Employee newsletter, October 16, 2019

 Upcoming events

Join us for Rivalry Week on Friday

We are celebrating 120 years of high schools in Mesa with $1 admission for the Oct. 18 varsity football games. Join the fun as our teams face off:

  • Skyline High at Dobson High
  • Mesa High at Westwood High
  • Mountain View High at Red Mountain High

Games begin at 7 p.m. We will see you there!

Calling all Warriors

Did you or someone you know graduate Westwood High between 1965 and 1970? We are recognizing our Warriors at the Oct. 22 Governing Board meeting. Learn more and RSVP at mpsaz.org/120.

View photos from the Sept. 24 Mesa High alumni recognition.

Listen to a conversation with Dr. Conley

In case you missed it, Superintendent Ember Conley was a guest on episode 12 of the Reboot Revolution podcast, presented by educational technology trainers Cain Reagan and Carrie Seather. Dr. Conley discussed teaching, collaboration and leadership. Listen now.

K-6 reading incentive program from Arizona Diamondbacks

Read Your Way to the Ball Park is a free reading incentive program from the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation. When students reach teacher-determined reading goals, four prize levels are granted, ranging from a keychain to tickets to a home game. All materials and prizes will be delivered to schools. In addition, 25 participating teachers will receive $500 grants for new books, and classes will be considered for a surprise D-backs visit. Learn more online, and email dbacksfoundation@dbacks.com to sign up.

What could the 15% budget increase do for Mesa Public Schools? Teacher and student photo; teacher icon: Retain and attract quality teachers and staff - reduce class sizes, provide professional learning to improve technology skills, hire instructional assistants for classroom support; Nov. 5, 2019, Mail-in ballot only, Learn more at mpsaz.org/infoBudget increase ballots mailed to voters

Voters living in district boundaries will determine whether to pass a 15% maintenance and operations budget increase, or override, in the Nov. 5 mail-in only election. Ballots should be returned by Oct. 30.

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 and find informational resources to share at mpsaz.org/info.

Upcoming professional learning opportunities

Arizona State University College of Health Solutions will host the 14th annual James Case Memorial Workshop Oct. 19, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Single and team registration is available for educators including SLPs, reading specialists, special education teachers and literacy coaches. Attendees will learn innovative strategies for improving reading comprehension. Learn more and register at chs.asu.edu/james-case.

Join Mesa Education Association at the Early Career Learning Lab 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Dobson High community room. Dinner is provided. Participants will enjoy small group collaboration, weekly support and online meetings with virtual coaches. For more information, contact Kelly Berg at kmberg@mpsaz.org.

ASU's Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing is offering scholarships for the Feb. 21-22 ASU Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference. Anyone currently teaching in primary, secondary or higher education in Arizona is eligible to apply. Learn more and apply online. Hurry, applications close Nov. 1.

Mesa Public Schools in the news

East Valley Academy/Crossroads SRO Laura Cervantes was interviewed by ABC15 about vaping awareness.

KJZZ covered the Sept. 19 naturalization ceremony at Skyline High, featuring family literacy liaison Norma Huerta.

Skyline High's automotive technologies program was featured in an ABC15 segment about the budget increase, which also included an interview with Scott Thompson, assistant superintendent of business and support services.

3TV was there when a soldier father surprised his son at a Jefferson Elementary assembly.

Sirrine Elementary's PE class was in the spotlight during a 3TV story about the district's 53 America's Healthiest Schools. The segment also featured interviews with elementary PE specialist Deb Pangrazi and food & nutrition supervisor Sarah Byrd.

Laurie Struna, media communications specialist, wrote about how the district prepares students for success in college, career and community in Nearby News and UpClose.

Struna also wrote about the district's award-winning fiscal transparency in the October issue of Ranchers' Roundup.

East Valley Tribune visited Washington Elementary for a story about the district's student teaching partnership with Arizona State University. 

Shepherd Junior High music and drama teacher Taryn Tidwell was interviewed by East Valley Tribune about being named a finalist in the Arizona Teacher of the Year program.

Schools, programs earn grants

Christy Cuddy, Bill Schultz, Janita Gordon, Gaye Kelley, Mike Rapier and Greg Milbrandt with $6,000 in Albertsons Foundations grant checksAlbertsons Companies Foundation awarded a $6,000 grant to the Mesa Public Schools Foundation. Entz and Highland Arts elementary schools, Poston Junior High and Mountain View High each received $1,500. Principals William Schultz, Christy Cuddy, Michael Rapier and Greg Milbrandt, along with Foundation executive director Janita Pickett Gordon and board member Gaye Kelley (pictured), were on hand to accept the awards at the re-opening celebration of the neighborhood Albertsons.

The Pickleball Incubator foundation donated $2,000 in pickleball equipment and curriculum to unified PE programs at Mesa and Mountain View high schools. Representatives from the foundation also visited the classes to provide instruction to students and teachers.

Franklin Junior High received a $1,000 Play Ball grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and Chase. Team Leader Megan Hulihee and eighth-grader Kael Ramsey attended a September Diamondbacks game to accept the award.

ePAR training available 

A one-hour course has been designed for district employees who create ePARs. Participants will learn how to create ePARs and gain a better understanding of the correct types for various purposes in iVisions. Register for the Nov. 5-6 trainings on GROW. After accessing the site, search "ePAR" in the Course Search box.

Important personnel reminders

iVisions — The district's self-service iVisions portal gives employees access to personal information, including pay stubs, W2 forms and contracts. Employees can request tax withholding changes, and update personal and emergency contact information. Access the portal on the employee resources page or visit ivisions.mpsaz.org/ivisions.

Employee absences — Certified employees, administrators and classified supervisors must make a reasonable attempt to notify their immediate supervisors of any absence, and reason for absence, at the earliest opportunity — and no later than two hours before the start of their regular workday. By 3 p.m., these employees must notify their immediate supervisors if they will or will not return to work the next day.

Classified employees must notify their immediate supervisors of an absence at the earliest opportunity — and no later than their scheduled start time. These employees must also indicate the reason for absence and their expected return date. Failure to follow these guidelines may be just cause for disciplinary action, including deduction of salary.

Lost badge? — You can now submit a badge request form electronically through the Records platform. Use your active directory login to access the site. The form can be found in "Blank Docs" and must be e-signed by the employee and administrator before it's routed to human resources. Payroll will process the payroll deduction to cover the replacement fee. Damaged badge replacements and name changes are reprinted with photos on file at no charge if the old badge is sent to HR when the form is submitted. A new photo costs $20. Questions? Contact Renee Parker at 480-472-0420.

Donating sick leave — The Medical Leave Assistance Program allows employees to donate sick leave to eligible employees undergoing a personal or family member's prolonged illness or injury. Find eligibility guidelines, policy and the sick leave donation form on the human resources web page.

Drug and alcohol policy — Policy GBKB and its regulations affect all employees. The guidelines are designed to ensure a safe workplace, promote employee health and well-being and comply with federal and state drug-free workplace mandates. Review the district's drug and alcohol policy, and learn about testing on the human resources web page.

Cue the applause

Katy Gazda with Outstanding Educator award

Red Mountain High biotechnology instructor Katy Gazda (pictured) received an Outstanding Educator award from University of Chicago. Red Mountain High 2019 graduate Adrian Kwiatkowski nominated Gazda for the award in honor of the positive effect she has had on his life.

Congratulations to district athletic director Dr. Steve Hogen. He was inducted into the Arizona Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (AIAAA) Hall of Fame last month.

53 district schools have been named America's Healthiest by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Mesa Public Schools received the most awards in the nation for a single school district. For the third year in a row, it is the only Arizona district to be recognized. Schools are selected based on a rigorous set of criteria, which includes availability of nutritious foods and access to quality physical education.

The district's 2019 awardees are: Adams, Brinton, Bush, Crismon, Edison, Eisenhower Center for Innovation, Emerson, Entz, Falcon Hill, Field, Franklin at Brimhall, Franklin West, Guerrero, Hale, Hermosa Vista, Highland Arts, Holmes, Hughes, Irving, Ishikawa, Jefferson, Johnson, Keller, Kerr, Las Sendas, Lehi, Lincoln, Lindbergh, Longfellow, Lowell, MacArthur, Madison, Mendoza, O'Connor, Patterson, Pomeroy, Porter, Red Mountain Ranch, Redbird, Robson, Roosevelt, Salk, Sirrine, Sousa, Stevenson, Taft, Washington, Webster, Whitman, Whittier, Wilson, Zaharis elementary schools, and Summit Academy.

Mesa Public Schools has won the $100,000 grand prize in the National Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Challenge. The award was presented at the 2019 National College Access Network (NCAN) conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The district was recognized for its innovative practices, leadership, effectiveness and sustainability with the FAFSA completion model.

Congratulations to the schools that have earned the 2019 PBISAz Achievement Award for demonstrating high fidelity implementation and improved student behavior by using PBIS on campus. Lincoln and Longfellow elementary schools earned the bronze award, Riverview High earned the silver award, and Roosevelt Elementary received the merit award.

Mesa Public Schools is among the best districts in the nation for music education for the second time, according to NAMM Foundation. The district received the distinction for a commitment to providing incredible music education to students.

Did you know that the star of one of The CW's most popular new shows is a proud Coyote? That's right, Nancy Drew actress Kennedy McMann is a Skyline High Class of 2014 graduate. Watch her in action Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.

Enjoy some of the district's recent celebrations in this video shown at the Sept. 24 Governing Board meeting.

Send news to:

Heidi Hurst, communications & engagement director

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