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Coolidge school board candidates state platforms

COOLIDGE — Former Coolidge school teachers Kris Gillespie and Linda Heath are running a combined campaign to serve on the Coolidge school board.

The terms for Lisa Garrett and T.J. Shope expire this year but neither is listed as a candidate, write-in or otherwise.

Gillespie is running to retain her board position, and Heath is seeking her third term. Both are also write-in candidates for the Nov. 3 election.

“It has been my honor to serve my community in this capacity since 2014,” Gillespie said on her Facebook campaign page she shares with Heath. “Being a lifetime resident of Coolidge has given me the opportunity to grow up in the Coolidge school system, as have my husband, four children, and now my grandchildren. I graduated from Arizona State University with an education degree and I have spent the majority of my 30+ year teaching career in the Coolidge district. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with students of all ages, kindergarten through 12th grade, and now look forward to continue serving those students and the community as a governing board member.”

Heath served on the Coolidge board from 1986 to 1990 and again 2012 to 2014. She and her husband, Bill, have lived in Coolidge for more than 35 years. She also taught in the Coolidge system and in Florence and for Northern Arizona University.

“My background in education is long and varied. I graduated from ASU with an Early Childhood Education Degree and earned a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from NAU,” Heath says on the Facebook page. “During these uncertain times, our children, their teachers and support staff need all the help and encouragement that we can provide. As a longtime educator, I am prepared to use my knowledge and experience to facilitate our children’s education and their personal safety. First and foremost, I am a mother and grandmother. I know how frightening and uncertain the immediate future is and I want to make sure that our precious children are as safe as they can possibly be while they are attending school.”

At 19 years old, Diana Guerrero is only a little more than one year removed from high school, but she believes that gives her a student’s perspective as a potential school board trustee.

“I want to give the students more recognition because I feel like Coolidge has kind of shifted away from giving recognition for certain students,” she said. “We don’t do educational programs as much as we used to when I was growing up. I feel like in a small town it’s much more easier to give recognition for those students, just like award ceremonies, because I feel like if we give them award ceremonies for like perfect attendance, honor rolls or stuff like that they’ll definitely be more motivated to do those things. The high school has done scholarship nights and they should get honor roll programs and stuff like that as well.”

Guerrero is currently attending Central Arizona College studying dentistry and is working part time as a dental assistant in San Tan Valley. She hopes to work as a dental hygienist after college.

She is a Coolidge native and went through the school system from kindergarten to high school.

“I feel like Coolidge needs a young voice on the board to make decisions now with the whole pandemic,” she added. “We’re heading more towards technology, and I feel like it’s better for me to understand situations like that just because I am a student myself so I can definitely use my voice to make decisions in that way.”

Gillespie’s seat on the board is one of three to be filled through the election.

Adrianna Saavedra is listed as a third write-in candidate on the Pinal County Superintendent of Schools elections services page, but she told PinalCentral she has reconsidered running in the school board election.

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JROTC cadets bring the stories alive for preschoolers


Cadets in the Marine Corps JROTC program at Coolidge High School are learning more than how to march and fire weapons.

Last week they were on the teaching end of education by reading to preschoolers and even learned more about themselves in the process.

About 10 cadets took turns reading interactively from their laptops to the preschool’s Mini Bears as young 3 who were in the district’s preschool class next to their own classroom. Some of the cadets did their part from their homes.

For sophomore Cadet Pvt. Ferrah Ellis, the experience of sharing “Hello, Biscuit” and “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” took her back to when she was a toddler herself.

“I’m excited about it because when I was little I had people reading to me. It’s like a memory so I’m glad we get to make an impact on the preschoolers,” Ellis said. “They exchange with us. They get to see all the pictures and everything. I think they’re going to react to it very good. Some of the books they haven’t see, haven’t read.”

The MCJROTC program’s senior Marine instructor, Lt. Col. Richard Callahan, said the story time reading event was a staff brainchild, and Ellis as the program’s public affairs officer was charged with its responsibility.

“Our values, our mission is to develop character-centered young adults who are capable of going into the community and serving others,” Callahan said.

“One of the ways we do that is through community service. The cadets have organized and planned this event, coordinated with the preschool. They learn a lot of different things here. One, they’re learning how to care for others because our youngest need to have interaction especially during the COVID experience. It will develop their sense of reading and their desire to learn and develop those reading skills. Plus it’s a lot of fun.

“And for our cadets, it gets them out of their comfort zone when they’re reading and teaching children. We’re developing a lot of character traits, leadership traits, planning and all those types of things. It’s really a full, well-rounded program, and the cadets are really learning how to develop into leaders for the community.”

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New instructor takes over JROTC at CHS

COOLIDGE — With 30 years of service in the Marines, the new senior instructor of the JROTC program at Coolidge High School is dedicated to the Corps and the core.

“I did a lot of things. I was in the middle of a lot of things,” Lt. Col. Richard Callahan said of his tour during Desert Storm in Iraq and other volatile deployments.

Callahan’s duty now is to mold cadets in the Coolidge Marine Corps JROTC into community-minded individuals and prepare those interested in a military life. He and his wife relocated to Arizona from New Mexico this summer to be closer to their family in Tucson and Tempe.

Although the program of about 25 cadets usually has about 50, Callahan is encouraged by the enthusiasm of the cadets, and the day they received their uniforms is a good example.

“This year’s a bit different. If you talk to any educator you will find that the students have been struggling with the online classes. You’ll find overall enrollment is down and the cadets we have as they’ve come back are excited, they’re motivated. The last couple of days we issued out uniforms and they’re wearing them, they’re enjoying it,” he said.

At the beginning of the year, part of the standard of the unit is you have to have a haircut, and when we were online no one was getting haircuts. When they started coming back to class then one or two got haircuts and when we got the uniforms all of a sudden they all had haircuts and they’re ready to go. The motivation level is growing and getting better. I think the cadets are ready to go and do something.”

Among the objectives for Callahan is to use STEM principles in MCJROTC initiatives. He wants the cadets to combine science, technology, engineering and math subjects with their own projects.

“Each instructor tailors the unit to the strengths of the cadets in the school and themselves and comes up with focus areas of skill sets that are being developed,” Callahan said. “I’m a pretty good marksman so we’ll concentrate on our marksmanship team. I also want to look into incorporating STEM in our program. What I’m interested in is how do you take a tool like a drone, like an underwater ROV (remote-operated vehicle), like a robot and how do we use those tools to develop a character-driven, community-oriented cadet. That’s where I want to take the program.

“You can do all kinds of environmental things. You can also use that platform to look at industrial things, search-and-recovery for first responders. How can we, as a junior ROTC unit, take a tool like that and develop the leadership skills, the community involvement and the character-driven aspects of the program by using that tool? That’s how I’d like to incorporate STEM. That’s, frankly, how I want to incorporate marksmanship, physical exercise.”

Another priority is restoring the program’s enrollment back to previous levels or even higher.

“Ideally I’d like to bring the program up to about 75. We have to recruit. You can encourage cadets to bring in somebody in. They need to go out and talk to their friends and encourage them to come into the program. We can make posters, put them up on the walls of the school. We can put a table in the lunchroom of the school and we can talk to the kids during lunch. We can showcase the things that we do like the story time. A lot of kids want to be a part of something, and if we can show them the things that we do and the reasons why we do them and show them the caliber of cadets that we have, how we can develop those types of cadets then our numbers should grow.”