TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Sun, Oct. 20

VACTE, satellites make progress on IGA<br><i>With some issues resolved money split remains </I>

VNN/Philip Wright

MINGUS Union Board members and Superin-tendent Sharyl Allen confer briefly Monday morning before presenting their goals for the joint meeting of VACTE and its five satellite school districts.

The board and superintendent of the Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education met with those from its constituent districts at Mingus Union High School. All sides have been trying to reach agreement on changes in their intergovernmental agreement.

In an attempt to break a stalemate in negotiations that was beginning to look more like a standoff, VACTE and the five school districts that make it up agreed last week to meet again on Monday.

Barbara U'Ren, director of education services for Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, served as facilitator for the meeting. All districts agreed to a 90-minute limit for the meeting.

After spending a few minutes brainstorming among themselves, a spokesperson for each district gave a brief statement of the goals they hoped to achieve during the meeting.

Andy Groseta said the Mingus board understood that before negotiations broke down most of the issues in the IGA had been settled. "If that is true, we need to confirm that," he said.

Groseta suggested the settled issues be removed from the current discussion and the meeting focus on the money split. "We need resolution to that as soon as possible," he said.

Tom Moore, board member for VACTE, wanted to slow things down. "This is the beginning, not the end point," he said. "This is the beginning of talks." He wanted to take enough time to allow the board members from the districts that VACTE comprises -- Mingus Union, Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Camp Verde, Sedona and Clarkdale-Jerome -- to fully understand what the joint vo-tech district does.

The constituent districts, however, seemed more interested in learning how VACTE spends its money, and moving toward a change in the IGA's money split. Currently, VACTE keeps 40 percent of the money it receives from the state and passes on 60 percent to its satellites. The vo-tech's funding is determined by how many students are enrolled in career and technology classes in the five member districts.

Member districts sent resolutions to VACTE in late summer demanding, among other things, that their split be increased to 75-percent. VACTE resisted, and eventually forced ongoing negotiations among the superintendents to stop.

Becky O'Banion, president of the Sedona board, said they want a more open discussion. "One of our overriding issues is that we'd like business to be done in public," she said. "We'd like a dialogue on the administration costs of VACTE."

"It all comes down to the money," said Randy Garrison, Cottonwood-Oak Creek board member. "We don't see the VACTE vision. We need to know where you're planning to go."

Wendy Escoffier, Camp Verde board president, said it is the students enrolled in the member districts' vo-tech classes that generate funds for VACTE. "Clarify VACTE's goals to make them match our goals," she said.

After some discussion, four issues of previous negotiations were agreed to as being ready to go before the individual boards for approval. Items agreed to involved audits, reviews and approval of new school districts into VACTE. Supplanting, an issue that had been a point of contention, was considered by the group as settled.

Supplanting (the use of VACTE funds to pay for existing vocational and technology classes instead of new programs) has become important to all three high school districts. Without supplanting, the boards and superintendents warn that eventually some programs will have to be dropped.

When asked about VACTE's goals, Superintendent Marv Lamer said that in 2001, when the joint vo-tech district formed, the appointed board made the decision to deliver services to groups.

One group identified by Lamer was students who are served primarily through the member school districts. Another goal mentioned by Lamer was that VACTE would determine when it would serve students directly through the central campus. The final group pinpointed by VACTE for service was the business and economic development community.

Escoffier asked that Lamer explain the VACTE mission. "Did voters want money to go to students or the business community?" she asked.

Kim Randall, superintendent of Sedona-Oak Creek, said the only question on the ballot when voters approved VACTE was whether the individual school districts should be authorized to participate in a joint vo-tech district.

Sedona board member Bobbie Surber said she is concerned that VACTE states as a primary goal to serve the business community. She said VACTE better decide how to serve students.

Moore said he wanted to know where the requested change in the split originated. "I'd like the data on how you decided a 75/25 split would be an ideal situation," he said.

Ron Maughan, superintendent of Camp Verde district, said the average of all the splits in all of the career and technology districts in Arizona, other than VACTE, is 25.2 percent for the vo-tech districts' administration costs.

Moore said it would have been more appropriate for the member districts to evaluate VACTE's services before asking for a new split. "What I'm hearing," he said, "is that you don't want the services."

Randall said the first step is to identify what those services are. "It's always been referred to as a five-year plan," she said.

VACTE board member Sonny Rodriguez said he would like to know what the satellites want.

Randall said the satellites want quality programs. "At the school site, with the main focus of VACTE to be on programs for kids."

"We want maximum resources placed closest to the kids," said Sharyl Allen, Mingus superintendent.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek Superintendent Julie Larson said her district receives only $30,000 a year from VACTE. "But the programs have been wonderful," she said.

Larson said the money makes a difference for the kids in her district.

Kathleen Fleenor, superintendent of Clarkdale-Jerome School, said her school receives $5,000 per year from VACTE, but, although it isn't much money, it is essential.

Moore said he thinks the satellites are trying to do their own thing. "I feel each district is pulling away," he said.

"We aren't trying to pull away," Randall said. She said the satellites are trying to form a better partnership with VACTE.

Before adjourning, the districts' all agreed to meet again at Mingus Union Jan. 5 at 6:30 p.m. The only item on that meeting agenda will be the money split.

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