Morenci Schools have two new principals for July 29 opening

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Eighth-grader Samantha Dillman picks up a personal computer for the 2020-21 school year. Her mother, Kelley, accompanied and was on hand for registration on July 21.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Two of three principals in the Morenci schools are new for the 2020-21 school year. Don Goodman is in the high school, Brian Haag in the middle school, and Jennifer Morales in the elementary school.

We study history so as not to repeat the same mistakes of the past. One of the lessons learned following the early 20th Century global health crisis was facial coverings work in slowing the spread.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fairbanks Middle School secretary Rosie Allen hands Kim (Mortenson) Curtis registration papers for her son, Allen Landon.

Although none of the three administrators were around a century ago, each is tasked with helping educate the community’s treasure, its’ children, during an ongoing global health crisis. Two of the three-building principals are area products, two have multiple state experiences, and all three have children. They will draw from that cache of experience as well as follow state health department and gubernatorial guidelines, along with district governing board policies.

The district superintendent is Dr. David Woodall, an educator since 1979 and becoming a superintendent 10 years later, and the current governing board is Kelly Baker, Ron Campbell, and Steve Leyba.

A distance learning model starting July 29 will be followed for at least two weeks until the Aug. 17 state-mandated in-class learning date, or otherwise changed by the current global health crisis.

The combined total of 1,033 personal computers were checked out during registration for classes; 585 for grades K-4 at Metcalfe Elementary School, 166 for grades 5-8 at Fairbanks Middle School, and 282 for grades 9-12 at Morenci High School. The total does not represent exact enrollment as each student has the option of using their own personal computer.

Morenci High School

Goodman begins his initial year as the high school principal after returning for a second stint as a science teacher last year. His initial stint as an educator in Morenci occurred during the Fall of 1988 to the Spring of 1998, following Steve Ahman and his second stint replaced the same retired teacher.

The former classroom teacher is a native son, born in old Morenci before the hospital was absorbed by the open-pit mine, attended K-12 and was graduated from the school on “the Hill” in 1979.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Principal Don Goodman, Morenci High School

He began his formal educational journey in Flagstaff, sandwiching two years at Northern Arizona University between a 2-year church mission to Japan, and returning to Greenlee County from a recent stint as principal in “The Land of Enchantment.”

He transferred to the former Tempe Normal School, earning a medical technology degree from Arizona State University, and working a year at a lab where he learned it wasn’t a job he wanted to do for very long.

His first teaching position in Morenci followed a return to the classroom as a student at NAU, netting a second bachelor’s degree (physical science). His Masters in Educational Leadership was earned from the same school a few years later.

A family situation prompted a move to the Eagar/Springerville area teaching math and science at both the high school and middle school for 10 years. He spent a couple of years in a hospital lab helping develop a substance abuse program, before returning to a math/science teaching position at New Mexico Quemado High School. His principal certification was earned while there.

Goodman follows 1981 MHS grad Bryan Boling (Fall 2007 – Spring 2020) as the school’s principal.

The “top-tiered technology-based” Morenci High School had its’ 115th graduating class hold a virtual ceremony in May for the Class of 2020.

Fairbanks Middle School

Haag graduated from high school in the Golden State and arrived in Morenci via a southern Arizona teaching stint at Sierra Vista.

His initial teaching experience was as a kindergarten swim instructor while still in high school.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Principal Brian Haag, Fairbanks Middle School

After becoming a Sacramento Christian Brothers High alum, he worked as a Sacramento County employee, an East Anchorage High School Special Education aide where he was guided toward being a teacher, on the Alaska Railroad, and drove a tractor-trailer in order to cover his higher education costs.

His student days at the University of Alaska earned him a Bachelor of Education with a specialty in  English, leading to an elementary teaching position in Nevada. He taught second, third, and fourth-graders in Las Vegas followed by fourth and fifth graders in Reno. He earned a Masters in Education Leadership from Nova Southwest University of Florida while in the Silver State. His principals’ certificate is from the Grand Canyon State.

 He taught sixth-graders and eighth-graders for five years apiece in Sierra Vista plus spent a year at the Benson Middle School.

Haag learned of the opening in Morenci and visited during a weekend when the school was closed but secured an interview the next week. He follows Anna Van Zile (Fall 2015 – Spring 2020) as the school principal.

Metcalfe Elementary School

Morales has been the school principal since the building opened in August of 2013. She begins her eighth year at the school, having taught second graders from the fall of 1996 through the spring of 2006 at Fairbanks Middle School.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Principal Jennifer Morales, Metcalfe Elementary School

The former Jennifer Naccarati is a 1991 MHS grad, attending district schools from grades 7-12 after completing K-6 in Clifton. Her husband, Benji (1990), and children, Taylor (2011), Jason (2014), and Paige (2018), are also MHS grads.

Morales is an Eastern Arizona College and Northern Arizona University graduate, receiving a bachelor in education during 1995, a master’s in education during 2002, and a principal’s certification during 2005.

“I wouldn’t want to be any place else,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to work in the community we’re in. We have very good support from the community.”

The school is in its sixth year of utilizing technology in the classroom, with students learning by using a personal computer since 2015. Because of the current global health crisis, students will be allowed to take them home for the first time.