Morenci begins 2022-23 school year Thursday; high school delayed due to flooding 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The first day of classes for Metcalf Elementary and Fairbanks Middle Schools is Thursday, July 28. Morenci High School is tentatively set to begin Wednesday, Aug. 3 pending results of room samples obtained. Teachers new to the Morenci School District for the 2022-23 school year are, from left, Hannah Landers (MHS), Taylor Martinez (Metcalf), Frankie Gonzalez (FMS), Paige Morales (Metcalf), Sarah Stergion (pre-school), Alia Camacho (Metcalf), Reed Bailey (MHS/FMS), Harley Wapler (Metcalf), Alexis Gregory (FMS), Sarah Camacho (pre-school), and Gary Rees (MHS).

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – “And the sign said, the words of the prophet were written on the subway walls and tenement halls,” from Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sounds of Silence, 1964. In this case, they are written on the Lawson Stadium marquee. The countdown for the first day of classes was listed in days, hours, and minutes at the start of the weekend.

It was to be the final weekend of the 2022 summer eight-week break as the first day of classes drew closer. The day was to be Wednesday, July 27, and the hour was 8 a.m. as initially scheduled. It was to be the start of classes for the Morenci School Districts’ 2022-23 school year.

However, Mother Nature had her say Sunday afternoon, sending much-needed moisture to the area resulting in changing that plan. Additional rain on Tuesday evening resulted in more damage to the high school, delaying the start another week.

“We are still working through the water damage at Morenci High School. Several dehumidifiers and fans have been brought to speed up the drying process. Morenci High School will not start until Wednesday, Aug. 3. Metcalf Elementary and Fairbanks Middle Schools will begin on Thursday, July 28,” recently appointed district school superintendent Jennifer Morales announced.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: District employee Rego Padilla trims overhanging branches alongside of Lawson Stadium in preparation for the start of classes.

All four schools, Morenci Pre-School, Metcalf Elementary School, Fairbanks Middle School, and Morenci High School, were methodically physically prepared by custodial staff under the guidance of Sally DeLaTorre at Metcalf, Leticia Laborin at FMS, and Margo Ray at MHS. Their respective staffs included Angelica Blancarte and Israel Ruiz at Metcalf; Martina Chanez, Isabel Maldonado, and Carson Strahl at FMS; and Florine Billingsley, Hailey Guthrie, and Casey Weinmann at MHS. Valerie Perez takes care of the pre-school. The linoleum floors have a brilliant shine, the carpeted floors were shampooed and vacuumed, and the scratches were painted.

Seven of the eight school building administrators are Greenlee County high school graduates and the changes are an assistant principal for MHS and a director for the pre-school.

Following the retirement of district superintendent Dr. David Woodall, his assistant Jenifer Morales has ascended to the position. She is a 1991 Morenci High School graduate.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pride Band members took advantage of a fundaments camp to work on marching. From left, senior Joshua Biggs, senior Aaron Merz, junior Justin Leatherman, senior Quinton Wiltbank, freshman Emma Kerrigan, and junior Douglas Sipes move down the field as one rank on the final day of camp.

A dozen faculty members will be new to the district this year, two were here in previous years, and two others switched schools.

The current governing board is Kelly Baker, Ron Campbell, and Steve Leyba.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Lawson Stadium marquee displays district information.

Morenci Pre-School

Ashley Morales is the director and Tracee Lacey is her assistant. Morales was in the district 10 years before accepting the position and is a 2007 MHS grad. Lacey has been in the district for eight years, the assistant since 2018, and is a 2006 Duncan High School grad.

The faculty additions number two, Sarah Camacho and Sarah Stergion.

A total of five teachers comprised the school’s faculty, with Stergion and Vanessa Torres helping 3-year-olds and Camacho, Jennie Romero, and Christine Wyatt the 4-year-olds.

Metcalf Elementary School

Dr. Chelsea Adams is the principal and Andrea Hudman is the assistant principal, both in their second year.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Ashley Morales, Morenci Pre-School Director

Adams is in her 12th year at FMS and Hudman is in her 17th year. The administrators are both MHS grads, 2006 and 1998, respectively, overseeing a total of 38 teachers in the building.

Alia Camacho, Alexis Gregory, Taylor Martinez, Paige Morales, and Harley Wapler are in their inaugural year at the school.

The Metcalf teachers are Dawn Carabeo, Vanessa Jones, Benji Morales, Casey Russell, Tiffany Saenz, and Miranda Wasko for kindergarten; Erin Clem, Elizabeth Dunagan, Gregory, Michelle Pollack, Stephanie (Saldrana) Salazar, and Janet Vaughn for First Grade; Ashlie Clark, Lillian Forgach, Jessica Gonzalez, Shannon Herrera, Kathryn Najar, and Marla Reyes for Second Grade; Jessica Gallegos, Jessica Harrington, Cassandra Hernandez, Morales, Sara Rios, and Wapler for Third Grade; and Vanessa Fallow, Christine Harper, Jessica King, Christine Rivera, and Layla Turner for Fourth Grade.

Four Special Education teachers include Sandra Carasco, Michelle Manuz, Jamie Pomaski, and Linda Woodard.

The rest of the teaching corps includes Sabrina Gonzales (Spanish), DeDe Guerrero (Library), Martinez (Physical Education), Camacho (technology), and Gene Willey (Music).

Fairbanks Middle School

Fairbanks Middle School has Kelly Hadden as principal and Rebecca Manuz as assistant principal. Oklahoma high school grad Hadden is in his second year as principal and 1993 Clifton High School product Manuz is in her sixth year as assistant principal.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A bridge connecting the high school with Lawson Stadium has a large flow of water Tuesday evening. Rain run-off flowed over the bridge Sunday evening, flooding the football field and stadium parking lot.

Thirty teachers hold classes for middle school students, with Reed Bailey and Frankie Gonzalez being new to the faculty for this year. Brianna Wolf-Williams returns after a brief absence and Valeria Villa was in the high school last year.

The FMS teachers are DeeAnn Jensen, Jamie Madrid, Alyssa Murillo, Kathy Padilla, and Nicole Pursley for Fifth Grade; Gabriel Abril (Science), Rebecca Baumeister (Math), Raylyn Chee (English-reading), David Gallegos (Social Studies), and Siobhan Manrique (English-writing) for Sixth Grade; Jody Bailey (Social Studies), Brianna Wolf-Williams (English), Amelia Savage (Math), and Gonzalez (Science) for Seventh Grade; and Alexis Robles (Math), A.J. Rodriguez (Science), Melissa Rodriguez (English), and Joshua Salas (Social Studies) for Eighth Grade.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Registration continued last week as mother Jennifer Padilla along with freshman Jorge and junior Alice Aguilar listen to a list of available CAT classes from which to select from on July 20. 

The rest of the faculty members include Ruben Aguallo (Boys Physical Education), Lilliana Bailey (Art), Villa (Special Education), Gilbert Hilpert (Carpentry), Venise Mendez-Lytle (Girls Physical Education), Reed Bailey (Band), Rego Padilla (Para Professional), Kara Wagley (Accommodations), Gene Willey (Choir) Samantha Williams (technology), and Casey Woodall (Co-Ed Athletic Development).

Morenci High School

Don Goodman is in his third year as principal and Tiffany Powers is in her first year as assistant principal. Goodman and Powers are both MHS grads, 1979 and 1998, respectively.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tiffany Powers, MHS Assistant Principal/Athletic Director

After leaving MHS, Powers earned an associate of arts from Eastern Arizona College in 2000, completed requirements for a special education degree from Western New Mexico University in 2004, and taught at Sahuarita Intermediate for a couple of years prior to a 12-year stint at Tucson Tanque Verde Elementary. She also coached the TVHS girl’s basketball team for eight seasons.

Her Masters in Leadership and Superintendent Certificate were both earned from Northern Arizona University, in 2008 and in 2018, respectively. She was the assistant principal at Tucson Unified District’s Booth-Fickett K-8 Math/Science Magnet School prior to accepting the Morenci position.

Morenci High School has 25 teachers and had its’ 117th graduating class in May.

Reed Bailey, Hannah Landers, Rhyanna Mennen, and Gary Rees are the faculty additions this year. Landers and Mennen were previously at MHS, and Mennen was at Metcalfe last year.

 The “top-tiered technology-based” school teachers include Julie Baker, Jenna Chavez, Amanda Davis, Joseph Garcia, T.J. Gomez, and Terry Montoya for English; Alexa Aguilera, Ilsa Castillo, Elizabeth Speck, Renee Still, and Kaylin Wright for Math; Ariana Aguilera, Leonisa Calapini, and Marilou Cortez for Science; and Baker, Chavez, David Gonzales, Kenneth Lester, and Casey Woodall for History.

Additionally, Sherry Carbajal (Culinary Arts), Sabrina Gonzales (Spanish), Kristy Gonzalez (Physical Education/Health), Gilbert Hilpert (Industrial Arts), Lester (Government), Landers (Computer/Journalism), Montoya (Art), Bailey (Band), Andrea Wilson (Spanish), and Woodall (PE) round out the faculty.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Reed Bailey directs the Pride Band’s practicing some music. The first-year MHS band director held a fundamentals camp last week in preparation for the start of the 2022-23 school year.