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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions May 24, 2016

9/19/2013 11:12:00 AM
Letter: Vote 'Yes' to support education


The upcoming vote to continue the existing override tax to support the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union School districts is important to everyone in the Verde Valley, the State of Arizona, and the nation. The decline of America's educational standing in the world should concern everyone. A "yes" vote will not completely solve the problem of our world education standing, but it will certainly help the children and young adults in the Verde Valley achieve a quality education and aid in stopping further erosion of education in America.

The statistics about America's educational standing in the world are shocking. In 2011 it was reliably reported that among industrialized nations, America is ranked: 16th in mathematics; 21st in science; and last in advanced physics.

Despite our decline in world standing, public education faces some of the most daunting issues it has ever encountered. Nationally, public schools have seen large drops in revenue. They need up-to-date technology but struggle to find funds to purchase it. Many facilities are outmoded and fall well below 21st century standards and districts are helpless to do anything about it.

America is competing for jobs and industry in a global climate, however, the educational investment we are making in the future workforce is significantly lower than that of our most fierce competitors. For example, China spends $22,000 per student while the American average is $10,615 per student. The state of Arizona spends about $7,000 per student. It led the nation in the reduction of per pupil spending from 2008 to 2013 at 21.8 percent, which translates into a loss of $783 per student.

Enough said. Please vote "Yes-Yes" on retaining the existing override, which provides badly needed support for the public education programs in the Mingus Union High School district and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek elementary school district.

Bob Oliphant


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: Name Withheld

@ Can't equate Mingus with COCSD

The problem with your argument here is that you are comparing a cucumber with a zucchini. Though they both come out of the same garden, and look alike, there really is a difference. When you compare COCSD and dollars in the classroom, you really shouldn't be comparing it to any of the other schools in the area.
MUHS has one campus. COCSD has 5 campuses. Each campus has a prinicipal, secretaries, librarians, custodial and food and nursing costs which pull money out of the classroom. The only way COCSD will ever be able to truly show a significant increase in classroom dollars is to close 1 or 2 schools and consolidate all students on the remaining campuses, thus reducing the expense of those extra campus positions -- and we all know how that went over recently! It's just not a realistic solution that the community is willing to accept.

So if you want to compare whether COCSD is blowing money frivolously, please try to make sure your are comparing them with like schools. Approximately 2100 students, 5 campuses, 75-80% of students on free and reduced lunches should be in your comparison criteria. Otherwise, we all know that you cannot expect a zucchini to taste like a cucumber even though they look so much alike!

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: Wisewell50 - statistics from COCSD itself

Doing a search for Cottonwood School Override, I found a COCSD site. It is business-services.cocsd.schoolfusion.us/modules/groups/integrated_home.phtml?&gid=2028247. It states their intention to tax 49 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for the first year. Assuming this goes on for the 7 years without increasing (I don't know the details), and that a typical assessment is more like $150,000 per home in this area (and going up from a present bottom), this amounts to $735 per year or $5145 per household for the term of the override. Own a $300,000 home? Pay twice as much! Just for COCSD, not to mention Mingus HS. And that's for a financial "patch"! I'm sure the state is laughing: "hey, go ahead and cut the funds... the locals will make it up". As a generalization, it appears this may become a voting contest between teachers and school officials and parents with many offspring in school versus everyone else. It will be interesting.

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ Can't equate Mingus with COCSD
I totally agree. The sneak play, here, is conflating budget and staff shuffles with C-OCSD's school shuffling. Mingus students and parents weren't affected. C-OCSD students and parents were. Which isn't to say C-OCSD can't justify the extreme disruption. Only that it hasn't done so yet.

Bottom line: "No" on the C-OCSD override won't hurt the district's children half so much as more of the same. The first thing to remember is that if the community doesn't hold administrators to their educational commitments, no one will.

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Article comment by: Joey Evans

Absolutely NO on any override. NO to the increased property taxes that are assessed because of an override. If the school district is short of funds, they can eliminate the unnecessary garbage in the budget or curriculum, or let the parents pick up the slack. As a retiree with no kids, I�m sick of being ripped off for all these non-academic activities.

Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Article comment by: @ It's a Quarterback Sneak

No, actually all of these kids won't go to the same high school is Barbara U'ren has her way. She is hoping to steal (a word one of board members used below) students from MUHS as she expands her IB school so voting no to COCSD will hurt no more than a yes vote for COCSD, because either way, their plan is to draw more funds by taking kids from the local high school. And as for MUHS, if your only complaint is that they manage and try to work their budget in a way that they can pay teachers more in line with what they should make, then that's enough of a reason right there for me to vote yes for them.

Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Article comment by: Can't equate Mingus with COCSD

Problem with the COCSD under Barb U'Ren is classroom spending is at an all time low. Barely half the money you expect will be spent on kids actually makes it into the classroom, according to the Arizona Auditor General's report released earlier this year.

Mingus does a lot better. They spend about 15% more of their budget in the classroom than the COCSD does.

This is largely because the COCSD spends 38% more on administration than Mingus does on a per student basis.

So Mingus is putting more of our educational dollars where it counts, and I don't mind paying teachers more if they are delivering results. Mingus has AP college level classes, partnerships with Yavapai College, vocational classes, and their seniors generate millions in scholarships every year.

I do mind paying U'Ren's inflated $150,000 salary, and paying for frivolous COCSD spending like $45,000 on a PR campaign designed to convince us what a good job she's doing.

That's close to 20% of your override right there on just those two items.

Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Article comment by: It's a Quarterback Sneak

It's amazing to read all this back and forth discussion on here and see the harsh criticism of COCSD, yet no one on hear seems to find any problem with MUHS management. No one seems to have a problem with MUHS diverting every penny from their budget that should go to building maintenance and repair into teacher salaries. It is much easier to ask for a $15 million bond to fix up your building than it is to ask for an override to pay your teachers more. And if we want to look at wasteful spending. Does a single campus of 1200 kids really need a principal and a superintendent? Didn't that same campus just prove to the community last year that they could get by with a super only half time when Tim Foist did just that? Then they bring in a new position for full time? Sneaky, sneaky.
Bottom line is a vote no will only hurt the kids of this community. All of these kids go to both of those schools and they need the continued support to educate students from K-12. Remember that!

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ Exposing COCSD incompetence
RE: "Rest assured if you vote no for COCSD, your no vote will not cut their funds immediately. It will phase out over a multi-year period. And during that time the district can start trying better leadership options, such as either going with no superintendent like Camp Verde, or other ideas."

Yes, that's what the voter information pamphlet says: 2014-2015 no decrease. 2015-2016 one-third reduction. 2016-2017 another one-third reduction. And then eliminated as of July l, 2017 for the 2017-2018 school year.

So a no vote doesn't necessarily mean the end of Art and Music. It's up to the administration what to cut as the override goes down and how to compensate for those things that really improve performance.

Plus, C-OCSD could try again next year, which is really a better time for something this controversial. More people vote in a gubernatorial election. There will be official polling places for people who dislike voting by mail. There will be more time to heal wounds that have grown deeper from being disparaged or ignored.

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013
Article comment by: Exposing COCSD incompetence

The comments from Nothing but the Truth are very illuminating.

So if busing in kids from out of town is so profitable, why not start advertising in Flagstaff and Prescott? That should make a lot of sense to you.

But the rest of us should question why are we paying to educate kids from Camp Verde and Sedona. All we want from the COCSD is to do a good job on the fundamentals, to get our kids ready to be successful at Mingus.

And let me let you in on a little secret Nothing but Truth. You dont need to hire a PR company to inform us whats going on in the district.

This may surprise you, but thats because OUR KIDS GO TO YOUR SCHOOLS.



What planet do you live on? This is a small town, everyone talks, everyone knows whats going on, and guess what?

We dont like the abuse the district shovels out on teachers and staff, and we dont like how you rob Peter to pay Paul with your IB school, and we dont like the bloated salaries you pay top administrators.

So, to help people make an informed decision, please consider in recent years this is what the COCSD has cut or reduced in either all or some of its schools, and this is WITH THE BOND OVERRIDE IN PLACE:

Principals. School nurses. Counselors. Sports. One of our best schools, Tavasci. Special ed. And now, thanks to your post, we know the district has cut out their curriculum person.

So instead of an expert in curriculum, we instead have Barb URen, who was already questionable as superintendent, and who has questionable skills, knowledge, and ability in curriculum.

So what have we been paying extra for all these years? Sounds like the COCSD has built quite the financial house of cards.

We have a choice people. If what the COCSD is doing sounds right to you, vote yes by all means.

But if you question this, and you have every right to, if you want to bring about positive constructive change sooner rather than later, if you want to start the healing process sooner than later, vote no on this override for the COCSD.

Personally, I will vote yes for Mingus because I like the direction they are taking. They take the leadership role on shared services. They had big construction projects come in on time and under budget. That shows competence.

Rest assured if you vote no for COCSD, your no vote will not cut their funds immediately. It will phase out over a multi-year period. And during that time the district can start trying better leadership options, such as either going with no superintendent like Camp Verde, or other ideas.

Perhaps the COCSD can enter into an agreement with Mingus for a few hours a week of administrative consultation from their superintendent. Not full sharing just yet, but see how some consulting advice works.

Remember, the Mingus Super was hired specifically because he has K-12 experience.

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013
Article comment by: Yer Eeka!

"The more miles students are bused, the more money the district gets."

Ah, so! Then there's no need for an override! Close the schools, outfit buses as classrooms, and the district will be rolling in dough!

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013
Article comment by: Nothin but the Truth!

@ I see BS, people

Clearly you just don't know what you are talking about, and it shows everytime you post. Busing students brings in revenue to the district. The more miles students are bused, the more money the district gets. Apparently, busing students all around the valley must be "pure genius" on the part of the governing boards to take advantage of this funding loophole. At worst, it does not have a greater net cost for the district to do this.
Btw, the PR firm was terminated almost a year ago when their use had run its course for the district and the groundwork had been laid for other staff to continue what they started.

It never hurts to be informed!

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013
Article comment by: Just Wondering

To Nothing But The Truth!: Is that really your given name? That must have been very difficult for you.

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Article comment by: I see BS, people

"First of all, a PR firm was hired because COCSD realized that despite efforts to communicate with the paper, so few people were aware of all of the amazing accomplishments and events that were happening in the district. COCSD tried for 2 years to manage this inhouse and just did not have the skill of the manpower to do it, so a marketing firm was tried."

What a crock! The specific Glendale PR firm was hired at least in part because it promotes school overrides and bond issues, and it does this in part because it represents firms that specialize in construction and renovation of public facilities. The only serious promotion I saw was an attempt to draw out-of-district kids into the new IB program. And when one considers the cost--both financial and environmental--of busing those kids to MVP and in busing ex-Tavasci students elsewhere, one might wonder just how profitable that attempt really was in the long run.

Methinks the anonymous writer is employed by the PR firm.

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Article comment by: Jessica Vocca

I currently work for the Cottonwood Oak-Creek School District. The current reality in education is dismal, but teachers still come to teach, students still come to learn. There have been many changes in COCSD since the last override. Whether you agree with the change or not here are some facts:

1. There are two new board members
2. MVP opened
3. State and recently federal funding has been cut

Change is happening in our district thanks to all the extra hours that have been put in at all the different levels. It is not a simple task, but educating children is our business and I am posting for every teacher and every child that you will effect with a no vote. REALITY is that we turn to the public for support foR such difficult times. We are public education and it takes a community to provide a effective education to our students. We are trying to teach them how to become a citizen of this great state and country. Please help us out and vote YES for the school override. Your yes vote will help us do our job.

I CHOOSE to work for this district and to educate my children in this district because I believe in all the people I work with. A YES vote will continue our override. A no vote will cut funds and that is plain and simple. That is the reality of public education, but let's send a message to all the children our community services: We support your education!

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Article comment by: Nothing but the Truth!


I so wish that I could speak to you directly to correct your inaccuracies and illuminate your bias in your letters that you keep submitting to these blogs. However, you hide behind the anonymity of these online blogs, and therefore you can continue to spread mistruths as if they were fact. In the �real world� we call that libel.

In my world, I see the true side of things and cannot sit back and let you keep throwing these cheap shots because you are attacking my family! Lets start at the top of your long list, shall we?

First of all, a PR firm was hired because COCSD realized that despite efforts to communicate with the paper, so few people were aware of all of the amazing accomplishments and events that were happening in the district. COCSD tried for 2 years to manage this inhouse and just did not have the skill of the manpower to do it, so a marketing firm was tried. The governing board realized with all the competition from other schools in the area, you cannot just open the doors and expect people to come. You have to give them a reason to come � and COCSD needed to promote those positive things more in the community. It was at that time that the webpage was revamped, social media was utilized more, Friday Fast Facts was started, and regular meetings with local civic groups was begun.

An �all expense paid trip� for the governing board to go on a �vacation?� Please! The expenses were paid for these unpaid public servants who were willing to go and give up time with their families, unpaid leave from their jobs, and attend educational sessions all day. The board decided that this one national conference was able to do so much more for this district than attend the numerous other continuing education trainings around the state which also required registration, hotel, and meals to be paid by the district. From the national conference which other districts in the valley do not attend, the COCSD has implemented the Safe Ambassador anti-bullying program at 3 campuses, implemented a district blueprint which is being borrowed and used as a model by other districts all across the state, as well as numerous other programs. COCSD has been sending representatives to these conferences longer than any of the current members have been on the board. This is nothing new.

When we recall how the board �threatened� to close both Tavasci and Oak Creek school, the facts were that district enrollment had dropped to where all of the students in the district could be housed on the 3 largest campuses. Those 2 were the smallest, and had nothing to do with staff, performance, or history. COCSD governing board new that in order to build enrollment, something had to be done to draw students from home schools and neighboring schools. The board and superintendent had a vision of what an IB school could do for this community. It was a slam dunk with a waiting list which grows every year for students wanting to get in. Those students as another writer mentioned come from areas outside of the district which is about the only other way a district can increase revenue. People in the know are clamoring to get their students into a program where they use an inquiry based learning system, have more emphasis on the arts, require a second language beginning in kindergarten, and provide another alternative to going to high school. And, we were able to keep the Oak Creek school open and operating in the black through restructuring! Perhaps its time you pull your head out of the sand, clean off your glasses and see things in a different light.

Please do check your facts before posting here because COCSD has not stripped out sports from Oak Creek, and has been providing funding as the budget has stabilized for the last 2 years. I believe you will find that the level of funding for sports is the same as what it was prior to the horrible budget cuts from recent years.

It is true that some of our best teaching talent flees (or has been stolen) from our district, but not because of a repressive work environment. Like most of us, they want to do the most for their families and may see that they can make more money elsewhere. It is true that the teachers at COCSD probably don�t make as much as they deserve. Why do they stay then? I know that the COCSD governing board has been fiscally responsible with keeping the district afloat, while excelling more than any in the area as well as most in the state in our implementation of Common Core and technology implementation in the classroom. We do this despite having one of the most dismal funding amounts in the country and educating some of the most challenge students with our high numbers of English language learners. We do all this while maintaining our ancient buildings, and maintaining programs such as art, physical education, school field trips, nursing, and counselors. If we cut those things, and didn�t take care of our buildings, then we could give more money to teachers and maybe they wouldn�t leave ... but wouldn�t students still want to come?

COCSD and MUHS are asking for the public�s continued support for the override that funds these programs. They are not asking for a raise � just your continued support to provide the same levels of services our students, families, and community have come to expect. With a failed override, the $1.6 million will no longer be available to fund these programs. The State is not currently paying for them, so don�t expect a bailout there. Class sizes are at maximum appropriate limits. Administration is cut to bare bones (Did you know Superintendent U�ren also acts as the Curriculum Director which used to be another full time position?). Please come to a governing board meeting if you want to stay abreast of what is happening in schools, and how decisions are made. I won�t tell you how to vote, but I will ask you to be an informed voter!

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