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Phillip Smith

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.