Sat, April 04

Unification: Clarkdale-Jerome likely out
Decision should be final after Tuesday’s meeting

When the question of consolidating school districts in the Upper Verde Valley is put to voters, it probably won't include voters in the Clarkdale-Jerome School District.

Rita Leyva, the Yavapai County representative on the School District Redistricting Commission, has recommended that the vote of unification be put to residents in the Mingus Union High School and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts, excluding Clarkdale-Jerome from the ballot.

The commission originally recommended asking voters to approve consolidation among all three districts. But in February, the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Governing Board received a copy of a letter that Leyva sent to the chair of the commission.

"I have made up my mind that the Commission's unification proposal for the districts in the northeast corner of our county should not include Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School District," Leyva's letter stated.

During a meeting of that commission earlier this week, Leyva once again made that recommendation. Her reasoning is that voters in the Clarkdale-Jerome District will vote down any unification effort. If that happens, even if voters in C-OC and Mingus Union districts voted for unification, the ballot question would fail. Another vote would be held for C-OC and Mingus districts.

Leyva told The Verde Independent Thursday that she did make the same request. She said the commission is changing the maps it uses for consolidation proposals.

Leyva said she is confident that during next week's commission meeting, Clarkdale-Jerome will be removed from the consolidation proposal.

Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter said that the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Clarkdale could override the vote if Clarkdale-Jerome residents did approve consolidation.

Carter said the commission should have obtained the Nation's approval before starting the process. He said his opinion is that under the Voting Rights Act, the Nation would have the final say in any decision that affects the district's boundaries. If the Nation feels that consolidation would affect the Nation's voting rights, it would become a Voting Rights Act issue, Carter said.

He said that the Redistricting Commission, led by Marty Schultz, didn't include the Nation at any point. "They ignored them," Carter said.

"I think the commission just turned their back on it," Carter said.

He said state statutes already allow for districts to make whatever decisions they want regarding consolidation or even splitting into smaller districts.

He said he believes such issues should be left up to local control.

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