In the coming weeks, countless students will be making a return to the halls of their elementary, middle or high school for the first time since leaving behind the books and the study sessions back in May. While the hustle and bustle of the back to school season is felt by everyone from students and families to teachers and staff, Elizabeth Thies and Eileen Finnerty-Rae at BASIS Oro Valley will be looking to make a good first impression on their students as the new heads of school for the 6-12 and K-5 schools, respectively. Taking over for former head of school Michelle Mason, who moved on within the BASIS family to develop programs at a more regional level, Thies and Finnerty-Rae both expressed an overwhelming sense of excitement at the opportunity to play leading roles in one of the most highly successful programs not only within the state, but the entire country. Most recently, BASIS Oro Valley was named “America’s Most Challenging High School” by The Washington Post, out of nearly 2,300 other institutions. BASIS Oro Valley also placed third in the state and sixth in the country according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report “Best High School” rankings.Though the two women have spent the summer getting settled and planning out their futures in Oro Valley, both are veterans of the BASIS program and proud parents of BASIS students of their own.Prior to taking over at the upper school, Thies was the dean of students, athletic director and a physical education teacher at BASIS Tucson North. She holds a BS in sociology and is currently beginning work on her masters in educational psychology from Northern Arizona University, Before her time as an educator, Thies was a member of the Tucson Police Department as a patrol officer on the city’s south side of town. She also served the country as a signal corps specialist in the United States Army. Despite serving in the world of criminal justice, Thies said she became interested in education after volunteering the classroom of her oldest daughter.
After first meeting in executive session, the Oro Valley town council unanimously decided during the June 6 regular session to hire California-based executive recruitment firm, CPS-HR Consulting, to find candidates for the new town manager after the departure of former town manager Greg Caton earlier this year. Caton filed his 90-day resignation on April 7 and worked until June 2. He is temporarily replaced by the now-interim town manager Daniel Sharp, who has been Oro Valley Police Department’s longtime police chief. Filling in for Sharp is interim police chief Larry Stevens.The process of finding a recruitment firm for the job initially began in May when council made a request for proposals for eight firms under contract with the City of Tucson and the City of Peoria with a proposal submission deadline of June 1. Of the eight, six firms responded with proposals: Mercer Group, Slavin Management Consultants, Ralph Andersen & Associates, Bob Murray & Associates, CPS Human Resources Consulting and the Novak Consulting Group.By unanimous decision, council decided to go with CPS, with a backup option with Ralph Andersen & Associates if a compromise is not found with the town’s first choice.Due to the timing of the adoption of the town budget by council, funding for the executive recruitment process was not included in the budget year that started July 1. To pay for the cost of a recruitment firm, the authorized the use of general fund contingency reserves with a cap of $30,000.Councilmember Mike Zinkin expressed dissatisfaction with paying for the cost out of general fund contingencies, saying that there is space within the town’s adopted budget to pay the cost.
According to a press release dated this morning from the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, 18-year-old terrorist suspect and Tucson resident Mahin Khan has been indicted on three separate charges: terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons. Khan was arrested in here in Tucson on July 1 by agents from the FBI and agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force after a joint investigation by the Phoenix Field Office of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force with agents from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office Special Investigations Section.As previously reported, between mid-last year and continuing until earlier this month, Khan “solicited, incited or induced others to promote or further an act of terrorism to wit: at a Motor Vehicle Division office located in Maricopa County, Arizona,” according to his indictment paperwork. He is being held, without bond, in the Maricopa County Jail pending a trial outcome. The case is being prosecuted by assistant Arizona attorneys general Blaine Gadow and Scott Blake.Though the investigation into Khan’s action is ongoing, authorities have stated there is not believed to be a further threat from him or his activities.A heavily redacted two-and-a-half page court document with information on Kahn’s alleged correspondence efforts with several individuals believed by Khan to have ties to terror organizations was released yesterday. Within the document, it is stated that Kahn allegedly said Mission Bay, Calif. would be “a pretty good target right there. There’s(sic) a lot of people there.” Within the same conversation, Kahn also allegedly requested two assault rifles, a pistol and made mention of an Air Force recruitment center as a possible target here in Tucson.While speaking with an individual named as “Abid Manoor,” whom the former believed to be a member of the organization Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, and requested various weapons and plans to make an improvised explosive device. Kahn allegedly told Manoor that he was a supporter of ISIL (ISIS), the TTP and was planning to “take out marines and jews.”According to the Maricopa County Superior Court records, Kahn will have a status conference this Friday, July 8, and a preliminary hearing set for July 12.
It’s the old English teacher’s maxim: “Write what you know.”Oro Valley author Mark Rusin took the saying to heart when he wrote his book, “Justice for Dallas.”Based in 1985 and set in various locations throughout the western United States, “Justice for Dallas” primarily follows the investigative efforts of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent Marko Novak as he hunts down a gang of murderous bikers and their leader, Butch Crowley for the murder of a family—and the brutal slaying of 5-year-old Dallas.Set in a series of short, episodic chapters, Rusin (with the assistance of fellow author Priscilla Barton) tells a heartbreaking tale of violent crime and old-school sleuthing which sets and maintains a rapid pace throughout the book’s 200-plus pages. Whether digging through crime scene evidence or chasing outlaw bikers down the highway, “Justice for Dallas” delivers a wide variety of literary thrills and twists right up until the closing scene.As for Marko, the book’s primary protagonist, there are a lot of similarities within his character to those of Rusin himself.Born in and raised on the south side of Chicago, Rusin recalls a happy childhood. At age 14, much like Marko, he was lucky enough to become a batboy for the Chicago White Sox. As he grew older, Rusin enjoyed and excelled in a variety of sports, including hockey, baseball and soccer, and earned ten varsity letters while in high school—something he and his character also share.
Two members of Tucson’s local media scene have found themselves in a deeply troubling situation after taking their 4-month-old daughter to a local hospital, where cocaine was found the child’s system.On Sunday, May 15 around 11 a.m., Somchai P. Lisaius, former crime reporter for KOLD News 13, and his wife, former KGUN 9 reporter and local journalist Krystin R. Lisaius, took their child to the Oro Valley Hospital, after observing that the child was “wabbly,” “became limp,” was “unable to wake up” and that her “eyes were rolling” into the back of her head. Krystin Lisaius described the child as “ragdoll-like,” according to the police report from the Oro Valley Police Department.While at the Oro Valley Hospital, the Lisaiuses refused to allow hospital staff to perform a blood draw on their child. Sometime later, the parents left with the child against medical advice, but agreed to have her transferred to Banner University Medical Center for further evaluation. The child was transported to Diamond Children’s Hospital via a Golder Ranch Fire District ambulance around 1 p.m.While at Banner, the parents were once again uncooperative and did not allow a toxicology screen on the child.After previously denying the use of cocaine, Krystin Lisaius admitted to using the drug by “snorting it” through her nose with Somchai Lisaius and a friend named "Thomas" on Saturday, May 14 while at their family home after hosting a barbecue earlier in the day. She also told a UMC social worker she had been breastfeeding the child. She stated that she didn’t think the baby would be affected after 12 hours had passed. She also refused all lab tests on the child except a heel blood stick, body scans and physical exams.In the presence of representatives of the Office of Child Welfare Investigations and Department of Child Safety, Banner UMC staff conducted a urinalysis as well as a toxicology screen that showed the presence of cocaine in the child’s system. An OVPD officer performed a blood draw analysis on Krystin Lisaius after obtaining a search warrant.
Just having finished his fifth-grade-year at BASIS Oro Valley is Sai Konkimalla. While most fifth graders are concerned with the latest Call of Duty releases or the premier of a new action-packed movie, Konkimalla has continued to impress both members of the BASIS community as well as the Oro Valley town council.During the June 15 regular session, Mayor Satish Hiremath and Vice Mayor Lou Waters filled in for the out-of-town Councilmember Mary Snider to present Konkimalla with Oro Valley’s “Spotlight on Youth” award for his constant dedication to academic success.As previously reported by The Explorer, Konkimalla is a highly-qualified spelling-bee competitor, having traveled travelled to the state capital in March to compete in the 2016 Arizona Educational Foundation Arizona Spelling Bee against 26 other students between fourth and eighth grade. Before traveling to state, Konkimalla won similar competitions at his school and the BASIS district, and coming in second place in Pima County.Though he was unable to attain a title at the state level, he can say that he was the highest-ranked speller in his grade throughout Arizona and the ninth-best in the state.More than just a literary mind, Konkimalla also competed in the Southern Arizona Math Championship for students in fourth through sixth grade. While at the competition, he earned first place in his grade level, and the highest overall score of all grade levels. He then went on to represent BASIS at the state level test in May, where he was the winner for the entire state of Arizona.“If this young man isn’t already representing this community at the fifth grade level,” Hiremath said, “I can’t wait to see what he can do when he actually grows up.”
Six members of the Oro Valley community have decided to face the public as candidates in the upcoming primary election to fill the ending terms of three councilmembers; Mike Zinkin, Brendan Burns and Bill Garner, all of which have submitted their names into the election as incumbents. Running to gain a seat on the council are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. To give the Oro Valley community some idea as to whom each candidate is, The Explorer is starting its 2016 election coverage with one simple question: Why are you running for Oro Valley Town Council?Here are the candidate responses (order randomized and edited only for format/readability): Candidate Steve Solomon“I am running for Town Council to bring Civility, Professionalism, Collaboration and Positive Forward Momentum back to our community and Town Government. I am concerned, as both a citizen and former Council Member (2010-2012), that our current Town Council has become a very divisive environment, negatively affecting the Town and my fellow citizens of Oro Valley.
To the tune of a four-to-three vote, the Oro Valley town council approved the final budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins this July. Set at just over $125.6 million, the lengthy document details every aspect of town activity and is the culmination of an extensive, multi-month process through which every member of the town staff, council and various residents are consulted and needs considered.Previously presented to the town council as a tentative budget during the May 19 regular session, the document had undergone some more alterations before reaching a finalized state. The original amount, just over $117 million, had marked a small decrease from the previous year, though the finalized budget reflects an increase of just over $6 million.That increase is the product of several council-approved changes. During the May 19th Council meeting, the council allocated funding for new swings at Riverfront Park for $21,480, a new fund called the Energy Efficiency Project Fund was created to account for the renovations and solar project to take place at the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center with a budget of $3 million and another new fund, the Capital Project Bond Fund was created to provide budget capacity for possible bonds in the coming year with a budget of $5 million for multi-use fields at Naranja Park.Though the budget passed, the voting fell along lines quite familiar to the council. While Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Waters and Councilmembers Mary Snider and Joe Hornat approved, Councilmembers Bill Garner, Brendan Burns and Mike Zinkin were opposed.Zinkin in particular took exception to the spending plan, saying that it was long past time that “government bites the bullet … so I don’t know that the town is working as efficiently as it can be working.”He said that the residents of the town “have bitten the bullet for the last four years,” citing increases in water rates, increases in their storm water rates, utility tax, sales tax, and government employee merit increases.
The Oro Valley town council took some time during the May 19 regular session to honor the achievements of one of the town’s finest students as part of the “Spotlight on Youth” series. For the month of May, the council turned the spotlight on Eric Birtcil, a student at BASIS Oro Valley who just finished up his junior year of high school.“Since BASIS Oro Valley is ranked sixth in the nation, we know that any student who attends BASIS is disciplined and dedicated, but Eric has gone above and beyond that level of excellence,” said Oro Valley Councilmember Mary Snider, who presented the award.In terms of academics, Birtcil is a prime example of the caliber of students working their way through the BASIS.ed program, in the past few years, he has earned several impressive honors: Gold Level National Career Readiness Certificate Award for an ACT score of 35 (2016), National AP Scholar (2015), AP Scholar with Distinction (2015), AP Comparative Government and Politics Student of the Year (2015) and AP Scholar (2014).Birtcil was also the sole recipient of the High School Community Award, chosen because he is an extremely successful and the most sought after peer tutor and peer mentor.Outside of grades and homework, Birtcil is also a standout on the soccer field. He has played for the BASIS Oro Valley upper school soccer team for the past two years, and was selected as team captain this most recent season. He also played club soccer for AYSO and basketball for the high school team.“I was very flattered but also very humbled,” Birtcil said. “I would like to give a big thank you to [BASIS] and the Oro Valley community for fostering the growth of all of the students in Oro Valley.”
At an event normally dedicated to recognizing the highest achieving graduating seniors, Ironwood Ridge High School recently honored three members of the Nighthawk community for the significant impact each has had on the student body, their families and the school as a whole. A dedicated parent, an IRHS teacher and a former nighthawk; three of the school’s finest examples of sterling community members were honored as the inaugural inductees into the Ironwood Ridge Alumni Hall of Fame.Held last Tuesday, May 10, during the yearly senior honors night, The Nighthawk Alumni Association inducted Brian T. Lincoln , Matthew A. Scrivner and Scott G. Filbert.A Raytheon employee and the father of two IRHS graduates, Lincoln has been a volunteer in the school’s Project Grad since the project first began and continues to stay involved, even after handing off the reins to someone else last year. As the technical consultant to the Amphitheater Public School District, he provides technical guidance and workshops in sound and lighting. He manages sound, lighting and special effects for numerous high school and professional performances in town: the Tucson Dance Academy, the Borderland Theater, Chinese New Year, the Gem and Mineral Show, St. Thomas Church, Casas Adobes Church, Faith Community Church East, Basis School and Salpointe Theater.“I do everything that I do, the volunteer stuff, for the benefit of whose sitting here in this audience right now, as well as your other classmates,” Lincoln said after accepting his award. “You guys are the ones that make all of the difference.”A student favorite on campus, Scrivner teaches English at IRHS and is the head of the department. Deeply involved with his students and always deeply invested in their well-being and success, Scrivner was nominated by one of his students.“Mr. Scrivner’s approach to teaching enables us to think and learn at a much higher level, challenging ourselves to reach our full potential,” said John Fung, alumni representative of the Nighthawk Parent Organization, who read from Scrivner’s nomination letter. “He equipped us for college and adult life with any lesson plan or project, giving us an unforgettable feeling that he truly cared about each and every one of our futures. He made the classroom an environment where we all could be completely ourselves and learn from one another through discussion instead of always going straight by the book. His lifelong impact on all of us, no matter where you came from or what you represented, was that you were special and you would be somebody.”
The Oro Valley Town Council voted unanimously Wednesday May 4, to move forward with developing a memorial for veterans and first responders at Naranja Park.“It’s been said that we often take for granted the very people that most deserve our gratitude,” said Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Chairman and Oro Valley veteran Alan Dankwerth told the council. “In my estimation, this certainly applies to those who have and are currently serving in the armed forces and as first responders. Every day, these men and women perform their duties without looking for praise and recognition, but rather with an intent and hope that they can keep our country and communities safe and make a positive difference in the lives of others.”Addressing a council chamber left with standing room only, Dankwerth was one of several voices who spoke out in support of the proposed memorial and asked the town council approve moving forward with developing and building the project at Naranjo Park.A task force including Dankwerth and others has been working to develop a plan for a potential memorial and, with the council’s blessing, may now begin working with an architect, artists and designers on the memorial itself while also developing a business model and a means or plan by which to raise funds.Working together on the plans have been the memorial task force, headed by Dick Eggerding, an Oro Valley resident, veteran, arts and cultural ambassador and one of the key figures behind the project’s inception. Joining Eggerding on his task force are Dankwerth, Oro Valley American Legion Post 132 member Steve Didio, Mountain Vista Fire District Fire Chief Cheryl Horvath, Oro Valley Police Department officer Elijah Woodward, board member of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Kay Williams and local veterans Victor Braun and Curt Stowell. Even though the project is still in its fledgling stage, there is support from both residents and the following groups: the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort, the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, La Posada, the Oro Valley American Legion Post 132, the Golder Ranch Fire District, Splendido at Rancho Vistoso, the Splendido Veterans Committee, Southern Arizona Rescue Association and the Mountain Vista Fire District, among others.
With a unanimous vote on Wednesday, May 4, the Oro Valley Town Council granted its planning and zoning administrator new powers to resolve property disputes, approve minor changes to developers’ plans and fix clerical errors, among other situations.The new review process means minor changes to plans will no longer require the council’s approval for changes in the locations of driveways or changes in utility easements. “I don’t want to hear about a driveway being relocated,” said Councilmember Joe Hornat, crystallizing frustrations voiced on the council. “I don’t want to hear that two neighbors got together and decided to redraw their property lines and their both happy. If you want to put that in the council forward, that’s fine… this is a true simplification of the process that goes on and I see no problem with it at all and I see no danger at all.”Because of the vote, minor amendments can now be approved by the planning and zoning administrator, instead of being added to a council meeting agenda, saving significant time for residents, staff and council.“What we find from time to time is that a lot owner will pick one up, and find that maybe a property line leaps and bounds, and the description is off by ten or fifteen feet, or they want to change the driveway location,” said planning manager/planning and zoning administrator Bayer Vella. “Again, what they have to do is come before town council to have the final plat amended, which entails a 30 to 60 day review process. So that creates a considerable amount of frustration.”According to town documents, the ability to administratively approve a minor final plat amendment is a common practice in most Arizona communities, and had previously been labeled as a top priority on the 2015 Planning Division Work Plan.
About 200 yards from the green on the 15th hole at the Oro Valley Country Club was the residence of Al Thorell. Quite the popular person in the ’60s, Thorell had a habit of putting a bottle of whiskey in a nearby mesquite tree on the course from which golfers could take a steadying shot while playing.“We found that little piece of history, and thought we should name the bar after him,” said the club’s membership director, Jack Talmage.Thorell’s legacy is now honored in the new Whiskey Tree Bar, one of several renovated amenities at the country club. Much more than a spot for a drink, the club has been nestled beneath the breathtaking peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains for more than half a century, and has offered something difficult to find almost anywhere else in the Southwest; 18 holes of golf on a fully traversable, tee-to-green fairway. Developed by visionary Lou Landon and designed by architect Robert Bruce Harris, the club was established under Oro Valley Country Club Inc. in June 1959 and under member ownership from February 1961 until December 2014, when it was sold to Dallas-based ClubCorp for nearly $3 million.Already a championship-level facility, the country club recently underwent a series of renovations throughout its communal spaces, including a new restaurant and bar area and updated patio. Work didn’t begin within the clubhouse and dining space, though. As part of the acquisition, ClubCorp’s invested $1 million reinvention capital, with funds first going into new bunkers for about $360,000.
Mountain View High SchoolWednesday, May 18 at 8 p.m.Mountain View High School 3901 W. Linda Vista Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85742Number of graduates: 437 Valedictorian: Bailey Leeann Laursen and Katherine Rose ReynoldsSalutatorian: Luke David Somerville
Town-owned golf courses in Oro Valley will experience closures this summer in order to accommodate capital improvement projects on the Canada, Conquistador and Pusch Ridge courses. Included in the town’s capital investment plan is aerification and overseeding, as well as less standard projects like bunker care, storm drainage improvements, turf reductions and more.Oro Valley Town Manager Greg Caton said that the town needs to do improvements on the golf courses, some of which may be extremely disruptive to play, like building cart paths. He said that project has been one of the major concerns that the members have brought forward to staff.“So we wanted to do these improvements as any other business would – during downtime – and our downtime, nonpeak season for the golf is obviously this summer,” Caton said. “So that’s the plan, to improve the cart paths on one this summer.”What Caton alluded to was the cart path renovations at the Conquistador course, which will take place - along with other work – while the course is offline from June 11 until Oct. 3 The Canada course will be shut down for renovations from this coming Monday, May 2 until June 10, remain open until Oct. 3 and then close until the end of the month for overseeding.The Pusch Ridge course will be shut down from May 2 until Oct. 31 for several different projects, most significant being the permanent installation of footgolf holes, part of the PX9 concept. According to a town council report dated April 25, the Conquistador course will reopen for the year Oct. 3, the Canada and Pusch Ridge on Oct. 31.Caton said the plan to shut down temporarily for renovations was already introduced to members, and there was a lot of positive response.