Employee newsletter, August 8, 2019

Upcoming events

Welcome back, #oneteam!

Thanks for ensuring Tuesday was a successful first day of school for our students. Welcome to our new employees, and welcome back to our returning staff. In case you missed it, Superintendent Ember Conley shared a video message with staff in yesterday's Igniting Excellence.

Help us celebrate success

Amazing things are happening at Mesa Public Schools, and we love to share student, staff and school success stories with our community. How can you help? Send information to news@mpsaz.org that appeals to the broader Mesa community.

We will consider submissions to feature in an upcoming Mesa Agenda, through the district news feed or on district social media accounts (FacebookTwitter or Instagram). We're especially looking for stories that support our district goals.

If you have questions about submitting news for consideration, feel free to email Heidi Hurst or call 480-472-0224.

Budget increase on Nov. 5 mail-in ballot

The Governing Board voted to place a 15% maintenance and operations budget increase, or override, on the Nov. 5 mail-in only ballot. The budget increase helps the district retain and attract quality teachers and staff, improve school safety and security, and prepare students for college and the workforce. Learn the facts about the budget increase at mpsaz.org/info.

As a reminder, district employees and board members are prohibited from using district resources to influence the outcome of an election, per Arizona state law and district Policy GBG - District and Staff Participation in Political Activities and its regulation. Additionally:

  • While on duty, employees may not wear political buttons, T-shirts, hats or other items designed to influence the outcome of an election.
  • Employees acting on the district's behalf must not give students written materials to influence the outcome of an election or to advocate support or opposition to pending or proposed legislation.
  • Employees must not use the authority of their positions to influence the vote or political activities of any subordinate employee.
  • Any distribution of materials about the election must come through the communications & engagement office.

Governing Board meetings now begin at 5 p.m.

Starting with the Aug. 13 meeting, Governing Board meetings will now begin at 5 p.m. The visual communications department broadcasts school board meetings and study sessions live and makes them available later on YouTube. Meetings are held in the board room, located in the Curriculum Services Center building, 549 N. Stapley Dr. Agendas, videos, highlights and minutes are available on the district website.

Back-to-school educator offers

On Aug. 22, our friends at Mesa Arts Center are hosting a special free event just for Arizona educators. Attendees will enjoy refreshments, live music by Grammy award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey and advance information about upcoming student-friendly events. The school with the greatest participation will win a free arts experience. Learn more and RSVP on the Mesa Arts Center website.

Odysea Aquarium is hosting an Educator Open House 5-8 p.m. Aug. 28. The free event is only open to educators with valid credentials. Learn more and register online.

Mesa's Museum of Natural History offers a free teacher preview pass to learn more about available school field trip options. Learn more and download the pass online.

Barnes & Noble is celebrating teachers through Sept. 15 with Educator Appreciation Shopping Weekends. PreK-12 educators will receive 25% off most books, toys, games, movies, music and more every Saturday and Sunday until Sept. 15, in store and online. Register for the Barnes & Noble educator program online or in stores.

Through Sept. 28, Office Depot/Office Max is offering 20% back in rewards on qualifying purchases to teachers with a valid ID card and rewards membership. Learn more and download a printable flyer.

Arizona State University alumni can register for a free teacher toolkit to receive a spirit-themed packet for their classroom. Learn more.

Tune in to the district's EdTech podcast

Reboot Revolution is educational technology's podcast for teachers, by teachers. Hosted and produced by trainers Carrie Seather and Cain Reagan, each episode includes innovative ideas from district educators. Enjoy bite-sized inspiration on your own time, and earn recertification hours. Subscribe on iTunes, Android, Spotify or by email on the Reboot Revolution website.

New wellness opportunities for benefits-eligible employees

SmartDollar has helped millions of people get out of debt and gain control of their financial future. Starting this year, the Ramsey Solutions program is free for benefits-eligible district employees. SmartDollar includes a proven step-by-step plan, video lessons and online tools. Sign up before Aug. 24 and use the program daily Sept. 1-Sept. 14 to participate in a contest where you could win daily prizes, including iPads, Chromebooks and a vacation grand prize. Learn more and register online.

Omada is a digital lifestyle program that can help employees lose weight and develop lifelong healthy habits. The program is free for eligible employees enrolled in the district's Cigna health insurance plan. Covered dependents may also be eligible. Learn more and take the one-minute eligibility screener.

MPS in the news

Dr. Ember Conley shared the district's social and emotional learning priorities in the July 28 issue of East Valley Tribune

East Valley Tribune featured district chief science officers in the July 28 issue, including interviews with Red Mountain High freshman Mariana Myers and Skyline High senior Cade Watkin.

AZEDNEWS highlighted Kino Junior High's Aerospace Academy in July, including an interview with teacher Nancy Parra-Quinlan.

Samantha Calise, a National Board Certified kindergarten teacher at Brinton Elementary, shared first-year-of-school survival tips for parents in the July 14 issue of East Valley Tribune

Dr. Shaun Holmes, associate superintendent of human and capital resources, and Scott Thompson, assistant superintendent of business & support services, conducted interviews with several news stations about the bus driver shortage, including ABC15, 3TV/CBS5, 12News and Cronkite News

breitenbucher, arbogast, montez, bishop and lang-sims

In June, East Valley Tribune interviewed 2019 Red Mountain High graduate Adrian Kwiatkowski. Adrian was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career & Technical Education.

The June issue of Learning Forward magazine featured an article written by the Westwood 5. The collaborative team comprises Kerr Elementary Principal Amy Breitenbucher, Emerson Elementary Principal Christel Swinehart-Arbogast, Adams Elementary Principal Stephanie Montez, Whitman Elementary Principal Beth Bishop and Whittier Elementary Principal Andrea Lang Sims (pictured left to right). The leaders wrote about the power of cross-campus professional learning communities.

Plan for retirement

Is retirement in the horizon? Plan to attend a 90-minute Arizona State Retirement System meeting. All meetings are held on the third floor of the Administrative Services Center, 63 E. Main St., Mesa.

Route 3 - Retiring within the next three years
Wednesday, Sept. 11, 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 19, 3:30 p.m.

Route 4 - Retiring within the next year
Wednesday, Sept. 25, 3:30 p.m.

Register for a meeting on the human resources webpage. Employees who do not have internet access may use the computers in the human resources lobby or seek assistance at their work site. Hurry, meetings fill up quickly!

Employees hired to work at least 20 weeks and at least 20 hours per week are required to enroll in ASRS. Contributions are set up automatically through payroll deduction for eligible employees.

It is important to establish an online ASRS account to ensure your contributions are correctly posted. Enrollees can review account statements, use benefit estimation tools and manage beneficiary information. Visit the ASRS resource page to learn more and build your retirement timeline.

Questions? Contact Deb Herman in human resources at 480-472-0404.

Wanted: enthusiastic supporters for United Way campaign

Do you enjoy helping others and giving back to our community? If so, we need your help! We want YOU to be a community connector for this year's United Way campaign.

We're looking for two people from each school and department to design and conduct their site's United Way campaign, raising money that helps our own students. It's also fun. Just ask our Student Services Center community connectors who always organize engaging events.

We'll give you tools and ideas and offer you all the support you need. You'll be required to attend a one-hour pre-campaign training session in late August.

To become a community connector, please contact Nina Allred at 480-472-0223 no later than Friday, Aug. 23. She will tell you if your site needs a community connector and can sign you up for a training session. Thank you for caring about our community.

Win prizes in the MPS Trip Reduction Program

Save on fuel and vehicle maintenance, minimize air pollution and win prizes when you participate in the district's Trip Reduction Program. Mandated by Maricopa County, the Trip Reduction Program promotes carpooling, taking the bus, walking or biking to work. You will automatically be entered in a prize drawing when you join and when you track your alternate transportation to and from work at least two days each month.

Thank you for doing your part to help clean the valley's air. For more information about the program, contact Nina Allred at 480-472-0223.

Cue the applause

Jimmy Wojcik and Marlo Loria holding awardsIt's been a successful summer for our career & technical education staff. Roxanne Karges, Smith Junior High FACS teacher, was named the Association for Career and Technical Education of Arizona Junior High Teacher of the Year. Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association honored Westwood High agriculture science teacher Jimmy Wojcik and Marlo Loria, executive director of innovative partnerships, as Superstition District Teacher of the Year and Administrator of the Year, respectively (pictured).

Salk Elementary fourth-grade teacher Soumalee McNamara won the Excellence in Education Teacher of the Year Award from 99.9 KEZ and Taylor Morrison. 

Purchasing supervisor Karen Fleetwood won the Arizona Association of School Business Officials 2019 William Lovett Award at the July annual conference.

In June, 12News recognized the Schomaker family as the A+ Teachers of the Week. Mesa High social studies teacher Darris, Mountain View High business education teacher Vicki and their daughter, Taylor Junior High social studies teacher Courtney, were surprised by colleague Karen Eulate and reporter Trisha Hendricks during summer school.

Red Mountain High engineering teacher Adam Middleton and biology teacher Jennifer Klein traveled to NASA Langley with four students as finalists in the Wearable Equipment for Averting Radiation (WEAR) challenge. The Red Mountain High team was one of only five in the nation to be invited to the finals. The team presented their design for wearable anti-radiation garments for astronauts. The team was featured in East Valley Tribune, and on air with KTAR and FOX10 Phoenix.


Send news to:

Heidi Hurst, communications & engagement director

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