Manzanita Prepares to Celebrate Diamond Anniversary

Published by The Bee News

October 31, 2023

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While the building and staff have changed over the years, Manzanita Elementary School has always been regarded as one of Kingman’s premier schools, earning numerous state-level accolades. Some of those awards
have included: Exemplary School 1999-2000, A Plus School 2001-2002, Performing Plus School 2007-2008, Excelling School 2008-2010, and A School 2011-2023. In 2020, Manzanita was honored as an Arizona School of the Month. Now, as Kingman’s oldest functioning elementary school, Manzanita is preparing to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary.

The Duval Corporation began mining operations roughly seventy years ago, and Kingman’s population grew rapidly. With this rapid growth came a need
to open another school in Kingman; Manzanita Elementary was born out of necessity and opened its doors in 1963. All fourteen classes were
immediately filled, and the upper hall was added, shortly thereafter, to accommodate additional students who were being housed in different locations across Kingman. Manzanita Elementary saw few significant
structural changes, other than the addition ofpermanent kindergarten buildings, within the next twenty-five years. All of that changed in 1988 when the new cafeteria/gym was added. The existing library became the new office, and the cafeteria/gym became the new library.

Most people remember Les Byram as the principal of Kingman Junior High School or perhaps the mayor of Kingman. Prior to that, he served as Manzanita’s first principal from 1963 to 1969. In 1969, Kingman Junior High School opened its doors, and the district looked to Les to provide leadership in another new school. Homer Johnston took the reins and became
Manzanita’s second principal, serving from 1969 to 1989, becoming the longest-serving principal in Manzanita history. In 1989, Homer was
promoted as the superintendent of personnel for Kingman Elementary School District #4. This left a vacancy, one that was filled by the assistant
principal, Judy Balda. She served as principal from 1989 to 2001. After Judy retired, Mary Ann Smith, the acting assistant principal, was promoted
and served as principal from 2001 to 2006. Mary Ann was promoted as the curriculum director for Kingman Unified School District #20, leaving the
principal’s position open. After vacating her assistant principal’s position, Gretchen Dorner served as principal from 2006 to 2008. Following this,
Gretchen was promoted as director of Title 1 and assessment, and she is currently our district superintendent. A former teacher at Manzanita, Jeri
Wolsey, was promoted and became Manzanita’s principal, serving from 2008 to 2012. Once again, Manzanita’s leadership changed as a result of a district
promotion. Jeri was promoted as director of curriculum, and Joyce Pietri took the helm in 2012. Joyce was principal from 2012 to 2016. After Joyce Scott Taylor, who was a teacher at Manzanita, became the principal and held that position for three years, from 2016 to 2019. Scott moved on to become the principal of Lee Williams High School, and Manzanita’s assistant principal, Lindsay Wolsey, became the principal. She is our current principal.

In its sixty years, Manzanita Elementary School has had only nine principals, and only a handful of office managers and lead custodians. The same can
be said about Manzanita’s teachers and support staff. Many of our people have stayed at our school for decades, and over the years, numerous
families have chosen to work together at the school. Manzanita is a great place to work. It’s truly a family here.

Manzanita’s staff has long been a consistent, strong reason why the school has acquired such a positive reputation in Kingman and throughout Arizona.
In sixty years of operation, Manzanita has only had nine principals, and many of the staff members have worked within the school for twenty or
more years. Some of those staff members with the longest years of service within Manzanita School include but are not limited to: Homer Johnston,
Jean Graham, Virginia Conrath, Laurie McGary, Mike Shaner, Judy Balda, Russell Dyer, Jo Greer, Chris Rubio, Rose Reaves, Barbara K. Arnold, Rob
Findlay, Al Snyder, Sally Marquardt, Evelyn Sullivan, Karen Sutherland, Tom Meadows, Jenny Taylor, Lori Weninger, Teresa Altman, Betty Schoolmeester,
Harold Lewis, Kelsey Grimes, Scott Taylor, Kerry Taylor, Teri Radler, Joan Abraham, Debbie Farrell, Sally Grossman, Ernie Tapia, Diane Morgan, Mae
Jones, Diane Ahlers, Linda Hill, Bob Campbell, Julie Beyer, Nancy (Schaber) Diaz, Christine LaCombe, Ed Rosen, Joan Abraham, Caroline Prather,
Michelle Burkes, and Marcheta Keller. Many fine teachers and staff members are not included in this list, but they, too, are fondly remembered as part of
the Manzanita family.

The school has seen many changes over the years, but consistency and high achievement have always been a trademark of Manzanita. The school is planning a community celebration to celebrate sixty years of excellence. All past and present Manzanita employees, students, and community members are invited. The reunion and celebration will be on December 1, 2023, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., and it will be held at Manzanita Elementary School.

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