Clarkdale-Jerome excluded from unification vote

Ballot question will include C-OC and Mingus Union

Clarkdale-Jerome School District will be excluded from a Nov. 2008 ballot question about consolidation of local districts. Voters in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union High School districts will decide on that ballot if those two districts should be consolidated.

The School District Redistricting Commission approved a plan Tuesday to create a unified K-12 district, but Clarkdale-Jerome School is no longer in the mix. Rita Leyva, chief deputy of the Yavapai County School Superintendent's Office and the Yavapai County representative on the state commission, recommended excluding Clarkdale-Jerome because she felt voters in that district would vote down any unification effort.

The commission originally recommended putting the unification question to voters in all three local districts.

Kathleen Fleenor, superintendent of Clarkdale-Jerome School District, was pleased with the commission's decision. "We would have lost all of our after-school funding," she said. That would be more than $350,000.

"That's the reason we're an "excelling" school district because we get the after-school funds," Fleenor said. "I know that's what it is."

Fleenor agreed with Leyva's belief that Clarkdale-Jerome District voters would have voted against unification. "The community here really supports the K-8 concept," she said.

Residents in the district still like the idea of having a small school and having a say in how that school is run. She said she thinks removing her district from the ballot question will save a lot of hard feelings.

Scott Dunsmore, superintendent of Mingus Union High School District, supports the idea of unification. He does not think the commission made the right decision by excluding Clarkdale-Jerome.

"If you're taking it out to the voters, let them vote," Dunsmore said.

He said he doesn't see the logic of the decision. "If they're a feeder school, I think they should be included," Dunsmore said.

He said that as a high school superintendent, he supports unification. It would give him control over the benchmarks for students at every grade level. He thinks benchmarks should be across the state and should be the same for every grade level.

Barb U'Ren, superintendent of Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, said she wasn't surprised by the decision. She said Leyva had concerns about the legal aspects of including Clarkdale-Jerome in a vote.

"I've assumed this was going to happen," she said. U'Ren thinks the question for Mingus and C-OC voters will be about the same as if Clarkdale-Jerome was included.

"I don't think it will change the dynamics," U'Ren said. Those two districts have looked at consolidation for years, she pointed out.

U'Ren said the administrators and board members in both districts will need to begin planning, at least generically, even before the voters decide on consolidation.

She said that if voters approve consolidation in November 2008, the consolidation must be in place by July of 2009.

"It's really a fast turnover," she said.

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