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Some Az City residents unhappy with post office

ARIZONA CITY — Some area residents have expressed their concerns and dissatisfaction with the Arizona City Post Office.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were residents unhappy due to the unavailability of having mail delivered to their physical address, leaving just one option, which is to have everything sent to a post office box.

During these past few months residents expressed their concerns about a perceived lack of safety precautions taken when they do go to get their mail.

Tony Caverly, a resident in Arizona City, told PinalCentral that before the pandemic, the biggest struggle was receiving his mail. He mentioned that the post office gives him a certain amount of time to pick up mail before it gets sent back and if the address is not written in a specific manner, it also is sent back.

Former Arizona City business owner Sean Patrick said he moved his Tumtumcar business to the Phoenix area after less than a year of relocating to the Arizona City area because nearly $17,000 of parts and components for his electrical vehicles was lost through the mail.

“The problem is many businesses misread the ‘#’ sign for something else and change it to unit, mailbox or dept. and the (contractual postal unit) does not acknowledge the fact,” Patrick said. “Surprisingly, half of such addressed mail is delivered, the other half vanishes, and the CPU cannot justify this magic. Losing money, losing on shipping charges, losing customers, we recently decided to relocate our business elsewhere.”

Patrick stated that the residents follow the specific directions on how to address their mail, but mail still continually gets lost.

Caverly added that picking up his mail has become a nightmare during the pandemic.

“We’ve got to go there and stand in a line with 40 people, standing inches away from each other to get packages that the rest of America gets delivered to their house,” Caverly said. “We’re putting our lives at risk to get our mail picked up at a post office and it just makes no sense.”

Caverly believes that the post office should be receiving more packages now during the pandemic because many people are ordering online in hopes of avoiding a trip to the store, which defeats the purpose if they still have to wait in a long line.

Many of the Arizona City residents are retirees and Caverly stated that of those waiting in line, there is a mixture of people wearing face masks and others who aren’t.

“Half the people that live here are elderly people who don’t need to be going to the post office even if there is no pandemic,” Caverly said.

Dugan Morrow said he has been troubled by the number of people not wearing masks at the post office, including the workers. He said he also noticed a Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputy there not wearing a mask.

“When I got home I called the Pinal County Sheriff Communication Division and asked about the sheriff representative at the post office not wearing a mask,” Morrow told PinalCentral in a letter. “She told me that Governor (Doug) Ducey has not required that masks be worn.”

Caverly said residents have to renew their P.O. boxes every year with proof of residency. Like many others, he stood in line and showed his mortgage payment to keep his P.O. box.

“The IRS suspended my taxes till June and I don’t have to worry about them until June, but I have to worry about a P.O. box being re-enlisted and they made no exceptions,” he said. “I asked, ‘You’re not going to postpone this?’ They said, ‘No, this is something we have to do.’ This is absolutely crazy, I mean we pay for postage, we pay for Amazon Prime and three-quarters of the stuff can’t be delivered.”

There is a petition online with more than 380 signatures asking the postmaster in Casa Grande to allow mail sent to street addresses in Arizona City to be delivered to P.O. boxes. The online petition states that when purchasing something online, the package may be sent via UPS SurePost, which is dropped off at the post office and marked as undeliverable because the purchase requires a street address.

“Previously we had a workaround, add our P.O. box to the ZIP code (+4) and the Arizona City Post Office would deliver it anyway,” the online petition reads. “Now the Arizona City Post Office informs us that the USPS has a (+4) ZIP code system that makes the use of P.O. boxes as +4 unreliable and cannot be used.”

Caverly has lived in Arizona City for four years and before that he lived in Maricopa. He pointed out that there are mailboxes at the end of the street, and each household has its own locked box. He thinks something similar to this would do the residents a lot of good in Arizona City.

“I know the people at the post office mean well; I just think something needs to change,” Caverly said.

The Arizona City Post Office is operated under a contract with the Postal Service. On Wednesday a representative of the contractor called PinalCentral to complain that this story didn't have the facts straight but hung up before answering any questions.

A representative with the U.S. Postal Service's corporate communications office in Phoenix provided a response after the story first ran and stated that Contract Postal Units provide the same level of service as regular post offices.

"We encourage all customers to use their proper mailing address with correspondents," Carl Fondelheit IV said. "USPS often serves as a last mile delivery agent for many shippers and a proper post office box address helps connect packages to the recipient. When in doubt, both the street address and the post office box should be provided to shippers, which will ensure an expeditious handling of the package."

Several years ago residents voted against a change to home delivery. Despite strong sentiment in favor of it, concerns were raised about where neighborhood collection boxes would be located and whether a contract office would remain after the change.

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ACES gets new principal

ARIZONA CITY — Students at Arizona City Elementary School will have a new principal when the next school year kicks off.

During a May 11 meeting, the Toltec School District board approved the hiring of Judy Winsberg for the principal position at an annual salary of $75,000.

Winsberg has 18 years of experience as an educator and has been the principal at Indian Oasis Intermediate School in Sells for nearly two years.

“My teaching philosophy is that we need to educate the whole child,” Winsberg told the Governing Board. “I come with a lot of experience with social and emotional learning. Being trauma informed, which I think is going to be essential going forward as we go back to whatever the new normal is in schooling, we’re going to really have to address our students’ social and emotional needs. I’m really excited to join the team.”

She added that she is a big proponent of instructional technology.

“I feel like it allows our students to think critically, it allows them to collaborate and it allows them to really learn beyond the four walls of the classroom,” Winsberg said. “I think that there are so many skills that they are going to need going forward for their future careers.”

Winsberg is hoping to continue improving the school’s letter grade and has the experience of turning around a school’s performance after taking the school in Sells from a failing grade to a C.

Winsberg has a Master of Educational Leadership degree from Northern Arizona University and she also has some familiarity with the area as she began her teaching career at Toltec Elementary School as a third grade teacher back in 1998.

Former Arizona City Principal Beth Pulver will remain with the school district and serve as the interim special education director.

Toltec School District advances digital curriculum

ARIZONA CITY — Over the past two years the Toltec School District has been updating its curriculum to include a digital component.

The district approved a six-year license of nearly $89,800 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a social studies curriculum that aligns with new state learning standards for the junior high students and offers magazine-style lessons for the elementary grades.

The magazine lessons can be taken home and do not require textbooks for the lower grades. Students are already familiar with the online component, which is similar to the one used in language arts.

“This is actually the lowest amount that we’ve paid for curriculum,” Superintendent Denise Rogers told the school board May 11. “This is our third year in buying a whole subject of curriculum. Next year will be science, but we’re waiting for standards to be finished. After next year our classrooms will be equipped with curriculum for every subject.”

Parents and guardians will have a new way to enroll their student next year through a digital program.

Rather than filling out an entire paper packet, parents will be able to register their child online from home or they could come to the schools if they do not have access to the internet. The paper packet will still be available for those who prefer that method.

During the meeting, the board also discussed the idea of looking into getting a bond issue on the ballot in the upcoming election.

Rogers asked the board members for their input before looking into everything that would be needed for the district to go for a bond vote.

“You know that our facilities are in great need of help with some renovations and there are things that we don’t have the finances to do,” Rogers said. “There’s some things that we have to do that we’re having to do very slowly because we have to prioritize, and the priority right now is curriculum.”

After two years, the district is back in compliance with the state and now the district can opt for taking a bond vote. Rogers said that bonds can be used for capital outlay, which would include school bus maintenance and possibly adding preschool programs to both schools.

With November including a presidential election, Rogers believed that it would be a good time to put a bond measure on the ballot, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Board member Dennis Callahan believes that the district has needed a bond issue for a long time but has not asked for one.

“You don’t have it if you don’t ask,” Callahan said. “We’ve done a substantial amount of work in the last three and a half years to improve things. We have used what we had to do the best we could, and I think we’ve done a great job, and I think that a bond is not beyond asking the taxpayers to help us complete the work we’ve started.”

Callahan mentioned that the district needs to be specific about what the bonds will used for and offer a specific number of what the increase will cost taxpayers. He also brought up the Adjacent Ways project that the district was planning a few years ago that was stopped and ended up with money being returned to the taxpayers.

“I’m all for it,” Callahan said. “We really need to start the process because it might take us three tries to get one.”

Board member Pam Long agreed with Callahan about being specific about the numbers and what the bonds will be used for as well as providing the community with all the necessary information before people vote.

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Students in Toltec district engaging less with teachers

ARIZONA CITY — The Toltec School District had just kicked off its two-week spring break when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the state’s decision to cancel the remainder of the school year.

Since then the district has attempted to find a way to keep students engaged with their school work, which started off with decent results, but as the months have passed, those results have decreased.

Superintendent Denise Rogers provided the Governing Board with an update on the students’ progress during last week’s monthly meeting.

Teacher communication between the families and students began at around 65% for both Arizona City Elementary and Toltec Elementary School in late March. Since then the rate has slightly dropped for Arizona City to nearly 52% and 31% for Toltec Elementary.

Student participation in learning went from about 34% at Arizona City Elementary to just over 22% and it dropped from 43% at Toltec Elementary to 32%.

“Things have kind of trailed off a little bit,” Rogers said. “I don’t think it’s for lack of effort on the teachers’ part but I’ve been told that some parents said, ‘You know, you’re contacting us too much.’ When you’re not being graded, sometimes it is easy to get lazy, but there is an effort being made.”

The last day of school marked on the district’s calendar was May 20, but the state government has offered to continue providing school closure meal availability until the end of June.

Due to the lack of employees willing to work past the last day of school, the district has reduced meal pickup locations.

Breakfast and lunch meals will be available for kids from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the following five locations:

• Arizona City Elementary School

• Amado and Del Rio

• Estrella Community Church

• Toltec Mini Park

• Ventage/Concordia