Homeowner: MP students damaging property
Donna Debenham discusses her struggle with TUHSD to move the bus stop to Mountain Pointe High School away from her Ahwatukee Foothills home. She claims that students have damaged her fence by leaning on it while waiting for the school bus.

Like a lot of homeowners, Donna Debenham is proud of her house and protective of her property value. But there's a problem maintaining those values she says: Mountain Pointe High School students are ruining her front yard fence. "They wait for the bus and lean against the fence," said Debenham, a Phoenix resident who lives at about Baseline Road and 48th Street. "All along, where you see the bends, is where the kids have leaned against the fence." The Tempe Union High School District, which governs the Ahwatukee Foothills school, set up a bus stop for Mountain Pointe students in a vacant lot next door to Debenham's residence. She says she's been fighting with the district since April, when she called officials to ask them to relocate the bus stop. "When I called, (a female district employee) said, 'Well, if we move it to someone else's property it might get damaged,'" Debenham said. "It's like, 'If it was your property you'd get it moved tomorrow, now wouldn't you?'" Debenham said she preferred to work things out with the district rather than confront the students directly because she feared retaliation. Linda Littell, spokeswoman for the Tempe Union district, said she only hears of parent complaints regarding bus stop vandalism every so often. "It's more so in the elementary districts than in the high school districts," she said. After writing letters to then-Superintendent Shirley Miles and getting no response, Debenham took her case straight to the governing board last Wednesday. There, she furnished the board with pictures of the damage to her fence and asked again for the bus stop to be moved. "I'm a taxpayer and I vote regularly," she told the board. "I take my property value seriously." The board, because of Arizona's Open Meeting Law, was unable to comment on the item since it wasn't on the agenda. Board president Zita Johnson did, however, instruct district staff to look into the issue, and board member Michelle Helm asked that it be placed on a future agenda. Debenham said Tuesday that the fence cost $2,500 to install and that she guesses half of it would have to be restrung, estimating the damage at $1,250. Still, asked what she wants the district to do, she didn't mention finances at all. "I just want them to move the bus stop away from my property," Debenham said. Littell said Wednesday that the chances of her request being honored was "probably good," and added that district staff was already looking into rectifying the problem. "I checked with (Superintendent) Steve Adolph (regarding) the request from the Mountain Pointe community member to have the bus stop moved," Littell wrote in an e-mail. "(District Chief Financial Officer) Diane Meulemens is working with transportation to see what the options are for relocating it." Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or jludwig@aztrib.com.

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