Two studies commissioned on schools' shared services
Second report still pending
COTTONWOOD - Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter's office agreed early in 2012 to pay for two separate studies to look into possible ways to save money for local school districts through cost sharing.
The first study was conducted by Arcadis, and the primary focus of that study was to determine the current facilities maintenance costs, staffing levels and performance of school districts throughout the Verde Valley.
On May 9, Richard Carr, senior program manager for Arcadis, presented the study's findings to a joint meeting of Verde Valley school officials at the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Office.
Carr said that throughout the six districts studied, "Each district is getting what is paid for or better in most cases."
He said the majority of staff is satisfied. Carr explained that the satisfaction is for the cleanliness of buildings and grounds, buildings being maintained comparable to other schools, and willingness to recommend their facilities maintenance staff as a competitive provider.
He talked about the budget constraints faced by all of the districts.
"Getting more money is not an option," Carr said.
But in lieu of more money, Carr said there are steps districts can take to lower or hold steady with facilities management costs.
"Expand current shared services or equipment," Carr said. "Is there a way to share staff or increase staff?"
Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union High School districts were already on that question. In fact, during the first week of April a story in the Verde Independent reported, "Both Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts had approved the Warner Group feasibility study earlier this year."
That decision was made during the first joint meeting between the two districts to discuss cost-sharing strategies, including possibly sharing a superintendent and other administrative positions.
The study to be paid for by Carter's office and conducted by the Carolyn Warner Group was to be based on criteria from House Bill 2075, to determine data that would indicate areas where greater efficiencies could be gained through shared services.
H.B. 2075 did not pass. But the districts were only talking about shared services instead of unification or consolidation, so interest in the Warner study was high.
This newspaper reported more than once that the Warner study would look at three tiers of possible cost sharing among districts. Those include instruction and support staff; district office management, including payroll, technology and grant writing; and shared administration.
An agreement between Corporate Education Consulting, Inc. -- referred to in joint board meetings and individual board meetings of the school districts involved as the Carolyn Warner Group - was signed by Carter's office and C//ECI. The study was to run from June 1 through Nov. 30 at a cost of $18,000.
Tim Carter told the Verde Independent Monday that no payments have been made to date.
That original contract was signed by Carter on Nov. 19 and by David Bolger, president of C//ECI on Aug. 13.
Amendment A to the contract extends the term of the agreement to Dec. 31. The amendment was signed by Carter Nov. 19 and by Bolger Nov. 8.
So far, no report on the Warner study has been presented to the districts. A joint meeting had been scheduled for Nov. 15 at Yavapai College for a group presentation of the preliminary results. That report was not given during that joint meeting. Instead, another joint meeting was set for Dec. 17.
Following the joint meeting the MUHS School Board held a quick meeting. The board decided to move forward with replacing its Superintendent Tim Foist who retires at the end of the school year.
Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts have been involved in discussions for most of the year regarding the possibility of sharing a superintendent.
MUHS Board President Jim Ledbetter told the Verde Independent that, "We will be hiring a superintendent of some sort that ideally might be shared."
He said he had sent a communication to COCSD Board President Randall Garrison asking if the COCSD board would meet in a joint session with the MUHS board Dec. 17 following the final report from the Warner Group.
MUHS board member John Tavasci Jr. said that Mingus Union's back is against the wall on hiring a superintendent. He said the Mingus board wants to find a superintendent with K-12 experience.
"We're going to sit down with C-OC school district," Tavasci said. "We want to address that at a joint board meeting."
Ledbetter said the board had authorized him to begin putting together a superintendent search committee.
The reason given by C//ECI for the delay is that Proposition 204, which would have created a permanent 1-cent sales tax to be used, in part, to fund education, was defeated during the Nov. 6 election.
During the joint meetings between the districts during the spring and summer, the administrators and board members clearly expected the results of the Warner Study long before the election. When they heard that the study result would be delayed until after the election, both districts asked if the results could be reported sooner. That request was denied.
The reason given at that time was that each district likely would have new board members after the election and they should be included in the decision process.