Council members from the Gila Bend Unified School District (GBUSD), the Gila Bend Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Gila Bend, and San Lucy Village, along with representatives from Arizona Public Service (APS), Salt River Project (SRP), the Gila Bend Branch Library, Paloma School District were invited to attend the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Councils this past Thursday, February 7th, 2019. Due to the death of a revered tribe member, San Lucy Village was unable to attend. A moment of silence was had at the request of GBUSD Superintendent, Anthony Perkins.
As the meeting got underway, Superintendent Perkins kicked things off with a look back at the triumphs and obstacles GBUSD had in 2018. To the surprise of many in the room, Superintendent Perkins opened by directly acknowledging the district's failing grade. He pointed out that the grade did not reflect the actions of staff who regularly go above and beyond for the students' success, noting how oftentimes teachers and the administration pull from their own pockets to provide their students with supplies, and even clothing. Perkins went on to add that the grade was based upon the outcome of a single test and not the instructional and emotional effort put forth in the classroom by both the teachers and the students. Perkins believes that his progressive initiatives such as increased pay for teachers, and improvements to campus security will vastly improve the district's future grade. Read more about this in the GBUSD Superintendent Message. Before wrapping up, Superintendent Perkins touched on the voter-approved school bond initiative that promises to help students "grow academically" with modernized facilities, updated technology, and even new student transportation! These improvements, along with its commitment to community partnerships, should go a long way toward a brighter future for the Gila Bend Unified School District.
Following Perkins's GBUSD presentation came new arrival, Bill Reynolds, Director for the Gila Bend Chamber of Commerce. Bill Reynolds was hired on to the Chamber's team back in early September of 2018 and works out of the Gila Bend Visitor Center at 644 West Pima Street. Bill provided a succinct recap of 2018 for the Chamber, highlighting the Chamber's Annual Community Awards Banquet and Scott Swanson as the new Chamber President. 2018 also saw the emergence of a new look for the Chamber! Beginning with a logo refresh, the Chamber contracted with Summer Wierth of Idiograf Creative Marketing to come up with a fresh bold look that embraced the updated, but familiar logo style, and in the end, the project resulted in a colorful brand identity, a newly designed website and a new Facebook for Business page. At the end of 2018, the Chamber rolled out an exciting new partnership in conjunction with the Town of Gila Bend that hopes to broaden the town's skilled workforce. In cooperation with Arizona@Work and the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, the Chamber will be participating in a workforce readiness program called Arizona Career Readiness Credential (ACRC) which helps job seekers build foundational academic, personal and interpersonal skills important to employers. The program is free to all involved and may very well help Gila Bend improve its workforce pool.
In keeping with the educational theme, Bridget Esqueda, Branch Manager of the Gila Bend Library, announced a spectacular grant awarded to the library for adult continuing education and literacy. The American Dream Literacy Initiative Grant was awarded to just 16 applicants nationwide and is funded by the American Library Association and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The $10K grant will allow the library to provide loanable laptops with wi-fi hotspots so adult learners can continue their education at home. Currently, the Gila Bend library offers free instructor-led classes that are taken entirely online. Upon completion, students receive a certificate to add to their skills and resume. There are over 350 classes ranging from personal development to technology and healthcare.
Mayor Tommy Lee Sikes addressed two key concerns for residents of Gila Bend, roadway improvements and public safety. Mayor Sikes was pleased to announce the start of roadway reconstruction for Papago Road will begin in the very near future. The Mayor also hinted at more roadways around town being addressed throughout 2019. With the recent rash of crime, mostly vandalism, concerns about law enforcement and public safety have reached a fever-pitch. Plans have been set in motion to organize with Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, as well as, the Tohono O'odham Nation in an effort to better coordinate communication and improve case follow-up, hopefully leading to timely prosecution where applicable. The Mayor shifted gears to highlight the iconic Stout's Hotel as finally being added to the National Register of Historic Places, something that Town Clerk, Beverly Turner had been working toward for the last couple of years. Being on the National Register opens up new funding opportunities for the Town that could assist with the hotel being restored as a possible source for tourism revenue.
It looks like 2019 will be the year for partnerships and cooperation, and improvements to our quality of life!