Waiting Game: Mingus, Cottonwood-Oak Creek sitting tight to hear results of Warner Study

Jim Ledbetter: “We need to be able to move quickly.”

Jim Ledbetter: “We need to be able to move quickly.”

COTTONWOOD - The Mingus Union High School Governing Board decided Tuesday night to wait until after the results of the Carolyn Warner Group Study before making a decision about how to proceed with replacing Superintendent Tim Foist, who retires at the end of this school year.

The MUHS board and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Governing Board both have scheduled a joint meeting to hear the Warner Study report on Nov. 15.

The Warner Study was designed to take a look at the feasibility of sharing human resources between the two districts. That study is paid for by the Yavapai County School Superintendent's Office.

The study is based on criteria from House Bill 2075, which requires all county superintendents in Arizona to conduct such a study. The primary objective is to find new ways for districts to save money and increase efficiency.

The Nov. 15 joint meeting to hear the study results has been set for months.

But in recent weeks, it looked as though the Mingus School Board might move on with hiring Foist's replacement without waiting for the results of the study.

Last week Mingus Board President Jim Ledbetter spoke with the Verde Independent about the process to replace Foist. Ledbetter has spent considerable time researching the question of both districts sharing a superintendent. He said last week that the board must consider what the shared administrative structure would look like, and whether there would be a real savings.

Ledbetter said it looked like Mingus sharing a superintendent would cost more money than it would to continue with a part-time superintendent, such as Foist is currently. He said one significant hurdle would be finding a superintendent who would be qualified and willing to answer to two different school boards.

During Tuesday night's meeting, before the board went into executive session to discuss the superintendent matter, Ledbetter explained that he would inform the board in the executive session of conversations he has recently had with Cottonwood-Oak Creek Board President Randall Garrison. He also said he would cover the same information in open session after the executive session.

Board member John Tavasci Jr., whose term will be up at the end of 2012, refused to go into the executive session because he said discussing what a COCSD board member wants to say to Mingus board members is not a legal reason for an executive session.

Both Tavasci and board member Mike Mulcaire voted no on the motion to go into executive session. The motion still passed 3-to-2. But neither Tavasci nor Mulcaire went into the session.

When the board came back into open session, Ledbetter instructed the administration's executive assistant to contact Garrison to set up a joint board meeting to discuss a joint superintendent.

He also asked for a future agenda item to discuss having MUHS run the Mountain View Preparatory I.B. School in the COCSD district for the school's high school years.

Ledbetter asked Kirk Waddle, business director, to look at information about what a joint superintendent's contract package would look like.

At that time, Tavasci made a motion to table all talk about shared services until after the Warner Study is presented to both districts. He also suggested that no joint meeting would be held between the boards until after they had all received the results of the Warner Study.

"We need to be able to move quickly," Ledbetter said. "I'd personally like (Waddle) to have that data for us."

He said the boards would likely be looking at Thanksgiving week for a joint meeting following the results of the Warner Study.

Tavasci's motion was approved unanimously for no shared services discussions before the Nov. 15 meeting. But Tavasci said it would be OK to look into what Mingus' needs might be.

Ledbetter then made a motion for a joint meeting after the Nov. 15 meeting for the Warner Study results.

Ledbetter's motion also was passed unanimously.

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