Sharing already in progress for local districts

Joint school board meeting moves process along

New shared special education director for Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts, Pam Fenstamaker, center, posed Tuesday night with MUHS Superintendent Tim Foist and C-OC Superintendent Barbara U’Ren. VVN/Philip Wright

New shared special education director for Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts, Pam Fenstamaker, center, posed Tuesday night with MUHS Superintendent Tim Foist and C-OC Superintendent Barbara U’Ren. VVN/Philip Wright

COTTONWOOD - Sharing of services is already happening between Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts. Tuesday night both districts appeared to be of like minds about increasing both the services they share and the money that might be saved. With the Clarkdale-Jerome School District board and administration in attendance, both C-OC and MUHS boards met again May 1 in joint session.

C-OC Superintendent Barbara U'Ren pointed out to the boards that some shared services are already in place between C-OC and MUHS.

"We already are sharing transportation," said Tim Foist, MUHS superintendent. "Next week we actually start a joint (bus) route together."

He added that the districts do not, however, share mechanics. "I don't know if we need to go any further," Foist said. He explained that each district is reimbursed by the state for mileage for operating their bus systems. He said the districts do not want to hurt each other by taking mileage away. If the districts' transportation departments were fully merged, it is likely the overall funding would be reduced.

The districts also are sharing some services for maintenance and grounds. Dennis Chambers, director of operations for Mingus, submitted a report to both governing boards Tuesday night on his monitoring of work orders and average times for completion of those orders. He reported that during 2013 he will begin having weekly meetings to review work orders and schedules.

In addition, both districts joined a transportation consortium this year that includes all districts in Yavapai County. The consortium will help all districts save on parts and supplies for their fleets.

The actual sharing of administrative services took a step forward during the meeting when both C-OC and MUHS boards approved hiring Pam Fenstamaker to serve as Special Education Director for both districts.

Foist talked about the selection process for the shared director. "The process was like any other interview process," he said. "The process went very well."

He explained that currently, without a shared special education director, both districts have a book and "we're all on different pages." He said Fenstamaker can put everyone on the same page.

"She brings to the table a vast knowledge in special education," said U'Ren.

David Snyder, director of business services for C-OC, said the district's attorney is working on an intergovernmental agreement for the shared director, and that will be ready in the next few weeks.

"That IGA will have Pam working for one of the districts," U'Ren explained. The other district will then be involved through the IGA in funding the director's position.

Foist and U'Ren updated the boards on the progress of the Warner Group Shared Services Feasibility Study. Foist pointed out that Clarkdale-Jerome School District has been added to the study.

"It's an inclusive process," Foist said. "The superintendents are no longer involved."

U'Ren said it will be an independent study. She explained that the study is based on H.B. 2075 that requires all County School Superintendents in Arizona to conduct such a study. The primary objective is find new ways for districts to save money and increase efficiency.

"U'Ren explained that the study will look at shared central office functions through three tiers. The first tier is service and programs, which includes facilities maintenance and building and grounds; transportation; special education; food services; and business.

The second tier is shared or consolidated services, with one of two options. Option one is continuing to operate as separate school districts and governing boards with a shared central office. Option two is continuing to operate as separate school districts and governing boards with the same superintendent for both (or three) districts.

Tier three would involve unification or consolidation into one unified school district.

The Warner Group Study report is expected to be done in November. U'Ren said there is a lot of data to collect. The November timeframe would allow new board members who might be elected in the November general election to be involved.

C-OC board president Randy Garrison asked if it has to take until November. He said it was his understanding that the process would move more quickly than that.

"They are currently collecting data," Foist said. He pointed out that the process includes a lot of human resource material to look at. "This is the first one (study) being done in Arizona."

Other board members from both districts voiced the same concern about the timeframe. U'Ren and Foist both said they will put those concerns before Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter to see if any change is possible.

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