Mon, Feb. 17

Editorial: Local school boards wasted no time in quickly shutting window of opportunity on school district merger

Andy Groseta made a very good point when he resurrected the decades-old issue of unifying the Upper Verde Valley’s three school districts into one.

When he first broached the subject, Groseta emphasized that the Upper Verde had a unique window of opportunity to make unification happen. All three school districts were in the process of hiring new superintendents, which has always been one of the major stumbling blocks in advancing the cause of unification.

In fact, if you remember back just a few years ago when Mingus hired Paul Tighe to serve as its superintendent, Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek were talking up the shared services concept. When he accepted the job, Dr. Tighe told The Verde Independent he understood such talks were taking place. In the event the opportunity arose for the two districts to share superintendent services, he said was certainly up to the task and in fact it would still represent a smaller workload than he was used to in his previous position.

One cannot help but ask now if the Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board members were just giving lip service to the shared services concept, and that it could serve as a bridge to unification or consolidation of the districts.

Certainly, this time around they made sure they closed the “window of opportunity” referenced by Mr. Groseta as quickly as they possibly could. As of this week, Clarkdale-Jerome announced the hiring of a new superintendent, quickly on the heels of similar decisions by the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus districts.

All of a sudden, we once again have that obstacle of three superintendents in the path of a single unified district. That does not make it a lost cause, but it sure does not help matters.

It is also interesting to note that this newest dalliance with consolidation/unification has been led by several former local school board members and at least one former administrator. Interesting how their passion for consolidation/unification is so much stronger once they’ve divorced their political ties than when they were truly in a position to make it happen.

More than likely, we’ve lost out on this current “window of opportunity” to merge our three school districts into one.

The Upper Verde will continue to be served by three separate taxpayer-supported school districts, two of which govern one school each.

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