Author Archives: Ashley Braun

kids.study

Tobacco Tax Funds Kindergarten Scholarships

Eighty qualifying families in the City of Chandler will have the opportunity to apply for preschool slots funded by tobacco-tax dollars.

The $270,000 First Things First Pre-Kindergarten Scholarship Grant awarded to the Chandler School District is paid for with tobacco-tax dollars approved by Arizona voters. In 2006, Proposition 203 increased statewide cigarette taxes by 80 cents for the First Things First programs.

In addition to the 80 preschool slots made available for qualifying families, the grant also pays for dental and health screenings, nutrition education, and family literacy programs. Families must be below a certain poverty level based on income and household size in order to be eligible for the scholarship grant. A family household of four people for example, must have an annual income of less than $46,100.

The preschool slots offer reduced tuition rates to the recipients of the First Things First Scholarship award. Children must be 4 years old, and classes meet five days a week, Monday through Friday. The Chandler School District offers half day programs for $50 per month, and full day programs for $100 per month.

“The Chandler Unified School District will place 40 of the 80 available preschool slots in Title 1 school areas, where the majority of low-income families live,” said Frank Narducci, assistant superintendent for elementary education. The other half of the slots will be distributed throughout the school district.

Barb Mozdzen, governing board member of the Chandler School District, emphasizes the importance of early childhood care. “From birth to age five is the most crucial development period of a child’s life,” Mozdzen said.

Certified teaching staff help children get ready for kindergarten by using hands on activities, and early learning standards curriculum. Daily meals and snacks are also provided as a part of the preschool programs grant.

Narducci explains the main goal for the First Things First grant, and how it helps families with young children. “The grant award is intended to reduce any barriers for individuals to access quality pre-kindergarten programming,” Narducci said.

Families are being made aware of this opportunity when they request information about preschools, and also through the school district’s website. “Word of mouth is pretty strong too,” Narducci said.

The First Things First Scholarship Grant application can be found on the Arizona Department of Education website at www.ade.az.gov. When applying for the grant, families are required to provide the child’s birth certificate, and immunization record, along with proof of residence and income. The grant is awarded on a first come first serve basis.

library

Overdue Items Receive Special Attention at Library

The Chandler Public Library is working hard to make sure that all of the books, music and movies that are borrowed by the public get returned. There is a series of steps involved in the return process in order to recover items that have been checked out and are overdue.

The number of books, CDs and DVDs that go unreturned every year is anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500. Chandler Public Library Services Coordinator Peter Perreault said that the number was “quite small” considering the fact that there are about 80,000 active users and a total circulation of about 2 million items per year. “Approximately one tenth of one percent of checked out items per year are not returned,” Perreault said.

The first step in the return process is to e-mail a library user (if their e-mail was provided) with a reminder about the due date two days prior to it. If the items have not been returned two days after the due date, then an e-mail is sent out with an overdue notice.

Ten days after the due date, the customer receives a phone call and another overdue e-mail. After 21 days the process changes a bit, and customers are contacted through the mail, and with another overdue e-mail. These notifications inform library members that the items are now considered lost and that the customer may be responsible for paying the replacement costs along with a processing fee.

Thirty-five days after an item is not returned, the customer receives another letter and e-mail telling them again that they could be responsible for overdue fees and that if the fees are not paid or the item is not returned, then the account might be referred to a collection agency. At this point, the customer has been notified up to eight times.

All of the library staff is trained to handle customer questions regarding overdue materials on their account. E-mails are automatically generated and sent out, giving the employees more time to specialize in direct customer service.

After 45 days, any items and material not returned are considered to be lost and the library member is now fully responsible for paying the replacement cost of every overdue item checked out plus a processing fee. Depending on how much the items cost, the account may be turned over to a collection agency for further action.

Perreault said that library members with overdue materials who do not clear their account in full after it goes to collections will have a debt reported to the credit bureaus.“We use a collection agency as a last resort,” he said, “but we have a responsibility to the citizens and taxpayers of Chandler to protect their investment.”

147318567

Bringing Farms to Arizona Cities

Green living innovator Greg Peterson has an idea of bringing 10,000 urban farms into big cities of Arizona.

By creating farms closer to homes in large cities, fresh foods are more readily available to help create a healthier way of living.

Peterson, contributing writer for Phoenix Magazine and Edible Phoenix, began gardening 35 years ago when he realized the importance of growing your own food.

“Stress, environmental toxins, and lack of nutrition contribute to disease. We can control the quality of the food were eating,” Peterson said. The diagnosis of a tremor causing one of Peterson’s hands to shake “spun” him into learning more about health.

Peterson’s idea of the Urban Farm began after he transformed his backyard into an entirely edible landscape with over 70 fruit trees, three solar applications, and recycled building materials. The site is open to the public and offers tours and classes on how to garden and farm.

Most of the food bought at major grocery store chains travels an average of 1500 miles before it reaches shelves to be purchased, Peterson explains. This means that fruits and vegetables have to be picked before they are ready, leaving people with a limited amount of nutrients in their diets.

Restaurants located in bigger cities are beginning to garden and farm on site of their locations. Pizzeria Bianco and The Parlor, both located in Phoenix, have fresh menu items by growing their ingredients on the restaurant’s property.

Fruits and vegetables are more power packed with nutrients when they are grown and sold closer to homes in urban areas because they don’t have to be picked so far ahead of time for long destinations. Food is healthier for people when it doesn’t have to travel as far.

The hot, sunny weather in Arizona sometimes makes it difficult to maintain a garden or farm, let alone do this in bigger city areas of the state. Tim Blank, a man who works directly with the Department of Energy and NASA, has created a product called the “Tower Garden” to grow fresh food in any environment.

The “Tower Garden” is an environmentally friendly product that uses 90 percent less water in growing plants. Ongoing drought problems in the state of Arizona makes conserving water an important issue.

Nutrition educator and Tower Garden owner, Ellen Stecker, grows tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and cilantro with the product on her property at home.

Tower Gardens are so popular, that they have been featured on ABC news, CNN, and the New York Times. This invention is an important tool that helps bring gardening closer to homes in the city.

With his idea of creating 10,000 urban farms in Phoenix, Peterson says that the Tower Garden inspires healthy living.

social.media

Man Brings Social Media Business to Chandler

The front of his business card reads, “Poet, world traveler, human being.”

The smell of old books and antique belongings emanate throughout Patrick Smith’s apartment. A bottle of prohibition Whiskey sits on display next to an ancient looking hieroglyphic stone.

After many years of traveling internationally, Smith, a Chandler resident, has decided to bring his business, BiBoBu, to Arizona.

“There is something that spiritually connects me to the mountains in the desert,” Smith said. “This is where I want to live permanently.”

He relates his love of the desert to the same landscape of Israel, where he lived for seven years. For over a decade, Smith traveled to more than 15 countries including Greece, Egypt, Israel, Spain, Morocco, and France. For work, he owned and managed restaurants, nightclubs, and cafés in those countries.

While living in Israel, Smith experienced discrimination as an American in a foreign country where the population was primarily Jewish. Many landlords didn’t want to rent him a home or hire him because he wasn’t Jewish.

For a short period, he fell on hard times and was forced to live in a cave where he read books, wrote poetry, and studied the Hebrew language. Practically penniless, and living off the little money his father was sending, he could barely afford food. Smith eventually found a job at a café in Tel Aviv, and later managed restaurants and eventually owned a nightclub.

Now, Smith owns a marketing company and website, BiBoBu, which uses social media sites — such as Facebook and Twitter — for companies to help advertise their products. BiBoBu is a marketing tool that companies can use to tailor their advertising campaigns in order to fit their customer base. It groups all of the social media sites together in one place, making it easier for companies to utilize. College campuses such as Northern Illinois University use BiBoBu to recruit students, spread the word about alumni fundraisers, and engage students in campus events.

Smith’s people skills from working in the hospitality industry abroad and in the U.S. for so many years seem to be what sparked his interest in social media outlets and the business world. “Communication is key in working with people, and that’s what I’ve learned,” Smith said. “This is the generation of social media.”

Smith said he met many different people throughout his travels, and one day he wants to write a book.

Now settled in Arizona, Smith runs his business from a place he can finally call home.