Hello. How are you?
Life has changed a lot since we last talked. The pandemic changed us in ways we never realized possible.
For me, I did a complete nose dive into caring for my family and focusing on the things within my reach.
WHY COME BACK NOW?
2022 offers the people an opportunity to take back what's been lost. It's an opportunity to rebuild.
I'm not talking at the federal level. I'm talking about where it really matters.
In our own communities.
As I revamp West Valley Families, my focus will start with the City of Goodyear and the local school districts. Eventually, I'll expand. But this is where I start.
Local government has the biggest impact on our daily lives. The unconscionable, discriminatory and divisive actions of law makers and school officials have prompted residents across the state to get more active and involved.
Locally, Goodyear will hold an election in August. The mayor's seat and 3 council seats are up for grabs.
Even closer to home are school board elections. School boards control what our children are enduring day-after-day. What our kids learn in the classroom and whether they compete on the court is up to a handful of people who sit behind the dias.
Many times, school board decisions are made by people who don't even have children in school.
When lockdowns kicked in 2 years ago, I quickly discovered that a majority of the representatives on the governing board at Buckeye Union High School District did not have children in the district. How could they possibly know what it was like to see our teens lie in bed all day, behind screens, and think they'd come out of this year ok?
The problem is that parents are not running for these seats. In the Liberty Elementary School District, a board member who recently moved here from another state was simply seated on the board as they were running unopposed.
My hope is to motivate parents to run for these open seats and get them filled by people who understand what's happening to the students and teachers. (Find out which school board seats are open here.)
SHARE THE WEALTH
My gift is being able to share my knowledge.
When I started up West Valley Families in 2014, I spent a lot of my time aggregating local events and fun information for families to find in one convenient place. Since then, several social media pages and apps have popped up providing that same information. So there's no need for me to go back to that.
My purpose is bigger in 2022.
What's up next for mandates and restrictions? Will schools will be overcrowded in August? Does my kid really need to take the SAT? (That answer is NO!)
I'll show you how to file a Freedom of Information Act form with your school district. And together we'll take a look a the questions every parent should be asking.
What pressure will businesses have to face? How can the city improve safety services? Where can families in need find help? And how can we help them? This is what's important in 2022.
A NEW GENERATION
A new generation of moms have pulled together an army of motivated parents who are willing to fight for their kids. I consider myself one of them.
I look forward to being part of a process making 2022 much better than the last 2 years. Please join me. It's going to be a worthwhile ride...
THE NEW LUCERO & ESTRELLA'S FIRE SERVICE
If you're a target of Estrella's Facebook ads, you've probably seen promotions for Lucero. It's a new community being built near Star Tower on Estrella Parkway. It's slated to open this spring.
Since Spring 2016, we've advocated for an additional fire station in Estrella to cover the quickly expanding community.
In March 2018, I last went to Goodyear City Council to ask about the timeline of the opening of Lucero and the construction of Estrella's 2nd fire station. The City sent a written response saying it did not know when families would move into Lucero. But, the additional fire station was on track to open in the Fall of 2019... "slightly later than the original timeline of mid-summer 2019." The city's website now shows that date pushed back again to December 2019.
Why do we care? On March 26, 2016, an Estrella family found themselves the victims of a house fire early Easter morning. Their dog, Daisy, lost her life. The alarming response times and "tips" from within the fire community got us taking a closer look at the issue.
You can find the history of our reporting and advocacy here.
At the Estrella house fire on March 27, 2016 - 9 minutes into the alarm - just 5 fire professionals were at the scene. Goodyear was first to respond at 8 minutes and 10 seconds. The national standard recommended 15 people weren’t on scene until 14 minutes and 58 seconds into the alarm. That’s 5 minutes and 58 seconds later than the NFPA 1710 standard.
Even Goodyear City leaders have questioned why the response times in this All-America City are much longer than what they had been in the past. Eventually, Goodyear spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to hire a foreign firm out of the United Kingdom to study the city's fire services. (More.) The consultants came back and told Goodyear what it already knew. The city needed multiple new fire stations.
ESTRELLA'S SCHOOLS NEARING CAPACITY
Granted, homes will take time to be built in Lucero. But the amount of construction in south Estrella, in Montecito and CantaMia, has exploded. The traffic is getting heavier. The grocery store is busier. Even the Liberty Elementary School District has discussed the timeline for opening up a new school.
The Liberty Elementary School District recently discussed the issue of overcrowding in Estrella's schools. Link here. View the presentation from pages 51-66.
Jen's Two Cents
The lack of media coverage in the west Valley is concerning. Please pay attention to what your lawmakers are doing. And get informed before you vote. You have to make the extra effort because local media isn't cutting it.
Goodyear's council meetings are now broadcast on Facebook live. You also can find video recordings on its website if you miss the live show.
PART OF THE SOLUTION
VOLUNTEER IN ESTRELLA
ESTRELLA MOUNTAIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Estrella Mountain Elementary School has a Cougar Community Volunteer program. Anyone from the community is welcome to help out. The school also has the Watch D.O.G.S. program encouraging fathers to get involved.
WESTAR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Westar Elementary has an active PTO program. You can find them on Facebook here. You also can request to be on their email blast here.
ESTRELLA FOOTHILLS HIGH SCHOOL
As I don't have a child at the high school yet, I'm not sure what all is available a the high school. However, this is the link to contact the school to ask.
ESTRELLA FOOTHILLS BIKE PARK
The award-winning bike park in Estrella is in constant need of volunteers. Visit their Facebook page here.
ESTRELLA MOUNTAIN CHURCH AND PRESCHOOL
Here is the contact link to call to see if they are in need of help with various programs throughout the year. Through HeartBeat of Estrella, the church also has a program called Operation Christmas Child. A wrapping party will be held November 13th at the Starpointe Residents Club.
VOLUNTEER IN GOODYEAR
CITY OF GOODYEAR
Volunteer Opportunities with the City of Goodyear include: (click here to see all)
Apply online to volunteer with the city here.
CITY OF GOODYEAR BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
City of Goodyear residents are invited to participate in the process of City of Goodyear government. One of the most effective ways to participate is through service on one of the City’s citizen boards, commissions, or committees. Through these services, civic minded citizens become involved in their local government and make recommendations to the Goodyear City Council. As a result, the City benefits from the vast knowledge, experience and expertise of its citizens.
Board and commission member positions are all voluntary and are appointed by the City Council. Once appointed the time commitment for each board/commission varies, some meet on a regular schedule, others on an as needed basis. Preparation for some meetings may require additional time obligations. Once committed, your attendance at all regularly scheduled meetings is critical.
Click here to see which openings are available.
NONPROFITS IN NEED
The West Valley has numerous nonprofit organizations that can use help. Here's a link to a few that we know about.
STATE OF ARIZONA
Here is a link to Boards and Commissions in the State of Arizona.
GET ON THE PERMANENT EARLY VOTING LIST
ESTRELLA MOUNTAIN RESIDENTS CHARITY PROGRAM
If you're looking to help those in need within our own community, please check out our charity program here. An ad for your company or cause is just $20 a month and you'll be invited to group photos with each donation. A great way to exposure for your company and to give back at the same time!
Both of the Estrella schools would be appreciative of financial support through tax credits. This form is easy to fill out and anyone can participate.
*I should point out that I am NOT an expert and am sharing what I know from past experience. Please contact the Liberty Elementary School District with any questions. 623-474-6600.
Retired and not sure where to put the funds? The two schools in Estrella are Estrella Mountain Elementary and Westar Elementary. The District has a total of six schools now and all are listed on the tax credit form.
Not only can you pick which school receives funds, you also choose how the monies are used.
CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK TO THE ARIZONA TAX CREDIT FORM FOR ESTRELLA SCHOOLS.
Interested in all of your tax credit options?
The State of Arizona Department of Revenue has a great web page that breaks down all kinds of tax credits. Please click here to see it.
I have a local friend who is quite passionate about the Working Poor Tax Credit. “What was formerly known as the Working Poor Credit is now officially known as the Credit for Donations made to Qualifying Charitable Organizations. This change was made in 2013 to reflect the expansion of the credit to include Foster Care organizations.” Here's the link. The state notes Qualifying Charitable Organizations provide assistance to residents of Arizona who either receive Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) benefits, are low income residents of Arizona, or are children who have a chronic illness or physical disability. The Homeless Youth Connection has a breakfast explaining this tax credit next week. Please RSVP to attend.
CLICK HERE TO SEE TAX CREDIT INFORMATION FOR THE STATE OF ARIZONA.
*Once more, I am not an expert in any of this. I highly recommend you contact the State of Arizona or the Liberty Elementary School District with any questions. The information here is provided strictly as another option to support schools in Estrella. Cheers!
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HOW FUNDS ARE USED IN ESTRELLA'S SCHOOLS?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Barber is a Goodyear resident resident of almost 20 years and a retired broadcast news journalist. Involved in various nonprofit and city organizations since 2008, Barber has a unique view of what's happening in the West Valley of Arizona.