- Higley Unified School District
- Higley in the News
A divided Higley USD governing board voted Aug. 8 to resume in-person learning Oct. 12 or earlier at a special Saturday governing board meeting.
The decision left open the possibility of returning earlier if Maricopa County meets the reopening benchmarks regarding the coronavirus pandemic that the Arizona Department of Health Services and Arizona Department of Education released Aug. 6. A return would come with a one-week notice, according to the resolution.
Higley Unified School District is upgrading efforts to create safe environments for students – even testing a machine that purportedly cleans indoor air naturally – as officials prepare for a return to in-class learning when it is safe to do so.
The two pilot sites at Cortina and Chaparral elementary schools are using Global Plasma Solution’s patented needlepoint bipolar ionization technology to fight COVID-19.
Two recent Gilbert high school graduates and a senior are among five Valley students picked by Bank of America for its annual Student Leaders program.
Bushra Karim, who graduated from Williams Field High School in May, and Zachary Whalley, a member of Campo Verde High’s Class of 2020, were joined by Mesquite High senior Gabriela Rodriguez in the program. Both Bushra and Zac are heading to Arizona State University this fall.
Higley USD to wait on state benchmarks before making reopening decision The Higley USD governing board did not make a decision at its July 29 meeting on when or how to resume in-person learning until after the state releases its benchmarks for a safe return to campuses.
A decision could come as early as a newly scheduled board meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 8, a Saturday.
Plus athlete with a rock-solid arm and plenty of mobility. Can challenge defenses as a scrambler or make plays on designed runs with short-area quickness and well above average top speed. Appears to have a powerful lower half.
Trading notebooks and new school clothes for laptops, headphones and solid internet access. Right now, "back to school" looks and feels a lot different for so many Arizona families. ABC15 is committed to getting you back to school safely and a big part of that is setting you and your family up for remote learning success. Six-year-old Cayden McIsaac and his sister, 8-year-old Addison, were front and center for their first day of school at Higley Traditional Academy on Monday.
Higley USD will elevate its No. 2 administrator to superintendent upon Mike Thomason’s retirement in the spring. Dawn Foley, HUSD’s educational services associate superintendent, received the appointment at a special governing board meeting July 21.
The next superintendent of Higley USD said July 22 that the coming opportunity is exciting but the coming re-opening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic means she is staying focused on the work.
Higley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Mike Thomason is retiring next spring, a year before his contract ends, and the Governing Board has already named his successor. The board accepted his request to retire on July 15 and last Tuesday, in a special executive session, voted to promote Associate Superintendent Dr. Dawn Foley to the job after Thomason leaves. Foley is assuming some of Thomason’s duties in the meantime and will become the acting superintendent after the official end of Thomason’s contract in June 2021, Governing Board Vice President Kristina Reese said.
Higley USD and Chandler USD will have competitive races for governing board seats in November.
Though the deadline to challenge petitions has not passed, the slate of candidates for nonpartisan seats in the November general election is largely set.
The Higley USD governing board approved on July 1 the purchase of online curriculum students will use in the coming school year.
The district will spend $403,500 for the Florida Virtual Online curriculum after a 4-0 vote of the governing board with Board Member Scott Glover out of town for the special meeting.
The money, which will be paid for out of unrestricted capital funds and/or Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, grant money, breaks down as $400,000 for software licenses, $2,500 for 10 hours of webinar training and $1,000 for consulting services.
Gilbert schools weigh reopening ‘roadmap’
Cloth masks, smaller class sizes and daily health screenings are some of the state’s recommendations for schools as they develop plans for reopening in the fall.
Higley students, staff help out in pandemic
Campus closures created new challenges for Arizona schools, from how to deliver education to how providing food to students who rely on them for meals. A small population in Higley also struggles with an even greater burden: displacement or homelessness. The community is served by the House of Refuge in Mesa on property near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Many of the students attend Gateway Pointe Elementary School in Gilbert.
Higley names Hope Berg Teacher of Year
Higley Traditional Academy’s Hope Berg was named Higley Unified School District’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. Each spring, Higley Unified honors one teacher from each of its 13 campuses and preschool. This year, they were recognized on social media, through videos and with yard signs at their homes. Berg was surprised by Principal Caryn Bacon, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dawn Foley and Superintendent Dr. Mike Thomason, who had asked her to come in for a podcast.
Cooley Middle teacher finalist for award
A Cooley Middle School teacher is a nominee for the 2020-21 national LifeChanger of the Year Capstone award, given to a retiring educator recognized for making a difference in the lives of their students.
No more Olympic Trials, Valley teen instead swimming for charity
Keaton Jones is not your average 15-year-old. His freshman year at Higley High School included breaking a national swimming record for his age group that had previously stood for 21 years.Jones had earned a spot on USA Swimming’s biggest stage, the Olympic Trials. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the Olympic dream was put on pause. So, Jones found a new goal in the short-term. He, along with training partner Devin Esser, another Swim Neptune teammate and their two coaches will all swim a mile every hour for 24 straight hours. The idea behind the swim is to try and raise funds to purchase and distribute masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other PPE items to nursing homes, assisted living and long-term care facilities across Arizona.
Higley delivers food, necessities to House of Refuge families
Campus closures around Arizona created new challenges for Arizona schools, from how to deliver education to how to provide food to those students who rely on them for meals. A small population in Higley also struggle with an even greater burden: displacement or homelessness. The community is served by the House of Refuge in Mesa on property near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Many of the students attend Higley’s Gateway Pointe Elementary School in Gilbert, according to release.
Higley students, teachers win various honors (May)
Two Higley High School students have won the prestigious 2020 National Honor Scholars designation – an honor that fewer than 1 percent of high school seniors achieve. Lindsey Giles and Taryn Trigler are both enrolled in a number of Advanced Placement classes.
Higley's Keaton Jones goes the extra mile
Higley’s Keaton Jones went the extra mile to raise money for members of the Arizona community most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. Jones, alongside his Swim Neptune teammates Devin Esser, came up with the Going the Extra Mile Challenge to raise awareness and funds for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the state. The two, along with teammate Tal Spector, coach Joe Zemaitis and his brother, John Zemaitis, all swam 25 miles in 24 hours as part of the challenge. Two relay teams from Swim Neptune also completed it, along with Jones’ mother, Elizabeth, and younger sister, Ezmee, who also swam a relay.
Top 20 Arizona high school football players from the Class of 2021
Cameron Jordan, Myles Jack and Taylor Lewan are among the top current NFL players from the state of Arizona. Randall McDaniel, Darren Woodson and Steve Jordan, the father of Cameron, are three of the best from the Grand Canyon State, to ever play in the NFL. From the Class of 2021, the top 20 players according to 247Sports, have the best shot to play on Sundays. Among them are five offensive linemen, and four are either quarterbacks or defensive backs.
Higley Unified School District to discuss initial reopening plans
GILBERT, AZ — Wednesday night, the Higley Unified School District Governing Board plans to discuss initial plans to safely reopen schools on July 27. The district is considering three models: they include full-time, in-person instruction with increased safety precautions; flexible remote learning; and full-time remote learning.
Higley USD gives families options for in-person or online return to school
Higley USD plans to restart schools July 27 as originally scheduled with families having the option of full-time in-person learning or full-time remote education, district officials said. Families will have the ability to change modes, too, as they become more or less comfortable with returning to campuses full time. Those options were among the myriad details presented to the district’s governing board in a work-study session at its marathon July 24 meeting.
Higley unveils first cut of reopening plan
In the topsy-turvy world of COVID-19, Higley Unified School District students for now will have two options – return to classrooms or stay at home for remote learning when the academic year begins July 27. A district taskforce last week presented an update of the plan for reopening schools at a Governing Board’s study session that lasted 3.5 hours. “What you see and hear tonight is probably going to change,” Superintendent Mike Thomason said. “We enter with caution that we know what we say tonight may change tomorrow.”
Higley USD anticipates slightly lower tax rate as proposed budget meets approval
While the Higley USD maintenance and operations budget and unrestricted capital budget are on the rise, the tax rate is anticipated to fall slightly in fiscal year 2020-21. The board approved the proposed budget 5-0 and set a public hearing on it for July 15, at which time final approval would come.
Higley USD high schools choose virtual graduation ceremonies
The principals at Higley USD’s two high schools announced they are going forward with virtual graduation ceremonies that include a videotaped element of seniors crossing the stage for their diploma.
Higley USD waives secondary summer school fees
The Higley USD governing board waived secondary summer school fees for this summer at a special board meeting May 7. The board also agreed to allow district students to enroll in Mesa Distance Learning Program courses to earn up to two semester credits this summer. MDLP comes from the Mesa Public Schools district.
Higley USD high schools choose virtual graduation ceremonies
The principals at Higley USD’s two high schools announced they are going forward with virtual graduation ceremonies that include a videotaped element of seniors crossing the stage for their diploma. Alan Fields of Higley High School and Steve Tannenbaum of Williams Field High School jointly emailed their seniors May 4 about the decision made in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Williams Field senior turns passion into scholarship
Williams Field High School senior Megan Bulson earned one of six scholarships granted this year by Winter Guard Arizona. The honor is bestowed to students who stand out in “academic, artistic and personal achievements," according to a release
Students surprise teacher with parade
Students surprise Chaparral Elementary School teacher with parade outside of her home.
QB Kai Millner becomes Higley's third straight HS football All-American
For a third straight year, Gilbert Higley will have somebody playing in a major high school All-American game. Junior quarterback Kai Millner accepted Under Armour's invitation to play in the 2021 All-American Game on ESPN in Florida. "It's a great honor to be able to play in the game," said Millner, who recently committed to California. "It is important to me to carry on the legacy that the players before me have created.
Mayor congratulates Class of 2020 as town announces Water Tower lightings to honor seniors
Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels congratulated the town’s graduating high school seniors while consoling them on losing out on many final experiences because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s not what you dreamed about or worked so hard for, and for that I can only say how sorry I am that you’re not getting to experience all the things you were looking forward to,” the mayor said in a video message to seniors. “However, I have no doubt that this experience, coupled with so many others that you have had, are what will prepare you for the future.”
Media center renovations approved for Higley, Williams Field high schools
A plan to turn the media centers at Higley and Williams Field high schools into something like college student unions received approval from the Higley USD governing board May 13 after strong scrutiny. The board approved on a 4-1 vote a contract for Rytan Construction to receive the contract to do the renovations starting next week at a cost of $995,816. Board Vice President Kristina Reese gave the dissenting vote.
People ‘adopting’ Higley Class of 2020
The class of 2020 may not be able to walk at graduation like planned but the Higley High School community is rallying around to show their support by “adopting” seniors, sending them small gifts and cards to celebrate their accomplishment. The Facebook group “Higley High School Class of 2020-Adopt a Senior & Graduation Parade,” compiled pictures and profile information such as their plans after high school, hobbies, and a list of their favorite things.
School chiefs cite need for reopening guidance
When schools re-open in the fall, students could either be back at their classroom desks or at home in front of a computer screen. Superintendents from three East Valley school districts last week said how learning will look like was still up in the air as they wait for direction from state and federal officials.“One thing that most school districts need across the state of Arizona is information right now,” said Higley Unified Superintendent Mike Thomason. “We’re stuck in limbo on how to move forward to fall’s opening. We need to know from the state government and CDC how many people we can have in a setting.”
Gilbert firm picks up a big lunch tab
It’s been 18 years since Trevor Barrett opened the Gilbert mortgage company that bears his name. In that time, Barrett Financial Group has grown from a one-man shop to a company with 250 loan officers who have originated $4 billion in loans in serving homeowners in Arizona and seven other states. Last month, Barrett added “angel” to his resume and those of his loan officers when his company paid off a $50,000 tab the Higley Unified School District faced as a result of unpaid school lunches.
Higley Happenings April
A roundup of stories from the Higley Unified School District.
Williams Field High School dance instructor Ashley Lewis encouraged dance team members to film a choreographed piece that she stitched together for social media on what would have been the team's concert night.Valley teacher inspires others through viral sensory chalk walk
An occupational therapist in the Valley is now going viral for her unique way to get kids out of the house and moving. Jody Goudreau works for the Higley Unified School District in Gilbert, but since the pandemic, she has switched to teletherapy for her students and families. Goudreau said she came up with the idea for the sensory chalk walk because she couldn't stand to be inside for eight hours a day.Millner and Cal Coach go in depth on Cal commitment
Cal’s 2021 recruiting class is off to a strong start so far and with the commitment of 6-2/185 Higley (Gilbert, AZ) High School QB Kai Millner, the Bears’ class took a nice step forward yesterday. “It was honestly a lot of things and everything just seemed to fall into place,” said Millner of his decision to shut things down and commit to Cal this week. “Coach Musgrave with his NFL experience is important for me. We just connected right from the beginning and built a great relationship.When Zack Shepherd departed for Italy in 2019 for his two-year church mission, his main focus was to share his faith with the Italian people. A year later, his goals remain the same, even though the world around him has seemingly come to a halt. “It definitely hit very fast,” Shepherd said. “It’s been a very different lifestyle, like it’s become for everyone else in the world. Over the course of a few days it just went up and up. We’ve been inside ever since.” The former Williams Field quarterback was called to serve his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Lombardy, the region at the center of the outbreak in Italy. But if there is one thing Shepherd hopes to express to his friends and family back home, it’s to remain positive and realize there will eventually be an end to this unfortunate situation.
Community Impact April 26 Update
Hundreds of students’ meal balances are clear after a Gilbert mortgage broker’s $50,000 donation to the Higley USD “angel account.” Barrett Financial Group made the donation April 24 to pay off debt from unpaid student meals.
$50K donated to clear student meal debt at Higley school district
A Gilbert mortgage broker stepped in to fill a much-needed gap recently when it presented Higley Unified School District with a check to pay off debt from unpaid student meals.
Community Impact April 22 Update
Dolan Ellis, Arizona's official state balladeer, will perform at the Higley Center of Performing Arts' first show its new television studio. The center has created the studio to provide the community an opportunity to watch performances from their homes. Ellis will perform at 7 p.m. April 23. Viewers can tune In on the center's website.
Gilbert-area school districts continue to offer free meal services
The three school districts that serve Gilbert all have free meal services for children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The services are available to any child ages 18 and under, and the child must be present when the meal is received. The meals are to be picked-up and consumed off-site.
Former Williams Field quarterback quarantined in Italy
Former Williams Field High School quarterback Zack Sheperd’s first words were, "Down, set, hut." In a way, he was destined to play football. During his time at Williams Field, Sheperd led his team to three region championships and the program's first-ever state title in 2016. His resume was good enough to earn him a spot on a college roster, but instead, Zack chose to set that dream aside to serve a church mission in Italy.
Higley Arts Center reinvents itself as TV studio
The pandemic gave the Higley Center for the Performing Arts a stark choice: close or reinvent.
“We had two choices in recent weeks as the new normal overtook life in Arizona and in particular the East Valley, which is our main service area,” explained center Manager Robert Zucker. “We could furlough staff and lock our doors like so many others have done.”
Higley arts center reinvents itself as a TV studio
The pandemic gave the Higley Center for the Performing Arts a stark choice: close or reinvent.
“We had two choices in recent weeks as the new normal overtook life in Arizona and in particular the East Valley, which is our main service area,” explained center Manager Robert Zucker. “We could furlough staff and lock our doors like so many others have done.” Instead, Zucker and his staff chose the second option. They created Higley Center Television, an online streaming platform that “will allow us to create and present original programming including entertainment, educational and informational broadcasts for residents of the East Valley.”
Higley USD mulls high school graduation options
Higley USD is working on a possible virtual alternative for this school year’s high school graduation ceremonies, district officials told the governing board April 29.
Higley Unified School District hopes upping security will stop vaping on campus
It wasn't as much of a problem in the 2016-2017 school year. Higley Unified School District officials say there were a total of 21 tobacco violations at Higley High School that year, 15 at Williams Field High School.
East Valley players showcase skills at Under Armour Camp
Nearly 200 of the best football players from across Arizona and six other states flocked to Williams Field High School in Gilbert Sunday morning to showcase their skills as part of invite-only camp. The Under Armour All-America Camp Series made its first and only stop in the Valley on Feb. 23, inviting athletes from Arizona, Utah, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Nevada to partake in a day of position specific drills being filmed to send off to college coaches across the country. It was also an evaluation period for those involved with the Under Armour All-America Game that takes place every January.
COOLEY STUDENTS COMPETE IN STATE ROBOTICS COMPETITION
Cooley Middle School students spent months designing, building and coding robots as part of the school’s robotics team this year.
After several rounds of weekend competitions, two qualifying teams made it to the Arizona VEX IQ middle school championships.
HIGLEY HIGH, COOLEY MIDDLE STUDENTS EARN TOP HONORS AT INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE FAIR
Higley Unified School District students took top honors at the recent Arizona State University International Language Fair. More than 2500 students and teachers participated in the 22nd event. Activities included a scavenger hunt, dance demonstrations, dozens of mini lessons in more than 18 languages, language exhibits, entertainment, poster contests, and, of course, the competitions. Higley High students dominated the competition. The French team won first place in the play category. The Spanish team won first place for improv. The Mandarin team took two first place honors, both in the speech category.
Higley football player turned to friend to announce Signing Day decision
Of all of the National Signing Day moments across Arizona high schools on Wednesday, one stood out.
It happened at Gilbert Higley's gym, where a long row of athletes sat at tables to announce their colleges.
When it came to offensive lineman A.J. Laux, he turned to the guy in the glasses sitting next to him, best friend Tyler Huff.
Signing Day moments in Arizona high school football: The reveals, the surprises, the non-signs
At Gilbert Higley, tight end Alex Lines, not wearing anything that would indicate which college he was committed to, announced UNLV. After the ceremony for all of the athletes at the Higley gym ended, Lines quickly left the gym.
Bugg returns to Arizona roots for Cheez-It Bowl
This Friday, several Air Force players will make a homecoming when the Falcons meet Washington State in the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field at 8:15 p.m., including one defensive star whose family opened its doors to welcome him home for Christmas. It’s a scene that’s played over a thousand times in the Bugg household. Father and son talking over yet the next big game.
Signing Day: East Valley football players who signed NLI
National Signing Day has arrived as several athletes from across the East Valley officially sign their National Letter of Intents to play their respective sport at the next level.
Local players return home for Cheez-It Bowl
College football bowl games have long been viewed as a reward for a program’s success throughout the season. A select few have more impact than others on a national stage, but each provide their own unique experience for the all players involved.
Sports360AZ All-Academic Fall Sports Teams
For eight years, Sport360AZ has been committed to acknowledging the best and brightest student athletes in Arizona. We are excited to introduce the Sports360AZ All-Academic Football Teams brought to you by Venezia’s Pizzeria, IBEW 640 and Arrow Awards to recognize excellence of student-athletes not only on the field but in the classroom as well.
Four-Star DE Jason Harris set to announce his college choice
Higley defensive lineman Jason Harris is just days away from making his college commitment at the Under Armour All-American Game. Harris is one of the nation’s top defensive end prospects and is currently rated the No. 185 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. He has always been a standout two-sport standout and is a highly rated basketball player as well but said the plan is to focus solely on football in college. Despite an announcement date set, Harris said he still hasn’t made a final decision yet.
Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Early signing day a moment of truth for Wildcats' struggling football program
College football teams will sign the majority of their Class of 2020 recruits Wednesday, and for Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin the moment of truth will be the decision made by UA legacy prospect Jason Harris of Gilbert’s Higley High School.
My Story: Oklahoma Signee Noah Nelson (WFHS)
Note from Sports360AZ CEO Brad Cesmat:Wednesday is College Football National Letter of Intent Day. We asked Williams Field offensive lineman Noah Nelson, who’s signing with Oklahoma, to share his high school experiences on and off the field, as well as why OU was the best fit for him to continue his academic and athletic career.
Gilbert educators emphasize prevention over discipline in fight against vaping
Local school district administrators are taking action against students’ increasing e-cigarette and vaping device usage—a trend that follows along national lines. Data from the districts indicates each experienced a large increase from the 2016-17 school year to 2017-18 in tobacco-related discipline referrals: 253% at Gilbert Public Schools; 322% at Higley USD; and 166% at Chandler USD. Numbers have slightly declined in the following years, but they remain far above the number of 2016-17 referrals.
Fall sports wrap: Gilbert schools claim hardware
The end of the fall sports season has officially arrived, as athletes from all Gilbert schools have already jumped into winter sports seasons. The beginning of yet another round of prep sports allows the time to reflect on what was a successful season for several teams.
Higley USD in black on special education student outplacement
Despite high costs to pay private day schools to educate some Higley USD special education students, the district comes out slightly in the black when balanced against funding from the state, district officials said. Higley USD Special Education Director Shauna Miller showed the figures to the governing board at a work-study session Jan. 29 after a brief board meeting. Those figures showed the district pays 10 schools $2.37 million to educate the students.
Salaries on all levels remain topic of concern in town school districts
Salaries on all job levels remain in the forefront of public school educational concerns in 2020. Teachers' salaries in particular continue to be scrutinized as Arizona enters the final year of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed “20 by ‘20” three-year program to raise teacher salaries 20% from 2016-17 levels. That program, which came after a 2018 teacher walkout during that year’s legislative session, was to give districts an additional 10% for salaries in 2018-19, 5% in 2019-20 and 5% in 2020-21, based on the state’s median salary for teachers from 2016-17.