J.O. Combs December update released by superintendent

J.O. Combs Unified School District Superintendent Gayle Blanchard released the December update for the school district.

•District enrollment is 4,489 students, which includes community pre-K through grade 12.

•Combs Traditional Academy sixth grader Anissa Deel was awarded the T-Shirt prize at the 2015 Pinal County Attorney’s Anti-Drug Poster Contest Awards Ceremony on Nov. 18. This means her poster design is on T-shirts that will be distributed to all of the top finalists as well as throughout the county.

•Congratulations to the Combs Community Education Department for a successful Polarfest event held at Combs Middle School on Dec. 5. This community event offered fun for the whole family with carnival rides, live music and dancing, food, crafts, vendors and pictures with Santa.

•In November, the Combs High School Drama Club participated in the Arizona Thespians Festival. Congratulations to Kayla Santos, Juan Dominguez, Grace Porter, Lexi McManigal, Hailey Pickett, Kaila Parent, and Spencer Mattson for their achievements in individual events. Congratulations to Hailey Pickett for earning a full-tuition scholarship to Grand Canyon University with her stellar scholarship audition.

•Ellsworth Elementary second-grade students had the opportunity to show off their acting skills on stage with microphone in hand to family and friends with their production of “Pies and Plays.” Each second-grade classroom told the story of the first Thanksgiving. After the play, students along with their families and friends enjoyed pumpkin, apple and cherry pie topped with whipped cream.

•Ranch Elementary held its first “Battle of the Books” event in November. Fourteen teams made up of fifth- and sixth-graders battled to answer comprehension questions about the five novels in this reading series. The competition continues in January.

•The Combs High School wrestling team finished sixth in the Dual in the Desert wrestling tournament which featured the elite teams of Arizona and California. The highlight was Combs outscoring Queen Creek High School 42-30.

•Throughout November, Harmon Elementary collected food items to help support families in the J.O. Combs community. Harmon families donated over 1,600 items including perishable food and monetary donations. The student council also sold “Tom the Turkey” feathers for 25 cents to support the food drive. Students had an opportunity to write what they were thankful for on the turkey feathers. Thank you, Harmon families, for your generous support.

• San Tan Valley Farmers Market was held at Combs High School on Dec. 12. The community can receive 60 pounds of produce for $10.
•Did you know that you can support the extracurricular activities at J.O. Combs schools and reduce your Arizona state taxes? Extracurricular activities are any school-sponsored activity that requires enrolled students to pay fees in order to participate such as extended field trips, sports activities, band, drama, and art. Write a check for up to $400 for married couples filing jointly or up to $200 for individual filing, made payable to any of the schools in the J.O. Combs District, and designate an activity if desired. Donate online or mail or deliver your contribution with the Combs tax credit form to the school of your choice or to the district office at 301 E. Combs Road no later than April 15. The tax credit form can be found at our schools, the district office or at www.jocombs.org.

•The Combs Community Education Department offered Kids’ Holiday Hoopla on Dec. 12 at Ellsworth Elementary. For just $20 in advance or $25 at the door, children ages 3-13 were invited to come and create crafts, play games, have pizza and watch a holiday movie while parents finish up their holiday shopping.

•Combs High School is proud to announce that the Arizona State Board of Nursing has renewed the high school nursing assistant training program for an additional two years. Program approval allows Combs High School to continue to offer a certified nursing assistant program based on the criteria met during the site visit. This includes proper qualifications of the program coordinator and the instructor, student data (such as class sizes, number of students trained, and certification pass rates), curriculum, and policies. Each category was met and renewal was approved.

•Fun Fit Friday has taken over Ellsworth Elementary. During lunch recess every Friday, students are on a mission to get fit while having fun. Students are walking, jogging or running for 10 minutes while trying to improve their own personal best number for laps. The teachers, counselor and reading specialist have joined in on the fun as they show off their running skills, racing the students and yes, even winning the race. Students are laughing, clapping, cheering on their classmates and getting “Fit on Fridays” during lunch recess.

•The city of Mesa presented its Public Awareness School Program to Ranch Elementary fifth-grade students on Nov. 24. The fifth-graders were given the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson about natural gas pipelines and natural gas safety. Their presentation included a demonstration and instruction on energy and natural gas as an energy source. Ranch students greatly benefitted from the city of Mesa’s presentation, which is designed to enhance students’ knowledge of science and energy.

•Harmon Elementary fourth-grade teachers Ms. Atkinson, Ms. Forst, and Ms. Christiansen applied for a grant through the Arizona Science Center and received a free field trip. A grant was also awarded to the fourth-grade team through the Arizona Science Center Fund-A-Bus program for free transportation. The teachers attended a Focused Field Trip Teacher Orientation prior to going on the field trip and received materials for a STEM-centered trip. The field trip to Arizona Science Center provided a rich learning experience for students and created excitement for learning science through hands-on exhibits and activities.

•Many seventh-grade science students at Combs Middle School are preparing projects to participate in the annual Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge at the Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus, featuring Microsoft Mission Control. This wonderful opportunity for Combs students will take place in February. The aerospace challenge was created to help middle school grade students enhance their space knowledge by creating a plan and physical model of an international lunar base. Students have been working in groups of three to five to complete the project. This special project allows these students to improve their team-building, communication, problem solving, and critical decision-making skills. Students will endure several rounds of rigorous judging at the ASU campus by teams of professionals in the science industry.

•In conjunction with the state-wide Arizona SciTech Festival, J.O. Combs will be hosting its first SciTech Festival at Combs High School in February. The Arizona SciTech Festival is Arizona’s celebration of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) held annually in February and March. The state-wide festival offers a diverse array of events geared at families, students, business and civic leaders and is a grass roots collaboration of over 450 organizations in industry, academia, arts, civic, community and kindergarten through 12. Students throughout the J.O. Combs District will have the opportunity to show off their science projects to the community and their peers.

•Simonton Elementary held its first LEAD (Learn, Empower, Achieve, and Dream) Assembly in November. The assemblies are an opportunity for the campus to gather at the flagpole to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, Declaration of Independence, and school mission statement. Additionally, Simonton recognizes the Student Leader of the Month, Golden Ticket winners and also highlights the efforts of a student leadership group. All activities are part of the Leader in Me program.

•The Combs High School band competed in the McClintock festival. The symphonic band received an excellent rating and the wind ensemble received a superior rating.

•Congratulations to the following Ranch Elementary staff members who had their classroom projects approved through DonorsChoose. Beckie Black – Puppet Theatre and Sensory Table, $306.96; Amber Gaylord – Six Student Tablets, $1,158.78; and Joy Beffre – Reading and Writing Library, $521.06.

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