Editorial: Consolidation question might best move forward as citizen initiative

The Upper Verde Valley’s history on consolidation/unification of its school districts has been divisive at best and confrontational at its worst.

Disagreement has prevailed.

That’s why our hat is off to those who stepped up to serve on the task force that will advise the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school boards whether this issue – once again – should be pushed through to the voters.

The biggest job for this task force is ferreting out fact from opinion. There also needs to be clear focus on the motivation of those who strongly oppose this proposed merger and to remember the wise words of former interim Mingus Superintendent Jack Keegan when he said, “This is when the adults get very nervous about who will be left sitting in their chair.”

Already, one can sense the friction that exists in this debate over unity vs. protection of the status quo. There is conflict over the financial benefits of the proposed merger as previously presented by the pro-consolidation forces led by former MUHS board member Andy Groseta. If indeed those numbers are suspect, it bears emphasis that they were provided by the member school districts, and are consistent with the financial information Mingus and C-OC report to the Arizona Department of Education.

What also needs to be honestly assessed through the process is if this endeavor – despite all good intentions – is an exercise in futility in that one of the two districts simply will not step up to the plate and ask the voters to decide the issue.

If that becomes evident, the ball should bounce into the hands of the community and move forward in the form of a citizen initiative. It’s an easier, and perhaps preferable, task to simply have the two school boards push the issue through to the ballot. Given our history on consolidation, though, that might be easier said than done. If that is the case, it is best this issue move forward as a citizen initiative.

Or, simply, once again, die on the vine.

Historically speaking, this current process is just another ride on the Upper Verde consolidation/unification roller coaster.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is for certain. We can look forward to one heck of a ride.

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