Forum looks to strengthen Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade education in the Verde Valley
VERDE VALLEY – More than 100 of the Verde Valley’s education-minded individuals have been invited to gather Friday and Saturday at Beaver Creek School in Rimrock for the annual Verde Valley Forum.
With one thing on their collective minds – Strengthening Pre-K through 12 Education in the Verde Valley Region – folks in attendance will consider the current state of the area’s pre-K through grade 12 education; strengthening those outcomes; increasing stakeholder interest, engagement and collaborative relationships; and improving the amount and methods of funding.
The key to strengthening pre-K through grade 12 education outcomes in the Verde Valley could be found in collaborations, said Steve King, superintendent at Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District and president of the Verde Valley Forum for Public Affairs.
“No longer can we afford, financially or ethically, to reside in our own silos,” King said. “Breaking down these barriers is our challenge.”
Given the “political realities involved with the present level of state school funding,” Dick Dahl, past-president of the Verde Valley Forum for Public Affairs said he doesn’t have “much hope for improvement until we can successfully address the disappointing level of voter apathy and the corresponding low level of voter turnout here in our region and in the state as a whole.”
Echoing the VVFPA’s current president, Dahl also said that the Verde Valley needs a “vastly improved level of collaborative support for our schools from their constituent stakeholders.
By stakeholders, Dahl meant “local government agencies, non-profit entities, the business community, the tourism industry, the arts community and our growing retirement sector.”
The Forum begins Friday with a few getting-to-know-you activities, such as a 4 p.m. tour of Historic Stone School on the Beaver Creek School campus; a school cafeteria dinner at 5:30 p.m. and kickoff by Dr. Lattie Coor, President Emeritus of Arizona State University and Chairman and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona; and at 7:30 p.m., stargazing and night sky observations.
Saturday is geared toward a different kind of fun – finding ways to strengthen Pre-K through 12 Education in the Verde Valley Region.
The day begins at 7 a.m. with a continental breakfast and panel discussion with several of the Verde Valley’s educational leaders.
According to one of those leaders, the community has struggled to recruit and retain quality educators.
“To remain competitive we must continue to see funding increases to support salary increases. We must attract and retain the best teachers that we can find,” said Danny Brown, superintendent at Clarkdale-Jerome School District.
“As districts, we need to collectively advocate and promote the Verde Valley as a place for folks to come, raise a family and settle.”
One way to both advocate and promote, Brown said, is making universal pre-school available for all students.
“Research supports early-childhood learning and future student success in school,” Brown said. “This would be a funding issue that we would need support at the legislative level.”
Easier said than done, as most educators would agree the State of Arizona has not put its money in the same place as its collective mouths.
So how do schools get the support they need? According to Dave Lykins, superintendent of the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District, vote for “new legislators who support and understand the necessity of a strong educational model, and how that is directly tied to a strong economics and a well trained work force.”
The agenda for the 2017 Verde Valley Forum can be found online at VVForum.org. For more information, call Steve King at 928-634-2288.
Last year’s Forum focused on the role of post-secondary education in the future of the Verde Valley region and defined initiatives designed to improve the opportunities for post-high school and training.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42