CAMP VERDE - The question of equity of services brought some in the Verde Valley to demand separation from Yavapai College this year. Rather than push for a new college, Deb McCasland is running for a seat on the governing board of the current college, with the perceived inequity at the center of her campaign.
McCasland was director of Student Activities and held other administrative positions for 34 years at Yavapai College. But she says she will not be a rubber stamp for the administration.
"There are legitimate educational needs in the Verde Valley that are going unfunded or eliminated," she says.
She is challenging long-time board member Herald Harrington, who lives in the Verde Valley - Cornville, to be precise - and owns a business in Clarkdale, designing and manufacturing factory automation equipment.
Harrington says there is only one college district, and they are working hard to meet the needs of all given the budget constraints.
"By Arizona State Law there is only one Community College District allowed per county," he says. "Yavapai College is a county wide Community College District that covers 8,128 square miles, larger than the states of Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Massachusetts."
A recent public survey, while overall positive, did bring up issues in some areas, and "we are working to address these concerns at the Governing Board level."
McCasland is a graduate of Yavapai College, and has a master's degree in community college education.
"I know how to read the budgets, look between the lines and ask questions," she says. "I have observed college funds being spent on non-academic areas." She points to seven new tennis courts when there is no tennis team and the construction of the new Performing Arts Center while staff was cut.
Harrington, who served in the U.S. Air Force at Luke Air Force Base before moving to the Verde Valley 30 years ago, has two associate degrees, a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in business. All of his children have attended Yavapai College.
"Due to prudent financial planning we have not deferred maintenance on the precious educational assets the citizens of Yavapai County have provided," he says. "Indeed we have been able to almost completely rejuvenate our campus in the Verde Valley and have invested heavily in online educational offerings for our citizens."
In the next term, he would like to see the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs grow, along with opportunities afforded by enology and viticulture programs." Now that we have resolved the property issues with our Sedona Center we will be able to expand our offerings in Sedona," he says.
McCasland wants to keep an eye on expenditures "to ensure equity across the county."
In a year that has been divisive for Yavapai College and its constituents, the District 2 seat on the governing board is up for grabs. There is serious contention for it.
Incumbent Herald Herrington, of Cornville, has been on the board for 15 years and currently serves as its official spokesman. Challenging him is retired former YC staff member Deborah McCasland, of Prescott. District 2 is comprised of the lower Verde Valley down to the eastern section of the quad-city area of Prescott.
Both offered insights into their perspectives on the college and its obligation to residents.
Please tell us about your background:
Harrington: I come from a Missouri family farm background. I have been a small business owner in Clarkdale for the past 20 years. I have volunteered my time to serve on the Yavapai College Board for the past 15 years. I am a very strong believer in the Community College System and the opportunities it offers for working class folks like me.
McCasland: I have been involved with YCC for over 44 years as a student, graduate, staff member, administrator, fundraiser, alumnus and now retiree. I interacted with every YCC President. I have a Masters Degree in Community College Education and know the important role community colleges perform in our students' education.
What is Yavapai Community College's greatest asset and why?
McCasland: The greatest asset of Yavapai Community College is the quality of education and outstanding faculty. YCC has dedicated faculty and a variety of services to help students learn progress and achieve their educational dreams.
Harrington: In my opinion the two greatest assets of Yavapai College are: The citizens of Yavapai County that have always strongly supported the educational mission of Yavapai College; and the Administrative Staff and Faculty of the College. We have the best team in the business.
What is the greatest challenge facing Yavapai College today?
Harrington: A few years ago the State of Arizona transferred the cost of the Community College System to county property taxpayers. Since that time the budget has been a large challenge for all community colleges in Arizona. We took the actions necessary to balance the budget while maintaining the quality of our educational offerings.
McCasland: Meeting the needs of our taxpayers and students across Yavapai County. The year 2000 bond was passed to provide services across the county. Now, the 10-year Master Plan will close educational centers, move programs to one location, diminish existing programs and spend more of our tax dollars.
Do you believe the current budget equally serves all college districts - why or why not?
McCasland: No, I believe that the outlying parts of our County are not being equally served. Services that existed before in the Verde Valley and other outlying areas are being cut or diminished. Monies should be spent to improve educational value and access across Yavapai County, not just the Prescott area.
Harrington: We recently completed a countywide survey that is giving us very good information on the needs and concerns of the citizens of the county. In general [they] believe the College is doing a good job educating our students. We did receive input about some areas that we can improve.
What is your four-year vision for Yavapai College?
Harrington: The College will continue to build on our cost effective educational opportunities to the citizens of Yavapai County. While we continue to meet the demand for online classes we will still be the "local Community College." We have the right team to offer education services by being innovative, effective, and responsive.
McCasland: Equity in expenditures and access to quality education across Yavapai County for all students at a reasonable cost. A revitalized Verde Valley campus offering a full range of college courses so students can live at home, work and find their pathway to success. Re-established educational programs in outlying areas.