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  • Water Festival gives students hands-on experience learning about water use and area resources

    Despite gusty winds and a serious downpour at the end of the event, more than 750 Marana Unified School District fourth graders took part in the first-ever Marana Water Festival to learn more about Arizona’s water resources and water in the earth system.The festival, held at the Crossroads at Silverbell District Park, is part of a larger Arizona Water Festival, which has been put on by Arizona Project WET for 16 years and has engaged over 100,000 Arizona fourth graders in the program’s history. The goal of the Arizona Water Festivals is to instill a deeper understanding of water in the earth system and Arizona’s water resources through a hands-on community festival. It also featured a professional development workshop for teachers and extensive volunteer and community involvement.The festival itself is part of a larger curriculum unit focused on water stewardship and STEM education. Teachers implement a water STEM unit and go through additional education to help better teach the unit, which is then built upon at the festival. Educators receive seven hours of additional instruction where they learn to do pre- and post-instruction for the festival day.“The Arizona Water Festival program combines effective teacher professional development, direct student outreach that extends classroom learning and community engagement,” said program Director Kerry Schwartz. “Bringing these components together is the art work that APW does to achieve STEM literacy and water stewardship education in Arizona’s communities.”The festivals include instruction from local water professionals.“Arizona Water Festivals are designed to be delivered by people from the communities in which they are held,” Schwartz said. “Arizona Project WET takes the time to train professionals to engage students in learning by allowing them to explore and giving them time to think.  The professionals teach the lessons that we provide so that a strong foundation for learning can be established for each student. The professionals only need to be willing to learn the art of instruction, they enjoy watching the light bulbs go on when students get the big ideas.”

  • Oro Valley reports on the first fiscal quarter

    The Town of Oro Valley closed the books on the first quarter of the fiscal year, and finance director Stacey Lemos took a few minutes during the Nov. 16 council session to recap the town’s economic picture, saying that Oro Valley had experienced a “very strong financial performance.”Lemos said several factors played into the assessment: sales tax collections, individual department performances and construction and permitting rebounding from slumps in the previous year.Through September, the town’s general fund brought in $3.3 million in local sales tax collections – just over 21 percent of the $15.6 million budgeted amount for the year – as well as an additional $474,000 in licensing and permits. According to the town’s separate economic development update, 78 residential and a single commercial permit have been issued.Though Lemos presented a summary of each of the town’s different operations, the fund granted the most attention for well over a year has been that of the community and recreation center. “We saw a much improved performance this fiscal year over last fiscal year’s performance through the first quarter,” Lemos said.Looking at the bottom line, the fund through three months has experienced just over $760,000 net deficit, which is $5,000 better than expected through three months. Last year over the same period the fund operated at just greater than a $1.1 million loss – compared to a projected $819,000 loss. Aside from the fund’s own revenue sources, the council also dedicated a half-cent

  • Oro Valley rezones nearly 18 acres in Rancho Vistoso

    With a unanimous vote by the Oro Valley town council, one of the last remaining commercially zoned open spaces within the Rancho Vistoso community has been rezoned to allow for medium density residential housing.Located on the northwest corner of West Vistoso Highlands Drive and East Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, the nearly 18-acre property the subject of the local planned area development amendment has come before council before, though it was denied in 2013 on the basis that there was still potential for enough homes to built in the area to support commercial development.Three years later, and that no longer seems to be the case, said town senior planner Roosevelt Arellano, who spoke before the council on Nov. 16. Arellano said that when the Rancho Vistoso PAD was adopted, approximately 14,000 homes were planned for the area. When the request for a rezoning was previously brought before council, the town expected two-thirds of those homes to be built, the takeaway being that commercial development would still be viable. In 2016, that outlook has changed. Arellano said that the PAD planned approximately 2,600 homes, though the expectation is now roughly one-third of those homes to be built.To help explain to decrease in expected residences in the region, Oro Valley planning manager Bayer Vella, AICP, LEED AP, took over for Arellano.“The market is sending a very strong signal that at least in these times, lots around 8,000 to 10,000 square-feet are what’s selling – that’swhat’s driving the lot sizes, the market. What it says about commercial is that some of these commercial sites, there’s not many left, they are in areas that are not at very high traffic intersections, are at risk in terms of being viable.

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  • Oro Valley honors local student Grant Grimit

    Oro Valley took a moment during the Nov. 16 council session to honor another of the community’s youth. Grant Grimit – pictured alongside Councilmember Mary Snider – has the right to call himself an impressive young man. Grimit is a Boy Scout who works within his local community, assisting on annual food drives and community projects and is as an usher and altar server. A sixth grader at Wilson K-8, Grimit is also a straight-A student and a multi-sport athlete: baseball for the CDO Little League, cross country and soon he will begin his wrestling career. Perhaps Grimit’s greatest achievement to date are his medical battles two years ago when he underwent surgery to have a tumor removed from his spinal cord.  “His story isn’t just about service to our community and personal success—it’s about overcoming incredible obstacles, that takes a lot of courage and a lot of determination for a young man,” Snider said.

  • Take your grandparents to school

    Marana Unified School District elementary schools honored grandparents last Wednesday afternoon. Grandparents and other special guests were invited to visit students at several area schools that afternoon. Estes Elementary School had a huge turnout, with their entire parking lot filled and overflow parking taking up many of the spaces at the MUSD administrative building across the street. “The turnout at Estes is always amazing,” said MUSD Director of Public Relations Tamara Crawley. Grandparents were invited to take classroom tours, do arts and crafts projects, participate in contests and raffles, and the school even turned on the cotton candy machine to provide a tasty treat.

Entertainment

  • Arizona Repertory Singers announce chorale holiday show

    Choral ensemble Arizona Repertory Singers announced its annual winter concerts with music director Elliot Jones.“Radiant Dawn,” a 90-minute program, will be performed Dec. 9, 11 and 16 at two venues in the Tucson area. The concert series ushers in a season of spiritual awakening as well as ARS’s fresh focus on new music. In “Radiant Dawn,” Jones balances the classics of repertory with brand new music never before heard in Tucson.Jones said  that in a typical choral concert the older work is placed at the beginning and the new work at the end, but in “Radiant Dawn” he breaks with tradition, juxtaposing the classic, “O nata lux” by Thomas Tallis with “O radiant dawn” by James MacMillan, two works separated by a span of 500 years.Jones, who was named music director in April, auditioned 16 people and accepted eight new members into what he calls, their “community of singers.”“The singers are really incredible,” Jones said. “About half of them have music degrees, which is not common.”“Radiant Dawn” is divided into four sets, starting with “Dawn” and “Mary,” which include spiritual works. After the intermission are “Yule” and “Christmas”—enjoyable, rhythmic, Christmas classics with dazzling arrangements.

  • It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at The Gaslight

    Can Dudley the Elf make it all the way from The North Pole to New York City and recover the stolen Christmas Spirit, or will the evil duo bent on taking control of the holiday ultimately prevail? With the power of song (and dance) on their side, Dudley and his friends are well prepared to charm the hearts and minds of theater-goers young and old at The Gaslight Theatre’s holiday show, “Elf’d.”The elf—or man—behind the title is played by Jake Chapman, who lends an unequivocal charm and contagious smile to his goofy character, Dudley the Elf. Whether proudly announcing the creation of the Christmas Spirit or his cheerful determination in winning over the hearts of those who would destroy his beloved Christmas, Chapman steers a jovial cast of Gaslight heavyweights through a wonderfully jolly adventure. “It is an honor working with the best actors in Tucson,” Chapman said. “Christmas is always our favorite time of year because we get to see our fans’ smiling faces who love Christmas as much as we do.”Whether in song or dance, solo, duet or as a larger group, each of the nine cast members have ample stage time to captivate the audience—and did so through a truly Gaslight mixture of pristine comedic timing, impeccable facial expressions and just a bit of improvisation.Written and directed by Peter Van Slyke with musical direction by Linda Ackerman and choreography by Katherine Byrnes, the Gaslight’s newest production fits well within the establishment’s tradition of attention-stealing, hilarious melodramatic theater which has for decades been a staple of the Tucson community.“We are excited to keep the Gaslight Theatre tradition alive by spreading the joys of Christmas to families all over Tucson,” said Jacob Brown, the actor playing the role of Wally.

  • “Moonlight” fails to live up to its Oscar hype

    Each year at least one movie mistakenly emerges from the film festival circuit oozing accolades from the judges while generating Oscar Best Picture chatter from the direction of Hollywood elites standing nearby. Last year’s head-scratcher was the stop-motion, monotone downer “Anomalisa” stealing an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. This year that misplaced honor will undoubtedly go to “Moonlight”, the sluggish indie film about a young black man who grows up in Miami surrounded by trouble. Regardless of its exceptional acting performances and a believability rating off the charts, “Moonlight” can’t shake a slow, depressing, and unimaginative storyline. The younger versions of Chiron (impeccably played by both Alex Hibbert and Ashton Sanders at different stages of childhood) must tiptoe around bullies at school and his drug addicted mother at home. The heartbreaking internal struggles within Chiron are perfectly choreographed and explained. It’s the journey, however, that “Moonlight” takes its viewers that falls well short on interest along a circuitous path.The film’s strongest feature is the compassion given to Chiron by a boyfriend and girlfriend duo, who find the youngster eluding name-callers at school and physical troublemakers in hot pursuit. Both Good Samaritans, particularly the standout performance by Mahershala Ali, oddly lose out on-screen time and influence over Chiron’s life and the film as this story unfolds. And without these two positive influences upon Chiron, his fate—and the movie’s interest level—is doomed. “Moonlight” is last year’s reality check and mega-successful film “Straight Outta Compton” minus the hip hop gangsta rap songs. Whereas street-savvy rappers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E. created music to escape south Los Angeles’ rampant drugs and violence, Chiron and this script don’t fair nearly as well. “Straight Outta Compton” took viewers on a mesmerizing journey started from the entertainers’ life-changing, formative years. “Moonlight” and Chiron’s part never capitalize on his early plight to chart an alternative and interesting course change. Instead, the young boy’s life spirals downward into the drug dealer career path his mother’s crack addiction modeled for him. Similarly, Chiron’s being gay is stopped short of his true content and happiness by the film’s uninspiring end. All of which leaves us to wonder what profound journey this film embarked upon? 

Sports

  • Track time: All-Northwest golf and cross country teams

    There were a lot of great performances on the links and on the road this year. The northwest had a number of the top golfers and cross country runners in the city performing for their teams. The All-Northwest teams were created based upon regular and postseason rankings, as well as other honors, with an emphasis on post season performances. Teams are listed alphabetically.  All-Northwest GirlsGolf TeamFirst TeamAllison Acosta, Ironwood Ridge

  • Dorados, Tigers win preseason basketball tournaments

    The CDO girls basketball team and the Marana girls soccer team won preseason tournaments over the weekend. The CDO girls beat Rincon/University to win the Boyd Baker Girls Basketball Tournament. The Dorados went 5-0 in the tournament, with the final two games being nail biters. CDO beat Sahuaro 55-53 in the semi-finals and then beat Rincon 47-46 to win the title. Against the Cougars, CDO found themselves down by 10 before rallying past the Cougars. Leila El-Ali led all scorers with 24 points. Things were not as difficult in the early going. After beating Casa Grande 58-51, they crushed Palo Verde 74-29 then cruised past Empire 66-51.The Marana girls soccer team has a history of success at the Amphi Panther Invitational and added to that history by winning this year’s tournament. The Tigers not only went 6-0 in the tournament, they did not allow a goal, outscoring the competition 21-0.

  • Fall sports season provided great performances

    So far the 2016-17 school year has been an amazing one for prep sports. There have been great games, great performances and great stories. With the Fall Sports season officially completed and the spring season just begun, we take a final look at the teams and athletes that made the fall so special.  BEST STORYThe Marana football team not only went to the post season for the first time in almost a decade, they won their first playoff game since the 80’s and their first regional/sectional title since the 1970’s. After just missing the playoffs the year before, the Tigers’ chances looked slim as they opened the season 0-2. Little did we know then, but those two teams, Cienega and Ironwood Ridge, would finish the season ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the state. From there the Tigers rattled off 8 wins in a row. They outscored their final eight regular season opponents 358-116.That alone would have been enough, but add to the fact the tragedy of the passing of quarterback Connor Leaven’s father. Less than 48 hours after learning of his father’s passing, Leavens led the Tigers to a 52-14 win over Poston Butte, throwing for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns.

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