Editorial: Marriage of consolidation also a date in divorce court

Divorce is an endeavor that is ripe with conflict.

Division of assets is always a big source of contention when people are getting a divorce. When children are involved, there are custody disputes. There are financial hassles, child support, spousal maintenance and the list can go on and on. Even after a marriage is dissolved, it can take years for the dust to settle and feelings of normalcy to return.

But you get through it. Life goes on.

We learned this past week that the Verde Valley could experience similar acrimony should voters in the Upper Verde elect to consolidate the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts into one unified district.

It came from an unsuspecting corner: the Verde Valley’s joint technical education district most commonly known as VACTE. The Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education was approved by voters some 20 years ago as a marriage of the Sedona-Red Rock, Camp Verde Unified, Mingus Union, Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Clarkdale-Jerome school districts. It is an education animal that for the most part flies under the radar of public awareness.

VACTE’s posture was elevated last week when Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter spoke to its elected board. In a nutshell, Carter explained that a successful consolidation vote to form a marriage between Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek would also result in a divorce for VACTE.

The Valley Academy would lose an important partner, a key component in the collection of parts that make up its whole. By the time Carter finished his presentation to the VACTE board, there were far more questions than answers about how the organization would move forward.

Very similar to the thoughts and doubts one has when going through a real divorce.

VACTE is only one part of the divorce that will occur should consolidation become reality. Still to come is the shopping list of “what ifs” from the Clarkdale-Jerome School District. Like VACTE, Clarkdale-Jerome is married, in a way, to Mingus. Clarkdale-Jerome’s district boundaries are included within the boundaries of the Mingus district. That results in two layers of primary and secondary property taxation for the maintenance and operation of two schools, but it also allows Clarkdale-Jerome to send its high school students to Mingus without paying tuition. How all that would shake out in a divorce is a big question mark for Clarkdale-Jerome property owners.

In the dissolution of a marriage, you don’t get a true picture of the impacts until you fully navigate the waters of divorce. Most folks find a way to get through it. Time does heal most wounds.

That’s likely going to be the case for VACTE and Clarkdale-Jerome should Mingus become divorced from them because of consolidation. Like people in real-life divorce drama, they will survive. They will find a way to move on. They will bounce back.

The bigger question with consolidation, should it occur, will be how the marriage will work out between Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus. Should this marriage occur, divorce is an unlikely option. They’re going to have to find a way to make it work.

Like a real marriage, there will be a period of adjustment. It likely will be difficult, but it’s not as if it is something that has never been done before. There are hundreds of unified school districts in Arizona, and among them are districts that were consolidated to become a unified district and have never looked back.

At this stage though, make no mistake about it, this betrothal is a shotgun wedding. Mingus is the reluctant groom to Cottonwood-Oak Creek’s bride.

It’s you, the voters, who are holding the gun.