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The Maricopa Unified School District indicates it is on track implementing override funds despite fighting the tide of a state-wide teacher shortage, and a few hiccups with the formation of an alternative school.

The first of the initiatives tied to the override funds – the purchase of new computers and electronic curriculum enhancements — has experienced little to no difficulty in implementation, according to MUSD superintendent Dr. Steve Chestnut.

The other two initiatives – the establishment of an alternative school for credit-deficient and non-traditional students, and the hiring of 50 new faculty to reduce student to teacher ratios – have experienced a few hold ups.

As for the alternative school, the Ram Academy, MUSD was able to secure a site at Maricopa High School and staff the program, save for one science teaching position. Chestnut said the district hopes to accommodate up to 120 students at the Ram Academy. The first year it will likely see only about 100, and administrators hope to build from there.

“I’m optimistic,” Chestnut said.  “[MHS Principal] Renita Meyers is on it, and I think we’re going to get there.”

The district started sending letters in January to family members of credit-deficient students who will be juniors or seniors next year, Chestnut said. A follow-up letter is going out to those same students in the next week or so. After that, phone calls will be made to non-respondents.

As for the 50 new teachers, the district has filled 41 of those positions created by the override, Chestnut said. Furthermore, he feels despite other non-override positions being vacated, the district is on track to fill all 50 positions in time for the start of the school year next August.

Maricopa, like the rest of Arizona, suffers from lower than average faculty retention rates, and as the 41 positions were being filled over the past four months, another 24 were vacated due to assorted personal reasons including retirement.

“This is the time of year when people start to make plans for next year,” Chestnut said. “We always have attrition like any school district.”

Currently, with the nine vacant override positions and the 24 vacant positions, MUSD has 33 positions to fill by next fall, a fact that doesn’t seem to have Chestnut concerned.

“In some years, we hire up to 50 certified people anyway,” Chestnut said.

He went on to say the number of vacancies could grow as more teachers begin to prepare for next year. However, Chestnut said, the MUSD’s director of Human Resources Tom Beckett has participated in numerous job fairs throughout Arizona, as well as three fairs out of state, to promote MUSD and he is confident the positions will get filled.

The voter-approved budget override measure passed last November will generate enough revenue to implement three new initiatives within the district, each aimed at improving the quality of education.

Anyone interested in learning more about those positions or other opportunities of employment within the district is encouraged to contact the Maricopa Unified School District.

Kindergarten teacher Brad Davis talks about class sizes at Santa Rosa Elementary.

Large class sizes have been a concern at Maricopa Unified School District, and were a compelling reason for the voter-approved override. Santa Rosa Elementary has particularly felt the stress of growing student numbers.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut, Principal Eva Safranek and teacher Brad Davis spoke with InMaricopa about how the additional funds will impact the school and the district.


Dec. 9, MUSD officially began its recruitment efforts for the upcoming school year.  The district has committed to hiring 50 new teachers and instructional staff members for the 2017-2018 school year.  The district is asking for support from the community and encouraging all internal and external stakeholders to share the news with family, friends and professional acquaintances.

As part of this effort, the District will be hosting a Job Fair on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the District’s Administrative Office Building located at 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway in Maricopa from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Administrators and supervisors will be present to discuss opportunities and also to conduct interviews for projected openings.

Interested candidates should access the District’s online application at https://musd20.tedk12.com/hire/index.aspx and complete the appropriate application prior to the Job Fair.

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On the eve of a national election voting Americans who have yet to cast an early ballot will soon approach polls all across the country to decide on what some are considering to be one of the most divisive contests in American political history — Clinton or Trump.

At both the state and federal levels, Arizonans have the potential to make history and turn their traditionally red state into a blue one. They also have the potential to introduce dramatic socioeconomic changes in the form of recreational marijuana legalization and an increase in state minimum wage to $12 an hour by the year 2020.

Tuesday, Maricopans will be deciding these and other measures that may have grand effects on the government and education systems alike. One such measure is the proposed education budget override.

The Maricopa Unified School District override is designed to add technological resources, staff and faculty. Residents in Maricopa have become aware of the budget woes within the school system, and some have begun to take cautionary measures to guarantee their children receive a quality education.

Speaking on terms of anonymity a parent of a Santa Rosa Elementary student informed InMaricopa his child was in a classroom of 45 students with only one teacher and no aide. He said after it became clear their child’s grades began to suffer as a result of the overcrowded classroom they began considering alternatives, such as home school.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut doesn’t deny there is a problem, and recognizes that teachers in the district are on average instructing classes larger than normal.

“Class size is a big deal in our district and it’s larger than we want it to be,” Chestnut said. “That’s one of the primary reasons we have an override on the ballot.”

The override, in his view, will essentially pad the school district’s budget so it can hire as many as 50 new teachers to accommodate the excess of students. With a larger faculty the district will not only be able to reduce the student to teacher ratio in core curriculum classes but also be able to offer additional elective classes at the secondary level.

“It is true that we have some really large classes,” Chestnut said. “I get it, but we can make them smaller.

In 2015 Arizona’s public schools had an average classroom size above the national average of 16.1 students per teacher, with 18.6. That same year, MUSD saw teachers instructing classrooms with an average of 21.8 students. For the 2016-17 school year so far, the average class sizes can be as high as 33 students in some high-school level core classes, and as low as 22 in some first grade classes.

Some education critics cite graduation rates to grade the effectiveness of educational institutions, and then by comparing those numbers with teachers’ incomes, correlate a causality. However, statistics show this may not be true.

In 2015 MUSD had a graduation rate at 85 percent, 9 percent higher than the national average, and an average annual teacher’s salary of $45,262, an amount almost on par with the state average of $46,000. In comparison, Arizona’s neighbor to the north Nevada had a graduation rate at 71 percent in 2014, almost 10 percent less than MUSD, and paid its teachers on average 20 percent more, $55,000 annually.

The district claims the expanded budget will bring new teachers but it will also allow for the hiring of more support staff, like counselors and librarians, and will include money to aid the development of technological learning measures which may have a greater bearing on the quality of education than salaries alone. This extra money plays into what is arguably the most import number in the equation — per pupil spending.

According to the Arizona Auditor General’s annual report for 2015, per pupil spending within the MUSD was $300 less than the Arizona state average of $9,057. Furthermore, a 2015 report from the National Education Association puts the national per pupil spending average at almost $12,000. Nevada, by comparison, spends on average $8,411 per student, $300 less than Arizona.

If the override passes, Chestnut believes it’s easy to see how it will affect students. He said “$1.3 million, divide that by 6,500 students, that’s $200 per student.”

This year’s heated election cycle has pushed the topic of education to the back burner for many Americans, but for Maricopans it still could lie at the forefront of their agenda.

Gary Miller

By Gary Miller

Recently I had a conversation about the Maricopa Unified School District (MUSD) override with a constituent named Ed. Ed is a retired college pitching coach living on a fixed income.During our conversation, he threw me straightforward questions and provided me with encouraging words in support of local education. Ed pointed out that for the community to vote yes it needed to have trust in MUSD and the Governing Board to spend the money as proposed. Ed expressed that he was interested to know how much revenue would be generated and exactly how the revenue would be appropriated.

As a Governing Board member, I, too, believe that, “We the People,” taxpayers, have a right to know how much revenue will be generated and exactly how the tax revenue will be appropriated. As I informed Ed, if approved, the 10 percent, seven-year override would help MUSD provide students with more opportunities to achieve academic excellence when competing with districts that already have an override in place. If approved, the annual cost would be $133 per $100,000 of assessed value. I assured Ed that the revenue generated couldn’t be spent until the Governing Board appropriated the funds and the use of the funds has already been identified.

If approved, the override funds will be used in two ways:

1. 50 Additional Teaching Positions
•    Elementary Schools – 24 teachers for class size reduction
•    Middle Schools – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs
•    Maricopa High School – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs. 7 teachers will be hired for a new alternative program.
•    3 Elementary Counselors
•    2 Instructional Technology Integration Teachers
•    1 Elementary Teacher on Special Assignment
•    1 Elementary/Middle School Librarian

2. Additional Instructional Technology for Students
•    595 student laptops
•    17 locked computer carts with charging stations
•    1 tech support staff member
•    Computer Licensing
•    Technology Equipment and Supplies
•    Instructional Technology Professional Development for teachers

Personally, my passion is to help improve health-related quality of life in the community.  I shared with Ed that the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) calculates approximately one in five youth experiences a diagnosable mental health condition. I explained to Ed how the district currently has only one elementary counselor who can provide service to students that are in need at the district’s six elementary schools (there is a second elementary counselor than can only work with Special Education students). If approved, the MUSD override will provide funds for three additional elementary counselors to help improve the mental health of elementary school students.

Ed expressed to me that he and his wife will vote yes for the MUSD override. An old saying, “If you think the cost of education is expensive then wait until you see what ignorance will cost us,” helped Ed to convince his wife to vote yes.

I extend a great big “thank you” to Ed and to his wife for their trust and for their yes vote. For those of you reading this, I hope you, too, if you haven’t already, will vote yes for the MUSD override.


Gary Miller is an MUSD Governing Board member

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Ben Owens

By Ben Owens

For the past several years, MUSD 20 has just been getting by. Class sizes are continually growing and, in many cases, have surpassed what most people would consider an effective learning environment. For example, last year some kindergarten classes had over 30 students in them. Our children deserve better!

This is where the community can help. Voting “YES” on the override will help our kids directly by lowering class sizes and offering expanded learning opportunities. “YES” will also greatly expand the technology available to our students and the know-how to integrate that technology. By passing the override, each student in MUSD 20 will be positively affected and will ultimately be better prepared for college and life.

The residents of Maricopa stand at a cross roads and are being asked to make our community better. Together, let’s show the children of our community they are worth the investment. Maricopa is a great place to live and raise a family, but together we can make it better. Voting “YES” will help equip the children of our community with the smaller class sizes and the technology they deserve. Their future depends on us!

Please vote “YES” on the override on Nov. 8.


Ben Owens is a resident of Maricopa, parent of two and site council president of Santa Rosa Elementary.

Jackie Gonzalez

By Jackie Gonzalez

It seems that you cannot swing a dead political polecat without landing on someone who is for or against the Maricopa Unified School District override. On Oct. 12, Alan Marchione published an opinion piece against the override. It reads in an exasperated manner, calling into question the intentions of the school district to the “democratic process” and that it is “disrespectful to the voter,” while comparing a public school district to the charter school system.

I have been through the rigmarole of six failed override proposals, each with their own reasons as to why they were needed. Each was met with skepticism by both myself and the community at large. It was comparable to passing a plate at a religious service and asking for a contribution; there was no established plan, just please give us money. I voted “No” then.

This time seems different, however. Upon doing my own research, in conjunction with the pro and con views presented, it gave me a clearer picture of WHAT they are asking for and more importantly WHY (as opposed to previous years). The presenters of the bill explain WHERE the money is going. Contrary to Mr. Marchione’s opinion, this actually shows the voter respect; it says when you approve this, here is what you will pay and what it does for the community at large ($500,000 that goes to hiring 50 new teachers, technology, and other programs and support marked out). Like many others, this reassures me that the money granted will go where it’s meant to. Like many others, I have changed my stance on this proposition.

The questions and distinctions were raised as to the difference between a district school and a charter school. I believe that it is unfair to compare a whole school district to one specific charter school (Legacy Traditional). For instance, many charter schools raise substantial amounts of money and funding from private sources (GreatSchools.org). Spending per pupil can vary drastically even within the same city between schools. This is different from district schools, where AZ/MUSD spending is around $7,890 per student, compared to a national average of $11,927 per student (Niche.com). And while we are on the topic of sources, it was quoted through Niche that Legacy Traditional School is ranked #1. I am not sure where that information was found, since Niche.com shows Legacy as unranked for their K-10 offering.

Maricopa is indeed ranked 75th for their entire district. If you ask me, that’s atrocious. While the reasons might be cloudy, it boils down to the fact that the teachers are overworked, underpaid and expected to perform tasks way above simple “teaching.” We can all agree that better schools equal better students. This in turn equals a better workforce and punts the ball back to the job market to create jobs in town. Even if you do not have children yourself, it is selfish to think you will not see a boost to the property values that will occur. Maybe then will the parents who ship their kids off to Tempe, Kyrene or other cities trust in what MUSD has to offer.

We look to other cities often for guidance on economic matters. How do cities like Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek attract the companies and places that Maricopa wants? Let’s look at the investment that those respective cities make for their districts’ education. We cannot seek to carbon copy other aspects, but leave education out in the cold. The expected cost is around $11.80 per $100,000 of assessed value of your house. This is much lower than the market value of your house. For me, it comes out to about $17.54 per month for me. That’s not a large impact, and would not be for any sensible person or family.

Speaking specifically about Prop 123 for a moment, this statewide ballot allocates money to the entirety of the state; not just Maricopa. This override is strictly for Maricopa to enjoy and benefit from. There is overwhelming support from the MUSD Board (duh), but also from most of, if not all of the major groups in town. Maricopa City Council has come out in favor of it, as has the mayor himself, the justice constable, the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance, and the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce. With so many credible groups coming out to support it, it seems as though the only ones against it this time are those who use the charter school system and who bus their kids out to other districts, robbing our Maricopa Unified School District of even more money. Just think if those kids were here, an override may not be needed.

Believe in the kids. Believe in the school system in Maricopa. Invest in the future. It may pay off sooner than you think.


Jackie Gonzalez is a resident of Maricopa.

Vincent Manfredi is chairman of the Vote Yes on the Override campaign. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Below are more “pro” arguments for the Maricopa Unified School District’s proposed budget override from community members, elected officials and business leaders. No “against” arguments were submitted for the election pamphlet.


The Maricopa Education Foundation strongly supports the MUSD override proposal. Parents, teachers and district administrators agree that class size reduction and instructional technology are the two most critical areas of focus to accelerate improvement in the Maricopa Unified School District. However, these are areas that can only be addressed with additional funding. This override proposal is the necessary path to acquire the funding and deliver results. The proposal for allocation of these dollars explicitly states that they will be used for the addition of up to forty-seven new teachers for class size reduction and academic program expansion, plus a significant investment in instructional technology. With this clear plan in place, we can be confident that the low annual tax payer contribution for this override will be used as designated, thus insuring that our investment is used wisely. The Maricopa Education Foundation’s mission is to promote educational excellence in Maricopa and these override funds are necessary for the District to continue on the path of delivering excellence, all the while strengthening the community at large. This is why we recommend a “yes” vote on the override proposal.
Jeff Kramarczyk, President Maricopa Education Foundation


The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce is pleased to support and encourage a “for” vote on the Maricopa Unified School District #20 10% Override. Economic development and prosperity is essential to our business community and benefits the entire City of Maricopa. However, these endeavors cannot exist without a strong and adequately funded education system. Well-educated students create a well-rounded and powerful workforce, which is essential in attracting new businesses and companies to our City. The mission of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce is to support our members by promoting commerce in the greater city of Maricopa area through business advocacy and leadership in economic, political and educational development.

Sara Troyer


The Board of Directors of the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance wholeheartedly supports the seven-year override for the Maricopa Unified School District as approved by its Governing Board. The added funds will go directly to the benefit of our children – in the classrooms – and will enable the MUSD to deliver quality education to Maricopa’s students.

Having a high quality public education system is essential to Maricopa’s future. We urge all Maricopans to support this override to help elevate Maricopa’s ability to compete for, attract and grow high quality jobs. Companies seek to locate in communities that have a highly skilled and educated workforce. Highly educated and skilled workers seek to live in communities that offer an outstanding quality of life, including high performing K-12 education systems that prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

William H. Stacy, P.E., MEDA Chairman/CEO Electrical District No. 3
John D. Schurz, MEDA Treasurer, Orbitel Communications
Jennifer Alai, Great Western Bank
Brian C. Bernardo, Banner Health
Ron L. Fleming, Global Water
Bryan M. Hartman, Santa Cruz Ranch
James F. Kenny, MEDA Secretary, El Dorado Holdings
Adam Saks, Ak-Chin Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center
Bud Walters, Southwest Gas Corporation
____________________________

As Mayor, I often hear the cry for the City to “bring more businesses” to Maricopa for those who wish to live, work, and shop here. Frankly I could not agree more! Yet, I often wonder if those same people know the primary reason businesses relocate to any given city is directly related to the quality of the school system? A school system that will directly produce the pipeline of talent and the skilled workforce needed to support and staff those new businesses.

I also wonder if the average person knows that we are asking our Maricopa students to become qualified to take their place in the technically savvy business world by working on outdated computers & operating systems that are older than they are? I wonder if they realize that we are asking them to learn and excel in an environment where there is only one teacher for every 37-40 students? Hardly a recipe for success!

Today, you and I have the opportunity to directly influence the future of Maricopa’s business community by solving these two financial impediments for our student pipeline.

Please join me in voting YES on the MUSD Override and support Maricopa’s students, residents and businesses!

Christian Price, Mayor, City of Maricopa


I am proud of Maricopa and its community spirit. Our victories in the battle of the burbs the last three years are testament to the fact we are stronger when we come together for a common cause! The common cause right now is the MUSD#20 Override!

The Override will provide for $500,000 in technology funding. In this ever-changing world we all know technology needs to be replaced frequently, but some of the children at MUSD are younger than the computers they are using. Some of the outdated hardware and software is no longer supported by the vendors and must be replaced for us to be competitive.

Secondly, The Override will provide up to 50 new teachers for MUSD#20. Seven of those teachers will help establish a new alternative high school program, because some students have difficulty being successful in a large comprehensive high school like MHS. The remaining teachers will be spread among our schools to give us a competitive advantage when it comes to providing gifted programs as well as reducing overall class sizes.

We can do better, we should do better, we must do better, so let’s do better by voting YES on November 8th.

Vincent Manfredi, Maricopa City Council Member & Vote Yes Maricopa Campaign Chair


 

The MUSD Governing Board requests voters to vote YES on the proposed budget override. The override would increase student academic opportunities, improve our school district and result in a stronger community.

The proposed 10% seven-year budget override would improve our students’ education by reducing K-12 class sizes, adding additional academic programs, and improving instructional technology for students.

Everyone in Maricopa wins with a strong public school system. Thank you for your support of our students and our community. Please join us in voting yes.

Patti Coutre, President
AnnaMarie Knorr, Vice-President
Torri Anderson, Member
Rhonda Melvin, Member
Dr. Gary Miller, Member


When Maricopa Unified School District requested pro and con arguments from residents about its proposed budget override, as legally required for its election material, it received no arguments against it. Eight arguments were received in favor of the override.

Here are some samples:


For the past several years, MUSD 20 has just been getting by. Class sizes are continually growing and, in many cases, have surpassed what most people would consider an effective learning environment. For example, last year some kindergarten classes had over thirty students in them! Our children deserve better!  This is where the community can help. Voting “YES” on the override will help our kids directly by lowering class sizes and offering expanded learning opportunities. “YES” will also greatly expand the technology available to our students and the know-how to integrate that technology. By passing the override, each student in MUSD 20 will be positively affected and will ultimately be better prepared for college and life.

The residents of Maricopa stand at a cross roads and are being asked to make our community better. Together, let’s show the children of our community they are worth the investment. Maricopa is a great place to live and raise a family, but together we can make it better. Voting “YES” will help equip the children of our community with the smaller class sizes and the technology they deserve. Their future depends on us!

Please vote “YES” on the override on November 8th.

Ben Owens, Maricopa resident


Maricopa is at a tipping point. Are we going to be the flourishing community with quality amenities, local jobs, great educational opportunities and low taxes many of us envision?

Do you want to have more stores and services in Maricopa?
Do you want to have employers bring more jobs to Maricopa?
Do you want your property values to increase?
Do you want your taxes to decrease?
Do you want our kids to have the best educational opportunities possible?

If you answered yes to ANY of these questions, you should vote YES on Maricopa USD’s override proposal.

A key to attracting industry to Maricopa is great schools. Businesses won’t locate here if they cannot recruit talent, and one of the first questions potential employees – a.k.a. moms and dads – ask is “How are the schools?” (Same goes for homebuyers!)

In addition to helping develop future doctors, cops, mechanics, teachers, etc., improving education in Maricopa will result in more businesses coming to Maricopa providing services and jobs. Commercial development will increase demand/value for our homes and decrease residents’ tax burden.

MUSD is a “B” district. Let’s give them the resrouces they need to become an “A” district and totally transform our community.

Scott Bartle, Maricopa business owner and former MUSD governing board president

Alan Marchione

By Alan Marchione

A new election cycle is upon us, and once again, we find the Maricopa Unified School District desperately trying to pass another override. The voters have now turned down this proposition six times.  At this point, it’s degrading to the democratic process, and disrespectful to the voter, to continue pushing this redundant agenda which has been vehemently rejected.

While I fully support education, I cannot support an additional education tax that isn’t distributed equitably amongst all of the students in our community.  If you’re a parent whose student attends one of our local charter schools, such as Legacy Traditional, Sequoia Pathway, or Leading Edge, your child won’t see a penny of the override funds.  That’s right, the additional taxes you’d be paying will only benefit those students attending MUSD, and your earnings will be further levied to purchase laptops for someone else’s student.

As for my tax dollars, I’ve become increasingly irritated with the ferocious appetite and sense of entitlement various government entities feel they have on what we earn.  MUSD can word-smith this however it wants to, but it’s further taxation on an already over-taxed community. Between current federal, state, county, city, MUSD, CAC, utility and gas taxes, already higher utility rates, HOA dues, and every other tax and fee that can be put on us, I’d actually like to keep what money I have left – for my family.

MUSD has a wonderful assortment of vibrant and highly qualified teachers.  However, the district is ranking at an embarrassing 75th place, according to Niche.com.  With our district sitting in the lowest quarter of districts statewide, we need to ask ourselves, why?  Marginal net improvement over the past several years indicates a severe lack of innovation and leadership. Money isn’t the only factor in well performing districts, as it comes down to leadership, effective educational philosophy and parental involvement.  Education at school is only one-half of the equation, as the other half is at home with Mom and Dad.

Here lies the important difference between our local public charter schools and MUSD.  Parental involvement.  Our neighborhood charters assign elevated significance on family participation in a child’s learning, and the result is flourishing students. MUSD is serving as a free, glorified daycare for many families, and the district needs to magnify the expectations placed on parent investment in education, instead of throwing money at the problem.

Recently, in an online discussion, Vince Manfredi, chairman of the Vote Yes on the Override campaign, crudely suggested that I thought my children were “too good for MUSD.”  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Children are receiving a comprehensive and more challenging curriculum at our local charter schools – because they are effective, efficient, and accountable. In fact, Legacy Traditional is the No. 1 Charter School in Arizona.  Simply put, as a parent who places immense importance on his children’s education and future prospects, why would I want to send my children to a district ranked 75th, when I can send them to a Charter School with a first class rating?

When considering the current override on the ballot, let’s not forget the additional, newly found revenue the district will be realizing from the recently passed Prop. 123 funds.  How much has our district needlessly spent in its continued attempts to pass the override?  The cumulative cost has been enormous, and one must wonder how that money could have been better allocated. I think MUSD should show us it can perform better within the constraints of its existing budget, as the Charter schools, and other higher performing districts around the state have done.


Alan Marchione is a 10-year resident of Maricopa.

Bret Roberts

By Bret Roberts

Having lived in Maricopa since January of 2009 I have seen the override placed on the ballot many times only to fail miserably each and every time. Why is this time any different?

This time it is very clear where the funds will be spent – up to 49 new teachers to reduce class sizes and $500,000 for classroom technology to be specific. Although that in itself is extremely valuable information, for me it wasn’t enough. I needed to overcome some negative perceptions I had come to believe before I could in good conscience get behind it.

In the past I was against the override for a couple reasons. The one that troubled me the most was I kept hearing rumors there was gross mismanagement of funds, which naturally I could not support. Who would want to keep throwing good money after bad to try and fix a problem?

With that being said, I do have to admit that I had not taken the time to investigate these issues in the past. That has since changed, as well as my perception.

These negative perceptions all started for me back when our neighbors the Ak-Chin originally donated funds to MUSD and I heard rumors that they weren’t satisfied with the results of their donation. After addressing this with MUSD’s Superintendant Dr. Steve Chestnut (which, by the way, it bears mentioning the original donation took place in 2010 well before Dr. Chestnut’s tenure started in 2012), I learned this was a first for both MUSD and the Ak-Chin.

Therefore it was an opportunity to learn for both parties. At that time neither one knew what to expect and has since gained a better understanding from the initial experience. Since then our neighbors have graciously donated again, and, from the information I’ve been given, both sides were more prepared and happy with the results.

Another reason that kept my support at bay was I kept hearing MUSD had a top-heavy administration. This was one more perception that has proven to be false. MUSD’s administrative costs are actually 9.7 percent, which is below the state average of 10.2 percent.

Some believe these negative perceptions should be left in the past, never to be mentioned. However my perspective is, it’s imperative to discuss and deal with them head on. I just have a hard time believing we as a community will ever get past these negative rumors unless we talk about and overcome them once and for all. When I started looking into these issues I will admit I was not 100 percent on board and very skeptical as to the information that would be uncovered. At this point, I am glad I took the time to get involved. By attending not all but many meetings (that are open to public by the way) as well as doing a little research on my own I have learned quite a bit on this matter.

It is no secret that Maricopa has more than its share of Facebook groups and one of the most common topics I see in those groups is the subject of “why can’t we get this business or that restaurant”?  Economic development is the answer and for me it is the most important reason I now support the override. It plays a major factor in answering that question.

When businesses look at Maricopa as a potential home they come with a list of things they are looking for, and top-rated schools are usually in the top three. Passing the override and helping our schools become “A”-rated will help in the economic development of Maricopa, and it is an opportunity to remove one of the major reasons a business might use as a factor to not choose our community.

The more places of employment we attract, the more opportunities we will have for that particular restaurant or retail outlet you might be hoping for. Restaurants need lunch crowds to stay in business and until we get more employers in Maricopa we will remain limited at best. I hope I’m doing OK at connecting the dots as to how it is all tied together.

Better schools equal more opportunity for economic development and higher property values. Businesses pay more in taxes than individuals, so the more businesses we attract the more opportunity for individual taxes to be reduced.

Oh, and let’s not forget the benefit to the students.

Speaking of the students, here’s a few factoids to ponder. Were you aware that 68 percent of our prison population did not graduate from high school? Or that each Arizona high school dropout results in approximately $421,280 loss in economic activity and wages during his or her lifetime. As well as the long term economic cost of high school dropouts in the state is as much as $7.6 billion.

One last thing, MHS’s dropout rate is 4 percent. That is 1 percent higher than the states average. Hopefully passing the override will bring us closer to the state average.

As it is my family’s children have graduated from high school so I am not writing this as a parent. I am writing this as a citizen, a taxpayer and an advocate for the city of Maricopa. More importantly to share that when I decided to take the time to look into this I was able to overcome my objections and get behind the override. If you have objections I encourage you to look into them and ask questions, hopefully you will overcome them as I have.

I stated earlier throwing good money after bad to fix a problem is not something I believe in. After researching and educating myself a little more on the issue I believe risking a little up front on an investment, which is exactly how this should be viewed,  as an investment with tremendous potential on the rate of return for Maricopa.  Well that my friends is something I can get behind.

Bret Roberts is a Maricopa resident. He is Pinal County constable in the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Precinct.


This column appeared, in part, in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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Christine Dickinson

By Christine Dickinson

As a mother, teacher and proud Maricopa community member, I am asking voters to support the Maricopa Unified School District #20 Override by voting “Yes” on Nov. 8. This override is essential to bettering our schools for two reasons, it will ensure we hire additional teachers to lower class sizes and will equip our students with 21st century technology.

I am confident that Maricopa Unified School District is in need of this funding because I have been a part of the District Budget Committee for the past two years. I have seen firsthand the consequences of our low funding by the state of Arizona and the impact it is having on my children, my classroom and my students. Currently, MUSD does not have the enrichment programs that our neighboring districts have, and it is time that we make that possible for our kids and students. With these addition funds, we can expand our Gifted program and add enrichment programs to each one of our schools.

In recent years, we have lost highly qualified teachers to other states due to our lack of funding, which causes our class sizes to be over the state and national averages, and we can change that. With additional funding, we can lower our class sizes and ensure all of our classes are at optimal sizes.

My son had 32 students in his class last year – as a kindergartener!

His teacher was the most kind, patient teacher we could ever ask for and she did a fantastic job making sure my son was ready for first grade. But, there is no question in my mind as to why she no longer lives in the state of Arizona and instead chose to move elsewhere to teach in a state that has acceptable class size caps. Although the state of Arizona has suggested class size caps, they do not fund our public schools to ensure we have acceptable class sizes that help to keep teachers teaching.

We can make it happen for our kids.

Our technology needs to be updated because many of our computer labs no longer support the software updates which are essential to ensuring our students are becoming digital citizens and 21st century learners. Many of our labs have computers in them that are older than the kids using them!

With updated technology and devices available to each of our students, we can ensure students are educated in a technology rich environment which will expand their educational opportunities.
As a community we need to come together to support our kids.

Now is the time that we can make a direct impact at the local level and ensure our schools are appropriately funded. Please, join me in voting “Yes” to support our kids.


Christine Dickinson is a mother, teacher and Maricopa resident.

Vincent Manfredi

By Vincent Manfredi

I am proud of Maricopa and its community spirit.

Our victories in the Battle of the Burbs contest the last three years is testament to the fact we are stronger when we come together for a common cause!

The common cause right now is the MUSD #20 Override. This Override funds two things.

First, the Override will provide for $500,000 in classroom technology funding. In this ever-changing world we all know technology needs to be replaced frequently, but some of the computers are older than the students using them! Many times the outdated hardware and software is not even supported by the vendors! We need this investment in our education system and the Override will do that.

Secondly, the Override will provide up to 50 new teachers and certified staff for MUSD #20. Seven of those teachers will help establish a new alternative high school program, because as we all know some students have difficulty being successful in a large comprehensive high school like MHS.
The remaining teachers will be spread among our schools to give us a competitive advantage, providing gifted programs as well as reducing overall class sizes.

We can do better, we should do better, we must do better, so let’s do better by voting yes on Nov. 8.

Please join me in voting Yes on your early ballots or on Nov. 8 when you go to the polls.


Vincent Manfredi is a member of the Maricopa City Council.

MUSD Board President Patti Coutre. Photo by William Lange

By Patti Coutré

I truly believe that public education should be supported by our elected officials on every level, local, state and federal; and I will always vote for those who will best represent my interests.

It was no surprise to see Steve Smith’s opposition for the MUSD Override.  Per his voting record, he never has supported public education in Maricopa and will never get my vote.  It is extremely frustrating to have two local City Council candidates, Nancy Smith and Dan Frank, not take a position either in support or opposition of the MUSD Override.  How much time would it take to get the information that they need in order to take a stand?

Joshua Babb, newcomer to the political arena, was able to attend an Override Committee meeting and with a few follow up emails get the information that he needed to support the Override.  Why can’t Nancy or Dan do the same?  Do they think that education is not important to the City of Maricopa?  Do they think that because they have previously served on the Council that they should be elected to do so again?  Are they worried that they will lose voters if they take a stand one way or the other?

Maricopa does not need wishy-washy elected officials making, or not making, decisions for our City.  My concern is if either of them is elected as council member, what other future issues will come up that they don’t have the time to research or take a position on?  Education is vital to the growth of our community.  We need more businesses and we need an educated, employable workforce.  Improving our schools will help grow our economy and raise our property values.

The MUSD Override will accomplish this by putting more teachers in the classroom and improving instructional technology.  Going to the polls and voting should not be like pulling the lever on a slot machine, hoping for the “jackpot” but end up with a “bust.”


Patti Coutré is president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

Sen. Smith, in his opinion piece of Aug, 18, states that he opposes the MUSD override because our taxes are already too high and he further suggests that the district look at its “A” schools to see what can be done to improve those schools within the district that have lower grades. The one thing he does not mention is where his children attend school. I am told that they attend the Legacy School which is notan MUSD school. So, it appears he does not value the district’s schools for his family, but feels qualified to advise withholding funds to improve these schools.

Sen. Smith believes that we are Taxed Enough Already (that is the TEA in the TEA Party) and cannot see a small addition to our taxes to improve the schools where he refuses to send his children. Allow an analogy to demonstrate the foolishness of this stance. Suppose that you are already spending $5,000 a year on prescription medicines and your physician recommends a new drug that will relieve that painful symptom of an allergy you have. If that drug would cost an additional $2,400 per year, would you refuse to purchase the medicine since you are already paying enough for prescriptions? Your answer would probably be that if the medicine works, the additional expenditure is worth it.  If you want to argue against the override, tell the public why the new funds will not improve the learning in the district schools. If you cannot demonstrate that the override funds will not help, then do not recommend a “no” vote!

Now, about looking at the A schools to improve the performance of schools whose grade is less than A. The only A school in MUSD is Pima Butte ES. How will looking at an elementary school help the two middle schools and the high school improve their grades? Also, it is well established that the performance of a school can be influenced by the family incomes and parental education levels of students attending that school.  A school with a large contingent of students from affluent families has different needs than a school where a majority of the students are on free lunch.  It would appear that Sen. Smith’s recommendation has little value.

Given that the “taxed enough already” is weak, and that looking at the one A school to improve the other district schools is useless, and given that Sen. Smith’s own children do not attend MUSD school, let us all disregard his advice and vote “yes” on the override.


Murray Siegel is a resident of Maricopa.

State Sen. Steve Smith

By Sen. Steve Smith

As a member of the Senate Education Committee and the fact that I come from a family of teachers, I take education and funding for it very seriously.

That being said, currently over 50 percent of the state of Arizona’s entire $9.6 billion budget is allocated for education (totaling more than $4.8 billion).  Arizona is also at an all-time high in K-12 funding, and we just allocated an additional $200 million to our universities earlier this year above and beyond normal funding.

Also, with the passage of Prop 123 in May, an expected $3.5 billion of additional funding will be infused into Arizona’s K-12 system over the next 10 years, providing even more resources. All of this gain was realized without raising taxes!

Therefore, while I understand that there are still areas that can use more funding, another tax increase to the citizens is not the answer, especially since Pinal County is nearly the highest taxed county in Arizona.  We have ‘A’ rated schools in our district right now with the current funding level, so I believe the first step is to adopt those successful policies in the rest of the schools that are not receiving an ‘A’ rating.

It is for these reasons and others that I have to respectfully vote no on the override.


Steve Smith is a state senator for District 11 and a resident of Maricopa.

Councilmember Nancy Smith

By Nancy Smith

Education funding should be resolved at the state level. It is the state’s responsibility to fund Arizona’s education needs and provide superb education that allows us to compete at the same level in our nation and globally. Pressure should be placed appropriately, at the state level to solve this problem.

There are two methods that would resolve funding education in Arizona without raising property taxes.

1. Transfer federal owned land to Arizona:

In 1914 states were promised that federally owned land would be transferred to the states in which they exist (including surface rights, water, timber and mineral rights). This transfer has not happened in the West states the same as it has in the East states. As an example, in New York 97 percent of lands are under private ownership and generating property tax, and only 17 percent of Arizona lands are in private hands. With this record, is there any doubt as to why Arizona struggles with having the funds for education?

In 2015, some members of the Arizona Legislature met to request the transfer of federal lands to the State of Arizona for long term education funding. If this were to happen, as promised, it would create a larger state land trust and better fund education. Nearly half of the land in Arizona is owned by the federal government and results in a loss of $2 billion per year to taxpayers. If controlled by the state, Arizona would have choices in how to maximize the land to increase funding for education.

2. Arizona State Land Trust:

As we have learned over the past year with Prop 123, Arizona has a State Land Trust where the investments proceeds are used to fund education. What was not mentioned very much during this discussion was Arizona’s own ‘dragging their feet’ to sell land in this trust to put more land into private ownership. Selling land within the state trust would be helpful in two ways; 1) Proceeds of the land sale would increase the value of the State Land Trust allowing for an increase of funding to education. 2) Private ownership increases property tax which could be available for funding education.

These two movements would make a significant change to education in Arizona, far more than an override, without raising property taxes.

I would like to see our school boards, teacher unions and Override committee members participating in the American Lands Council to make these two transfer types happen and putting heavy pressure on our state and federal legislators to make this happen soon. This would be a permanent solution and not one where the public is continually asked to increase their property tax to fund what the state should be already be funding.

I believe our Maricopa City Council should have a liaison participating in the American Lands Council as well. If re-elected, I will volunteer my time to participate in this council and fight for the transfer of federal land in Arizona to the state.

Lastly, when asked whether I support the current MUSD Override at the city council debate, I sincerely answered, informing the public that I have been in discussions with the override chairman regarding some concerns that I and members of the public, who have shared their concerns with me, still have. Answering the current question, “Do you support the Maricopa Unified School District override?” in one word: Undecided.


Nancy Smith is a member of the Maricopa City Council.

Joshua Babb. (photo by Tyler Loveall)

By Joshua Babb

At the City Council debate on Monday, July 25, I was asked whether or not I supported the MUSD budget override. I stated at that time I was undecided I had many important questions that were not answered at that point.

I asked for a meeting with the chairman of the Vote Yes Maricopa committee, Vince Manfredi, and Dr. Steve Chestnut, MUSD superintendent, to answer some of the questions that I had on the issue. Both graciously gave up their time to meet with me and answered several questions in follow-up messages. One of the most important dealt with accountability. The question is, “How will taxpayers be assured that override revenue will do what it’s intended to do?”

I asked this because once the override is approved taxpayers shouldn’t have to wait several years to know if they made the right decision. It is important to me to keep the community informed on how their tax dollars are being spent and if it was a good investment. I was assured that the district would look at putting together a forum of communication that will keep voters informed on MUSD performance.

My next concerns were targeted at the current budgeting and planning so an override would not be necessary in seven years. Dr. Chestnut talked about working with the state to get the funding the school needed. As you and I know, the state Legislature has a history of raiding the education piggy bank to address economic downturn or balance the budget. This needs to stop and voters need to address these issues by voting out any legislator who supports raiding school funding. The state is responsible for funding schools and if it’s properly done, local communities won’t have to tax themselves to make up for shortfalls.

I am now confident in supporting the override.

There are still a few things Maricopa residents need to ask the school board, on a continuing basis and I will take the lead in doing that. I will, as a citizen or councilmember, work with MUSD and the School Board to answer these very important questions:

* “What are you doing to turn around those sixteen or so school busses that are leaving Maricopa every day?” We have a shop-local campaign – maybe we need an “educate local” campaign to convince parents and students that they’re needed and wanted here in Maricopa. Every student that attends school in MUSD brings along revenue that is needed to fund our schools and help make overrides unnecessary.
* What is MUSD long term strategy to ensure we don’t need future overrides?

We need outside-of-the-box solutions to decrease spending and increase classroom education.

Maricopa needs to stand on its own. Economic development depends on having a great local school district. At present, we are outsourcing the education of our kids to the Kyrene and Tempe districts because they have more programs and better overall ratings.

I invite all residents that have any questions for me about my views on the override to contact me and I will gladly sit down and discuss my thoughts. I also welcome any discussion with the current School Board.

I approached this question like I will any issue that I am presented with as your councilmember. I will get the facts and vote from a position of being informed rather that what seems to be popular at the moment. I hope that each of you will vote the same way.


Joshua Babb is a Maricopa resident and a candidate for city council.

Joshua Judd is inviting everyone to show their support by participating in Apples for the Override. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa will be taking on a decidedly apple flavor next week with a new opportunity for residents of all ages to show their support for the school district’s override bid.

Businesses participating in Apples for the Override so far:
Brooklyn Boys
Crate Coffee
Hart Computer Solutions
Headquarters
K’Bella Salon & Day Spa
Napa Auto Parts
Raceway Bar & Grill
Tacos ‘n’ More
Yes! Beauty Supply
Yogurt Jungle

“’Apples for the Override” is a promotion for the override that people are going to see in local businesses they go to daily,” said Joshua Judd, who is on the Vote Yes, Maricopa committee.

Maricopa Unified School District is seeking a 10-percent budget override, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Paper apples will be available at cash registers of participating businesses. Supporters of the override can can also donate to the cause and they can write their names on the apples and have them displayed in the store.

The idea for “Apples for the Override” was Judd’s after he saw the kind of attention similar campaigns received for other causes.

Judd has three children attending Pima Butte Elementary and he is a familiar face at school events and promoting school improvement.

“I grew up in Connecticut where the state’s per-student spending is double what it is here,” he said.

Judd has been involved in past override attempts but said he feels a different tone this year. In the past, he said, there has been a lack of knowledge of how the school funding system works. Now many residents see the override as “kind of local control,” he said.

“We have all political sides on this,” he said. “The mayor’s a big supporter and [Councilmembers] Bridger [Kimball] and of course Vincent [Manfredi].”

Another ongoing campaign to draw attention to the override is the “Leap of Faith,” in which supporters like Mayor Christian Price jump into the pool in work clothes.

Check out how that is going and learn more about the override on the Facebook page Vote Yes Maricopa. Businesses that want to participate in “Apples for the Override” may also call Judd at 480-330-9130. Apples will be on display starting Aug. 1.

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MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Devin Carson

By Ethan McSweeney

A few additional teachers and extra equipment for students are among the changes to the Maricopa Unified School District’s budget override. Governing Board will vote Wednesday to move the ballot process forward and gather pros and cons.

Teaching positions
•    Elementary Schools –  24 teachers for class size reduction
•    Middle Schools – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs
•    Maricopa High School – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs. 7 teachers will be hired for a new alternative program.
•    2 Instructional Technology Integration Teachers
•    1 Elementary Teacher on Special Assignment
•    3 Elementary Counselors
•    1 Elementary/Middle School Librarian
Technology
•    595 student laptops ($544 each – includes tax and shipping)    $323,680
•    17 locked computer carts with charging stations ($1,530 each)    $26,010
•    1 tech support staff member (salary and benefits)            $45,000
•    Computer Licensing                              $45,000
•    Technology Equipment and Supplies                   $30,310
•    Instructional Tech Professional Development for teachers        $30,000
Source: Maricopa Unified School District

Under the revisions to what would be added with passage of the 10 percent, seven-year budget override, 50 new teachers are proposed, up from 47 teachers. Also, 595 student laptops would be purchased, increasing from 490, in additional to other small increases in technological equipment for a total of $500,000 in spending, according to MUSD.

The slight changes to the number of teachers and technology in the proposal are a result of increased enrollment in the district, which makes the 10 percent increase, said MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. The district Governing Board voted to send the override to the 2016 general election ballot back on Nov. 18, 2015.

The vote Wednesday is a procedural vote that will set a deadline of Aug. 19 for submitting “for” and “against” arguments for the ballot, Chestnut said. The Governing Board will also vote on its argument in support of the override measure.

If approved, the override would increase secondary property taxes by a rate of $133 per $100,000 of assessed value each year. The override would provide the added funds by the 2017-18 school year.

Those new hires would include 24 elementary teachers, six middle school teachers and 13 high school teachers. Thirty-two teachers of the 50 would be hired in an effort to reduce class sizes with another four teachers at the middle school and high school levels to add academic programs, according to MUSD.

Seven teachers would also be added at the high school level for a new alternative program. This program, according to MUSD, would aid students who have difficulty learning at a large high school like Maricopa High School.

Proposition 123 passage

Maricopa Councilmember Vincent Manfredi, who is the chairman of the “Vote Yes on the Override” campaign, said he isn’t too concerned that voters may not want to support the budget override after the passage of Proposition 123, which will add $3.5 billion to Arizona schools over the next 10 years, because that money is going to all school districts, not just Maricopa.

About 51 percent of Arizona voters approved Proposition 123, which was sent to the ballot to solve a years-long dispute over whether the state underfunded schools during the recession years.

“It gives money to everyone, including Kyrene [School District] and Tempe [Union High School District],” Manfredi said. “It still leaves Maricopa at a competitive disadvantage.”

Kyrene and Tempe Union, which have voter-approved overrides in place, are able to draw Maricopa students away from MUSD because those districts are able to offer more, which won’t change with the approval of Proposition 123, Manfredi said.

Passage of the override this fall, he said, would help MUSD better compete with those districts by providing the additional teachers and technology the district needs.

Maricopans haven’t been receptive to override measures in the past with voters striking down the previous six that have appeared on the ballot.

Manfredi said Maricopans often express their community pride through outlets like the “Battle of the Burbs”, which Maricopa has won.

“I see the community pride involved and it bothers me that we don’t have that same community pride in our school system,” Manfredi said.

Positions to fill at MUSD

As voters decided on the override question that would include 50 extra teachers, MUSD is looking to fill 18 open positions at its schools for the upcoming academic year.

The openings, as of Friday, include: math, chemistry and history teachers at MHS; math, language arts and Spanish teachers at Desert Wind Middle School; a special education math teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School; a fourth grade teacher at Butterfield Elementary School; and a kindergarten teacher at Maricopa Elementary School.

Four registered nurses, two speech and language pathologists and a special education behavioral counselor are also needed at the district.

Some of the open specialized positions, such as the speech and language pathologist and the special education jobs, are always more difficult to fill, Chestnut said.

MUSD also has three coaching positions open, including a varsity cheerleading head coach at MHS and a baseball coach and a softball coach at Desert Wind.

Vincent Manfredi is chairman of the Vote Yes on the Override campaign. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Teachers and technology have been top selling points for the “Vote Yes on the Override” campaign in Maricopa.

City Councilman Vincent Manfredi is chairman of the campaign, and he, too, emphasizes the need for more teachers and tech. Raising taxes is not his modus operandi. Maricopa Unified School District’s proposed budget override would increase what taxpayers give the school in property taxes by $11 per month on $100,000 of assessed value.

The question goes to voters in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Supporting an override is not a knee-jerk reaction for Manfredi, despite having three daughters in MUSD schools. After the district failed six times to pass an override, he took a closer look.

“I dove deep into the budget,” he said.

Through his work with the MUSD Budget Committee, he became convinced the district had cut all the fat, was down to bare bones in administration – “Some of those people are doing two or three jobs,” he said – and classes were burgeoning.

“Twenty-five is OK in a class,” he said. “But some classrooms have 30 to 35 kids. That’s not good.”

Override proposal
Teachers
4 teachers at Butterfield Elementary School
4 teachers at Maricopa Elementary School
3 teachers at Pima Butte Elementary School
4 teachers at Saddleback Elementary School
2 teachers a Santa Cruz Elementary School
2 teachers at Santa Rosa Elementary School
2 teachers at Desert Wind Middle School
2 teachers at Maricopa Wells Middle School
9 teachers at Maricopa High School
2 elementary teachers on special assignment
2 instructional technology integration specialists
3 elementary counselors
1 elementary librarian
7 teachers for new alternative high school program

Tech
$334,600 for 490 laptop computers
$45,000 for additional tech staff
$38,000 for computer licensing
$30,910 for tech equipment/supplies
$30,000 for instructional technology professional development
$21,420 for 14 computer carts


As proposed, the override would give the district funding for 47 more teachers and $500,000 in instructional technology. Seven of the teachers would be for a proposed “alternative” program at the high school.

Manfredi saw from previous override campaigns using the plea “It’s for the kids” doesn’t work in Maricopa.

To give the override campaign a better chance for success, Manfredi pushed the community impact of the vote. He also started the campaign earlier.

Because of the district’s history of failure on the issue, he knew changing minds was going to be imperative.

“I’ve been able to bring some staunch No’s over to Yes,” he said. “We’ve gotten these people that have voted no six times in a row to come out and help at events.

“We have to explain it differently than it used to be.”

This time, he is using some insight gained from his time on the city council as selling points. The link between a strong school district and a community’s economic development was part of that insight.

“A good school system is like a magnet,” Manfredi said. “Communities with good school have less crime and more economic development.”

He said it is a reflection of the community as a whole. If people looking for a home are drawn to Maricopa because of its three-time win as best suburb of Phoenix, one of the first things they look at is the school system.

With around 1,300 students being bused out of Maricopa every day to override-rich schools in Kyrene and Tempe, MUSD has difficult competition and fewer resources. Still when the state passed out letter grades, MUSD raised its rating from a C to a B.

“There are so many benefits to neighborhood schools,” Manfredi said. “It’s all about community pride.”

VoteYesMaricopa.com


What MUSD budget override means to students

By Jamie Cluff

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved a 10-percent, seven-year override that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, with the additional tax projected to be $132 per year on a home with an assessed value of $100,000. This override would allow the hiring of up to 47 K-12 teachers in 2017-18 to reduce the large class sizes and provide expanded academic programs for students. It would also provide more technology for instructional purposes.

The issue of money is not what matters in this override proposal. What’s at issue is students, the community and MUSD being able to provide the best education they can for their youth.

“Since it is a Saturday, and I am not at work, I can tell you that I think it should pass,” an MUSD staff member said at the March 19 Salsa Festival while a group of community members gave out information asking people to vote yes.

The students at Maricopa High School had a lot to say about the proposal once they learned how it affected the school. Shelby Hanks, a 2016 graduate, said, “Even though I won’t be here, I saw the effect this year of too many students coming in and not a lot of teachers to counteract it, so the class sizes were big… I definitely think it should pass.”

When asked, most students didn’t even know what the override was.

“I’m sad that we don’t have that now,” MHS incoming sophomore Alexius Karr said after she was informed of the details.

Carter Petty, an incoming senior at MHS, explained why he thinks the override should pass: “Large classes take away the interpersonal student-teacher relationship.”

“It will give new opportunities to Maricopa [Unified School District],” incoming senior Crystal Galavan said about the $500,000 that would go toward the instructional technologies.

The override would allow the district to hire 47 new teachers to spread around its nine schools. Butterfield, Maricopa, Pima Butte, Saddleback, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Elementary School would each get 2-4 teachers for class size reduction. Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle School would get one teacher for class size reduction and one teacher for expanded academic programs. MHS, with 1,850 students, would receive five teachers for class size reduction and four teachers for expanded academic programs.

“I wish it had come sooner,” said Anna Cardinal, an incoming junior who, if the override passes, would experience the benefit her senior year.

Jamie Cluff is a student at Maricopa High School.


These stories appeared in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Jeff Kramerczyk

By Jeff Kramarczyk

In the December issue of InMaricopa News, the opinion piece “Point/Counterpoint: Potter and Kramarczyk on MUSD’s Attempted Override” was published to compare two different perspectives on the MUSD Board’s decision to have a budget override measure placed on the November 2016 ballot.

Since this publication, I have received numerous comments and questions from individuals on both sides of the debate. This attempt at an open dialogue on the merits of the proposed measure is both exciting and encouraging. It is an indication that this is an important issue for the community, one that impacts us directly through an additional tax and/or through the education of our children and indirectly through the growth and advancement of our public school system and community at large.

As with all important decisions, it is critical that we have the opportunity to get insight into both sides of the debate, that we become armed with the full scope of information and, when the time comes, we approach the decision with a clear understanding of why we are choosing a yes or no vote. To this end, I feel this is a great opportunity to begin to share some of the comments and questions that are floating around this topic and to provide a response.

Comment: MUSD has been showing signs of improvement for the last few years without these additional override funds. Why invest this money, when it seems that it is not necessary to generate results?

Response: MUSD has been making great strides, even within its financially constrained environment. The district as a whole is currently at a “B” rating by the state of Arizona Department of Education. The district’s goal is to be at an “A” rating and even further, to have each individual school at an “A” rating. These override funds will help eliminate some of the obstacles that are challenging these goals, including class size, expanded programs and technology. It would be inaccurate to say the district will not achieve these goals unless these override funds are in place. It would also be inaccurate to guarantee the district will achieve these goals if these override funds are in place. What can be said with confidence is these additional funds will help clear the way for continued progress toward obtaining these goals and increase the speed at which they could be achieved. The additional $3.2 million gained from the override measure will increase the opportunity for success from an organization that has proved it can succeed.

I encourage you to have these discussions with fellow community members, voice your concerns, ask questions and get informed. This is a decision that will impact us all for many years to come. Whatever that decision might be, make sure it is based on a complete and clear picture of the cost (financial or otherwise) and benefits.

jpkramarczyk@msn.com

Jeff Kramarczyk is president of the Maricopa Education Foundation.

 This column appeared in the January issue of InMaricopa News.

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Baseball field maintenance crew wins national award

MUSD received a national Field Maintenance Award: Coach Andrew Pollak, Paul Thibault, Chad Whittle, Elaizar Martinez, Dr. Steve Chestnut, Pablo Reyes and Casimiro Reyes. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved placing an override initiative on the ballot for the presidential election in November 2016 during their meeting Wednesday.

The district will request a 10-percent override over a seven-year span. The cost to Maricopa residents will break down to $11 a month or $132 a year for every $100,000 their home is worth. The funding would provide the district with approximately $3.2 million to hire more teachers, lower class sizes and improve the district’s education programs.

“I want to make sure that if we’re going to take this opportunity to the voters that it’s going to make a big enough difference,” MUSD Governing Board president Patti Coutre said. “Class sizes and academic programs are extremely important, but a lot (of the success of the override) will come down to the marketing and the boots on the ground.”

The board, which two weeks ago was split on which direction to go with the override, came together in the belief that a 10 percent override was more feasible for the community.

“I am pretty confident that together, with boots on the ground, we can get this passed,” MUSD Governing Board member Gary Miller said. “It is providing more services for our children,”

The board also honored the Rotary Students of the Month for September and October during Wednesday’s meeting. From Maricopa High School, senior student body president Cierra Reynolds was named the Student of the Month for September, and senior class president Christina Lorayes received the honor for October.

Rotary students of the month for October and November. Photo by Adam Wolfe
Rotary students of the month for October and November. Photo by Adam Wolfe

At the middle school level, Maricopa Wells Middle School swept the first two months of the award. Eighth graders Xiiomara Gomez and Ethan Atkinson took home the honors.

The board also took a moment to honor members of the MHS grounds crew for their work on the Matt Huffman Baseball Field. The MHS field received the American Baseball Coaches Association National Field Maintenance Award for the High School Division.

“This is a big deal,” MUSD superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “Every year the American Baseball Coaches Association names one high school field in the nation and one college field in the nation as the best. We’re proud of the fact that the Maricopa High School baseball field has been named the best in the nation for 2015-16.”

The MUSD Governing Board will reconvene on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 6:30 p.m.

Samantha Ross receives a HOPE Certificate from board member Torri Anderson for her work with MUSD. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board progressed in its discussions of an override request during its meeting Wednesday.

The board has received a recommendation for the Override Committee to seek a 15-percent override over seven years. However, the board members are still torn on which direction to go.

“There’s some things we really need to consider,” board member Annamarie Knorr said. “One of them is the amount of voters in an off year. Getting yes votes costs money. Every yes vote costs money and you have to educate people regarding an override. I know the committee wanted 2016, but I think we need to set ourselves up with success.”

Since more voters turn out for general elections on even years, Knorr believed it would be more cost effective to hold the election in an odd year. Board member Torri Anderson was also leaning toward pushing the override to 2017, but not for the same reason.

She referenced a statewide special election already scheduled in May. That will ask voters to approve a lawsuit resolution that led to the Legislature’s education funding plan of $3.5 billion through 2026.

“Knowing that voters are already going to be going to the polls on May 17, voters have a very long memory when it comes to funding education,” Anderson said. “I believe 2017 would be better just because they’ll already think, ‘I already voted in May for education, so I don’t need to vote in November for education.’ So the percentage of ‘no’ votes would go up.”

For other members of the board, the issue of timing seemed less important.

“For me, it’s not necessarily when we’re going to [hold the vote],” board member Gary Miller said. “For me, in terms of strategy, my point of concern is the percentage.”

After a lengthy debate, the board made the decision to put the override as an action item for their next meeting. They have discussed the details of the override for the last two meetings and decided it was time to move forward with a plan.

MUSD Supertendent Steve Chestnut recognizes Maricopa Eagle Scout Noah Huffaker for donating computer monitors to the district. Photo by Adam Wolfe
MUSD Supertendent Steve Chestnut recognizes Maricopa Eagle Scout Noah Huffaker for donating computer monitors to the district. Photo by Adam Wolfe

“There’s a large number of people out there that are interested in the possibility of an override for MUSD,” MUSD superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “I’m not ready to make a recommendation (on the percentage) just yet, but I believe the seven-year term is a good idea.”

The board also asked to hear from the parents and community members who have concerns. They hope to receive as much public feedback as they can before making their final decision.

Aside from the override debate, the Governing Board honored Eagle Scout candidate Noah Huffaker for donating computer monitors to the school. Huffaker gathered old, functional computer monitors and gave them to MUSD.

The board also honored Samantha Ross with a HOPE Certificate for her work with the district.

“Samantha Ross has spent hundreds of hours in our schools coordinating a ‘Meet the Masters’ art program,” Knorr said. “It’s an amazing program where they focus on a different artist each month. She gets parent volunteers together and she teaches the lesson to them and they go into the classroom and teach the lesson to the kids. It really filled the void, especially when we went through those tough budget cuts.”

Torri Anderson said Ross was a hero, and public education needs its heroes right now.

The MUSD Governing Board will reconvene Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

Cierra Reynolds passed out foam fingers and shirts to promote nest week’s Homecoming Week festivities during the MUSD Governing Board meeting Wednesday night. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board discussed the progress on another override effort, as well as honoring City Council member Henry Wade and hearing presentations from students and staff during their work session Wednesday night.

The override committee features 11 community members, and they are deciding which proposal would be the most effective.

For an override, the school can ask for up to 15 percent of extra funding to pay specifically for maintenance and operations. The money can be spread out from one to seven years, and the funds come from a tax increase tacked onto property tax in the district.

The last approved budget override took place in 2004. That funding expired in 2012, and override attempts have failed to pass in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 elections.

The override committee is currently planning for this attempt to be on the 2016 General Election ballot. At this time, the school is expected to ask for a 15 percent override spread out over seven years.

“Our staff wants to provide the best education possible for our students,” MUSD superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “This would allow us to buy some additional resources to meeting that goal. I don’t think that money is the only thing we need to do to be an ‘A’ rated school district, but we know that additional resources can provide additional resources and reduce class sizes.”

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According to Chestnut, the school’s budget has decreased by 24 percent since 2008. A lot of the funding the school received through grants from the Ak-Chin Indian Community and the state has also expired. If the school does not get an override, more budget cuts could be on the way, and potentially more jobs would be on the chopping block.

“We all know that the Maricopa Unified School District is the largest employer here in Maricopa,” MUSD Board President Patti Coutre said. “We don’t want to cut anyone’s job.”

The asking amount and the timeframe for the planned override are still subject to change. In order to have it on the November 2016 ballot, the committee would likely need to iron out the final details within the next month.

Henry Wade receives a HOPE award from MUSD Governing Board President Patti Coutre. (MUSD photo)
Henry Wade receives a HOPE award from MUSD Governing Board President Patti Coutre. (MUSD photo)

The meeting Wednesday was unusually full with members of the student council there to present on Homecoming, and City Council member Peggy Chapados, City Manager Gregory Rose and Vice Mayor Marvin Brown in attendance to support council member Henry Wade as he received the Heroes of Public Education Award.

Wade was awarded the HOPE Award by Coutre for outstanding commitment and advocacy for public education in Maricopa. The award was created this year and is part of an effort of a statewide effort by the Arizona School Boards Association to show appreciation to community members that inspire students throughout Arizona.

“Very recently, our family expanded by two as my grandsons are now living with us,” Wade said. “I told this to [Superintendent Steve Chestnut], and he asked where they would be going to school. Of course I [joked] ‘I’d probably pick a charter school somewhere,’ but there is no question. Support for the public schools is important to me. Even to the point of making sure the people who are close to me participate as well.”

Wade’s award presentation was followed by an “Ignite Presentation” by Maricopa High School science teacher Phillip Smith. The Ignite series has taken place over the last few school board meetings and gives MUSD teachers the opportunity to discuss why they became teachers and what it means to them.

“As a scientist, speaking about education, I like to do it in mathematical terms,” Smith said. “A fact I’ve noticed about education as a whole is that it’s all about the numbers at the end of the day. Numbers are what control us and dictate what we do.”

For Smith, everything boils down to the number 178. This represents the number of students he teaches each day. However, the number goes far beyond lesson plans.

“As of this morning, 178 students are enrolled in Mr. Smith’s biology class at Maricopa High School,” Smith said. “With them comes 178 personal stories, 178 faces, 178 sets of test scores, 178 home lives and 178 struggles they bring with them every day. They are 178 reasons why I come to work.”

Smith continued with his list, and by the end of his speech, those in attendance were on their feet applauding.

“I got chills (during Smith’s presentation),” board member Annamarie Knorr said. “We have amazing teachers in our district and they’re doing amazing things. You guys really are making a difference.”

The MUSD Governing Board will not meet again in October. There next meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 4.