary adds additional recess time for students in kindergarten through fifth grade with a new shade overhang on the playground. A supplemental K-2 math program and an expanded technology program will also be implemented.

NOTE: Sequoia Pathway Academy, Legacy Traditional School, Camino Montessori and Holsteiner Agricultural School did not submit school updates.


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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.

Bernadette Russoniello

By Bernadette Russoniello

Since the early 2000s, educational policy has placed increasing expectations on accountability through testing. Conversely, our public universities in Arizona chose to make admissions tests optional. Students can gain admittance to Arizona’s big three universities without a qualifying test score. What is the significance of traditional college admissions testing and why does it matter?

Regardless of whether a university requires a test score, the answer is, “Yes,” your test scores matter, and you need to plan and prepare to do your best on these exams. The majority of scholarships students earn are based on academic merit, a combination of grades, course rigor and test scores. If you or your child want free money for college, then preparing and studying for admissions testing is a must.

The SAT, developed by the College Board, a private, nonprofit organization, originally tested a student’s aptitude for the rigors of college. The assessment helped prestigious and exclusive colleges across the United States determine if a potential applicant had the skills requisite for success. Since the 1990s, the mission of the SAT changed to promote excellence, access and equity in education, connecting students to college success and opportunity.

The suites of assessments offered by the College Board, including the PSAT and PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10, offer students the ability to predict AP potential and connect students at younger ages to universities and colleges matching their interests and abilities.

The ACT (American College Testing) originally offered a variant to the “traditional” aptitude testing of the SAT. The ACT was designed to measure what a typical high school junior should know and be able to do, across subject areas including mathematics, reading comprehension, language and scientific reasoning.

For decades, universities aligned with one test philosophy or another. The standard now is that all universities accept either test for admissions.

At Maricopa High School, we encourage students to take both exams. You never know which test you will perform better on. Many students report that the SAT feels harder than the ACT, but often students score better on the SAT than the ACT. Both exams take three hours and a Saturday morning to test. Exams are offered nearly every month at schools around the state. Registration is done entirely online, and each test costs $46. Fee waivers are available through school counselors for students qualifying for the National School Lunch Program or receiving other forms of public assistance.

Increasingly, competitive universities (schools that accept fewer than 35 percent of applicants) require SAT subject tests. The SAT subject test is a course-specific assessment that demonstrates a student’s credential within that field. SAT subject tests help competitive schools determine program readiness and course placement.

Students need to research admission requirements to their schools of interest and be ready to meet those expectations.

Bernadette Russoniello is the Career and College coordinator at Maricopa High School. She can be reached at BRussoniello@MUSD20.com.


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Back to school

Members of the Maricopa High School band continued to perform during the summer in preparation for an early start to the school year.

 

It will still be July when students return to class in the Maricopa Unified School District, Legacy Traditional and Sequoia Pathway this year.

In exchange for an expedited first day of school, kids will get to spend an additional week off during fall, winter and spring breaks.

The changes at MUSD come as part of a modified calendar adopted by the school Governing Board in early 2017. The district operated an additional year under its traditional calendar to give families and staff time to plan ahead. The two charter schools then chose to follow suit.

Back in 2017, parents voiced concern about childcare during the extended breaks and how the July start-date would negatively affect teen workers with summer jobs.

Others are not worried.

“As a stay-at-home mom, (the new schedule) doesn’t really affect our family,” said Karen Fortunato. “Our family is pretty excited about the changes.”

Some educators in the district are also pleased.

Kathy Fuentes, special education teacher at Saddleback Elementary School, has experience working under the modified calendar in another district.

She loved it then and is looking forward to spending more time off in the cooler weather months of October and March.

“It also gives families a week to take care of doctor appointments and other business and then a week, or so, to rest and relax,” Fuentes said.

A sixth-grade teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School, Rachael Isenberg, also likes the additional time she’ll have to schedule appointments and travel.

Isenberg was on the district calendar committee and deliberated the reasons why the district should adopt the new schedule.

“We considered things like getting kids out of the worst of the heat and continuity of curriculum and instruction,” Isenberg said.

But the committee also looked at how the extended breaks could benefit educators and families.

Isenberg said teachers often spent the one-week vacations in waiting rooms – cramming in medical appointments during break to avoid missing a day of school.

She said the extended breaks could alleviate that.

Even with its benefits, teachers said the new schedule doesn’t come without a degree of adaptation, especially with summer break.

“For me, it has already made the summer feel shorter,” said Desert Wind music teacher Roger Wagner, who said marching band camp begins one week before staff returns to school

Many educators like Alicia Chin, a science teacher a Maricopa High School, teach summer school and participate in curriculum planning well into June.

School begins July 23.

“I will only be able to take a couple weeks to myself before I need to be back to work again preparing for next year,” Chin said.

MHS Music Director Ivan Pour called the schedule changes “minimal,” although the fall break is in the middle of marching band season.

Beginning school in July means the marching band will have more time overall to rehearse, but Pour said he will have to reconfigure his spring programming because of the new schedule.

“A calendar is a calendar and it is the same number of (school) days,” Pour said, adding, “I think, ultimately, it will allow for more intentional teaching throughout the school year with less progress lost in summer. But it will take some getting used to.”


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Average teacher pay at Maricopa Unified School District according to budget numbers. Salaries actually vary widely depending on each teacher's experience and advanced education.

Teacher raises and competitive compensation plans for new employees are included in the proposed budget approved for Maricopa’s public school system Wednesday.

Maricopa Unified School District’s $54 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19 was unanimously approved June 28, but Governing Board Vice President Gary Miller questioned whether the district could realistically maintain those salary increases included in the compensation plans beyond this school year.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett argued increased enrollment growth projected in the district and commitment from the state Legislature as two funding sources.

Gov. Doug Ducey approved this year funding to Arizona school districts that would allow up to a 10-percent pay increase for teachers after educators held walk-outs in the #RedForEd movement.

Teachers are also slated to receive an additional 10-percent increase by 2020 from the state.

MUSD received more than $1 million from the state this year for teachers, but the board approved raises for administrators, classified staff, transportation and employees in health and related services at a cost to the district of about $2.6 million.

Future funding from the state will have to be approved during annual budget sessions.

“So, what I’m hearing from your prediction is that the Legislature will keep their promise and, between that and our growth projections, then this will be sustainable?” Miller asked.

Beckett said he couldn’t give that assurance but speculated that even if the state backed off from its commitment to continuously increase teacher pay, funding from the district’s swelling enrollment would likely cover the loss.

Administrative and classified employee raises this year are covered almost entirely by enrollment dollars alone, Beckett said.

Beckett predicted the new compensation plans for future employees will attract and retain teachers.

Under the proposed 2019 budget, the average salary of all teachers will be $47,748 – an increase of more than $4,000 from last year’s average.

“I think this will position us, at least for the next few years, to go to places like California, the Midwest, and be able to present a real salary that is going to be attractive to our people, especially to our teachers,” Beckett told the Board.

The budget also allows for the purchase of one regular route school bus and a special education route bus.

A public hearing will be held during the Board’s next meeting July 11 before the final budget is approved and forwarded to the Arizona Department of Education.

Photo by Michelle Chance

From Maricopa High School


Attn: Parents of Maricopa High School Students

Maricopa High School is gearing up for the 2018-2019 school year. We will be starting our modified calendar school year making our summer shorter and preparing for student arrival.

Avoid the RUSH and take advantage of registering your “new” student(s) during the week of July 2. Our registrar’s office will be available to help you with that last minute registration(s).

July 3, 7am-11am

July 5-6, noon-3pm

July 9-12,  for returning students during student check-in

July 16, and beyond during regular office hours.

Appointments can be scheduled by contacting Danielle Byers at dbyers@musd20.org.

As we do every year, we have a week of “Student Check-In”. This is the time parents and students use to pick-up schedules (already enrolled students), speak with a counselor regarding any issue with their schedule; update health records with our site nurse; get their new ID that is a requirement for students to be on campus and also pay fees that may be associated with their schedules (Elective classes have fees). Please visit our Maricopa High School website at: http://mhs.maricopausd.org/ to see what day and time each grade level should plan to attend check-in.

Parents, please note that we are only set up for payment to accept cash or check. Unfortunately, we are not able to do debit/credit.

We hope that you’re enjoying your summer and we look forward to having our students back on campus, and ready to go July 23.

Heidi Vratil, professional development coach at Maricopa Unified School District, is a National Board-certified teacher. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

Heidi Vratil began her career 22 years ago teaching in the special education department of Maricopa Unified School District’s middle and high schools.

“It wasn’t like now where we have a resource room for students with learning disabilities and a self-contained room for students with emotional disabilities,” Vratil said. “Everybody was all one.”

Vratil adapted to the district, so small at the time, and spent her career working to advance the experience of its teachers and students.

She quickly ascended to SPED director, the district’s first Human Resources director and then returned to a middle school classroom for a time before eventually taking a position in the district office as a professional development coach.

This school year, Vratil has been a Maricopa High School assistant principal. After time spent on leave, she returned with new responsibilities focusing on the school’s activities and facilities.

MHS experienced a difficult year in its administrative team, with two resignations causing reshuffling and frustration among staff, students and parents.

Next year, the district’s athletic director Brian Winter will take over as principal, and Vratil said the high school administration aims to stay the same by the end of the school year in 2019.

Heidi Vratil (right) presents an award to Haley Petersheim during Senior Awards Night.

“The team that we have in place has the skills, the dispositions, the beliefs to grow this place to be a ‘B’ school and then to be an ‘A’ school,” Vratil said.

Vratil’s tenure at MUSD, in general, is a practice in curiosity and drive.

“Her career exemplifies her willingness to learn and to take risks at new things,” said longtime colleague Bernadette Russoniello.

Vratil is a National Board-certified teacher and spearheaded an effort to encourage MUSD teachers to tackle the ambitious certification.

“Watching teachers grow in their own fields, in their own practice – that’s the best because then their impact on kids is greater and that ultimately is what we’re here for,” Vratil said.

Fifty-five district teachers are pursuing board certification under Vratil’s guidance — granting MUSD the highest percentage in that category in the state. Five teachers are now certified at the highest level an educator can achieve, according to Vratil.

Vratil compares the process to the rigor of earning a master’s degree.

“These teachers have gone through a structured, rigorous process to prove their practice against others in our country,” Vratil said, adding, “The biggest thing that I see different is the common language, the way they know their kids and how to teach them and being reflective about their practice.”

Vratil also brought the teacher-mentoring program to MHS and the district’s two middle schools. Through this initiative, every rookie teacher is assigned a mentor for guidance.

Jennifer Miller is one of those mentors. She credits Vratil with having a profound impact on her profession by habitually pushing teachers out of their comfort zones.

“…Vratil is one of the most passionate educators I know. She is all about helping teachers be the best versions of themselves,” Miller said.

After a tumultuous year at the high school, Vratil said she considered looking outside the district for another opportunity. She decided to stay to nurture the educators growing in their professions.

“I don’t have a definition of what it looks like to be done,” Vratil said. “I just know that I’m not.”


This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.