Mon, Feb. 24

School District Consolidation: You decide which side carries the most clout

At first glance, this shapes up as a pretty fair fight.

On one side, you have 23 people who have stuck their necks out to say they believe the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts should be consolidated into a single K-12 unified sustem.

Firmly entrenched on the other side of this line in the sand are 23 people who support the status quo; that Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek should remain as separate school districts.

Evenly divided. Equal sides. It comes accross as a debate over which community sentiment is split right down the middle.

That’s the surface message you get from the draft information pamphlet on consolidation prepared by the staff of the Yavapai County School Superintendent’s Office. That this information pamphlet would have equal sides represented in the pro and con statements on consolidation does not really come as a surprise.

While you have to credit County School Superintendent Tim Carter with carrying out this task with utmost professionalism, you also have to remember that Mr. Carter is an elected official – a politician. That means he is extremely sensitive to any claims of bias or favoritism to either side in the consolidation debate. This is, after all, the most politically charged education issue to blaze its way through the Upper Verde Valley in many years. He wants to make sure his legacy on consolidation is one of professionalism and fairness.

No doubt, he has succeeded at that.

But one thing Mr. Carter has no control over in this presentation of pro and con consolidation statements is the collective impact, or weight, of each of the two sides’ arguments.

That’s a matter of individual interpretation and personal opinion.

That being said, consider this:

On the pro side of the consolidation arguments in Mr. Carter’s draft information pamphlet are statements from seven former Mingus Union School Board members, three of whom also served at one time as president of the MUHS board.

In addition, there are pro-consolidation arguments from six current or former Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board members, four of whom served as president of the board.

There is also a pro-consolidation statement from a former member of the Verde Valley Christian School Board.

Pro consolidation statements also were delivered from three former Cottonwood-Oak Creek district superintendents or principals as well as a teacher/administrator who has served in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Mingus Union and Sedona-Red Rock school districts.

It’s fair to call this group a current and former “Who’s Who of Verde Valley Educators.”

Perhaps the heaviest hitter in this group is John Tavasci, Jr. Tavasci is a former superintendent at both Clarkdale-Jerome and Cottonwood-Oak Creek as well as a former president of the Mingus Union School Board. His legacy of service is such that we named a school after him. His opinion on consolidation obviously carries significant weight.

Compare that to the arguments presented in opposition to school district consolidation.

Three are from current Mingus Union School Board members. Three more are from family members of current Mingus School Board members.

Eleven of the anti-consolidation statements are from current or former Mingus Union employees, and two are from family members of Mingus employees.

As for the weight these anti-consolidation statements carry, two are from a current and former Yavapai County Teacher of the Year. That’s significant.

Another anti-consolidation statement that is especially noteworthy comes from a current Mingus Union student who expresses concern about the impact consolidation would have on his vocational education interests through the Valley Academy of Career and Technical Education. His statement was concise, clear, and powerful.

The majority of the rest of the anti-consolidation statements come from Mingus employees, Mingus School Board members and their families.

You can decide for yourself which side has more clout.

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