What they’re saying about possible consolidation of Mingus Union, Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts

Jason Finger, consolidation committee member and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board member: “This presentation certainly has not altered my opinion that this is a positive thing for our students and community. I have said from the start that even if this does not save a dollar, it is still a worthwhile cause, as I believe it will improve student outcomes through improved curriculum alignment, policies, programs, and accountability.” VVN/Bill Helm

Jason Finger, consolidation committee member and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board member: “This presentation certainly has not altered my opinion that this is a positive thing for our students and community. I have said from the start that even if this does not save a dollar, it is still a worthwhile cause, as I believe it will improve student outcomes through improved curriculum alignment, policies, programs, and accountability.” VVN/Bill Helm

COTTONWOOD – Whether for or against the consolidation and unification of the Mingus Union and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts, a common sentiment is that the business managers at both Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union “did a great job” in researching, then presenting their findings on the structure of a unified district.

In a joint presentation Tuesday to the Advisory Committee for Consolidation, Mingus Union Business Manager Lynn Leonard and David Snyder, director of business services for the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District estimated that consolidating and unifying the two school districts could cost more than the possible savings affiliated with the elimination of jobs – oftentimes referred to as redundancies.

Jason Finger, a member of both the Advisory Committee for Consolidation and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board, said he was “very pleased with the work that the business directors put in to prepare the proposed unified district organizational structure and associated costs.”

According to Jim Ledbetter Mingus Union Business Manager Lynn Leonard and David Snyder, director of business services for the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District gave “very important – vital – information.”

“It was refreshing to receive additional expertise as to what unification would actually do, in practice, to the schools,” said Jim Ledbetter, committee member and Mingus Union school board member. “The Business Managers have also done well in pointing out that there are more questions for which answers are needed.”

Lori Drake, Mingus Union board member

Lynn Leonard and David Snyder “did a great job putting everything together. Even at a deficit to begin with, there are still many costs that were unavailable within the report.

“My opinion of consolidation/unification is for district savings, although that does not seem to be the case in this situation. The funding our schools receive is the most important factor in providing an education to our students.

“It is not the money that is important; it is what it provides that is.”

Jason Finger, consolidation committee member and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board member

“This presentation certainly has not altered my opinion that this is a positive thing for our students and community. I have said from the start that even if this does not save a dollar, it is still a worthwhile cause, as I believe it will improve student outcomes through improved curriculum alignment, policies, programs, and accountability.”

Oouida Dorr, design, photography and financial literacy teacher at Mingus Union High School

“The combined business managers’ report should have been enough to put the question of consolidation of these two districts to bed. Why decrease student services, lose money (actually spend additional money), raise taxes and divide a community if it does not show an increase of anything?

“Other than the continual need to find truth through clean data and constantly improve our performance for students, why do we continue this?

“I still deeply believe it is our responsibility as educators to educate the community on any issue that will have this deep and lasting of an impact. Each of these meetings renders more and more information that points to not consolidating these two districts.”

Andy Groseta, pro-consolidation group leader and former Mingus Union school board member

“After much research, we still stand behind our analysis resulting in over $1 million in cost savings that could be re-allocated back into the classroom. 

“Also, Jack Keegan, former interim Mingus Superintendent has also estimated the total administrative and plant operations savings of a consolidated district to be from $1 million on the low end to $1,386,000 on the high end.”

Deana DeWitt, consolidation committee member

“I am very happy with the foundation of data that Ms. Leonard and Mr. Snyder have provided. It gives something tangible for the advisory team – and community at large – to analyze and discuss. Instead of continuing to argue nebulous what-ifs, the model presented gives something more concrete to debate. It is a great start. There is much more data to collect.

“At this point, my position on consolidation has not changed. My position is still that a unified K-12 system best supports students, but I would only advocate for consolidation of COCSD and MUHSD if I am convinced that doing so would not weaken the systems already in place. 

“While my priority for consolidation is not to ensure financial savings – I’m most concerned with providing the best opportunities for students – I do feel strongly that our recommendation to consolidate must be fiscally responsible. At this point, I have not reached that level of confidence.  I look forward to more research and discussion.”

Jim Ledbetter, Mingus Union school board member and consolidation committee member

“We have learned that the savings from a reduction in administrative employees is outweighed by reductions in funding.  There would be no additional classroom dollars. 

“There would be no monies to equalize salaries, but, by choosing to exclude the Clarkdale/Jerome District, there would be a claim against the hard assets of a unified district. The financial outlook for a unified district is dismal.  

“A unified district will ultimately lead to an increased tax burden to be borne by the property owners in the smaller, unified district.

“So, the decision, as to whether to unify, must be about something other than money.”  

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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