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Bill Van Nimwegen - page 62

Bill Van Nimwegen has 917 articles published.

Creating a Promising Future

By Dr. Krista Anderson

Last summer, I joined Apache Junction Unified School District with a lot of excitement and intentions to take it slow, learn about the district, build relationships, and examine the different organizational systems. However, the best-laid plans rarely go as expected. Early in my stint as superintendent, it became clear that one of the issues that was going to be a hot topic in the district is the school calendar. In 2015-2016, the district moved to a four-day school calendar due to financial and staffing concerns. The next year the Governing Board gave the blessing to keep the four-day schedule for a total of three years, with the expectation of revisiting the school calendar during the 2017-2018 school year. As a new school superintendent, I learned there are times that I must tackle the hot topics when presented.

Over the past nine months, I wish I could say that every time I walked into a school, classroom, or community event the conversation focused on students and their learning, but that would not be true. I frequently received questions about the district calendar. A variety of questions focused on whether or not the district would stay on the four-day school week in the future. My answer has consistently been that there is a committee of volunteer parents, staff, and students who would bring a four-day and a five-day option to the Governing Board in the coming months. The committee’s charge was to present the two options, endorse one of the two, with the understanding the decision was ultimately going to be made by the Governing Board.

As part of their work, the committee members spent four months examining a variety of data (e.g., student achievement, enrollment, financial, surveys, etc.) to help craft the two calendar options. An example of one of the data sources the committee looked at to make their recommendation was a survey of our current parents. When parents of our 3650 students were asked which student academic calendar would best prepare our students academically, 53.44% (497) answered four-day, and 46.56% (433) answered five-day. Survey results and other data sources are available on the website, The Calendar Advisory Committee presented both calendar options in December, along with the recommendation to stay with the four-day school week. Following the presentation, the Governing Board demonstrated their due diligence by requesting additional information (e.g., transportation costs, EVIT, etc.) before making their decision on February 13th to move to a five-day modified student academic calendar.

In conjunction with the work done by the Calendar Advisory Committee, the district has been gathering input from students, parents, staff, and community to develop a multi-year strategic plan for the district. The plan will also include a new district mission, vision, core values, and goals. Additionally, a group of certified, classified, and administrators are working together to propose a formula to allocate monies to staff for salaries for the upcoming school year. The Salary Advisory Committee will present their recommendation to the Governing Board on February 27th.

A great deal of work and planning was done, and much work remains. The school calendar has been a complicated issue, and varying opinions and emotions could create an atmosphere that takes the focus away from our primary goal of educating our youth. I want to assure our community that the change will not impact the continuation of several stellar programs offered to our students, such as ROTC and EVIT. In fact, the change to a 5-day calendar has resulted in several organizations reaching out to us to enhance programs offered to our students. The district will explore these options and more to provide our students diverse learning opportunities.

Now that a calendar decision was made by the AJUSD Governing Board, my hope is that we can begin to focus on our district’s future. A future where academic achievement and social development of our students is our primary focus. To create learning environments where ALL students can explore their interests, attain the knowledge needed to enter college and/or the workforce successfully, and acquire the skills necessary to navigate the challenges they will inevitably face in the future. In order to make this our reality, it will be essential that we pull together as a community. A community consisting of teachers, staff, students, parents and community members who are committed to creating a promising future for the youth in Apache Junction Unified School District.

It’s all about family at Apache Junction Tires & Service

By Dana Trumbull

“Who do you trust to work on your car?” It’s a question that’s at the core of owner James Pearce’s business philosophy at Apache Junction Tires & Service, 740 W. Apache Trail. “When you have someone work on your car, you want to feel like you’re part of the family, and they really want to figure out what’s wrong with your car. We’re here to fix it. If we don’t know what’s wrong with it, we’ll help find someone who can figure it out.”

Although it’s true that many of the employees at Apache Junction Tires & Service truly are family, from Pearce’s son Cody, who at age 20 already has 7 years of experience, to the sons and siblings of long-time employees, it becomes obvious in the span of a short conversation that Pearce wants everyone who comes into his business to be treated like family.

“We sell tires, do brakes and front end work, suspension, struts, oil changes… a lot of people don’t know that we do some of those things,” he muses. “The one area we don’t get into is replacing motors and transmissions. We stay away from the heavy line. Otherwise, there’s a few times we get hung up when we’re troubleshooting a problem, but we have friends we can ask questions to.

“I take a little bit different approach to that. When I first bought the company four years ago, I went around to all the  auto repair people that I knew in the area and said, ‘Hey, if you ever get stuck on something or need someone to bounce stuff off of, feel free to ask us. Maybe we’ll know the answer to your question – and vice versa; maybe you might be able to help on something I need to know about.’

“Ever since then, I have about seven different Apache Junction businesses that do work with me. We’re just helping people out. It’s a good feeling.”

That “good feeling” extends to offering advice that customers don’t always want to hear. “We’ll be happy to fix whatever you want, but if your car is worth $2,000, and you need $1,500 worth of work, and after we get done fixing it, it’s still worth $2,000, is it worth it? Sometimes it’s sentimental value; I have a car like that. But other times, it’s just time to retire it.”

This pragmatic business philosophy affects Pearce’s profit margin as well. “There’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed, where cars have been on the road for 80,000 – 100,000 miles, and suddenly there’s a recall issued. You take it in to get the recall taken care of – a 10 minute fix – but when you drop it off, the service rep asks if you want them to do a safety check. Well, suddenly a free recall turns into hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.

“If that happens to you, tell them you’ll have to check your budget – then go get a second opinion. I had a customer just last week who went [elsewhere] for something, and they told him he needed $700 worth of work. He came here and I did it for $350… and I thought that was high! Then they showed me the other estimate, and I was just like, ‘Oh, my goodness!’

“I guess I could raise my prices, but… no, I can’t. This is what we charge. We’re not going to get rich at it, but we’re going to make a living doing it. I try to be fair and take care of people, and that’s where we’re at. We know our price level and where we have to be to stay in business.”

And Pearce should know both his business and his community. “I started as a tire buster here with the previous owner and worked my way up to where I’m at. 22 years of working right here.

“I’ve always had the mindset that I want to be a business owner… although not this exact business. When I was growing up, I always thought I was going to be a master chef. Running the business, I don’t get to cook like I used to, but this is my niche now. When I retire, I’ll go to culinary arts school. People say, ‘But you’re a tire guy.’ I say, ‘Yep. But, besides taking care of my customers, cooking is my passion.’”

Who knows? Maybe Apache Junction Tires, Service & Grill will be the next hot thing in AJ!

For more information, call 480-982-8489, or drop by at 740 W. Apache Trail in Apache Junction.

Photo above: Owner James Pearce and co-worker Mike Dietrich at the counter of Apache Junction Tires & Service

Project Connect in Apache Junction

February 13 event credited with helping residents

The day before Valentines Day was a chilly and blustery day, but that didn’t keep the 18 service agencies from wrapping social services around individuals in need. The purpose of this event was to gather social services agencies all under one roof in an attempt to make it easier for guests to cobble missing pieces to their life puzzle. Usually an individual has to stop off at multiple agencies that are located miles apart. This can be challenging for those with limited transportation.

“It was wonderful to see the true intent of the Project Connect event happen right before our very eyes” said Mannie Bowler, executive director of the United Way of Pinal County. Ms. Bowler continued, “We had several guests that the Lions Club determined needed follow-up eye care, but realized the guests didn’t know of available health benefits. The Lions Club member walked the guests to the health access providers and introduced them. Those guests ended up applying for AHCCCS.

“Another example was an elderly woman who needed a government issued phone, but also needed Meals on Wheels in addition to other services. The magic was that, within minutes, the guest had made contact with both agencies and started processes to take care of both. These are tasks that would have taken days or weeks to accomplish outside the event.”

Some of the greatest impacts were that 11 individuals received vision assessments donated by the Gold Canyon Lions Club, 8 individuals received haircuts from Sindy’s Just Cuts, 6 free telephones were distributed and clothes and personal hygiene items were available, thanks to community donations.

Mayor Jeff Serdy and Vice Mayor Chip Wilson visited with guests and agencies at the event. “It was great to see all the segments of our community participate in this effort and show just how many programs are available. We hope they will spread the word that help is out there for basic needs, finding jobs and other connections, and get people off the street,” said Mayor Serdy.

The participating agencies unanimously agreed that if one person was helped, then the event was a success, and they are looking forward to helping this project grow over the next few years.

AJHS Cadets Enter Brain Brawl

Academic  Championship tests knowledge in Naval Sciences

By Dana Trumbull
  • About how many calories are there in a pound of body fat?
  • What are the six leadership traits?
  • What is the 6th amendment to the Constitution of the United States?

These are just a few of the sample questions for the annual Navy Junior ROTC Brain Brawl. Sometimes described as “Jeopardy on steroids,” Brain Brawl is an academic competition that challenges cadets’ knowledge in Naval Sciences curriculum. The questions asked can come from topics that include history, science, Navy regulations, physical health, Navy ships and more.

On February 10, the Apache Junction High School NJROTC academic team scored a win that qualified them for the Area-11 Championship that will be held in San Diego, CA, on March 24, 2018. The top three finishers of the Area-11 Championship will compete in the NJROTC Championships being held in Phoenix in April.

Members of the team are: Haide Deal (third year cadet), Zachary Kinion (first year cadet), David Hofmann (first year cadet), Kaleb Schroeder (second year cadet) and Holly Stillman (fourth year cadet/Team Captain).

What are the answers to the sample questions provided above?

  • 3500 calories.
  • Selflessness, loyalty, integrity, decisiveness, energy, commitment.
  • The right to a jury trial.

The AJHS Navy JROTC program serves students from the JO Combs district, as well as AJUSD

Under the direction of retired Marine Corps Maj. William Parker and retired Navy Senior Chief David Patti, the AJHS Navy JROTC program serves students from the JO Combs district (San Tan Valley), as well as AJUSD (Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Queen Valley and the unincorporated areas of the Superstition foothills). The United States Secretary of the Navy has awarded the AJHS NJROTC the highest designation the Navy can give a school, “Distinguished Unit,” for 13 consecutive years.

Photo above: AJHS Brain Brawl competitors are (L-R): Haide Deal, Zachary Kinion, David Hofmann, Kaleb Schroeder, Holly Stillman, (Team Captain) and Senior Chief David Patti (Coach)

Earth Heart Park Features Final Artisan Market for the Season on March 3

Arizona Bluegrass Festival and Earth Day Celebration still to come

On March 3, the last artisan market of the season will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at Horizon Health and Wellness’ Earth Heart Park (EHP). The artisan markets are free to the public.

An additional event that is planned to take place at EHP the following week is a two-day Arizona Bluegrass Festival, scheduled for March 10-11, which will be co-hosted by Horizon, SACA and the Arizona Bluegrass Association. As part of the First Annual Bluegrass Festival, the Grand Canyon State Model Railroaders will be exhibiting a major HO scale train display in the lobby of Horizon Health and Wellness, located next to the park.

The final festival of the season will be the 6th Annual Earth Day Celebration that is scheduled to take place April 21 and is co-hosted with the city of Apache Junction. The highlight of this ever-expanding festival of culture and wellness is the release of thousands of ladybugs throughout the park by youthful people of all ages.

Horizon has partnered with the city of Apache Junction and numerous groups like the Superstition Arts and Cultural Alliance (SACA) and the Apache Junction Wellness Partnership (AJWP) to bring monthly farmers and artisan markets to the park, as well as seasonal festivals that promote community wellness. The cost for the events has always been free to the community and also to the vendors who participate. This is due to the generosity of Cenpatico Integrated Care, which provided the funding to build the park, the financial support to offset the cost of fees for the vendors and entertainers and the marketing materials for the events held at EHP. “Community integration is the key reason the park was built as part of Horizon’s efforts to support wellness activities in Apache Junction,” stated Sharon Stinard, Chairperson of SACA and the AJ Wellness Partnership.

Earth Heart Park (EHP), located on the SE corner of Superstition Blvd. and Plaza Drive, was designed and landscaped by Tom McDonald of Smiling Dog Landscape and Kris Embach of Apache Landscape. Both Tom and Kris were recently recognized by the Arizona Landscape Contractors Association with the Heritage Award for creating an amazing community park with a substantial water harvesting design, as well as numerous wellness features, including a quarter mile walking path, performing arts stage, cooking area and most plants having a nutritional or medicinal property. Also, the walking path is designed in the shape of four hearts that all converge at the center of the park into 24 raised garden beds.

Horizon Health and Wellness thanks all of our community partners for making the park a special place in Apache Junction that promotes health and happiness. Please join us for the numerous events scheduled in EHP. For information on upcoming events or on being a vendor, contact or or at 480-338-0420.

Apache Junction to Create Active Trails Master Plan

IGA resolution approved to design and document plan for biking, walking, horseback paths in the city

For those who love to bike, hike, walk and ride horses while taking in the beautiful views of our little piece of heaven on earth, there is reason to celebrate.

At the last City Council meeting on Feb. 20, council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution establishing an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) for the city’s first-ever Active Transportation Plan (ATP). The IGA comes with federal grant money.

Stephanie Bubenheim from the City’s planning department described the project and the grant. She said it is called “Active” transportation because it will include surfaces that can be traversed by wheelchairs, as well as bikes, horses, pedestrians and non-motorized modes of transportation.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $197,800. Under the agreement, federal aid funds will provide 80% of the cost ($158,240) and Apache Junction will pay the 20% balance ($39,560).

The IGA includes forming a consultant team headed by J2 Engineering and Environmental Design, LLC to create the Active Transportation master plan. J2 was one of the city’s partners in the development of Flatiron Park.

The money will be used only for creating the plan, not building the pathways. City Manager Bryant Powell explained that the city needs a plan in place in order to qualify for future grants from MAG and other local government entities. “Having a plan in place will make getting money easier,” he said.

The city would like to hear ideas for the Active Transportation plan from residents of the region. Anyone can contribute online by visiting and take the survey. Those who do will be entered into a raffle for a new bicycle, donated by Junction Bicycle.

Apache Junction expects the final plan to be eligible for award status in both the process and deliverables and has scheduled an extensive public outreach program to include public safety and health agencies, equestrian and bicycle associations, surrounding communities that may want to link to the plan, as well as local residents and businesses. Information booths were set up this month at the Lost Dutchman Marathon Health/Wellness Expo and the Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo. A community meeting is planned for April 4. For more information, contact the Development Services Department at 480-474-5083, or visit

Other actions by the City Council Feb. 20

The Council voted unanimously to reverse its recommendation to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control for denial of the application for acquisition of control for Pizza Hut, 240 S. Phelps Drive.

The Council voted to approve the application after receiving updated information from Superstition Fire and Medical District.

Also approved unanimously was a resolution to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Pinal County for election services for the August 2018 primary election and, if necessary, the November 2018 general election. The IGA will provide the City with critical election and voter-related services, including: sample and final ballots, ballot tabulation, precinct registers and signature rosters, early voting and election boards.

Council members will meet in executive session at 6:00 p.m. and work session at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 5, 2018. There will also be an executive session at 6:00 p.m. and work session at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. City Council meetings are open to the public and held in chambers at 300 E. Superstition Blvd. in Apache Junction. Complete agendas and supporting materials are available at

AJ’s Quiroz is Player of the Year

Four Prospectors Earn All-Black Canyon Region Honors

By Daniel Dullum

Based on his own self-evaluation, Evan Quiroz of Apache Junction wasn’t sure if he was player of the year material.

Voters in the 4A Black Canyon Region felt otherwise.

The senior guard was named as both region player of the year and repeated as offensive player of the year in a vote of the Black Canyon coaches.

“It’s humbling,” Quiroz, who was the 2017 Black Canyon Region offensive player of the year, said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it this year because I didn’t score as much as I did last year. But (the voters) obviously saw that my overall game improved.

“I think that defensively, I got a lot better this year, and I was much more consistent scoring-wise this year. It was real exciting when I heard the news. I’m very humbled and have to keep working.”

Quiroz was also named as first-team guard. Teammate Brigham Milkey was named to the region’s second team, while Trevor Bayer and Jimari Grayson received honorable mention.

“We met as coaches and I didn’t know what to expect,” Prospectors Coach Scott Stansberry said. “The coaches were with Evan … player of the year, offensive player. It was like, ‘okay.’ I didn’t have to fight for him and it’s great to see that the coaches recognized his ability.”

Quiroz drained 76 3-pointers (35 percent) in his senior season and wound up with 195 for his career, along with 1,308 career points. In the 2017-18 season, he scored 489 points (18.1 per game), sank 89 of 115 free throws (77 percent), and averaged 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

As for basketball at the collegiate level, Quiroz is still exploring his options.

“I’m still going to play college basketball, it just depends on what college I go to,” Quiroz said. “I’ve been talking with a couple of colleges in California, some in Nebraska, just seeing which one feels right.”

Bayer, a senior, was second in 4A with 69 of 164 (42 percent) from behind the arc. He scored 269 points (10.0), shooting 41 percent from the field overall.

“I barely played varsity as a junior, pretty much just in practice,” Bayer said. “To go all the way from that to honorable mention in about a year, that’s huge for me.

“I was a little bit surprised when I found out, but I’m happy with it.”

“Trevor had that hot streak after a slow start,” Stansberry said.

Milkey, a junior who was an honorable mention selection as a sophomore, scored 255 points (9.4 per game), grabbed 171 rebounds (6.3), along with 75 assists and 26 steals.

“It’s easy when you’ve got the best shooters in the state to throw the ball to and that opens everything up for you,” Milkey said. “You’ve got a freshman who can drive and has a game similar to yours, so it’s easy when you’ve got guys around you who can put the ball in the hole.”

Stansberry said, “Brigham is a very quiet double-double kind of guy. You look at his stats and it would be something like 16 and nine, 14 and 10, and you’d wonder, ‘how did that happen?’ He’s so sneaky, you don’t even notice it.”

Grayson, a freshman, averaged 6.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals per game.

“It means a lot, but I wouldn’t be there without my teammates,” Grayson said.

“The coaches recognized Jimari and I’m excited about that,” Stansberry said. “For a freshman to get recognized is great. But the spotlight is on him now – they threw his name out there, so now everyone knows who he is.”

Overall, Stansberry said having four all-region selections makes the program “look good.”

“It goes to show how, after not winning the region, it really is a tough basketball region,” he said. “We were just four spots out of the playoffs. We could have easily had four teams in there. So for Evan to get voted for those honors, I think it’s awesome.”

Photo above: Apache Junction’s boys basketball all-Black Canyon Region selections. From left: Brigham Milkey, Trevor Bayer, Evan Quiroz and Jimari Grayson. Quiroz was named as the region’s player of the year and top offensive player. (Photo by Daniel Dullum)

Panthers Fall Short of Title Dream

Skyline Prep Defeats IP-Superstition for Championship

By Daniel Dullum

A highly-successful boys basketball season came to an end for Imagine Prep-Superstition on Feb. 22 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, when the Panthers fell to Phoenix Skyline Prep 59-46 in the CAA Division III championship game.

The No. 6-seed Panthers finished their first season under Coach Travis Gordon at 16-5 overall, 8-3 in region play. Skyline Prep completed its title season 23-2.

“We accomplished something many didn’t think was possible in our first year,” Gordon said. “These young men put it all on the line, but unfortunately came up short.

I hurt for them, because they wanted the title so bad, but it was a successful season. Seeing the growth from our preseason tourney to the finals was expected.  We wanted to get better as the season progressed and we did. That’s all a coach can ask for, to peak at the right time.”

Freshman Tavares Broady led the Panthers with 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Anthony Lerma was next for Prep with 14 points, and seven rebounds, and Dallas Pina was next with nine points, four assists and five rebounds. Sophomore Reggie Johnson was the Panthers’ leading rebounder with 10.

The loss also marked the last game for IPS seniors Lerma, Pina and Wayne Young.

“I owe my seniors a ton for setting the foundation for future teams,” Gordon said. “They will be missed, but it was their leadership that got us that far and made the season such a success.”


Imagine Prep reached the championship game by defeating Phoenix Maya 44-27 on Feb. 17 at South Mountain Community College.

The Panthers’ Tavares Broady hit 8 of 14 from the field – including 4 of 8 3-pointers and 5 of 8 free throws – for a game-high 25 points. Dallas Pina was next with seven points, and Jorge Garcia added six.

IPS shot 36 percent (14 of 39) on field goals, including 4 of 15 3-pointers, but the Panthers held Maya to four points in the third quarter and eight points in the fourth.

“(Maya) paid attention to their scouting report, and we’ve been in the situation of having to play back-to-backs,” Gordon said. “As for the lid on both baskets, that was just nerves you get playing for a state championship. Our star players were missing layups and free throws.

“We’ve had spurts like that all year where we were focused on defense and locked teams down. When we don’t have the mental breakdowns, these guys can really play some defense.”

Reggie Johnson grabbed 12 of Prep’s 35 rebounds, followed by Anthony Lerma with eight, Garcia with six and five for Broady. Garcia had six assists and two steals, Broady and Pina each had three steals, and Lerma, Garcia and Johnson each had two steals.

Photo above: Imagine Prep-Superstition in pregame warmups prior to the CAA Division III boys basketball championship game on Feb. 22 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. (Photo courtesy IPS/Facebook)

Lady Prospectors Open Season 1-4 at Mesa Tourney

Apache Junction anticipated tough competition in its softball season opening appearance at the Mesa Dobson/Westwood Invitational, and found themselves 1-4 through last Friday.

The Lady Prospectors opened their 2018 season with a 6-5 win over Gilbert Williams Field, then lost four straight to Mesa Dobson (11-10), Queen Creek Casteel (14-4), Sierra Vista Buena (9-5) and Yuma Cibola (10-4).

In the victory over Williams Field, Elexis Toro was 3 for 4 with two runs scored and two runs batted in. Cori Haro was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, and Megan Clark had two hits and scored twice. Mikayla Gilgert struck out eight and issued no walks to earn her first win of the season.

An eight-run first inning sparked Dobson to its one-run win over AJ. Denae Preuhs was 3 for 5 with three RBIs, Gilgert and Makayla Henwood each drove in two runs.

Casteel snapped a 4-4 tie with five runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Toro collected three of AJ’s four RBIs. Gilgert was rocked for nine earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, despite striking out seven without a walk.

Daisy Ruelas-Estrada hit a triple and drove in two AJ runs in the loss to Buena. Preuhs and Toro each had two hits, and Gilgert drove in two runs for AJ against Cibola.

AJ Starts Baseball Campaign with Win

Apache Junction baseball opened its 2018 season with a victory over Gilbert Higley on Feb. 21 at the Tomas Pinon/Matt Huffman Memorial Tournament, hosted by Casa Grande Union.

The Prospectors put up seven runs in the first inning en route to downing the Knights 10-5. Trentin Smith and Nick Mohn each collected two hits and drove in two runs for AJ. Nathan Rhodes started on the mound and picked up the win.

Over the next two days, the Prospectors lost 12-11 to Tucson Marana and 9-4 to host Casa Grande Union.

AJ came up short in a slugfest against the Marana Tigers, who collected 16 hits while the Prospectors had 13 hits. Each team scored 10 runs in the fourth inning.

Remy Wiltz was 2 for 5 with two runs scored and three RBIs, Nick Mohn was 3 for 5 with two runs batted in, and Mathew Turner was 3 for 4 with two runs and two RBI for the Prospectors.

After Austin Sample started and threw three innings, Mohn was roughed up for eight runs – six earned – in 2 2/3 innings.

In the loss to CGU, Rhodes collected the only RBI for Apache Junction and collected two hits.

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