CV school board hits hot-button issues

Monday’s meeting of the Camp Verde school board turned into a three-hour session as a result of discussions on three major items.

The business on the evening’s agenda included a discussion of the Camp Verde Alternative School, a status report on the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) negotiations with the Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education (VACTE) board and the exploration of a budget override election.

Camp Verde Alternative School

The board discussed a number of recommendations in regards to changes in admission, attendance, opportunities and procedures for the Camp Verde Alternative School.

Board members agreed to involve the students in the question of naming the school. It was remarked that the name “Alternative” might have negative connotations to some.

Administrators for the school also made a number of recommendations, most of which were approved by the board and included limiting enrollment to 11th and 12th grade students with some exceptions available for 10th graders.

Recommendations were also approved for a two-semester rule that would require students transferring to the school to stay for a minimum of two semesters before returning to Camp Verde High School (CVHS).

The most contentious recommendation on the list was the proposal to no longer give graduates of the school a CVHS diploma and to no longer allow graduates to walk in the CVHS graduation ceremony.

Board member Andy Ayers felt that the graduation ceremony was a celebration of accomplishment and, therefore, graduates of the alternative school should be able to walk with the CVHS graduates.

After discussing the pros and cons of several other recommendations, the board decided to discuss the recommendations in a session this spring.

VACTE IGA negotiations

In 1999, Camp Verde school district voters chose to join in a joint technology district with Sedona, Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Clarkdale-Jerome and Mingus Union school districts.

The purpose of the district was to bring in additional state monies to “increase and enhance” vocational technology classes at each district.

In the original negotiations that established the IGA, the districts agreed to split the funding 60/40, with the districts getting 60 percent and the VACTE administrators getting 40 percent.

The agreement was supposed to be temporary, with the districts receiving a larger percentage after the initial administrative costs were addressed.

The superintendents of the five districts have been negotiating with the VACTE board to resolve the money split and a number of other issues they feel are not in the best interest of their districts and their students.

At a recent meeting with the superintendents of the five districts the discussions fell apart when the superintendent of VACTE, Marv Lamer, told the superintendents, “VACTE has taken everything off the table.”

“I would describe the situation as an impasse,” Camp Verde School Superintendent Ron Maughan said.

At stake is a $1.4 million budget, which currently has almost $600,000 spent by Lamer and the VACTE board on administration cost.

The superintendents of the five districts want a 75/25 split of the budget.

“We would be run out of town if the Camp Verde schools had such a high percentage of the taxpayers' money being spent on administrative salaries,” Maughan said.

Maughan noted that other joint technology districts in the state run on as little as a four- or five-person staff working on just 13 percent of the budget.

The VACTE staff currently has more than 10 staff members including Lamer’s wife, who makes over $30,000 as a part-time employee.

During negotiations, the superintendents for the five districts agreed to work out the change in percentages over a four year period, but Lamer and the board refused the offer.

Members of the Camp Verde School Board all agreed that they would like to see the issues resolved, and the sooner the better.

Camp Verde School District’s representative on the VACTE board, Pearl Lansing, was present at the board meeting and said that as far as an agreement on the IGA is concerned, “I don’t see it as impossible.”

Lansing invited all in attendance to come to the VACTE board meeting on Tuesday.

The five superintendents recently issued a joint statement on their position in the negotiations. It stated three points:

1. It is the students at the three high schools, not VACTE, that generate the revenue.

2. VACTE dollars are not spent on the students — district dollars are.

3. As such, the districts are united in their efforts to renegotiate the split to 75/25.

Maughan also noted that Flagstaff had recently rejected the idea of joining VACTE due in part to the 60/40 split.

Budget override election

The board agreed to move forward on a budget override election that will presumably take place in May.

A 10-percent override would give the district an additional $583,000.

“The $583,000 won’t do all of the things we need it to do," Maughan said. “So we are going to have to do some soul searching to prioritize what we need.”

Maughan pointed out that Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union High School are both working on overrides and are currently going back to the voters to extend them.

The board proposing a five-year override that would call for 10 percent for the first three years and then drop to 6.67 percent the forth year and 3.33 percent the last year.

“We would probably go back to the voters in three years to extend the override, just like the other districts are doing,” Maughan said.

“We have tried every other form of alternative funding sources,” he said. “We have increased our grant money, increased our fees on facility rentals and monitored our administrative costs. This is our only viable option.”

The board decided it needed to prioritize its needs before moving forward with the election process. They also discussed strategy for presenting the request to the voters.

Board Chairperson Wendy Escoffier and Maughan both suggested the board have a work session and invite the public to join so the board could see what the public would support.

Member Bob Simbric felt that support for the override would come if the board simply went before community groups and explained their situation.

The members agreed to hold a work session in January.

In order for the proposal to make it onto the May 17 ballot, the paperwork needs to be ready by the end of January.

Other business

Before getting down to business, the members of the board each gave personal recognition to departing board member John Bassous.

Bassous, who did not run in the last election, has served on the board for the last four years and will be replaced by member-elect Debbie Baker when the new board convenes in January.

The board also agreed to enter into another IGA, this one with the Town of Camp Verde, to construct a storm water retention project with the town.

The board also agreed to award a contract for district financial audit services to Strom & Trbovich, of Scottsdale.

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