Marana Unified School District

Marana Police assist MUSD with active shooter training

The Marana Police Department and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department participated in the Marana Unified School District (MUSD) Professional Learning and Collaboration Day, where they presented information on active shooter response in schools.  


Over 1,300 district educators and staff participated in the training, which is aligned with the MUSD Emergency Action Plan. 

“Educators did not come into this profession with this in their minds, it was to help and teach kids,” Marana Police Department Community Resource Officer David Danielson said. “unfortunately, in these changing times, these are things they need to be aware of and they need to be prepared for.”

The training focused on the run-hide-fight model, which emphasizes fleeing the scene as a top priority. If escape is not possible, victims should try to get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet. Engaging the shooter should be a last resort.

Marana Water Festival teaches students about water conservation


On Thursday, November 15 the Town of Marana participated in the third annual Marana Water Festival at Crossroads at Silverbell District Park. The event was put on by Arizona Project Wet and staffed by Marana Water and other Town of Marana employees, as well as Tucson Water and the University of Arizona.

Over 800 Marana Unified School District fourth-graders attended the event and learned about the watershed, water conservation, groundwater, and the water cycle. The idea behind the event, and events like it all over the state, is to give students a greater understanding of where their water comes from and why water conservation is so important. 

“Once they learn about these concepts at the Marana Water Festival, they will take this information home and apply it there,” said Marana Water Director John Kmiec.

Kmiec noted that water conservation is always very important in Southern Arizona, but even more so with drought conditions impacting the Colorado River, from which Marana receives a lot of its water.


The students attended the event in two separate shifts and went through four different stations. Each station focused on a different aspect of the program and allowed the students hands-on activities to reinforce the ideas.

The volunteers at the event went through a training program to aid them in teaching the program’s lessons.

The Marana Water Festival is one of many Arizona Water Festivals. The hope is that they will  instill a deeper understanding of water in the earth system and Arizona’s water resources through a community water festival event, teacher professional development workshop, and extensive volunteer and community involvement.

Arizona Daily Star: Arts thrive in Marana

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The Arizona Daily Star had a terrific article on the Marana Community Music Theater and their performance this Friday of The Wizard of Oz, as well as how the arts are thriving in Marana. 

Nearly 70 cast members, when you include the full orchestra, have spent weeks this summer getting ready for a one-night-only performance on Friday, July 27.

 For the past six weeks, they have filled one of the conference rooms of the Marana Senior Center next to Ora Mae Harn Park two nights a week. For several hours on those nights, they follow the direction of MCMT founders Sarah Ross and Heidi Barker to prepare for that performance.

But this is about more than a night at the theater…

“If this is something that brings pleasure and gets people involved because you’re going to have young and old and every ethnic group and every neighborhood involved, we invest in our people,” said Mayor Ed Honea.

The town places artwork by high school students and area artists in its parks. One of the most ambitious recently was steel statues of a deer family designed by Tucson artist Trevor O’Toole and crafted by welding students from Marana High School that was installed on Tangerine Road as a centerpiece of the upcoming Tangerine Sky Park. It also hosts school choirs for performances at town events, from Founders Day to the Fourth of July.


Town, MUSD partner to provide School Resource Officer

Marana PD School Resource Officer (SRO) David Samorano and Marana High School Principal Dr. David Mandel. (Photo Courtesy Marana Unified School District)

Marana PD School Resource Officer (SRO) David Samorano and Marana High School Principal Dr. David Mandel. (Photo Courtesy Marana Unified School District)

On June 5 the Marana Town Council approved to extend a service agreement with the Marana Unified School District to provide a School Resource Officer at Marana High School in support of the District's School Safety Program.

In 2014 the Marana Unified School District, with support from the Town of Marana, applied for and received funding from the Arizona Department of Education to fund a School Resource Officer position at Marana High School. It was the first time the school had one on campus since 2009, and the Marana Police Department School Resource Officer has served at the school continuously since 2014, twice winning awards for School Resource Officer of the Year.

This year Marana Unified School District did not receive a grant award for the School Resource Officer position at the high school, but both parties want to continue to have the position at the school. The agreement between the Town and MUSD will have both parties share the costs of the School Resource Officer’s compensation during the term of the agreement. 

Officer David Samorano will serve as Marana High School’s School Resource Officer this upcoming school year, and believes the presence of an officer on campus creates a safer learning environment.

“Officer presence on the campus provides a quicker response to incidents whether small or extraordinary,” Samorano said.

MUSD will pay 50% of the School Resource Officer’s monthly compensation during each ten-month school year. The position will continue to function in the same capacity, teaching Law Related Education classes and maintaining a presence at the school to provide for a safe school environment. 

“Through a School Resource Officer, relationships are forged and the future leaders of our community are educated,” Samorano said. “With a curriculum focusing on law-related education and safety, we contact students on a level other than an investigative purpose. This allows open communication, understanding and trust between future leaders and the Marana Police Department.”

It is the intent of Marana Unified School District and the Town of Marana to apply for grant funding for the position during the next funding cycle.

MPD Officer earns award for her work in schools


Marana Police Officer Melissa Larkin was named the Law Related Education Officer of the Year by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. The award recognizes exceptional contributions of Arizona police and probation officers in furthering education and understanding of the role of the law in a democratic society.

Ofc. Larkin is the School Resource Officer at Marana Middle School and was praised by the organization for "promoting access to justice for all Arizonans."

The award focuses on public awareness on the contributions that Ofc. Larkin provides to the school, as well as the community as a whole.

Larkin was also named the 2016 School Resource Officer of the Year by the Arizona School Resource Officer Association Conference.

Marana Founders' Day Parade Awards

The centerpiece of Marana Founders’ Day is the annual parade. This year’s parade made its way down a new route that included a trip down Main Street past MHC Healthcare and the Marana Municipal Complex.

The parade had over 90 entries including a marching band, vintage and new corvettes, horseback riders, and floats. This year’s theme was “Float Through Time” and the parade judges voted on awards in three categories.


Best Spirit: Marana Unified School District

MUSD came out in force, with students, teachers, administrators, and staff from all of their schools. Their entry “Floating Toward the Future” included foil covered letters, cardboard rocket ships, signs for every school, and even two people clad in green body suits. The MUSD representatives walked and rode, giving them one of the biggest entries in the parade.



Best Use of Theme: Marana Dental Care

Marana Dental Care earned high marks for their float which had a farm motif. Their float had a great attention to detail including kids in costume, a cardboard tractor and barn, hay, and a bandana pattern trim.


Judges’ Pick: Northwest Outriders

The Northwest Outriders 4H club had one of the longest floats with not one, but two flat beds. One contained a some of the animals that they raise, including goats and calves. The second had members of all ages sitting on hay bales and waving to the crowd.


Spotlight on Schools: Awards and Certifications

Several Marana Unified School District educators and staffers earned awards or certifications over the past month. All of these honorees have dedicated themselves to their schools, their district, and in turn, the Marana community

Dondi Luce, Twin Peaks Elementary principal, is a finalist for the 2018 Woman of Influence Awards. Dr. Luce has been ranked in the top three in the Education Champion category. Dr. Luce will be honored as a finalist at a special dinner and awards event on Wednesday, March 7, where the 1st place winner will be announced. Tucson Local Media’s publication, Inside Tucson Business, has been honoring outstanding women in our community annually since 2004.

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The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) announced that Ms. Kelly McGarity, a Social Studies teacher at Marana Middle School who has worked in the Marana Unified School District since 2001 has received national certification in Generalist/Middle Childhood.

National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential in which teachers have met the profession’s highest standards and have the knowledge and skills necessary to advance student learning. Similar to certification in fields like medicine, National Board Certification is a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that ensures that Board-certified teachers have proven skills to advance student achievement.

Aimee Katz, DeGrazia Elementary School teacher, is one of two teachers in Tucson nominated for the prestigious 2017-2018 LifeChanger of the Year.  This is not only exciting news for DeGrazia Elementary but for #maranaschools. LifeChanger is a national program that recognizes educators for the positive difference they make in the lives of their students, for being a leader in the school community, for exemplifying excellence as an educator and for creating a nurturing atmosphere in our schools.

Beth DeWeerdt was selected as the Marana Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year. DeWeerdt is in her tenth year teaching in MUSD and is regarded as an outstanding educator and a leader by her peers. Her exemplary teaching at Quail Run Elementary is evident in her work with students, in her support of colleagues and in her positive outlook on life.

Dena Reninger, Tortolita Middle School Counseling Secretary was the 2018 Support Staff of the Year, while Christina Noriega, MUSD Family Resource Coordinator, as the 2018 Exempt Employee of the Year.

James Attebery was been selected as a finalist for the 24th annual Arizona Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Circle K Corporation “Outstanding High School Faculty Awards Program,” which honors outstanding high school teachers in Southern Arizona. He was honored at a pre-game recognition ceremony at the Arizona men’s basketball game on Saturday, January 27. He will also be recognized at a special Awards Banquet held at the UA Hall of Champions on Friday, March 2, where the Teacher of the Year will be announced.

Please see the MUSD Website for the latest information and news on the school district. 

Spotlight on Schools: Ross earns certification


The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) announced that Ms. Sarah Ross, a teacher at Marana High School, has received national certification in Music/Early Adolescence Through Young Adulthood.

Ross has taught Fine Arts/Choir since 2007

National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential in which teachers have met the profession’s highest standards and have the knowledge and skills necessary to advance student learning. Similar to certification in fields like medicine, National Board Certification is a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that ensures that Board-certified teachers have proven skills to advance student achievement.

Ross is involved with the Marana Community Choir and Marana Community Theater who have performed at several Town of Marana events.

Learn more about the great teachers and programs within the Marana Unified School District

Spotlight on Schools: Marana Cares Mobile provides Winter Break meals


For many students, the meals they eat at school are the only healthy food they get, so when school is not in session during holidays, a healthy meal may be hard to come by. The Marana Unified School District’s Marana Cares Mobile hopes to rectify that problem.

Marana Cares Mobile offers FREE nutritious and delicious meals in an air conditioned mobile facility with interior and exterior serving areas. Nutrition and health are critical to a child's ability to learn and be successful. Marana Cares Mobile meets these critical needs during school breaks and summer months so students are better prepared to return to school ready to learn. 

"Nutrition and health are critical to a child's ability to learn," said MUSD Superintendent Dr. Doug Wilson.

Handicap accessible, the mobile unit offers a fun dining experience, with Wi-fi, Chromebooks and literacy encouragement, for children. These services are brought to our community through private donations, corporate sponsorship, and charitable foundations. 

Marana Cares Mobile travels to residential areas with a high density of children who traditionally receive meal benefits during the school year.

Marana Cares Mobile will set up at two locations during Winter Break. From Tuesday, Dec. 26 through Friday, December 29 and Tuesday, January 1 through Friday, January 5th the mobile unit will be at the Southeast corner of Sandario Road and Anthony Road (next to Marana Congregation of Jehovah’s Witness Church) from 11:00 a.m. – 12 p.m. and then from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. it will be at 16560 W. El Tiro Road (El Tiro Road and Anway Road, at Marana Domestic Water).

Follow #MCM on Facebook for updates and daily menus at

Spotlight on Schools: Second grade students in Marana develop student-run business

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Tucson News Now posted a great story about second graders at a Marana Unified School District school that have started their own business to raise money for charity.

Second grade teacher, Aimee Katz, and her students at DeGrazia Elementary, within the Marana Unified School District, have embarked on a unique journey and are learning real-world business skills. 

Made possible through a Real World Scholars EdCorp grant, these young hard working, entrepreneurial thinking students have developed their own student-run business, Corky Kidz, making a variety of creative designs and items out of reused corks!

Learning entrepreneurship skills through real-world learning, students developed their business from the ground up. After creating their business name, Corky Kidz, and tagline, "Fun, Funky, and creative cork designs made by Kidz," students spent months seeking cork donations from local businesses, family and friends; researching and developing product prototypes; and learning various aspects of business.

"I wanted to start an EdCorp to provide my students with the opportunity to do some real-world learning but also do something that they will remember," states Aimee Katz, second grade Degrazia Elementary teacher. "I want students to be able to understand that what they are learning is and will be used in their life. While students are having fun, they are learning. They are learning real-life skills and if there is something they don’t know how to do, we research it."

Spotlight on Schools: MHS earns Special Olympics honor

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The Marana News had a great story on Marana High School being honored for their participation in Special Olympics.

A shower of gold glitter unveiled Marana High School’s new title: National Unified Champion School for the Special Olympics of Arizona. The title came on a new banner revealed at the high school’s pep rally last Friday, Dec. 1.

“Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools equip students with the necessary tools and training to create inclusive sports, classroom and community experiences that reduce bullying, promote healthy activities, combat stereotypes, eliminate hurtful language and improve the overall school climate,” Holly Thompson,  area director for Special Olympics Arizona announced at the school assembly. “Marana High School continues to excel in all these areas and this is why you have received this national recognition.”

The dozens of special education students at Marana High School kicked off the assembly by parading into the school gym holding a sign announcing their new title. They marched into the gym among applause and through a tunnel formed by cheerleaders and mascots. Thompson awarded a certificate to Brett Secemski, the school’s life skills teacher and Special Olympics coach.

Mountain View High School also won the award though a celebratory assembly is still being planned.

Read the whole story at the Marana News

Marana News: Deer Dedication

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The Marana News had an in-depth story on the new public art installation on Tangerine Road:

A family of massive deer has settled down in the Town of Marana, and they’re here to stay.

Built of metal and painted to match the surrounding environment, the deer can be found on the south side of West Tangerine Road between Camino De Oeste and Camino De Mañana. Unveiled in a public ceremony earlier this month led by Mayor Ed Honea and town staff, the public art installation at the site of the under-development Tangerine Sky Park is aptly named “Deer at Tangerine Sky Park.”

The multi-year project was made possible by the Transportation Art by Youth Program, part of the Pima Association of Governments, which granted the town $75,000. The art program incorporates art into regional transportation projects, in this case the Tangerine Corridor Project.

The artist behind the deer concept was Trevor O’Tool, who worked alongside Marana High School Welding Teacher Kenton Webb in supervising a handful of students who crafted the three fawns. With some assistance, O’Tool constructed the doe and buck.

Tony Hunter, Marana’s assistant to the town manager, said the concept developed from a brainstorming session. The desire for public art mixed well with an interest in involving the youth of the community and the PAG grant seemed to “fit perfectly” into the mix, according to Hunter.

Read the full story at the Marana News

Spotlight on Schools: Marana High singers among "best of the best"


Marana High School singers, Cassandra Brandriff and Nick Victoratos will perform at the National Association for Music Education's 2017 All-National Honor Ensembles this week at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort/Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. This is a collection of the “best of the best” high school singers.

“These outstanding artists qualified for their state-level honor ensemble program and competed against top students for one of 609 spots in these national honor ensembles,” explained the Marana Unified School District in a press release.

Brandriff and Victoratos will have the honor to perform under the baton of five of the most prominent conductors in the United States. The All-National Honor Ensembles consist of a concert band, symphony orchestra, mixed choir, and jazz ensemble.

Spotlight on Schools: Dual honors for MV's Oliver


Mountain View Head Athletic Trainer and Sports Medicine Teacher Leah Oliver received a pair of honors over the past few weeks.

At the last Marana Unified School District Governing Board meeting, she was formally recognized for being named a 2018 Arizona Educational Foundation Top 10 Teacher of the Year.

The AEF™ Arizona Teacher of the Year program spotlights the contributions of outstanding public school teachers throughout Arizona by annually recognizing 10 exceptionally skilled and dedicated pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public school teachers.

Oliver was one of just two teachers from Southern Arizona to make the top-10, and the only from the Tucson area.

Oliver was also honored by the students and staff at Mountain View high School, but naming their athletic training center in her honor. The honored Oliver with the renamed “Ms. O's Athletic Training Center” during a surprise celebration in the school’s gymnasium. Former and current students (dating back to her first class in 1989), former coaches, staff, administration, and family and friends came out to honor her.

Oliver has been an educator since 1989 and has earned a reputation as “a phenomenal teacher who truly cares for students, staff and parents.” Her sports medicine class and student athletic trainers are the most award-winning in the state

Marana unveils new deer family as the Town's latest public art installation

Click to view the unveiling ceremony of the new public art installation on Tangerine Road. 


This Thursday, the Town of Marana formally debuted the “Deer at Tangerine Sky Park” art installation. The small ceremony to unveil the five metal sculptures was the culmination of a two-year project.

The sculptures are made of solid steel and feature a family of foraging deer. They are located on Tangerine Road and are part of the Tangerine Corridor Project and will serve as a centerpiece of the upcoming Tangerine Sky Park.

“This project is absolutely beautiful,” said Marana Mayor Ed Honea. “The design is beautiful; the construction is beautiful. It is something we should all be very proud of."

Town of Marana Assistant to the Town Manager Tony Hunter coordinated the project, which was funded by the Transportation Art by Youth fund through the Pima Association of Governments.

This project began with the brainstorm of "how can we get public art in the community, but also how can we get youth involved as well?’” said Hunter.


The Town enlisted the help of Marana High School welding students, who have previously created other metal art pieces for Marana. Once the students were on board, the idea was to get the community on board to help with the search for an artist.

Hunter worked closely with the Marana Citizens’ Forum, who created a Public Art Committee to help come up with project.

“They were a huge help with the project,” said Hunter, who explained the artist selection process with the sub-committee. The parameters were simple. The work had to be metal to accommodate the students' skill set, and it had to represent the Marana community.

Trevor O’Tool's submitted proposal for the deer design was ultimately selected due to how he connected his work to Marana's natural environment.

“It represented our natural environment, but also represented family and our history,” Hunter said.

“It shows how the Town and artists and young people can work together to make something that our Town can be proud of for many years to come,” Honea added.

Installation of the deer was made possible due to the Town of Marana project management team and the Tangerine Corridor Constructors. It was no easy feat to put the deer in place. Not only did they have to be placed in the alignment the artist envisioned, but the sculptures are not easy to move. The sculptures are steel and weigh several hundred pounds. The buck statue weighs over 750 pounds and had to be placed with a forklift. 

They also had to be painted to protect the metal from the elements and the landscaping needed to be completed by the project management team and the contractors. 

The Deer at Tangerine Sky Park art installation is located on the Southside of Tangerine Road, East of Camino de Oeste.


Marana High School Welding Students: Austin Bott, John Campbell, Randall Chambliss, Cameron Daily, Mikaila Rodriguez, Brandon Shulls, Scott Washington. Kenton Webb – Instructor.

Marana Citizen’ Forum Public Art Committee: Ron Hill, Angela Wagner-Gabbard, Don Duncan, Valerie Pullara, Michael Smentek.

Marana Airport host Wright Flight student pilots


The Marana Regional Airport played host to 21 students from Estes Elementary School who were participating in the Wright Flight Program on Friday, November 3. The Marana Unified School District students were not only getting to fly in airplanes, but actually take the controls.

Wright Flight is dedicated to “helping kids reach new heights” in both their classrooms and their personal lives. Wright Flight is a motivational program that teaches today’s youth how to set goals and achieve them. In this case, the goal is to pilot an airplane.

The Wright Flight program teaches that with hard-work, diligence, and focus no goal is out of reach — not even becoming a pilot. Students in the program must not only improve academically or behaviorally, but those who are already excelling can set a personal goal such as doing more community service. The students make a contract with their parents and teachers that has a tangible objective and steps to meet that objective.


In addition, students must make a pledge to remain drug and alcohol free and complete the Wright Flight curriculum, including passing a final test with an 85%. The students who few on Friday had all taken an aviation history class and also had safety training to fly the planes.

Only students who work hard enough to meet their goals and pass the course earn the right to fly. In Southern Arizona only about 75% of those participating in the program make it to the capstone event of Flyday.

The Marana Regional Airport has recently begun hosting Wright Flight events to help the organization handle all of the necessary flights. There are over 1,000 students enrolled in the program in Southern Arizona.

Volunteer pilots take the students up into the air and then turn the controls over to them once they are in the air. The pilots come from a variety of backgrounds including commercial aviation, current and former military, and general aviation enthusiasts. Some donate planes for the project, while Wright Flight also has some of their own.

Spotlight on Schools: Ironwood teacher recognized as MVP


Maria Fallon, an Ironwood Elementary teacher, was selected as an Arizona Cardinals MVP in the Classroom Presented by University of Phoenix.

Fallon was recognized and awarded prizes at the October 15 AZ Cardinal Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale.

The MVP’s in the Classroom program recognizes outstanding educators in the state of Arizona.

Spotlight on Schools: MUSD's Castro wins Liasion of the Year


Marana Unified School District's Marisa Castro, Students in Transition Specialist,  was awarded Liaison of the Year by the Arizona Housing Coalition for her "exemplary efforts in assisting our District’s homeless students."

Castro was recognized at the Awards of Excellence Luncheon, at the Annual Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness, on October 3rd, 2017.

Castro goes above and beyond for each of her students and their families, and her community. In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities as a Homeless School Liaison, Marisa has worked collaboratively with outside partners throughout Pima County to bring resources directly to families within Marana Unified School District boundaries. Castro also held a leadership role on the local host committee for the 2015 National Homeless Education Conference, which was held in Phoenix.

Announcement from MUSD's Facebook Page

School Spotlight: MUSD awarded school safety grant


The Marana News had a nice write-up on the Marana School District receiving a $278,000 safety grant. 

The Marana Unified School District recently received a little more than $278,000 in grant funding from The Arizona Department of Education for the School Safety Program, which provides additional school resource officers and juvenile probation officers to schools in the district. The grant period is from this August to June 2020.

The district received the competitive, three-year grant for the second time, the first time being in the 2014/2015 school year, when $177,000 was awarded to provide SROs for Marana Middle School and Marana High School. The new grant will continue to provide for an SRO at Marana Middle School. In addition, it will also provide for one Pima County JPO at Tortolita Middle School, one Pima County JPO to serve both Quail Run Elementary and Thornydale Elementary and one JPO to serve both Roadrunner Elementary and Picture Rocks Elementary. 

Through continued partnerships with Pima County Sheriff’s and the Marana Police Department, full-time SROs are provided for Mountain View High School, Tortolita Middle School and Marana High School.

“Schools highly appreciate working hand in hand with local law enforcement,” said Tamara Crawley, director of public relations for the district. “It enhances the safety message occurring on campus, and allows students to build relationships with officers.”

To read the rest of the story go to the Marana News website. 

Spotlight on Schools: MUSD expands school safety program


The Marana district has expanded our school safety program through a recently awarded Arizona Department of Education School Safety Program grant, which provides for the following:

  • Marana Police Department School Resource Officer (SRO) at Marana Middle School, full time.
  • A Pima County Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) at Tortolita Middle School, full time.
  • A Pima County Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) serving at both Quail Run Elementary/ Thornydale Elementary.
  • A Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) serving at both Roadrunner Elementary/Picture Rocks Elementary.
  • In addition, through continued partnerships with the Pima County Sheriff’s and Marana Police Department, Mountain View, Tortolita Middle, and Marana High each have a full time SRO.  

The intent of the School Safety Program grant is to place SROs and JPOs on school grounds to contribute to safe school environments that are conducive to teaching and learning. Their presence on campuses further enhance and support the current school safety program as the officer works hand in hand with school administration to enhance a safe learning environment.

SROs/JPOs maintain a visible presence on campus; serve as an available resource to the school community; deter delinquent behaviors; and provide students and staff with Law-Related Education (LRE) instruction and training. The goal of LRE is to prepare students for responsible citizenship by promoting the development of those characteristics that lead to healthy behavior.