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Two principals not better than one, says C-OC school board
‘Different’ leadership model sought for proposed K-8 school

Cottonwood-Oak Creek Superintendent Steve King presents information connected to the district’s plan to realign three schools into K-8 schools. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Cottonwood-Oak Creek Superintendent Steve King presents information connected to the district’s plan to realign three schools into K-8 schools. (Photo by Bill Helm)

COTTONWOOD – The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District is no closer today than it was two weeks ago at deciding how it will realign three of its schools into two K-8 schools.

Feb. 6, the Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board voted to approve Steve King’s plan to convert two of its schools, Dr Daniel Bright School (a K-2 school) and Cottonwood Middle School (grades 6-8), into K-8 schools beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

According to a plan by C-OC Superintendent Steve King, CMS Principal Matt Schumacher would be principal at one of the schools, likely his current campus.

But King’s plan to have DDB Principal Nancy Erickson and CES Principal Jessica Vocca serve as co-principals at the other K-8 school was met with discussion but not much consideration by board members.

‘Different model’

In a Feb. 20 study session, the C-OC board decided that King should present a “different model” for that school’s leadership, said board president JoAnne Cook.

To clarify, board member Jason Finger said that King should consider reassigning either Vocca or Erickson.

“I think [naming co-principals is] the easy way out,” Finger said. “I’ll support whoever you choose, but not two principals on one campus.”

Finger pointed to cost savings and the delineation of leadership as reasons against a shared principalship.

“We shouldn’t ignore that,” he said.

Said C-OC board member Janice Rollins, co principals are “an inequitable thing.”

“It just sets wrong with me,” she said.

‘Best likelihood of success’

Before a 3-to-2 informal vote against co-principals at one of the new K-8 schools, Rollins said she could see experimenting with co-principals for the first year.

“At the end of one year, you make a decision,” she said. “One of them goes.”

Mary Valenzuela, who with Marcus voted to support the co-principalship, said she supported the transition plan, at least for the first year.

“It’s a lot of work,” Valenzuela said. “Discipline takes a lot of time. It’s too much for one principal.”

More than once, the discussion circled back to money. According to board member Eric Marcus, the possibility of a $6,000 savings by reassigning either Erickson or Vocca, even if redistributed, is “pennies in a teacher’s pocket.”

“It isn’t worth disrupting morale,” Marcus said. “I think we have a responsibility to ensure money is spent wisely. But the best way to spend money wisely is to ensure the best student outcome. I want to ensure we give our children the best likelihood of success.”

Show me the money

The board also discussed King’s plan to convert the campus currently known as Cottonwood Elementary School (grades 3-5) into an early childhood learning center. Board member Eric Marcus suggested that King produce a proposal that the board would need to review before approving.

But much of the Feb. 20 discussion was geared toward the lack of fiduciary data offered in King’s plan.

Though King acknowledged there would be inherent savings in consolidating three schools into two, he said that saving money was not the direction he took when producing a plan to provide family-friendly schools for the district’s students.

“It’s not about money,” king said. “It’s never been about money.”

But board member Finger said that there “should be a dollar savings.”

“And I want to put those dollars in teachers’ pockets,” Finger said. “We are looking at a better model. But we shouldn’t be ignoring [the money] part of it.”

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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