Mingus votes NO on consolidation

Mingus Union School Board members Jim Ledbetter and Steve Gesell listen to discussions during the board’s special meeting Wednesday. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Mingus Union School Board members Jim Ledbetter and Steve Gesell listen to discussions during the board’s special meeting Wednesday. (Photo by Bill Helm)

COTTONWOOD – Wednesday, the Mingus Union board unanimously said that consolidating with Cottonwood-Oak Creek was not in the best interest of the students the district serves.

Not because they fundamentally disagree with a merger, board member Steve Gesell said. “Just not the path.”

“The potential damage that’s been clearly articulated should be cause for pause,” he said. “The data we have is far more compelling, that the cost does not match up.”

“Even if the numbers line up and there’s not an adverse dramatic outcome, what is the cost?” Gesell asked rhetorically. “And what is the reward for that cost?”

Consolidation – unification

Much of the legal talk led by the district’s attorney, Susan Segal, focused on the difference between consolidation and unification.

If any of the community’s taxpayers chose to challenge the petitions, Segal said she “believe[s] that all three districts would be brought in as interested parties.”

By three districts, Segal referred to the Clarkdale-Jerome School District, as well as Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek.

But Phil Terbell, a member of the pro-consolidation group Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools, suggested that Clarkdale-Jerome is not an interested party of sorts.

“Saying Clarkdale-Jerome could send its students elsewhere is just wrong,” Terbell said. “These students are not obligated to attend MUHS now, just as in the future, due to open enrollment.”

Though Clarkdale-Jerome students are not required to attend Mingus Union, it is the long-standing relationship with Jerome that board member Anthony Lozano referenced.

“I have a feeling that the position we put the Clarkdale-Jerome voters in has not been clarified,” Lozano said before Wednesday’s vote. “Until that happens, I cannot say I have the privilege of moving ahead with unification.”

No surprise

On a 4-to-1 vote, the Mingus Union School Board voted to take Segal’s advice to table the possibility of legal action to challenge petitions the pro-consolidation group that the committee turned in on Monday to Yavapai County Schools Superintendent Tim Carter.

But the Mingus Union School Board’s no-vote to a merger did not surprise pro-consolidation committee member Bob DeGeer, who attended Wednesday’s meeting.

“I was actually pleased that the Mingus School Board was finally able to call for a vote on consolidation,” said DeGeer. “I’ve expected a no-vote all along. And the Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools expected the same outcome, which caused the petitions and legislative action.”

The next meeting of the Mingus Union High School District Governing Board is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 14 in the school’s library. Mingus Union is located at 1801 E. Fir St. in Cottonwood. Call (928) 634-0580 for more information.

The district will post a copy of the agenda no less than 24 hours before the meeting. The agenda can be found at www.mingusunion.com/Governing_Board.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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