Commentary: Now is golden opportunity to consolidate three school districts in Upper Verde Valley

Andy Groseta

Andy Groseta

Many times in the past several years there has been considerable discussion and efforts made by School Board members, business leaders, parents and faculty members to consolidate and/or merge both of the local elementary school districts (Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Clarkdale-Jerome) into the Mingus Union High School District.

This issue always seemed to get very emotional and developed into “turf wars” between school districts.

MUHS teachers who have customarily had a higher salary and benefits, said that if consolidation were to occur their salaries would be frozen, and that the salaries and benefits of both elementary school districts would increase, resulting in no advantage for MUHS to consolidate with both of the elementary school districts.

On the other hand, the elementary school districts said that they would lose their autonomy and would not be fairly represented both in governence and administration.

So every time this issue was brought up, it got “torpedoed” by faculty members and administration in those respective districts.

As a former Board Member of Mingus Union High School, along with other Board Members and other community leaders that thought by consolidating all three schools districts, we could streamline many operating procedures, such as “have the same school calendar,” and align the curriculum of all three schools.

Consolidating the administrative teams, would result in only having one Superintendent and not three separate ones. The consolidated district could have one human resource director; one business manager, one transportation department, one curriculum director, etc. ... instead of having three of each as we do today.

By consolidation, school insurance, classroom supplies (computers, books, pencils, paper), fuel, tires for school buses and other school vehicles could be purchased in bulk volume resulting in huge discounts and savings to the school district and ultimately the tax payers.

Now is the perfect time to revisit this issue, because all three school districts are in the process of hiring three new superintendents. Both Clarkdale-Jerome (Kathleen Fleenor) and Mingus Union (Eric Harmon) have interim superintendents.

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek Superintendent (Barbara Uren) is retiring at the end of this school year. In the past, none of the superintendents supported consolidation, because two of the three or all three would have been replaced. It is human nature that no one wants to lose their job. But now, no one will.

Opponents of consolidation say that by consolidating all three school districts will not save any money. That is not true. Those of us in the private sector consolidate our operations to reduce direct and indirect costs all of the time. We do that to be more cost effective to remain in business.

This idea is nothing new. All of our neighboring cities and towns here in north central Arizona are K-12 districts. They include Camp Verde Unified School District, Sedona Red Rock Unified School District, Flagstaff Unified School District, Williams Unified School District, Payson Unified School District, Bradshaw Mountain Unified School District, Prescott Unified School District, Mayer Unified School District, Chino Valley Unified School District and the list goes on and on.

We are the exception to the norm. I challenge the School Board members, community leaders to now step up to address this issue, to see if they can make it happen. I suggest that the Boards of Education of each of these three (3) districts appoint a task force consisting of a Board Member, Administrative or Faculty Member, a parent, and a business person from each representative district to do their due diligence and make a recommendation to each of the Boards. The County School Superintendent could be used as a resource to facilitate the process.

Now is the time, before all three districts hire three new superintendents, when we could only hire one new superintendent to administer schools in all three districts.

Timing is everything and let’s not let this golden opportunity go by us again! The status quo in operating three separate districts is not in the best interests of the students, families of those students and the communities that they serve.

Let’s consolidate and save taxpayer’s money to provide better educational opportunities to our students.

Andy Groseta is a former President of the Mingus Union High School Board of Education.

Comments

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JackandBarbara 1 year, 7 months ago

My wife, Barbara, and I moved to Clarkdale almost 10 years ago. We are both retired with a combined total of 40 years in education. Our experience is based on the Corvallis (Oregon) School District model which includes two high schools; one alternative high school; two middle schools; one charter school; and eight elementary schools. All of these schools have ONE school calendar and ONE superintendent. That has been a successful working model for decades. Upon our move to the Verde Valley we were shocked to discover that there are three small, separate taxing school districts. This concept is not only unfair to all taxpayers it is highly inefficient. Andy, we strongly support your stance on this issue and encourage other community members; educators; business people; and all tax payers to join us in recognizing the long over- due efficiency and effectiveness of having ONE unified school district. Based on our extensive experience in education we feel it behooves all to work in concert with one another rather than in isolation.

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centurion75 1 year, 7 months ago

The startup costs for consolidation are estimated to be a few hundred thousand, so any savings you could realize would be years down the road. Here is the real question: Why are teachers of MUHSD are paid significantly more when state share per student funding is the same? It’s because MUHSD runs a very tight, efficient ship. It has found innumerable ways to stretch dollars and its percentage of budget devoted to the classroom is among the highest in the state. I also need to mention that the teachers of MUHSD receive 100 percent of the prop 301 funds that were intended for them. So I have to ask: Would all teachers of a proposed district receive 100 percent of their 301 money? Would the teachers of MUHSD stick around for another 10 years of frozen salaries? With thousands of teacher fleeing the state already, I’m not so sure.

Been There, Done That

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Robmanda1 1 year, 7 months ago

Mr. Groseta, Kudos to you for referencing teachers as "faculty". However, I am curious about your statement regarding faculty and administration torpedoing the consolidation effort. It seemed to me it was the school board members that failed to make this a reality, not faculty and administration. Please provide details to support your claim. I have to agree that consolidation is a good idea for the schools of the upper verde valley. As it stands now, is it appropriate that a teacher at school A who coaches as school B must use personal time if they leave early for coaching responsibilities? Is it appropriate that a student enrolled at school C not be allowed to participate in athletics offered at school B? Seems like students are loosing out on opportunities. As far as prop 301 funds for teachers go, Mingus's plan is a jewel after which other districts should model. If consolidation occurs, this should be the standard. From citing range law as a justification for actions concerning neighbors' dogs, to grazing national forest land, to claiming ecological benefits of the Cottonwood ditch network, I disagree with you Mr. Groseta, however for consolidation, I have to agree.

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