The posture of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board on district unification underscores an issue that needs to be addressed in the Upper Verde.
It likely will take voter approval of unification of the three local school districts before there will be resolution.
In outlining its opposition to the proposed merger of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Clarkdale-Jerome and Mingus Union districts, C-OC officials noted that a real sticking point lies in the salary and benefits discrepancies between the districts.
In particular, there is a very real concern about where the money will come from to bring salary equity between high school teachers and those in the lower grades. C-OC noted that the pay scale at Mingus is considerably higher than what it pays its teachers. There is also a sizable gap in the benefits package as well, especially as it relates to the health allowances for retirees and their dependents.
All of which raises the question of why local high school teachers should earn a better salary than elementary and middle school teachers?
It also raises the question of why retired Mingus teachers and their dependents are still having taxpayers pick up their insurance costs?
Given the influence of the Mingus Union Education Association, you can bet the Mingus School Board does not want to touch either question with a 10-foot pole.
Which is one of the most important reasons why local voters should consider supporting a unification of the three Upper Verde school districts, two of which govern one school each. Or, at the very least, a consolidation of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union districts.
Already, the unification process has served a very useful purpose. It has brought to light the discrepancies in salaries and benefits that exist between the districts.
Ironically, it took the Cottonwood-Oak Creek District to do that.