Red Rock audience gives wish list to college

The planned attendance of 130 fell short at the Sedona Town Hall meeting of the Yavapai campus on Wednesday, as seen five minutes before the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee presentation. (VVN/Tom Tracey)

The planned attendance of 130 fell short at the Sedona Town Hall meeting of the Yavapai campus on Wednesday, as seen five minutes before the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee presentation. (VVN/Tom Tracey)

SEDONA - Although seating was anticipated for 130 people at the Oct. 21 Sedona Hall Town meeting, actual attendance was closer to 65, with nearly half of those being either college staff, committee members, government officials or members of the media.

The meeting was hosted by the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee (VVBAC) to obtain citizen feedback on how to best utilize the campus. That information in turn would be part of their recommendations reported to the Yavapai College District Governing Board (DGB).

Thirty-three members of the public spoke, mostly in favor of returning the film school to Sedona, as well as initiating a culinary program to support local tourism and continuing adult education.

Of the 33 who spoke, 25 were current or former educators and 5 were in the restaurant industry, leaving 3 to represent other careers.

On the other hand, absent were the 18-to-35-year-old demographic, as well as those seeking college courses in other disciplines such as business, engineering, science and technology.

Among the many attendees speaking for a return of the film school was Jeremy Hawkes, former instructor for the Sedona-based film school until it closed in 2014 and later re-opened at the Verde Valley campus.

"We established so much success. Now all that is left is the Sedona Film Festival," said Hawkes.

Among the five attendees advocating for a culinary program at the Sedona Campus was Kevin Maguire, Director of Food and Beverage at the Enchantment Resort.

"We can't fill the positions we have. We've had 40 openings since May," said Maguire.

Still a sore point with some is the funding ratio of Prescott-area campuses versus the Verde Valley locations.

Education advocate Ruth Wicks stated she would "like to consider forming our own tax district for post-secondary education here in the Verde Valley."

Some speakers stated that film and culinary offerings -- while not available in Sedona -- are currently provided at the Verde Valley campus in Clarkdale.

Film and Media Arts Director for Yavapai College Helen Stephenson stated "quality film-making can be created anywhere" and that "new distribution channels such as YouTube" were both competing with brick-and-mortar film schools.

Also speaking about existing programs at Yavapai College was Paula Woolsey, CSW, wine educator at the Southwest Wine Center in Clarkdale.

"We already have culinary going-on. It's in the Verde Valley campus," said Woolsey of the viticulture and enology program.

According to some speakers, what remains to be solved is how to retain qualified culinary students in a town where the cost of living is prohibitive to entry-level workers.

The meeting ended with VVBAC chair Paul Chevalier shaking hands with Dr. Clint Ewell, Yavapai College's vice president for finance and administrative services, referring to themselves as partners going forward.

COTTONWOOD - The Cottonwood City Council heard a report on the return and effectiveness of Yavapai College in the Verde Valley.

Dean James Perey presented a current college status on behalf of the College President Penny Wills, who could not attend. That was followed by a presentation by the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee of its 16 recommendations. Perey said the college has double the national average of continuing education students. The average completion time for a two-year degree at the community college is six years, which he adds is typical.

In terms of the Verde Campus, the college is looking at tightening schedules, so that, for example, a student takes one class but doesn't have to wait three hours for his next class to begin. At the same time, there is work to reduce the number of classes in a single discipline, in which the instruction times overlap making it difficult to schedule compatible classes.

The College has already begun to bring social and culture programs, presented in the Prescott auditorium, to the Clarkdale campus.

Randy Garrison of Cottonwood, Paul Chevalier of Sedona and Bill Regner of Clarkdale divided responsibilities in presenting the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee's 16 recommendations.

Those recommendations lead with: "Allocate far greater percentage of financial resources generated by the Verde Valley in the Verde Valley." The common figure is that only 87 percent of revenue remains here.

By comparison, the $104 million 10-year plan, includes only 3.5 percent for the Verde development.

Other recommendations call for a CTE facility in the Verde comparable to what is offered in Prescott, provide for improved distant learning by increasing bandwidth as well as better recruitment among secondary school students.

The VVBAC also call for a focus on Verde affordable student housing. Perey says there are 91 students in the viticulture and enology program, but little affordable housing for those who are from out of county.

Perey said that the listening session in Sedona Wednesday will be repeated in the Upper Verde Valley in November.

-- JON HUTCHINSON, Staff Reporter

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