Less than two weeks after announcing roadblocks in the city’s planning department would prevent him from his dream of opening a Montessori school in Maricopa, Maricopa Unified School District board member Shannon Johns announced Sept. 12 he is resigning from the board and moving his family back to Oregon.
Johns made the announcement at the start of the governing board’s regular session last week, saying he would serve out his responsibilities as a board member until a replacement could be installed. Johns said with school already in session, he was in no hurry to remove his children from schools locally, but instead would try to wait for a convenient opportunity to make the move.
When Shannon and Kari Johns moved their family to Maricopa in September 2005, they had already been planning to open New Hope Montessori for nearly two years, hoping to provide a quality education to children ages 3-6. Despite years of planning and effort, that dream was never allowed to get off the ground, with the city holding firm on planning requirements.
In a letter to the media last week that Johns read when announcing his resignation, he said the city’s requirements for half-street improvements proved to be a death knell for New Hope’s future in Maricopa.
“Opening a temporary site within a Special Planning Area on Maricopa’s General Plan proved to be challenging,” the letter stated. “Ultimately the additional costs required by the city to construct half-street improvements prior to opening was not financially feasible to operate a business that cannot and would not break even for the first two to three years, even at capacity of 100 students. The city stood firm they will not compromise the health and safety of the public, although two other educational facilities are operating without such improvements (Legacy Montessori and Legacy Traditional) as is the temporary City Hall site.
“We too don’t want to compromise health and safety, but felt that we were held to a double standard.”
The process of nominating a replacement for Johns now goes to newly-appointed Pinal County Superintendent Orlenda Roberts, who will review any submissions for the position and conduct interviews of those candidates herself, said county spokeswoman Lori Ashford.
The county will begin process of advertising the position in local newspapers, then will begin accepting applications for the position, which ultimately will be nominated by Roberts. Ashford said the qualifications are fairly standard – the candidate mus be a registered voter living within MUSD boundaries and cannot be married to a current district employee.
Ashford added it was difficult to yet put a timeframe as to when the position would be filled.
“We try to get it in the paper as soon as possible so there isn’t a lag time with a board seat vacancy,” she said. “With it being a larger district, it is just a matter of how many people put in a letter of interest.”