Editorial: Consolidation politics at play in Cottonwood-Oak Creek campus realignment

A consolidated Upper Verde Valley school district is still much more talk than action.

But one of the spin-off benefits of the year-long consolidation talks is an enhanced emphasis on streamlining administration costs and converting those dollars into higher teacher pay or other direct classroom benefits.

Consolidation advocate Andy Groseta has consistently pushed that agenda with the proposed consolidation of Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek into a single school district. The cost savings achieved through a merger of the two districts, Groseta advocates, could be rolled over to directly benefit classroom instruction.

This same philosophy is currently at work in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District with the plan to revamp five school campuses with varying demographics into four consistent kindergarten through eighth-grade campuses.

Already, the C-OC School Board has approved Superintendent Steve King’s campus realignment plan.

Now, we’re at that stage in the process where the waters have quickly turned rocky.

King had hoped to move forward with the campus realignment plan with minimal impact on personnel, even to the point of having one of the schools employ two principals.

That did not fly with the school board, and neither did King’s secondary plan for a principal-assistant principal model.

Not only is there friction between administration and the school board over staffing levels for the district campus realignment, but the board itself is not in perfect unison on this issue. King’s two proposals presented at last week’s meeting were rejected by a 3-2 vote of the board.

Trouble in paradise?

That’s hardly the case. This is actually more like a perfect storm of differing philosophies coming into play to create improved public policy.

And don’t think for a second that the politics of consolidation are not playing heavily into how these personnel issues ultimately will be decided. The majority voting bloc of the C-OC board views a reduction from five school campuses to four as an opportunity to cut personnel costs and re-channel those dollars into improved teacher salaries and other direct classroom benefits. They are no doubt stealing a page from the Andy Groseta playbook on the benefits of consolidation.

All of which provides a snapshot of what school district consolidation can mean for the Upper Verde. As Cottonwood-Oak Creek goes through its own mini-version of consolidation by streamlining five campuses into four, we’re seeing a concerted effort by the majority votes on the school board to make this happen in a manner that provides taxpayers, teachers and students with the most bang for the buck.

Should that prove successful, it could be an important model and lesson learned for what consolidation could mean for the entire Upper Verde school system.

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