While both sides of the school district consolidation debate found a way to spin Friday’s ruling as a victory in their favor, the real winner in this legal duel was Presiding Yavapai County Superior Court Judge David Mackey.
Mackey stepped forward to take on a role that has been badly needed since the inception of this latest school district consolidation attempt. He is in charge of the process.
Pro-consolidation advocates and their anti-unification counterparts will carry out any future efforts toward a marriage of the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts in a manner authorized by the judge.
Judge Mackey made it abundantly clear that both sides in this debate will play by his rules.
A few key excerpts from his Aug. 24, 3:19 p.m., ruling:
• There will not be a consolidation election Nov. 6, 2018.
• The consolidation of school districts in the Verde Valley should be resolved in a fair election process.
• All of the parties involved in the school district consolidation process will “work cooperatively with the Court to draft an appropriate form of petition for consolidation. The Court will direct the Yavapai County School Superintendent to accept the form of petition agreed to by the parties.”
• Mingus Union “will not legally challenge any future consolidation effort using this petition form in any future election cycle” but Mingus still maintains the legal right to challenge the sufficiency of petition signatures.
• And, finally, Judge Mackey made it clear that he is here to stay on this one: “The Judge assigned to this case retains jurisdiction to resolve all issues regarding this settlement agreement.”
As Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter observed Saturday morning: “I think Judge Mackey was very clear in what he stated.”
All of the above is contingent upon the Mingus Union School Board voting, in an open meeting, to agree to the judge’s ruling Monday.
At which time Judge Mackey will waste no time in putting the pieces in place for another run at letting the voters decide this merger of Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek. At 4:45 p.m. Monday, he has scheduled a telephonic status conference with both legal counsels “to confirm the settlement and set further hearings regarding the form of petition.”
The November election has been canceled, but just as it has been in the Upper Verde Valley for six decades now, school district consolidation is not going away.
Fortunately, we now have a referee to control this fight.
- Dan Engler, Verde Valley Newspapers, Inc.