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MUSD Community Forum discusses vandalism
Saturday, March 17, 2012
"We will model respect because we are the role models for our children and the community. What we witnessed yesterday was disrespect." Maricopa Unified School District (MUSD) Deputy Superintendent Dr. Ember Conley opened the Community Forum to discuss the graffiti and vandalism that occurred at Maricopa High School (MHS) earlier this week. Joining Dr. Conley was Maricopa’s new Police Chief Steven Stahl and several police officers, Maricopa Mayor Anthony Smith, members of the Maricopa Ministerial Association, and members of the Maricopa Fire Department. The forum lasted almost two hours and many community members stated this should be the first of many forums where Maricopa stakeholders can come together for discussion and understanding of community issues.
Dr. Ember Conley
Deputy Superintendent Conley put the room at ease when she stated, "The learning environment of Maricopa High School has been restored." Conley thanked all the volunteers and school staff members who helped with the cleanup. She also asked the audience not to place blame on individuals when discussing the vandalism, but to discuss the issue in a manner to create solutions for our community. She then introduced the agenda for the Forum. "Chief Stahl of the Maricopa Police Department will provide an update on the investigation. I will provide you with some interesting statistics. Next, Mrs. June Celaya, Maricopa High School Principal, will discuss Community input to create solutions, and if time permits, we will have a short question and answer session."
Chief of Police Steven Stahl
Chief Stahl said, "Everyone involved in the preliminary investigation yesterday morning commented to me about the outstanding job the Maricopa High School students did. The students all went quickly to the football field and sat in the stadium with their teachers. It was very important to get the students to a safety zone as soon as possible."
"I know you want to know where we are in the investigation. We have some leads and are following up on active suspects in our investigation. I would like to ask the parents here tonight to not be afraid to come to the police department if you have any knowledge about what happened. You may have seen something your child posted or was posted to him on Facebook or texted to someone. There are a lot of rumors and misinformation out there. What has happened has my top priority and it is a felony crime. The Maricopa Police Department intends to use every investigative tool we have. You can call the Silent Witness line if you don't want to come to the Police Department. The number is (520) 316-5900.”
Dr. Conley said, “There are a few numbers I'd like to give you, for you to understand the composite of our students at Maricopa High School. We have 1,445 students attending Maricopa High School. There are 759 students that are boys, and 686 are girls. Other facts you might find interesting I have put on the large computer screen for you”:
- 10 % of our students live with their grandparents
- 20 % of our students live with their guardians
- 53 % of our students receive either free or reduced lunches
- 40 of our students are homeless
Dr. Conley added, "There are 30% of our students who do not live with even one parent. Every child needs someone to be their mentor."
- 3% of our students are Asian
- 10% of our students are Native American
- 17% of our students are African
- 35% of our students are Hispanic
- 35% of our students are Caucasian
MHS Principal June Celaya
Mrs. Celaya thanked everyone who helped with the students and the cleanup. She said, "I've heard many people refer to Maricopa as a bedroom community. I find this to be true. When I am driving in to Maricopa in the mornings, it seems as if the rest of the city is driving out. You have brought your children to me and now I am with them for many hours of the day. I wonder if you know every neighbor and child in your neighborhood. I don't think we are all raising our children together. My challenge to you is, are you going to watch other children in the neighborhood when you are watching your own?"
Mrs. Celaya continued, "All around the room are tables with Post-It note paper, and ink pens. I want everyone to get at least one Post-It and write down a comment or suggestion and then stick it on one of the big pieces of paper on the wall. One paper says ‘resources,’ one says ‘communication.’ Then I want you to find one person in this room you don't know and introduce yourself. You have 10 minutes to finish this task. Now begin."
One could see community members rushing around the room. Introductions took only a few minutes. Writing down a suggestion took longer. One quickly realized both items were different and yet the same -- a paradox, like a hot fudge sundae. They were ways to communicate.
Questions and Answers
A short question and answer session followed, with most of the questions being directed to Police Chief Stahl. One person wanted to know if there is a lot of "gang" activity at MHS. Police Chief Stahl said gang activity has gone down. "You live in one of the safest communities in Arizona and the United States." That comment brought a lot of applause. Chief Stahl encouraged establishing a Block Watch committee in your neighborhood, and letting him know. "I love to go to Block Watch meetings," he said. Some questions he didn't answer because the investigation was still ongoing.
Dr. Conley concluded the Forum by telling everyone, "We will record all the input and send this information to the meeting attendees via e-mail. We will have a follow-up meeting in the near future to begin the process of increasing support for our children."
Earlier in the afternoon, Dr. Conley had talked very briefly to this reporter. In response a question asking for a statement about the Forum she said, "I wish everyone would try to be the best role model they can be for their children, or the children they are in contact with."
The last line on the agenda said, "Schools are the community and the community is our schools." Two items for all of us to think about.
Marilyn Netoskie / CopaNews.com
MHS Principal June Celaya challenged people to 'raise our children together.'