Bill Kelly doesn't take no for an answer.
As superintendent of the Clarkdale-Jerome School District, Kelly says he's not about to resign his district's interests in Mingus Union High School if a unification effort is successful with Cottonwood-Oak Creek.
Superintendents John Tavasci and John Christensen share the opinion of former Arizona School Board Association attorney Tom Pickrell who argues that no division of assets is necessary between the districts.
"I can't speak for a unified board," explains Tavasci, "but I'm going to stick with what Pickrell said. Division of assets is a non issue."
"My opinion differs from John Tavasci's," says Kelly.
"I agree with Pickrell," counters Christensen. "Clarkdale students will continue to come to Mingus. Why would you want to take assets from Mingus?"
According to attorneys for Mingus, Clarkdale can require that a division of assets takes place if it doesn't participate in the unification of its neighboring districts.
In an opinion solicited from Quarles & Brady, attorney Myeria Martin recommends that Clarkdale and Mingus should enter into an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) to determine how to divide up assets.
"We don't know what those assets are," says Christensen. "What percentage are they talking about? Are they talking about taking incentive money? Rolling stock? What is it they would want."
"Actually, I've been waiting to for some communication with the high school to see what they've come up with," says Kelly. "And if an IGA doesn't resolve this then we have to look at past statutes."
Perusing current state law, however, won't clarify asset division.
"The law is silent on this issue," says Christensen. "Pickrell went with the intent of the law; there wouldn't be a division of assets."
Proponents of the unification measure may lobby to have the current statute amended to include direction regarding asset division. Until then, Kelly says he will continue to protect the best interests of his district.
"I've done my research and feel that our district has an interest," he explains. "It is my responsibility to pursue the option that is beneficial to our district."
What benefits Clarkdale residents, says Christensen, punishes the community's high school students.
"My official stance is we shouldn't have to share in the division of assets," he asserts. "Students will receive an inferior education if they have to give up assets to the Clarkdale-Jerome School District."
"We want to protect our district as it is," says Kelly. "As to our specific strategy, that comes with a meeting with the board and if necessary with our school's attorneys."
Kelly will attend a joint meeting between the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school boards scheduled for Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek District offices in the Clemenceau Building.
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