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Mon, May 20

Opinion: Gee’s firm resolve restored confidence at Mingus; school board needs to take notice

There has been a pattern of consistency that inspired confidence during Genie Gee’s run as acting superintendent at Mingus Union High School.

So, it should not come as a surprise that Gee is being perfectly consistent on the “acting” part of her run as superintendent.

Immediately when she accepted the appointment in November, Gee said her job was to “keep things going in the right direction” until the school board could find a permanent replacement.

She did just that. She did it quite well, in fact. Such was the competence with which Gee assumed the district superintendent duties at Mingus that you wish someone at the high school could convince her to continue.

It’s not to be. She is being consistent. She wants to go back to the position she has described in the past as her dream job -- to be the principal at Mingus.

The good news is we are not losing Genie Gee.

Gee assumed the duties as Mingus superintendent during a time when chaos ruled supreme at the high school. Neither the prior school board nor administration had negotiated the turbulent waters of school district consolidation very well during the prior year. That single issue seemed to cloud every decision at the high school, as if such decisions would sway the balance of public opinion on a marriage with the Cottonwood-Oak Creek District.

From the very beginning, Gee divorced herself from that nonsense. She was thoughtful, firm and decisive when the school was challenged by the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on its student identification badge policy.

She was unequivocal on her decision to eliminate the practice of having school board members use private email accounts to conduct public business.

She established common-sense policies on the manner in which school board minutes were documented and made available to the public.

First and foremost, Gee put special emphasis on transparency with the way Mingus conducted its business, something that had been sadly lacking at the high school during the previous year.

So, Ms. Gee, thank you for the fine job you have done in calming the waters at Mingus and restoring the public’s confidence in the manner the school conducts its business.

The question now is where do we go from here?

We can only wish the school board would be as firm and decisive on that issue as Gee has been in her role as acting superintendent.

School Board President Lori Drake was all over the map Monday in explaining the options available to the board. Advertise internally. Look outside the district for new leadership. Hire (once again) an interim superintendent until a permanent one can be found.

Haven’t we been down this road before? Hasn’t this approach yielded nothing but a revolving door of missed opportunities for legacy leadership at Mingus?

The community doesn’t want another “temp” at Mingus. We want someone who will make a commitment to both the district and community and put an end to the revolving door that has seen 13 superintendents come and go at the high school over the past 19 years.

As it stands now, the Mingus board has decided to take things one step at a time and advertise internally to fill the position. This would not even be necessary if Mingus would create a culture of succession training at the high school and have people immediately ready to assume new positions of leadership at the high school.

Besides, all these political machinations and “what ifs” by the school board are rather silly when the answer to the superintendent question is staring them right in the face.

Since February, Mike Westcott has been working cooperatively with Gee in the superintendent’s office in an internship capacity to fulfill the requirements for his superintendent’s certificate through Brandman University.

In April, Gee had this to say about Westcott: “Mike is a very thorough researcher, he’s deliberate in his approach, and he is a man of integrity. Mr. Westcott is already well-respected, so when you partner that with his planning and delivery, he was a natural.”

True, Westcott does not have the administrative stripes you typically see in a superintendent. He’s never even served as a school principal. But few people know Mingus as well as he does. As a student, Westcott attended and graduated from Mingus Union High School. He worked as a teacher at Mingus dating back to the 1980s, during which time has was selected as the Yavapai County Teacher of the Year. He’s served in a variety of quasi administrative roles at Mingus.

The community knows, trusts and respects Mike Westcott.

The answer to the superintendent question at Mingus is staring school board members right in the face.

They should take a page from Gee’s playbook on leadership and be as firm and decisive as she has been as superintendent.

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