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.

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

Spotlight on Schools: MUSD's Wilson honored

Dr. DougWilson.jpg

Marana Unified School Districts’ superintendent - Dr. Doug Wilson – was selected as the 2018 American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year® for Arizona by the Arizona School Administrators.

Dr. Wilson has worked in public education for the last 36 years, and he is “humbled by this honor.”

According to an MUSD press release, Dr. Wilson “believes the ability to make a difference in the life of a child and influence the future through education is one of the noblest professions there is.”

“This recognition speaks more to the quality of the people who I am surrounded by, than anything I have accomplished,” Wilson added. “I cannot think of anyplace I would rather be, or anything I would rather be doing than serving the educational community in Marana as superintendent. The last nine and a half years working beside our dedicated teachers, support staff, administrators, Governing Board members, and parents have been the best years of my professional life… there is not a day that goes by that I am not inspired.”

The AASA, The School Superintendents Association National Superintendent of the Year® Program pays tribute to the talent and vision of the men and women who lead our nation's public schools. The program is designed to recognize the outstanding leadership of active, front-line superintendents.

Dr. Wilson will be recognized as the award recipient at the Arizona School Boards Association/Arizona School Administrators Annual Superintendents Conference in December and at the 2018 AASA National Conference on Education in February.

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.

Kids and Teens Can Take College Classes through Pima Community College and Marana Parks and Recreation


This summer, Marana Parks and Recreation is teaming up with Pima Community College to give a younger audience active and learning this summer. Over the course of four one-week sessions, knowledge-seekers can explore the animal kingdom, architecture, computer science, and world cultures. In every class, accredited PCC instructors will engage students with the same enthusiasm and expertise that they bring to their university courses. And the best part of all? Parents, you won’t have to pay university prices for your kids to benefit from this experience. So what are we offering this year?

The tables below break out all the course offerings by age group. To register a student ages 5-8 or 9-12, visit the Pima For Kids course catalogue. To register a student ages 13-17, visit the Teen Scene course catalogue. In either course catalogue, you can search for classes by course reference number (CRN). All classes in this program will be hosted here in Marana, at Twin Peaks Elementary School.

With both anticipation and anxiety, every year, newly minted high school graduates step into the world of higher education. For a few, though, a rising confidence bubbles up. They’ve been here before. They’ve experienced this life. They took PCC summer classes through Pima for Kids and Teen Scene. They’re ready.

Family to Occupy Permanent Home In Clearing South of Tangerine Road

When urban planners in Marana’s Development Services department consider new housing permits, they take a variety of considerations into account. How close is the nearest school? How can we ensure that homes are near major thoroughfares without sitting directly on a busy road? What infrastructure needs will the homes require? For a new family about to take up residence in Marana, though, the Town has chosen to ignore all these considerations.

Soon, a father, mother, and their three offspring will settle into an open clearing just south of Tangerine Road, east of Twin Peaks, and north of the soon-to-open Tangerine Sky Community Park. The family have received special permission to occupy so unorthodox a location as an open clearing. Their home will have no utilities. The structure will not be reviewed by a building inspector. In fact, there won’t even be a structure. But for this family of steel deer, Marana’s newest art installation, a patch of dirt under the open sky is all they need.

The idea for these newcomers to Marana started with Trevor O’Tool. Trevor holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts in 3-D and Expanded Media from the University of Arizona. As a welder, chaser, and metal processer, he has constructed bronze sculptures to be incorporated into the work of other artists. He founded a clothing company in Lake Havasu City and exhibited sculptures throughout Tucson. And a few evenings each week, he’s a hooker.

“Basically, my job is to hook the ball back during scrums,” explains Trevor, with a bashful grin. “And whenever the ball goes out of bounds, I throw it back in during line outs.” Trevor has been the hooker for the Tucson Magpies, a recreational rugby club, since he graduated from the UA four years ago.

In fact, it was through rugby that Trevor met Angela Wagner-Gabbard, a resident of Marana and a member of the Marana Citizens’ Forum subcommittee on public art. In 2014, the five-member subcommittee provided guidance to the Town Council on how best to execute the Transportation Art by Youth Grant, a program sponsored by the Pima Association of Governments, which provides resources to incorporate art into transportation projects. The grant enables art-oriented youth organizations to collaborate with professional artists to design projects that help beautify a variety of infrastructure improvements. Angela encouraged Trevor to submit a proposal, and after a lengthy review process, Marana, for the first time ever, hired a hooker.

Marana’s new art installation will be part of the improvements along Tangerine Road between Dove Mountain and Thornydale Roads. In reviewing a variety of proposals, Marana’s grant reviewers, including the subcommittee of the Citizens’ Forum, wanted to see a design that reflected the natural environment of this setting. This arterial road connects northern Marana and Oro Valley with Interstate 10, crossing just south of the Tortolita Mountains. The wildlife that inhabits these mountains includes several species of megafauna which enjoy an elevated status in the popular imagination. Mountain lions prowl these canyons, wild horses lope through the saguaro forest, and mule deer bound up the steep slopes. Lots and lots of mule deer.

Those deer are what Trevor had in mind when he proposed his sculpture. “The solicitation for this project indicated that Marana wanted a design that referenced the Native American history of this site. The Hohokam used to live in the Tortolitas, and when I learned that they associated the deer with ideas like gentleness and innocence, I decided to go in that direction. Right now, Marana is building Tangerine Sky Park nearby, and eventually, there will also be a school in this area. I think the Hohokam symbolism of deer will really fit nicely in this setting.”

When Marana staff and members of the Forum subcommittee saw his design, they couldn’t help but agree. The image of a massive doe and buck, leading a family of three fawns, captured the imagery they had hoped for.  Trevor received overwhelming approval to move forward with his design.

Trevor O'Tool's proposed sketch of deer.

Constructing five oversized deer that can withstand temperature extremes, powerful monsoon rains, and driving winds presented Trevor with a daunting challenge. Fortunately, the very premise of the grant funding his work meant that he did not have to meet that challenge alone. The language of the grant requires that at least 20% of the funding support youth stipends, and the Career and Technical Education program of Marana Unified School District offered the perfect talent pool for completing the project. Marana High School’s welding program prepares students to pursue careers in metal fabrication, and its graduates have gone on to work with companies like Sierra Mining and Crushing, JB Steel, and CAID Industries. Trevor’s design proposed constructing the deer from flat sheets of steel cut into triangles, and so a collaboration with MHS’s welding program was a natural fit. Ken Webb, who runs the welding program, was eager to facilitate this opportunity for his students.

“It’s a cool project to be a part of,” Ken shouted recently over the din of grinders and welders loudly crafting a metallic fawn. “This sculpture is going to be around for years to come, and these kids may eventually take their kids to see this sculpture. It’s really gratifying for all of us to have that experience.”

Randy Chambliss, a recent graduate of Marana High, smooths out a section of the fawn's head.

Since the students first began this project in the summer of 2016, they’ve had to strategize with Ken and Trevor to figure out how exactly to translate an artist’s sketch into a set of towering steel sculptures.

“It’s kind of like building a Lego set, except a grown-up version,” says John Campbell, who started working on this project as a senior and has stayed with the team since he graduated last year. And although welding is most often associated with flying sparks and molten metals, as John and his classmates have learned in the welding program, the first step requires long hours in front of a computer screen. That’s because projects like this one are first designed in SolidWorks, a 3D design software program that creates a digital model of the final design. The students then used the school’s 3D printer to create a physical miniature of the final sculpture.

The deer model (with broken ear) stands in the shadow of its substantially larger facsimile.

Finally, once that model matches the intended specifications, the students must translate those dimensions into their Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Plasma Cam. The CNC Plasma Cam is the industry standard for cutting sheet metal with absolute precision, slicing through the metal with far greater accuracy than is possible with a handheld cutter.

John Campbell checks measurements in the software program that operates the CNC Plasma Cam.

Once the Marana High team had cut out all 295 plates for the first deer, they began the arduous process of assembling them into a sculpture. The first step of that process required tack welding the plates together, a technique that holds the pieces together temporarily.

This stage, John admitted, was more challenging than expected. “Anytime you go from a digital design to a physical design, you’re going to find differences between theory and reality.” In this case, one issue they encountered arose from as small a difference as 1/8 inch.

In SolidWorks, Ken explained, they didn’t account for the width of each plate. That minor discrepancy turned out to create a compounding problem as the plates did not fit as neatly together in the welding shop as they did on the computer screen. Through careful troubleshooting and teamwork between the MHS team and Trevor, the team was able to make the necessary adjustments to fit all the pieces together without having to start over from scratch.

“That’s a really valuable lesson for these kids to learn,” recalled Ken. “This project requires a lot of critical thinking and problem-solving. They’re learning the computer side of programming to make and cut the parts. They’re learning to apply the skills they learned in my classes, and they’re taking them to the next level. They’re not being treated as students anymore, but rather like this is a job and this is their workplace.”

While the students at Marana High School are building the three fawns, Trevor is taking on the buck, the largest member of the family. With shoulders measuring six feet tall and antlers rising to well over twelve feet, this enormous sculpture dwarfs the array of heavy machinery scattered across the University of Arizona studio where he works. Occasionally, Trevor will have to climb onto its back just to do a quick spot weld on its head.

Trevor O'Tool astride the deer and Eric Norman at its feet.

Fortunately, Trevor has help in the workshop. Shop Tech Eric Norman has been heavily involved throughout the project’s construction, and is bringing his own expertise to help ensure a well-crafted final product. With a masters in fine arts from Washington State University and a degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Eric is well acquainted with the challenges and constraints, as well as the benefits, of executing projects like this one.

“I think it’s hugely important for public institutions to prioritize art in the community,” says Eric, sitting in the shadow of the immense buck. “Art is a community need. In the same way that people need smooth roads, they need public art around them.” For Eric, then, it makes sense that the Tangerine Road improvement project is incorporating both of these priorities.

Trevor smooths out one section of the deer with a grinder.

When the family of deer is complete, it will occupy a strip near the southeast corner of Tangerine Road and Camino de Oeste. Nearby, Marana is currently constructing Tangerine Sky Park. While there will be no direct connection between the sculptures and the park, Trevor and the members of the MHS team all look forward to seeing the public physically interact with the deer.

“Kids are going to want to climb all over these, and honestly, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t,” laughs Trevor. “Of course, parents should be there to make sure they don’t fall, but I believe that art like this is best experienced not just by looking at it, but by touching it, and yes, even playing on it.”

Trevor’s playful demeanor shines through in other projects of his, including a manikin laden head to foot with life jackets cautiously approaching a kiddy pool.

Err on the Side of Caution. 2014. Source:

Trevor has subtly put his sense of humor to work on these deer sculptures, as well. While he isn’t committing to a final name for the piece quite yet, he’s considering the title “Deer in Headlights.” That is, after all, what the deer will be every night, standing beside Tangerine Road.

The final sculpture is anticipated to be completed and installed this summer. Tom Houle, a construction manager for the Town of Marana, is overseeing the Tangerine roadwork and working with the sculpture team to figure out exactly how and where to place the deer.

The location of the sculpture, he explains, is perfect for a number of reasons. “This is an elevated site, so the deer will really stand out, even from a distance. Of course, this is also deer country. We incorporated deer crossings into the Twin Peaks project a few years ago, and Phase 2 of the Tangerine project will also have a deer crossing west of Dove Mountain.” It’s factors like these that get Tom excited to see the final installation in situ.

When Marana hired part-time hooker, full-time artist Trevor O’Tool, the Town made a crucial investment in the community’s infrastructure, albeit in a non-traditional sense. Roads help get families to school, water systems deliver safe drinking water, and roadside art integrates a sense of creativity and fun into the fabric of the community. It’s what inspires us to expect our public spaces to be not just functional, but joyful. And it turns out, it isn’t always hard to conjure up that joy. Sometimes, all it takes is a family of five deer by the side of the road.





Summer Schooling, Part 6: Marana Schools Giving Kids the Tools They Need

With summer vacation drawing to a close and school right around the corner, I thought a quick rundown of what is going on with MUSD would be a good topic for this week.  For those of you who live in Gladden Farms area, there is a new elementary school opening up.  It is the first new school in MUSD in quite some time and it has a fantastic new look.  The grand opening and a tour will be offered on July 20 at 4:00pm.  It is one of two schools that will be offering a computer science immersion program that uses Minecraft to create a cutting edge learning environment. MUSD has teamed up with Code to the Future to create this program which allows kids to incorporate computer science in all aspects of their learning environment.   Quail Run Elementary school on Cortaro Road will also be participating in this program.  These two schools will be the first in Arizona to participate in this type of program.

I recently spent some time with the head of Marana Unified School District’s Career and Technical Education program, Cathie Raymond.  I have been a big fan of these programs for a long time now.  CTE programs give kids in high school an opportunity to get working knowledge and experience in career fields.  The goal is always higher education with the understanding that technical and trade schools are still a form of higher education.  Not all kids are going to get a bachelor’s degree or may take some time off before pursuing one, and CTE allows these kids an opportunity to get good paying jobs right out of high school and allows them the freedom to discover exactly what they want to do. 

The CTE program will be expanding into aviation very soon.  I was very glad to hear this for a couple of reasons.  First of all as an Air Force brat and son of an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanic, aviation is near and dear to me, and I will always support it.  I have seen the results of a career in aviation, and it can be a very lucrative career field that does not require a four year degree.  Secondly, the Town has a lot of businesses that are aviation-related and are growing.  Within a short drive there is Tucson International Airport that offers a whole host of jobs and just up the road at Pinal Air Park there are more opportunities in aviation.  This is a fantastic move on the part of MUSD and the CTE program, and I really hope it is widely used and gains the recognition that all CTE programs deserve.

With the first day of school on August 8, it is time to start getting school supplies and this year’s round of clothes and shoes that will be destroyed within the first months of school.  It’s time to start getting them back on a normal routine and getting ready for another year of school.  As a parent, I think MUSD is one of the better districts in the area.   All of the new programs are proof that it is embracing the future and ready to give our kids the tools they need.  

Marana competes in the All-America City 2016 competition

For many months, students, community members, and the staff of the Town of Marana have prepared for the All-America City Award Competition.  Every year, these awards recognize communities across the country who work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results. For two years in a row, the National Civic League has honored Marana as a finalist for this prestigious award. On June 17-19, Marana's delegation represented our community in Denver, Colorado in an effort to bring him this honor. Learn more about the delegation

Though the Town did not receive the All-America City Award this year, Marana's delegation admirably represented this community. This year, the competition targeted community programs which address the health and well-being of youth. With a performance celebrating many of the outstanding programs offered by Marana Unified School District,  a Spoken Word performance delivered eloquently and enthusiastically by Marana High School's Maddie Miller, and impromptu sing-a-longs on a city bus and in a conference center lobby, the delegation demonstrated how effectively Marana accomplishes that goal. These photos and videos offer a glimpse into the Marana delegation's incredible efforts.  

on the road

The Marana Delegation traveled for 15 hours to Denver, Colorado, and on the way they made several stops to admire the beautiful Colorado scenery. The first stop was at the City of Trinidad for breakfast, and the second was at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. By the time they reached their destination, they were ready to begin rehearsals. 


The Marana Delegation had already practiced for hours back home, but now they were able to run dress rehearsals on the actual competition stage. They continued to run rehearsals until their performance. 


The Marana Delegation had exactly 2.5 minutes to enter the room and setup on stage, and then 10 minutes to give their presentation. This year, the National Civic League wanted to hear from cities that show collaboration in programs that support students to succeed in school and life. The Marana Delegation emphasized the importance of a strong heart, body, and mind in order to succeed. 


After a long day of presentations, the 20 cities had a chance to unwind and get to know each other better during the All-America City Civic Fair and Cultural Entertainment Showcase. The Marana Delegation presented a moving Spoken Word performance followed by a joyful Haitian song. 


Before the opening plenary, the Marana Delegation brought out their instruments and began playing and singing popular radio songs while waiting in the lobby. It didn't take long before other cities wanted to join in, and everyone bonded over music. 


Cities shared program details with one another during the Festival of Ideas. Marana Delegate and Marana principal Tawnya Caldwell presented on the Marana Cares Mobile, a refurbished school bus that serves as a food truck during school holidays, vacations, and summer months. All children under the age of 18 receive free meals, and just this month doctors began conducting free health checks on the bus. Learn more about the Marana Cares Mobile here and here


Despite falling short of the All-America City designation, the Marana Delegation did not come home empty-handed. Filled with community pride and inspiration, the delegation is now eager to begin implementing new ideas in the Marana community. Before going on this Denver adventure, many of the students had little knowledge of local government. Now, they are ready to continue their civic engagement and bring more opportunities to youth in the Marana community. The students will meet with Town staff in the coming months to further develop their ideas and share their unique perspectives. 

Thank you to our community partners for their support:

Marana 2.0 students share ideas with Town Council

On Tuesday night, Marana Town Councilmembers learned about a range of issues across this community from a unique perspective. These speakers were neither developers, nor Town staff, nor consultants.  They were students from Marana High School, and for the past eight months, they have each worked in departments within the Town, as well as at a few local nonprofits.  Now at the end of their internships, these students were ready to report their findings to the Town Council.


The students presenting on Tuesday night have just concluded the first year of Marana 2.0.  This program offers seniors at Marana High School the chance to learn about local government not by reading a textbook, but through practical, lived experiences. Departments from across the Town, from Police to Special Events to Technology Services, have mentored these students and in turn benefited from their unique contributions.  With the school year drawing to a close, the Marana Town Council was eager to find out what the students learned and accomplished.

As Raymond Schnell advanced his Powerpoint, the Town Council saw a concrete example of what he had accomplished.  As an intern with the Town’s tech services team, Raymond began his experience with an interest in app development.  It was clear from his final project that this interest paid off.  He had created from scratch a quiz app, designed to test how well his peers understood local government.  Simply developing the quiz was not enough, though.  He also pushed his project into a test market, analyzing the results of his classmates.  Raymond explained that tools like this one can help Marana evaluate how well it’s communicating with residents, and how the Town can improve its outreach.

After the presentations, each Councilmember took a few moments to congratulate the students on all they had achieved.  “What I got from listening to you,” extolled Councilmember Dave Bowen, “is how much ability you have, how ready you are to take on the challenges that you will face. It’s been great hearing from you.”

Councilmember Carol McGorray echoed Councilmember Bowen’s remarks.  “I spoke to each of you before the meeting, and I’m so impressed because you’re all part of this same program, and yet you bring such a different viewpoint from your particular experiences to us here on the Council tonight, and I really appreciate that.”

The Town of Marana is pleased that the first year of this program was so successful.  “We had nine students present tonight, and these kids worked hard all year to get to this point,” says Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson, who spearheaded the program.  “We’re looking forward to watching this program grow and get better every year.”

As this school year winds down, the Town of Marana is already brainstorming ways to improve the program for next year.  During the presentations, one student suggested expanding this opportunity to juniors, instead of just seniors.  While these plans are strictly preliminary at the moment, there is little doubt that this program will grow and flourish in the years to come.  To keep up with that progress, be sure to check back with the Marana Newsroom.


A Sneak Peak into the New Elementary School in Gladden Farms

When the 2016-2017 school year kicks off next August, an eager class of kindergartners won’t be the only new additions to Marana Unified School District. A new elementary school in Gladden Farms will open its doors for the first time.  Recently, Chasse Building Team, the firm contracted to construct the new school, offered a tour of this new site, and the Marana Newsroom is ready to provide you with a glimpse inside these new walls.


Reading is perhaps the most important skill for young students to learn, which is why this reading nook is at the heart of the new school.  Located just behind the main entrance, teachers will be able to take their students to this comfortable spot for dedicated reading time.



This new school embraces the importance of collaborative learning.  Every classroom enjoys one moving glass wall which teachers can configure in different ways in order to create the perfect learning environment for every lesson.  The walls will be among the final installations, but this open space shows where one of them will soon stand.


Classrooms are far from the only places where learning can happen, and this new school is well equipped to provide creative spaces for students to engage with each other and their teachers.  This central staircase will conveniently double as bleachers, allowing students to use this area for presentations and assemblies.



School safety is always a top priority, and this new school includes some of the latest technology to keep students secure.  Double doorways on arterial hallways are magnetized, so that all doors can be closed with the push of a button.



Just off the cafeteria and auditorium space is a music room.  Soon, it will echo with the cacophony of children plucking their first violin strings and tooting their first horns.  Across the hall is a PE room, where students can exercise when it’s too hot or cold to go outside.



Throughout the school year, Arizona’s weather means that students can enjoy comfortably eating their lunch outside, but sometimes, it’s just too hot or cold.  This canopy offers the best of both worlds.  With a roof two-stories above the ground and large roll-up doors, this feature will provide extensive opportunities for students to get outdoors.  However, when the weather doesn’t cooperate, all the school has to do is roll down those doors and enjoy the climate-controlled inside space.



During the early stages of construction, Chasse built a “mock-up wall,” allowing the firms of BWS Architects and Winslow & Partners to provide early feedback.  After all, it’s much easier to alter a wall before it’s built than afterwards.


Throughout construction, this site has seen up to 133 workers industriously laboring to complete the school by June 15.  Not only are they on target to meet that goal, but they recentlycelebrated 100 straight days without an accident.  Safety is a priority for the Town, Marana Unified School District, and the Chasse Building Team, so this accomplishment is certainly worthy of a burger and a hot dog.



On August 8, 2016, an army of young scholars will descend on this new elementary school.  Just a year ago, this site was nothing more than a graded patch of dirt.  Soon, though, it will begin educating a new generation of Marana students.  This innovative building will provide a creative space for kids to explore new knowledge and engage with the world around them.  The Chasse Building Team offered nearly 100 visitors a glimpse into this new school, and it was clear that more than a few of them wanted to figure out how they themselves could re-enroll in kindergarten.  Unfortunately for them, they’re probably a little too big for the desks.

Marana Unified School District Debuts a Different Kind of Food Truck

Think that the big yellow bus is just for getting to and from school?  Think again!  Marana Unified School District has a new addition to its transportation fleet: a repurposed school bus that’s been retrofitted as a full diner for handing out free meals to kids. 

Hundreds of children who attend Marana schools depend on their cafeterias for lunch every day.  However, when they’re on vacation, it can be challenging to figure out how to get those meals.  Though many schools still offer lunches during breaks, it can still be difficult for the students to get to school.  Now, the cafeteria can come to them.

On Monday, December 21, Marana Unified began distributing meals from Marana Cares Mobile.  Harnessing the power of the food truck movement, this chic ‘50s diner on wheels plans to make a dozen stops during the winter break.  They’ve already handed out almost 100 meals to Marana kids, and every day, the number showing up for a tasty bite is growing. 

Kari Barney works as a site supervisor for food services at Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary School, and has volunteered to help staff the bus as it makes the rounds.  “I love working with the kids, and this is a great opportunity for me to help out.  What’s really great is seeing the same kids come back day after day.  I know they need the meal, and I’m so happy it’s becoming part of their routine.”

Beyond simply providing a crucial meal, the staff at MUSD are particularly proud of the quality of food they’re distributing.  “We’ve got chicken sandwiches, PB and J’s, fruits, and veggies.  We’ve got chicken nuggets, too, but these are much healthier than anything you’ll find at McDonalds,” says Russ Federico, Executive Director of Operations at MUSD. 

Back in March 2015, this project was just an idea which quickly received widespread support.  Whenever MUSD retires an old school bus, it sells it at auction, typically receiving around $2,000.  When this bus reached that point, though, the auto shop mechanics for MUSD realized that it would be a strong candidate for Marana Cares Mobile. 

“Most of our buses have an AC that runs off the engine,” explains Federico, “but this one has a separate generator.  That means that we can continue to run the AC, even when the engine is turned off.  When we’re distributing meals in the summer, that’s going to be an incredibly important feature.”

Once the district identified this bus as a strong candidate for its project, it worked with RWC International, from whom MUSD purchases many of its buses.  In its reconstruction of the bus, RWC added a gray water system, a side door with lift, an awning on the outside, and sleek chrome stools inside. 

Since the bus first hit the streets earlier this week, the community response has been resoundingly positive.  From a front page story on the Arizona Daily Star to coverage from local TV news outlets, it appears that hungry kids aren’t the only ones excited about this new addition to the district’s fleet.

With interest growing rapidly, the district anticipates that soon, one bus won’t be enough to meet demand.  With that in mind, another bus is already in the works which will offer even more services.  The second bus will be outfitted with help from the welding program at Marana High School, which is part of the district’s larger Career and Technical Education efforts.  It will also include space for a mobile dental clinic in the back.  That area will be designed with help from the CTE students who work in the dental offices of the Marana Health Center. 

Marana Cares Mobile is just one of the many creative ways in which MUSD is working hard throughout the year to make sure that its students are not just getting the education they deserve, but getting opportunities both in and out of school to learn, grow, and prosper.  “Inspiring students to learn today and lead tomorrow,” reads the slogan on the front of the bus.  Through this initiative, the district not only leads with a powerful message, but indeed, leads by example.  For more information, visit  

Your Town Podcast Episode 20: MHS Choir and Orchestra

Making their Your Town debut in Episode 20 of the Your Town Podcast are the singers and players of the Marana High School Choir and Orchestra.   In the episode, we chat with the choir director Sarah Ross and orchestra director Rachel Vega.  Then, for the first time on the podcast, we listen to some music!  Students will perform excerpts from what they’ve got in store for the Holiday Festival.  Finally, we wrap up with the Expert Challenge, where the students see if they can outsmart their teachers.  Give us a listen!  

Town Council and School Board Host Joint Meeting

MUSD Superintendent Doug Wilson Addresses Council and School Board

In many communities, schools and local government operate in entirely different worlds.   That division begins in the polling booth, where voters elect separate council and school board candidates.  In Marana, however, local elected leaders are working to bridge that chasm.  Tuesday night, the Town Council and the Marana Unified School Board convened a joint meeting at the Marana Municipal Complex in which representatives from each side shared examples of the many ways schools and government are inextricably linked.  By creating a space for collaboration, both the Town Council and the School Board hope to open an ongoing dialogue about the ways schools and government can achieve their shared goal of creating a vibrant, well-educated community.

Mayor Ed Honea and School Board President Dan Post called the meeting to order, each acknowledging the importance of a close relationship between the two political bodies.  “If we can share resources, it’s an asset for both of us,” explained Honea, as he welcomed the members of the School Board. 

Town Manager Gilbert Davidson echoed Honea’s remarks, describing the feedback loop in which the Council and School Board operate.  “If the Town works to create a great space, people are going to want to move to this community.”  Those new residents will pay property taxes and will send their children to Marana’s schools, Davidson explained. 

Marana’s Economic Development Director Curt Woody, who is deeply familiar with the local business community, provided the concrete evidence to back up these claims.  When businesses choose to locate here, they care much more about the quality of the local schools than they do about tax incentives.  “A strong educational system is the most important element for economic development,” affirmed Woody emphatically.  “We have to break down the silos between education, government, and businesses.”

Responding to these assertions, Cathie Raymond, who directs career and technical education for MUSD, shed light on some of the programs the district runs which enable students to experience real-world work environments.  She listed off a wide array of career-oriented options, from automotive engineering to business management.  “Our job is to teach our students how to become adults and how to become financially independent,” summarized Raymond for the Council and School Board.  Around the room, heads nodded firmly in agreement.

Concluding the meeting was a joint presentation from Patricia Cadigan, MUSD’s executive director of bond projects, and Russ Federico, the district’s executive director of operational support.  Cadigan detailed how MUSD plans to spend the $125 million bond approved by voters in 2014.  Principally, the district has already broken ground on a new elementary school serving Gladden Farms.  The creative design of its classrooms includes moving glass walls which teachers can manipulate to construct all kinds of different learning environments.  This new school, which can serve 750 students at capacity, will open in time for the 2016-2017 school year. 

Physical construction, though, is not the only plan MUSD has in the pipeline.  Eventually, all students grades three through twelve will receive their own Chromebooks, announced Federico.  “We want to put our students together not only physically, we want to put them together digitally.”  In the long term, the digital and physical will meet in a new STEM Academy serving Dove Mountain, which the district hopes to open in the 2019-2020 school year. 

By the end of the meeting, it had become abundantly clear that neither the Town Council nor the School Board could see any limitation on their future work.  Superintendent Doug Wilson hopes eventually to create an entire complex near Marana Main Street that may include a new high school, performing arts theater, cultural center, and library.  This hub may grow to include restaurants, hotels, and retail options.  The district, he explained, already has $12 million dedicated to this project.  The problem, though, is that its overall costs are projected to be around $35 million. 

While it’s obvious that many of these ideas are still only fantasies, this sharing of information between Council and School Board allows each group to push the other to dream big.  As they each continue to think beyond their respective silos, they hope to envision the kind of projects that will make Marana a great place to live not only next year, but next decade.  Tuesday’s meeting was a strong marker of that effort, one that both sides are eager to maintain.