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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials June 27, 2016

12/27/2011 1:05:00 PM
Editorial: Here we go again with school district unification
Tim Carter
Tim Carter

Like death and taxes, it seems we just can’t get rid of the issue of school district unification and consolidation in the Verde Valley.

In 2012, the long-debated and hotly contested debate on this marriage of school districts will come before us again on two fronts.

First, in early January, the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school boards will meet to discuss the sharing of administrative services between the two districts.

Second, the Arizona Legislature is requiring county school superintendents in Arizona to study the feasibility of either unification or consolidation for the school districts within their jurisdiction. The stated goal of this Joint Legislative Study Committee is to increase student achievement while reducing administrative costs and to put more money into the classroom. Committee members include Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter and Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Director of Business Services David Snyder.

It’s doubtful if either effort will shed new light on the subject in the Upper Verde Valley. Over the past three decades, we have beaten this horse to death with the status quo always winning out over unification or consolidation.

But if it is to have a chance at all, for once we need to see some bold political leadership on this issue. Too often in the past, our elected school boards have acquiesced their responsibility on this issue to their administrative staffs. The administrators, in turn, have come up with studies that reflect negatively on unification and in effect protect their jobs.

This trend became ridiculous during the last unification effort when Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek got into a petty fight over the quality of school lunches served by C-OC.

Over and over we have seen what happens when school boards let their administrative teams get too involved in the decision on unification/consolidation.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds of examples – make that success stories -- all over the state of unified school districts. Likewise, we can look to communities like Kingman and Benson that have successfully negotiated the waters of unification/consolidation and have come out of it for the better.

Unless the Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school boards, and even the Clarkdale-Jerome board, enter this next round of unification with a new attitude, we should expect the same outcome we’ve experienced over the past 30 years.

If it is to happen at all, it will be from bold political leadership.

Related Stories:
• School unification to be studied statewide

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Article comment by: scott d

Mingus needs non partial refs. Or no one is going to want to play them if they determine the outcome of b ball games

Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011
Article comment by: Richard Hertz

What about a little respect for the voters who have knocked this idea down three times? I guess these college- educated admin folks know best. Hmm. Two saying come to mind: Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it and No good deed goes unpunished.

Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2011
Article comment by: Frank Henry

Did anyone mention vouchers?

Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Article comment by: Canadian Cousin

I am an elected School Board Trustee in Saskatchewan... starting in the late 1990's and into the early 2000's some of our school districts were voluntarily amalgamating - in 2005 our provincial government mandated it -- even for those who had just voluntarily did it. My advice. Consolidate - but on your own terms. Trustees, engage your parents and talk about the values ... how big? Don't expect this to be a cost saving venture - it won't be. But what it will allow is there to be different services offered. Instead of having an administrator trying to juggle many balls - they are able to focus on a few areas and excel. Support services can be acquired. Perhaps, your school district will be able to offer better SLP or OT services. If your government forces it - it can take YEARS to get past mad and get to work of serving kids.

As for trustees not being "experts" ... they should be able to ask the right questions to ensure that they are making good decisions -- they are the governors of the system. If they aren't then like any politician - should be replaced.

Good Luck. and Keep the politics out of the classroom!

Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Article comment by: What Next?

Typical government, be it state or federal, take something simple and complicate it. Will it ever change? I doubt it. How many times have we been through these things over the past few years and problems still persist? And just think, these are the people in charge of the education of our children. Scary, isn't it? If and when this problem is sorted out what will be next?

Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Article comment by: Better leadership needed

This is worth repeating:

"Our elected school boards have acquiesced to their administrative staffs. The administrators, in turn, have come up with studies that reflect negatively on unification and protect their jobs."

Staff running the show is a problem not limited to school boards (the COC board in particular) we see this in city/town councils as well, particularly in the city of Cottonwood. County government isn't immune either.

It's understandable. Who among we citizens is really qualified to make the kinds of executive decisions needed to run a modern school district or city? These government organizations are the equivalent of multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded businesses requiring specialized knowledge and skills.

Fact is, most of us are not qualified. So we rely on staff. Have to, no other choice. Therein lies the problem.

What we can do, though, is elect the kind of person who respects and listens to the electorate, and who will support the consensus view of the public even if it conflicts with what staff wants.

We don't see this very often in our elected officials. They, as the editorial describes, tend to acquiesce.

And of course we need good people to run. How many seats on the COC board went to appointees because no one was willing to run?

Remember, these boards and councils have the ability to tax us. The only way to get better local government is for good people to run.

Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Article comment by: John Doe

Unification is a good idea and should have happened by now. Cottonwood-Oak Creek school district's administration needs to go. They underpay their staff and maintain the highest % administration in Yavapai County. They have recently lost a large law suit for not providing adequate special education services. Maybe unification will improve the elementary and middle school education in the Verde Valley.

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