Clarkdale-Jerome may have a pass on putting unification to district's voters

The smallest school district of the three in Cottonwood and Clarkdale that the state wants to see unified likely won't be required to put the question to its voters.

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Governing Board discussed a letter to that effect Tuesday night.

Rita Leyva, the Yavapai County representative on the School District Redistricting Commission, sent C-OC a copy of an e-mail she sent to the chair of that commission.

"I have made up my mind that the Commission's unification proposal for the districts in the northeast corner of our county should not include Clarkdale-Jerome ESD," Leyva's letter states.

Her letter to Martin Schultz also states that Leyva would "like to see a unification between Cottonwood-Oak Creek Elementary School District and Mingus Union High School District."

Leyva's reasoning is that the voters in the Clarkdale-Jerome District will vote down any unification effort. If that happened, even if voters in C-OC and Mingus districts voted for unification, the ballot question would fail. Another vote would have to be held just for voters in C-OC and Mingus districts.

She says that Clarkdale-Jerome would have to approach unification at a later time if the district decided it wanted to join a larger district. During that time, Clarkdale-Jerome District would have to pay tuition to Mingus for the students who attend the high school.

C-OC board member Lori Simmons said she thought Leyva's thinking was backward. "Mingus should be excluded," she said. Simmons said she'd like to see C-OC and Clarkdale-Jerome consolidated.

The unification issue became timely again after Senate Bill 1068 became law in 2005. The law established the School District Redistricting Commission, a task force charged with looking into the viability of unifying some districts in the state.

The purpose of the law was to bypass school boards and let voters decide whether unification is a good idea for their school districts. The law did not, however, give the commission authority to mandate a unified district, only the power to mandate that the local districts put the question on a ballot for their constituents to decide.

The commission originally proposed unifying Mingus Union, C-OC and Clarkdale-Jerome into the Verde Valley Unified School District.

After some discussion, the C-OC board decided that Superintendent Julie Larson will represent its position that Clarkdale-Jerome should be included in the vote.

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