Mon, Feb. 24

Editorial: Dominoes seem to be quickly falling for V’ACTE school district

You hate to see it just when the Valley Academy of Career and Technical Education has a new superintendent and governing board members that engender trust, but you can’t help but think the dominoes are starting to fall in this organization.

The latest hint that this might be the case came with the Mingus Union district filing claim this past week that V’ACTE short-changed the high school to the tune of nearly $400,000 over the past four years in contractual revenue sharing.

V’ACTE, of course, disputes the claim. Further, the tech-ed district poses a very fair question in asking if this has been going on for four years, why is Mingus just now making a fuss about it. Where was the due diligence when the alleged problem first surfaced?

The answer very well could be in V’ACTE’s most current internal audit, the draft results of which were made public just a week earlier. The audit paints a very dreary picture of V’ACTE’s past fiscal practices, and one local education money cruncher describes it as one of the “worst I have ever seen.” That likely was the stimulus for Mingus to decide to take a closer look at its fiscal relationship with the tech-ed district. Now that the cat is out of the bag on Mingus’ beef with V’ACTE, you can bet that the Camp Verde and Sedona-Red Rock districts are giving their V’ACTE revenue sharing close scrutiny.

Of course, this all follows some rather well-documented history that raised suspicions about V’ACTE fiscal policies almost from the inception of the taxpayer-supported tech-ed program.

As far back as December 2005, superintendents and school board members from its affiliate districts claimed V’ACTE’s budget for administration was extravagant and an insult to the taxpayers who authorized formation of the district.

In 2007, former V’ACTE Board Member Kerrie Bluff described the V’ACTE administrative travel budget as “pretty cushy.” She chastised her V’ACTE board colleagues for not questioning line items within the administration’s budget.

Jumping ahead to April 2016, Camp Verde District Superintendent Dennis Goodwin said, “If V’ACTE does not begin to provide better support for our district, we will begin to evaluate asking the voters of our district to allow [Camp Verde Unified School District] to change our JTED from V’ACTE to Mountain Institute JTED.”

Finally, when former V’ACTE superintendent Lois Lamer abruptly resigned last year, minutes and other public records previously posted on the district web site suddenly disappeared and the board president at the time was tight-lipped as to why.

All of which is more than enough reason for V’ACTE’s affiliate districts, not to mention the public, to be suspicious of the district’s business practices.

The good news is that we do today have good people at the helm of the V’ACTE ship. Superintendent Bob Weir and Board President Frank Vander Horst are solid and reputable leaders.

One of their biggest challenges in going forward with V’ACTE, though, will be in trying to keep from tripping over all those falling dominoes.

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