COTTONWOOD – A draft report that discredits school district consolidation proponent Andy Groseta and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board has prompted two members of the consolidation study committee to resign.
Consolidation summary needs to ‘focus on the hard data
COTTONWOOD – The Advisory Committee for Consolidation may not be finished with its business, but discussions at Wednesday’s Mingus Union School Board meeting left people wondering whether the committee had met its objective to separate fact from conjecture.
Since November, a committee of community members, as well as representatives from both Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts, has solicited data to help their respective school boards decide whether they would support a consolidation of the two school districts.
Discussing the draft of a statement Mingus Union board members plan to submit to the entirety of the consolidation committee, Steve Gesell said the “findings feel very much like an editorial.”
The document Gesell referred to was a 12-page working conclusion of the consolidation committee meetings.
The document has not officially been presented to the consolidation committee, MUHSD board members said Wednesday.
“I’m OK if you call this a report of the Mingus members,” Board Member Jim Ledbetter said Wednesday.
Consolidation committee member Michael Westcott told the Mingus board Wednesday that he would recommend they “focus on the hard data and not anything that’s opinion-based.”
The document summary of findings states that “the facts and data that have been researched and presented to the consolidation advisory committee do not support the Groseta report and the COCSD governing board’s assertion that consolidation would lead to savings.”
The next scheduled meeting of the Advisory Committee for Consolidation is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 1 at the Cottonwood Public Safety Building multi-purpose rooms A & B, located at 199 S. 6th St.
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The report, which was delivered by Mingus officials to Arizona State Sen. Sylvia Allen last week, does not represent the work of the consolidation study committee, said Chairman Dan Mabery.
“To be clear: the full consolidation committee did not authorize this report, did not authorize it to be delivered to Senator Allen and it does not represent the final work of the consolidation committee,” Mabery said.
Anita Glazar, president of the Mingus Union School Board and a member of the consolidation committee, said the report was given to Sen. Allen only as a matter of fair play. Sen Allen has introduced a “striker bill” to change certain portions of state law that address school district consolidation.
“Seems like my draft report needs some clarification,” Glazar said in an email to The Verde Independent. “Two of us from the Consolidation Committee went to speak to Senator Allen at the Arizona Capitol just as Andy Groseta and Phil Terbell, and others, have done. We had not been aware that Andy and his group were attempting to get legislation through.
“When we reviewed Mr. Groseta and his representatives on the video of his presentation in front of the legislative committee, we learned he was representing information that had been refuted, in my opinion, in our advisory work.
“I prepared a draft document of information that I gathered from committee meetings. It is my opinion this information is accurate but remains in draft form (as stated under summary). I was clear with Senator Allen that this was a draft and was expressing my opinion as well as three other committee members.”
Glazar said the report, is “not a document that has been endorsed by the Mingus Board. Our board at its last meeting chose not to form any conclusions until the committee resolves.”
She said the report was given to the state senator to counteract “the significant disruption Mr. Groseta and others caused by what they have represented to Ms. Allen. Certainly, I confirmed with Sylvia Allen that she had no opposing position information from the committee nor the two districts’ joint business managers’ detailed report. I also supplied this information and expressed my opinions as well.”
Shortly after that report was given to Sen. Allen, and news of it filtered back to the Verde Valley, Consolidation Advisory Committee members Sonny Zale and Phil Terbell resigned, said Mabery.
“I have both resignations and am very understanding of their positions,” said Mabery. “The report presented to Sen. Allen apparently was portrayed as a report from the Consolidation Committee. As I have stated, it was not. Obviously, I am disappointed that they resigned but also disappointed that the report created by the MUHS committee members was not clear that it was not generated from the committee. I still plan to put positions of both sides of this argument to the public in the best way that I know how. Hopefully, we will have enough committee members to represent both sides. The voters should understand these positions.”
In his resignation letter, Zale said, “When I saw the report, I went from surprised to furious. I, as well as the rest of the committee, have spent months looking for answers to the consolidation question. We then find that two or three members bypassed the committee and created their own report on our behalf and submitted it to Senator Allen.”
Zale characterized the action by Mingus officials as being “morally and ethically wrong” and “full of one-sided opinion and misinformation.”
Terbell, a former member of the Mingus School Board, expressed similar sentiments in his resignation letter to Mabery. “Evidently some on this committee believe a conclusion has been reached, as they delivered a report of the Advisory Committee conclusions to members of AZ State Legislature at the State Capitol, in Phoenix, last Tuesday.”
He added, “I continue to encourage MUHS to pass a resolution, allowing the voters that have supported their bond issues, their overrides, and generally supported the school the right to express their opinion of this school consolidation issue, at the general election.”
The Mingus report, which Glazar emphasized is a draft, states, “The facts and data that have been researched and presented to the Consolidation Advisory Committee do not support the Groseta report and the COCSD Governing Board’s assertion that consolidation would lead to savings.”
The report attacked the committee work of Cottonwood-Oak Creek Board Members JoAnne Cook and Jason Finger. “Their disregard for the committee, the advisory process, and the need for diligence was cause for concern … What followed has been a campaign of misrepresentation, denial of factual data, backroom maneuvering, and disregard for the students, teachers and programs of Mingus Union High School.
“The relationship with the Groseta-led group and the COCSD Governing Board removes any reasonable claim of impartiality from the effort to consolidation.”
Cottonwood-Oak Creek Board President JoAnne Cook said the MUHS report delivered to Sen. Allen was not authorized by the Consolidation Advisory Committee. She said the report is not accurate and does not represent the final conclusions of the committee.
“We were not tasked to come to a conclusion of information that would be presented to legislatures at the Capitol. This presentation and document completely undermined the efforts of the Committee,” said Cook.
“This is a prime example of why the consolidation/unification matter should be taken to our local residents for their vote. I have complete faith that our community can make a sound decision that will guide us on what, they believe, to be the best education model for our community.”
Added Finger: “This report presents only one side of the discussion topics to date, which have been disputed and debated as has been previously reported. In large part, I do not concur with the findings in this skewed report, and note several inaccuracies within it, including a partial quote attributed to me … In no way does this represent the final work of the consolidation committee. It is a rather shameful attempt to pass off as such, but in reality presents only one side of the issue.”
Advisory committee member Deana DeWitt said of the Mingus report: “I can say that the report seems to present a slanted perspective of the data. The committee has received information and analyses from other sources that have been left out of this report; I would not consider it a comprehensive representation of the depth of the committee’s work.”
Committee member Micah Swenson said the Mingus report should only be viewed as a draft document. “I want to believe this is just a draft from a portion of the committee and I hope people will see it as that. That is how I view this document.
“There is a lack of professionalism in this document that I cannot attach my name to as it reads from a singular perspective that I know a number of committee members disagree with. Regardless of where I stand on consolidation, I know it doesn’t properly or accurately represent all of our committee.”