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By Brittany Bowyer 

QUEEN CREEK — As the real estate market in Arizona continues to boom, another new school is opening in the Southeast Valley to better serve the families in the community. Located at Riggs and Signal Butte Roads, just on the border of Maricopa and Pinal Counties, is the new Crismon High School. 

“We are 80-acres big, which I believe from my understanding is bigger than Hamilton,” Crismon athletic director Barry Cromer said. 

Crismon High School’s vast property provides adequate space to expand. 

Crismon High School’s vast property provides adequate space to expand. 

The first phase of construction is nearly complete as the campus prepares to welcome seventh- through tenth-grade students when school begins July 27. Operating on a Modified Year-Round schedule, educators are anticipating more than 900 students to step foot on campus for the first official day of classes.

“As of the other day, we were at 935 students to start with,” Cromer said. “They were projecting us to start with 700, and we have a feeling we’re going to have more coming through.”

Crismon is the third high school for the Queen Creek Unified School District, and its second new high school to open within the past three years. The district has adopted a different approach to education in hopes of seeing greater academic success in the future.

Cromer described the learning model as, “Very collaborative, very group-oriented learning. Kind of the ‘failing and solving it on your own and moving yourself forward’ type of thing.” 

Campus Life and Education

In an effort to promote a team setting in the classroom, the desks are made to be easily moved and rearranged so that students can split off into groups. Instead of teachers having a typical “desk” to sit at, they have a mobile podium desk that encourages them to interact more with the students and create a better learning environment.

“The tables and chairs are able to move so if they want to set it up to do groups or just individual tables, they can,” Cromer said.

Head football coach Corbin Smith said when the teachers took their initial tour, he was pleasantly surprised to find the teacher’s desk was a mobile podium.

“We took a tour about a month ago and Elise [Torbert] the principal was here,” Smith said. “I was like, ‘So, this is where the teacher’s desk goes?’ She said, ‘No, we’re in Queen Creek. You don’t sit down.’ I thought that was kind of cool. I like that.”

There are additional study areas located throughout campus, providing students adequate spaces to work together on projects or study before and after school. Cromer noted the spaces, located off each classroom, have windows and allow for students to go in for extra help without having to enter and disturb the other class.

Queen Creek Unified has a strong focus on STEM-based learning curriculum, helping the students navigate through possible career choices and gain early experience in the field. Unique to the Crismon campus, though, is the Vet Tech program, which will provide students with hands-on experience working in a real-life veterinarian clinic on campus.

With the surrounding area still boasting a lot of farmland, Cromer says they’re planning to provide care for both household pets such as dogs and cats, as well as small farm animals.

Also unique to Crismon High will be the Queen Creek Police Department’s satellite office located on campus near the front office and administration building. Queen Creek Police Department didn’t officially launch until Jan. 22, 2022, when Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office officially handed over jurisdiction of the area. 

Future site of the Queen Creek Police Department satellite office on Crismon’s campus.

Future site of the Queen Creek Police Department satellite office on Crismon’s campus.

“This will be their satellite office, so it’s not very big, but it will only be a few people at a time,” Cromer said. “Just the presence of having the cars around is going to bring a sense of security here.” 

While there currently are no official plans to offer Law Enforcement programs on campus, the satellite office allows for the possibility of adding one in the coming years. Cromer believes it’s something Crismon will eventually offer to students, as he watched his own kids benefit through their high school program.

“I believe they’re looking to do something for it in the future,” Cromer said. “My kids went through the Law and Public Safety program at Walden Grove and I’ve actually enjoyed watching them go through it. It did a lot for them.”

Those in charge of designing the school also put a major emphasis on making sure there was an adequate amount of natural lighting within the school, giving it much more of an open-air and free feeling instead of feeling confined behind walls. 

Natural lighting illuminates the hallways of the new Crismon High educational buildings.

Natural lighting illuminates the hallways of the new Crismon High educational buildings.

“We’ve got windows in our gym and most places don’t,” Smith said. “That’s the thing about this school — all of the windows and all of the natural sunlight. … I’m used to being confined.” 

Inside the gym as work is done to complete the flooring.

Inside the gym as work is done to complete the flooring.


Officials broke ground on Crismon High School in early September of 2021, beginning Phase One of the three planned phases. Phase One included the administrative offices, the gym, the cafeteria and the auditorium, the first educational building, a grass football field, a baseball and softball field and a parking lot. 

While nearly all of Phase One will be complete by the time school begins, work will still be underway on the cafeteria and auditorium when school starts.

Because of construction, food trucks will be brought in for students at lunchtime for the first few months until the cafeteria opens, and classes that will be housed in the auditorium are temporarily using alternative spaces on campus. 

The cafeteria, located at the front of the school attached to the administration building, is still being constructed.

The cafeteria, located at the front of the school attached to the administration building, is still being constructed.

Phase Two and Three will call for the addition of more educational buildings, an additional turf football field with both home and visiting bleachers, a turf softball and baseball field, additional practice fields, a gymnasium for the junior high schoolers, beach volleyball courts and tennis courts, and additional parking.

“By the time Phase Three is done, all of this will be very much very different,” Cromer said.

Establishing a strong culture with Rattler Athletics

Officials involved with the hiring process of the coaching staff were very specific in what they were searching for in their leaders. Knowing how critical it is to bring in the right coach to build the foundation of a program, every hire was made with intent, as candidates brought specific values to the table to make them stand out from the rest.

“What’s nice about the coaches we brought in from different places is each of them brings their own unique stuff,” Cromer said. 

Cromer knows success doesn’t come overnight, and building a pedigree takes time. While his long-term vision for the Rattlers involves state championship game appearances and helping to guide student-athletes on their journey, Cromer believes it’s essential for kids to be enjoying themselves so they'll want to be there and participate.

“We want the kids to want to come get their education and be successful all the way around,” Cromer said. “Once we get there, we’ll be that ‘big guy.’ But it’s continual work, and that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with the foundation.”

Some of the additional coaching hires for Crismon include: 

  • Andrew Yamashiro - Girls Indoor Volleyball
  • Cami Paulson - Cross Country
  • Ashlyn Reidhead - Boys Swimming 
  • Nikki Benedict - Girls Swimming 
  • Brad Minor - Boys Basketball
  • Riley Williams- Girls Basketball
  • Jake Allen - Wrestling
  • John Roberts - Girls Soccer
  • Steven Acosta - Boys Soccer
  • Greg Bordes - Baseball
  • Rob Hehe - Softball
  • Cara Roth - Boys Volleyball
  • Mikhail Barton - Track and Field
  • Ben Brandau - Strength and Conditioning

Brandau, last year’s Arizona High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, was one of the first coaching hires made for the Crismon Rattlers. Brandau was immersed in the process of coaching hires, something Cromer believes is a great strategy to use when forming a coaching staff.

“When we were hiring all of the other coaches, he was included in it because he needs to be able to work with them, as well,” Cromer said.

It’s something school leaders strongly believe will help to develop a long-term culture of success across all of the athletic programs.

“I think we have one of the better coaching staffs around,” Cromer said. “We have a good mix of some veterans around and some really young coaches, and the idea is a mentoringship.”

While the athletic staff hasn’t had a chance to be fully immersed together on campus yet with the students, there’s already a positive energy emitting from the coaches as they look forward to getting to collaborate with each other.

“I’ve told (Cromer) this numerous times,” Smith said. “The hires that they made, they’re incredible to me. They’re established, well-known individuals.”

Understanding how critical it is to have the right leaders in charge of a program, Smith discussed how all of the Rattlers’ coaching hires value culture over wins and success.

“I’ve always said, ‘The culture that you build breeds either success or failure,’” Smith said. “So, you don’t worry about wins and losses. You build that foundation and that culture, and that in turn will breed success.”

It aligns with Cromer’s long-term vision for Rattlers Athletics. 

“I’ve never been a guy that worries about wins and losses,” Cromer said. “What I care about is, one, how is your culture? And two, how are your numbers?” 

He continued: “We are the new kids on the block, and we understand that success takes time. We’re in no hurry to win. It’s not, ‘Win at all costs.’ We’re not worried about that. We want to start building our foundation and start building our culture in hopes of the kids wanting to be here.” 

Crismon High’s JV football uniforms for the upcoming season.

Crismon High’s JV football uniforms for the upcoming season.

After getting a chance to put some work in with future student-athletes during the summer period, Smith has already noticed a strong sense of pride and leadership among those who have stepped foot on campus. 

“These kids, they’re different,” Smith said. “The way they work, the way we have a new tradition — it’s probably our first tradition. … They started it, actually. They started shaking hands after practice and I was like, ‘Hey, it’s a tradition now.’ Every coach, every player.” 

Knowing things are only just getting started, there’s a certain level of anticipation tucked away for moments where traditions and legacies are created. The best ones blossom organically, and with the endless opportunities on the horizon, Smith knows more are certain to come.

Smith is a little different from a typical high school football coach. While a majority of other football coaches want their kids to focus solely on football, it is his desire for students to participate in more than one sport or activity.

“I’ve kind of already told the kids. … But once school starts I’m going to tell all the football players and their parents they’re required to play two sports,” Smith said. “Now, can you follow through with that? No, but that’s where the parents will, a lot of times, come into play.”

Part of the “old school” mentality, he believes spending time growing athletically in other areas is more beneficial than sticking to just one sport.

“The other coaches that Barry (Cromer) brought in all understand multi-sport and sharing athletes,” Smith said. “Here, all of these coaches will promote it.”

Top-Notch Athletic Facilities

The district didn’t hold back when it came to funding athletic facilities for the Crismon Rattlers. Located right off what is currently the main parking lot and adjacent to the cafeteria is the mega-sized gymnasium. With three full basketball courts inside, the facility was built with the intention of being able to host large events. 

Outside of the Crismon High gymnasium from the current main parking lot. 

Outside of the Crismon High gymnasium from the current main parking lot. 

“When we get our varsity sports going, if we want to run tournaments, then we have the space to do it,” Cromer said.

Attached to the gym via double doors on both ends of the wall is the future wrestling room. It’s currently being used as the weight room, while band and choir are using what will become the weight room until the auditorium is complete in the upcoming weeks. 

The weight room, currently being housed in the wrestling room as construction nears completion on Phase One.

The weight room, currently being housed in the wrestling room as construction nears completion on Phase One.

It also has three separate sets of locker rooms: Junior High physical education lockers, high school physical education lockers, and athletic lockers. In addition, Crismon has built multiple rooms for officials and referees to relax before the game or during a break.

“We want the best of the best to come here and we’re going to treat them as such,” Cromer said.

Also attached to the gym is the Athletic Training facility. It consists of multiple taping stations, a number of athletic training tables, two whirlpools, an ice machine and an office for the Head Trainer.

Just outside the gym is the walkway to the athletic fields, passing by a dirt lot. The lot will eventually become a gymnasium for junior high schoolers, where they’ll have their own separate set of locker rooms and their own games.

“We will consider them part of the high school, but they will compete at the Junior High level,” Corbin said. “They’re just Crismon Rattlers. That’s how we’re going to classify them.”

Walking up to the field, the campus continues stretching back nearly as far as the eye can see. Boasting only the second gray track in the United States, the track absorbs the bright rays of light while contrasting well with the school’s colors.

Crismon High has the second gray track installed across all of the United States.

Crismon High has the second gray track installed across all of the United States.

The current grass field set to be used by both football and soccer this year is a luscious, beautiful green color that looks healthy and nice to play on, and it has a singular set of large bleachers with an up-to-date press box. 

As mentioned, Phase Two and Three of construction will see the addition of numerous other athletic facilities. One of those is a turf field that will sit directly west of the current grass field. The press box at the top of the current set of bleachers for the grass field will also serve as the visitors press box for the turf field, giving visitors more of their own space when they visit Crismon’s campus. 

The dirt lot will soon be the site of a large turf athletic field for football with both home and visiting bleachers. Visiting teams will be able to share the dual-sided press box from the grass field. 

The dirt lot will soon be the site of a large turf athletic field for football with both home and visiting bleachers. Visiting teams will be able to share the dual-sided press box from the grass field. 

Additionally, they’ll have a large number of bleachers added on the home side of the field along with another press box for the home team only. 

Cromer says there are a couple of ideas for future phases floating around, and the beach volleyball courts and tennis courts could end up in a couple of different places.

Additional practice fields and areas filled in with athletic turf will be located on the north side of the building behind the gym. The additional turf will be easily accessible from the strength and conditioning room and will provide athletes with the opportunity to do more with their training. 

Space for additional practice fields.

Space for additional practice fields.

“When Queen Creek decided to build a school, they did it the right way,” Cromer said. “They do the right stuff here in Queen Creek for kids to be successful and be safe. That’s a huge thing.”

Crismon is set to start competing at the freshman and JV levels in the 3A Conference this August. For Cromer, putting together the schedules for more than a dozen sports has proven to be quite a challenge.

“We might be doing a little bit of traveling this year just to fill our schedule so we have enough games to play,” Cromer said. “Next year will be more of a pain in the butt, because then we’ll have varsity, and everyone is going to have their varsity schedules already from the two-year block. But we’ll make sure that we do what we need to do to figure it out.” 

Discussing the football schedule, Cromer said they’re playing teams across a number of conferences just to get the kids out there for experience.

“So right now, for our JV football schedule, we’re playing Florence and then we’re playing Red Mountain,” Cromer said, highlighting the contrast. He continued, “We’re playing Copper Canyon and then we’re playing Gilbert Christian.”

A bright outlook

While small details are still in the works, the overall vision for Phase One is nearly complete. Cromer said opening a new school from the ground up is a tall order, taking a lot of time and expecting the unexpected, but it’s been a wonderful experience overall.

“Once we get our varsity schedules going and we’ve had the kids here for an entire year and we’ve had the summer with them on this campus, there’s going to be a lot of changes after Year One,” Cromer said. 

As they approach the official start of the school year, Cromer is excited to see his vision for the school and athletic program coming together as they prepare to welcome the students who will help establish the heart and soul of the school.

As the future Crismon Rattlers begin their new journey on campus, Cromer believes the staff they’ve cultivated will be there to help everyone make the transition as smooth as possible every step of the way. 

“When we talk about athletics, you’re going to have a program with those traditions for six years, and those kids are going to see that,” Cromer said. “They’re going to have a sense of pride. This is home. For someone, this is home for the next six years.”