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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : local June 25, 2016

7/9/2013 2:11:00 PM
Shared services study continues

Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union High School districts will meet Thursday to further discuss shared services. 

The districts will consider ways they can integrate curriculum, technology, transportation and administration. Board members will also revisit the 10 percent overrides both districts are asking voters to approve in November. 

The meeting is at 6 p.m. in the MUHS cafeteria. The MUHS board will hold its regular meeting immediately afterward at about 7:30 p.m. to approve a final budget for the coming school year.

This is the second joint meeting this summer facilitated by Yavapai County Superintendent Tim Carter to discuss shared services and unification. 

In the first meeting on June 21, C-OC Board President Jason Finger said the worn-out debate was starting to sound "like a joke."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013
Article comment by: Deana DeWitt

@ Mary Heartman
I believe the overrides should be considered together... The children of both districts are the children of OUR community. Further decreasing the funding (on top of state budget cuts and the loss of the one cent sales tax) hurts all of us, regardless of which district it directly affects. The bottom line is, a failure of either override will hurt kids. It is the programs and services provided that will be cut. COCSD students will eventually make their way to MUHS. Students at MUHS will eventually make their way out into the workforce. Taking away from their education at any level is simply unacceptable.

I believe that the public should have the right to question, investigate, and be involved in the financial decision-making processes of any public entity - it belongs to you, after all. However, I was (as a concerned citizen) present at the last joint Board meeting and am sad to say that there seem to be far more members of our community willing to post comments in the local paper than those who are willing to show up to Board meetings where their participation would be much more productive.

I appreciate your concerns and encourage you to find the answers to your questions. I can only speak to those things I know about. Please understand that the overrides are a continuation of what tax payers are ALREADY paying - nothing new. The $6.8 million dollar MUHS budget includes those funds, and there was no surplus. There is absolutely no wiggle room. Just to maintain the programs and services currently offered, the override must pass.

Posted: Saturday, July 13, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ Deana DeWitt
As a grandparent, I'm wondering why Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek overrides are being lumped together. A $6.8 million budget seems more than adequate for one high school, but Mingus hasn't been squandering funds intended for actual education. C-OCSD on the other hand. I want to see Oak Creek's academic levels back up to where they were before the fighting broke out. Ditto DDB. I want to know Cottonwood Elementary and Middle School aren't being short changed to support the IB experiment. If I don't, monetary demerits seem to be the only ones David Snyder understands.

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013
Article comment by: Refusing to vote for the Override may Force Unification

I will vote for the Override when the local school districts join as one district. Otherwise the schools are wasting $ on duplicate positions and services. A school district of 7,000 students is not that large.

I know the COCSD teachers and staff members are underpaid and understaffed. I feel for these dedicated teachers and staff members. Textbooks are old and don't reflect the current educational standards. But that is a choice by the school board and Barb U'Ren as they spend the least amount of $$ in the classroom. Frivolous spending like the PR firm, having too many administrators and paying the superintendent and outrageous sum is what is draining the $$$ out of COCSD. When these issues are addressed, then I'll vote for the override.

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013
Article comment by: Deana DeWitt

As an educator, I am begging the citizens of this community to look at these issues independently - override, unification, and shared services must be considered on their own merits and potential benefits. They should not be dependent upon one another.

As a parent, I see the benefit in unification - a cohesive educational system where my children "belong" to all those charged with shaping their future from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The concern for my child will not end or begin with his entry to high school, rather it would be on-going as he continues through a system with common vision, goals, and curriculum. His success (or lack thereof) would be a shared responsibility and not become a finger-pointing campaign. BUT unification is complicated (virtually impossible by the means dictated in ADE's proposed unification that was correctly voted down). Logistically speaking, it is NOT just about combining a School Board and hiring a single Superintendent. If it were that simple, I'm confident if would have already been done. It is CERTAINLY not something that can be accomplished by November...

Shared services, on the other hand, is the next best thing and all of our local districts are already participating. Yes, improvements can be made with shared services, and I believe that the Boards and administrations of MUHS and COCSD are both being proactive to that end. By opening these lines of communication and finding ways to share services, each of the districts has a better understanding of one another. They are forging relationships, creating common goals, and identifying and addressing common needs. In my opinion, this work promotes the possibility of successful unification in the future.

The override for both of these districts is a separate issue entirely. I am a tax payer and a property owner. My family has been hit by the financial recession. I am 100% in favor of the CONTINUATION (something I am ALREADY paying) of BOTH overrides. I stand to gain nothing financially from passage of these overrides. The money will not be added to my salary. It will, however, enable both districts to continue to provide services and programs that our students need to make them more knowledgeable and capable citizens. It will allow educators in this community to provide the very best education possible despite devastating cuts and unfunded state and federal mandates. Both of these districts do a phenomenal job with what they have to work with. Voters have the opportunity to support these efforts and positively affect our future generation.

I am hopeful that citizens of our community will research the benefits of the overrides and make informed decisions. Please do not let outside issues, political positioning, or emotion influence your vote. Focus only on the facts.

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013
Article comment by: Lori Simmons

I will be the first in this blog to be “bold” enough to enter my name. As a former school board member, with children who have come the entire way thru the COCSD and Mingus system, I can speak from all angles regarding COCSD and Mingus. While no system is perfect, my husband and I are incredibly pleased at the education our children have received throughout COCSD AND Mingus. The opportunities offered to our children in a small town, both in and out of the classroom, are quite diverse. The opportunities come about because the local boards and superintendents work feverishly to maintain programs for children, often at the cost of teachers’ salaries, building repairs, supply purchases, etc.
Ask any teacher the last time they were offered a new textbook. For most, it was more than a decade ago. Sure, the internet can complement the textbook teaching, but what about the children in our community without internet at home – a textbook is still the core teaching tool in many classrooms, yet they are over a decade old. This is just ONE example where administration is forced to hold back, in order to keep programs to develop well-rounded citizens prepared to enter the workforce, or continue their education.
For those of you threatening to decline an override if unification isn’t executed – shame on you! The voters in the Verde Valley have turned down unification each and every time it has come to the ballot, which has forced local administrative teams to pursue countless options toward shared services. For those of you demanding that this needs to be executed “yesterday”, have you sat in even ONE board meeting to understand the mountains of paperwork required to share even ONE service? It often requires the services of County School Superintendent Tim Carter often requires intergovernmental agreements – which must be reviewed by attorneys and unless a full-time staff member can be removed, often does not translate into meaningful cost savings. Shared services discussions would not even be in the vernacular of the local schools if YOU, the voters, would have approved unification. Now, administration is forced to blaze a trail never walked before, because YOU, the voters, wouldn’t approve unification.
The proposed bond overrides for COCSD and Mingus will NOT result in any new taxes. The boards will likely ask for a continuance of the overrides in place for over a decade. Without these funds, BASIC programs will go away, valued community members will lose their jobs (after salary freezes year after year), and classrooms will be more overcrowded than they are today. Each and every community member needs to educate themselves on what is funded with override dollars, and ensure these basic services are not removed for our children.
I would LOVE to see each and every person who made negative comments or threatened to decline an override attend each and every COCSD and Mingus school board study session and meeting. Meet with your local school board members and administrators, and propose your solutions. I can tell you from experience that each one is open any ANY idea that will continue programs for children, improve educational performance, and continue to create community members we can all be proud of.
For those teachers, staff, and administrators who supported, and continue to support my children through COCSD and MUHS, I give you my gratitude and admiration, for continuing to mold precious minds into intelligent, articulate, hard working citizens. You have my continued admiration.
For the board members and administrators who continue to think “outside the box” to try to hold on to precious programs, student/teacher ratios, and try to hold your facilities together, I thank you for your service. You have a thankless job where everyone who shall remain nameless, seems to think they can do a better job than you can. Keep fighting the fight for what you believe is best for all children. I appreciate what you do for our children!

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: Bird Lady

In general, we all identify with the high school or district we graduated from. Elementary schools are traditionally small and very local. Then those students are graduated to a larger middle school. Those students are all funneled into a central high school.
As a so called rural area, one district would serve us well with one Admin team, one transpo system, etc.
I understand the desire to maintain local identity and control. That could still occur with consolidation. The buildings would remain. The teachers would remain. The admin, board, transp etc. would cover all.
I have a little experience with this in another "life". I went to a very small centralized district with 650 kids k-12. I watched my mom's teaching job change as 5 such small districts consolidated into one district. It worked and taxes actually went down, in a state that is famous for taxing the living day lights out of anyone who owns property.
I've never had a child at COCSD. I can only judge by reading this paper. I don't have anguish at just having one district.

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: @ Bird Lady

Re: "I think consolidation would make the Verde Valley more cohesive as all children would attend the same District and therefore have a common identity."

Really? I've yet to hear anyone tell me they attended COCSD.

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: Consolidation chaos

Who will want to serve on the board? The consequences of incompetence would be considerably greater.

Assuming they have such authority, imagine the disruption if the state/county closed the districts down!

I think "from experience" is correct in that parents and teachers have less influence in a larger district, and there is more discord. Take C-OCSD for example...

Isn't Clarkdale/Jerome the only local school district that isn't repeatedly in the news with 'issues'?

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: Bird Lady

School funding is one of the few areas that local voters feel they have a say in their tax burden. Few residents, with or without children, would not welcome a reduced tax burden. What gets lost is what those dollars are paying for.

I think most residents of the Verde Valley want safe schools with no falling roofs, good teachers who can give our youth the structure and knowledge they need to succeed and extra curricular activities that enhance our young people's lives.
I'm not sure that consolidation or unification would degrade our educational offerings or raise taxes. I think consolidation would make the Verde Valley more cohesive as all children would attend the same District and therefore have a common identity.
As to the override itself, I'll wait and see what the money actually buys. If it looks like a good deal, I'll vote yea. If it looks like just salaries, extra junk like solar power, I'll vote nay.

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: Who Cares???

"You also need to remember that the board oversees the superintendent, not the other way around!"

I am fully aware that the board we elect oversees the superintendent, but COCSD is apparently unaware of that fact.

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: Speaking strictly from experience

Be careful what you wish for.

Larger school districts do not automatically translate into better education, more equitable allocation of resources, stronger calendar and curriculum alignment, greater flexibility, additional growth opportunities for staff, or cost savings for the taxpayers. This depends entirely on the excellence of the district's superintendent and governing board.

Larger school districts do invariably result in a loss of local control, diminished parent /teacher influence, and less individualized instruction in the classroom.

In 2007, all upper Verde Valley schools rejected the ADE School District Redistricting Commission's push to unify Mingus, Clarkdale, and Cottonwood-Oak Creek. The C-OCSD Board, then composed of Randall Garrison, Jason Finger, Janice Rollins, Lori Simmons, and Eric Wyles, was particularly concerned with the unfunded and ongoing additional costs to C-OCSD and subsequent loss of elementary programming. This before the budget crunch began.

A lot of administrative and financial grief has occurred since then, but the cost/benefit ratio hasn't changed. Unification offers no more now than it did in 2007. Verde Valley voters should do their homework before being pushed into an either/or vote on overrides by people whose agendas are far from upfront.

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: ah- 'no overrides' the chant of those retired and without kids?

While not assumed to be 100% so, that is normally the case. People that loved the place so much they had to move here... and once they do? Well its time to start shutting the gate behind themselves and 'improving' what lured them here in the first place.

While they may be hoping that denying funds for school will ensure that there will be more under-educated young adults to take their orders and wash their dishes at restaurants... they are in fact taking a chunk out of the future hopes and dreams of our kids and our valley.

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: Surly Joe

Some people won't be happy until we can zero out those pesky education budgets altogether.

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: Who Cares? I Care!

@ "I'm thinking" You have it so wrong. I can tell you that the majority of the board of COCSD is in favor of unification, and if you were at any of the meetings, that would be obvious to you. Instead, it is clear you get your information from the rumor mill and the local paper which does not always portray the story accurately. If COCSD were to throw the unification card on the table now, the skittish Mingus board would run for the bushes and we wouldn't see them at the shared services table again until a new board was elected. You also need to remember that the board oversees the superintendent, not the other way around!

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: No Override if No Consolidation

If these fiefdoms called Districts won't unify than I say we vote their cash cow of a 10% override DOWN.
Apathy will result in the overrides being passed. The teachers and staff of all these little districts will get it passed. We, the taxpayers, need to vote this time, and vote with our wallets! Put these schools together in one district first, then ask for more money.
The vote is in November according to this article. Don't let this important financial decision for all of us get lost in holidays.
NO OVERRIDE THIS TIME!!! Yep, shouting.

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