Column: Odds & ends from Tuesday's school board elections
The mess that is Mingus Union High School certainly made school district unification a tempting prospect Tuesday, but old habits are hard to break in the Verde Valley. Once again, district unification was sent to the electoral scrap heap Tuesday. That was to be predicted. The issue has come and gone repeatedly over the past quarter-century in the Upper Verde and the results are always the same. What made it different this time around is that it was being forced-fed to us by the Arizona Legislature. To make matters worse, the ballot questions were confusingly worded, and in a manner that County School Superintendent Tim Carter warned would be a legal nightmare. If it had been approved, Carter said the marriage between Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus would have required that a new high school district be created for Clarkdale-Jerome. But despite all the projected gloom-and-doom legal entanglements of this unification proposal, the measure still received a surprising 3,000-plus votes in support. That in itself means, once again, that we have not seen the end of the school district unification issue. So long as we have three school districts, two of which that govern just one school each, people are going to ask "why." But when it comes up again, let's deal with it ourselves. Make it a local initiative measure. We obviously do not need any help from the state.
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Good for you Verde Valley. You obviously saw through the silly Survivor-styled alliance-concept candidate slates proposed for the Mingus School Board and split the TMM-ZAP tickets. Each side easily got one of their candidates elected and if the current numbers hold true, Mike Mulcaire barely squeaked past ZAP incumbent Tom Parmarter. One thing is for certain, the Mingus teachers union's grip on the high school is not nearly so firm as it once was.
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In the Cottonwood-Oak Creek District, incumbents Randall Garrison and Eric Wyles were re-elected. That is hardly surprising. They both have proven track records and last names that are part of the fabric of our community. But here is the surprise in the C-OC race: political newcomer Celeste Ziemkowski was knocking on the door all night Tuesday. In the end, she was only 1-percentage point behind these two political heavyweights in her first election ever. Keep your eye on Celeste Ziemkowski, folks, as there is obviously a leadership role in her future in the Verde Valley.
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In the Clarkdale-Jerome School District, voters there convincingly agreed to expand their school board from three to five members. We'll see how that works out. Several years ago across the Valley, the Beaver Creek School District also expanded its school board from three to five members. They've had a heck of a time since finding enough people willing to fill those jobs. Contested school board races in Beaver Creek have become a thing of the past. County School Super Tim Carter appoints more people to the Beaver Creek board than are elected by the people. As it is now in Clarkdale-Jerome, there never has been a rush of people willing to serve on the three-member board. Mr. Carter better be ready to start knocking on doors in Clarkdale and Jerome.