Commentary: Effort continues to give citizens right to vote on consolidation

The Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools -- 2018 wants to take this opportunity to thank the many citizens who live in the Mingus Union, Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Clarkdale-Jerome School Districts who have supported the recent consolidation/unification efforts here in the upper Verde Valley.

As you may know, Mingus Union High School has used taxpayer dollars to stop and sue an organized group of citizens who supported the consolidation of Mingus Union High School with the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. This effort was a total waste of taxpayer dollars that could have been more wisely spent in the classroom to educate our children at the high school.

At the hearing on August 24, 2018, Judge David Mackey requested a Settlement Agreement between both parties. The November 5, 2018 election was rescheduled to November 5, 2019. In his Final Stipulation Judgment, Judge Mackey drafted the exact language and the petition format to be used again by citizens who will be carrying petitions to put this matter back on the ballot in November 2019.

Part of the Settlement Agreement included that Mingus Union could not legally sue and litigate any future consolidation efforts initiated by citizens between Mingus Union High School and Cottonwood Oak Creek School Districts.

Our Committee, along with Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter and VACTE Super­intendent Bob Weir, will closely work with the Legislature with the 2019 session to resolve the VACTE funding issue. We will request the Arizona Legislature to assist in minimizing any consolidation costs between both districts.

We want to thank the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board for unanimously approving a resolution on November 6, 2018, to put this consolidation matter on the ballot to allow our taxpayers to vote on this on November 5, 2019.

We again are requesting that the Mingus Union High School Board follow the lead of the COCSD Board to approve a resolution in the next couple of months to allow the taxpayers a chance to vote on consolidation next fall.

If not, then the Committee is prepared to pull petitions early next year to collect signatures to get this matter back on the ballot for the November 5, 2019 election.

Many community members including parents, business owners, retirees and other people who are interested in providing the best education possible to our children know that the best means to have the most cost-effective and efficient educational system is to have one K-12 school district in Cottonwood.

'Mingus Union High School has used taxpayer dollars to stop and sue an organized group of citizens who supported the consolidation of Mingus Union High School with the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. This effort was a total waste of taxpayer dollars that could have been more wisely spent in the classroom to educate our children at the high school'

It is the norm in most other communities in Yavapai and Coconino counties. Camp Verde, Sedona, Prescott, Chino Valley, Humboldt Unified (Prescott Valley, Dewey and Humboldt), Mayer, Williams, Flagstaff and Payson all have K-12 school districts.

In the Verde Valley we have seven school districts serving a population of 65,000-70,000 people. In Tucson, they have seven school districts serving a population of 1 million people.

Our public schools are losing more and more students to local Charter and private schools.

Approximately 850 local students are presently enrolled in charter/private schools, or are being home schooled. Our public schools need to consolidate and streamline their schools to be more efficient and accountable in providing education to our students. The time is right to consolidate. More information will be forthcoming from our Committee.

We want to say thank you for your support and special thanks to those of you who helped pay for the approximately $60,000 in costs (mostly legal fees) that we as local citizens have incurred and paid for. We are firmly committed to making sure that the citizens in our communities of Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, Verde Village, Bridgeport, Cornville and Page Springs will have the right to vote on this important matter in November 2019.

Thanks again for your continued support.

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