Sat, July 20

Editorial: Carter’s office should shy away from Verde Valley offers of help on school district consolidation

Memo to Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools Tim Carter: Just say, “No thank you.”

With this week’s filing of petitions calling for an election on the consolidation of the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts, the pendulum has swung from the local arena to the domain of Yavapai County.

That places a big responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Carter and his staff. They will be responsible for compiling and analyzing information about the impacts of consolidation and presenting it to voters prior to the November election.

There is no doubt that a lot of folks from the Verde Valley will line up with offers to help Mr. Carter and his staff in that endeavor. Our best advice is to simply say “No thank you.”

Granted, there is no shortage of official and quasi-official reports and alleged statements of fact concerning this proposed marriage of Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek. Mingus came up with its own report as part of the community advisory committee that spent months advocating for and against consolidation. Ditto for Cottonwood-Oak Creek. Guess what? Neither side would agree with the findings presented by the opposing side. In the end, the committee failed in its mission to find neutral ground and consensus on fact vs. opinion.

There are also volumes of research from Andy Groseta’s Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools that point to significant cost savings by merging the two school districts into one.

There is a common theme to all these various studies. Those clearly opposed to consolidation have studies showing there is little to no financial gain to be had by merging the two districts. Those in favor of consolidation point to administrative redundancies and duplicate transportation and school lunch programs and say there is ample money to be saved through consolidation.

What’s missing in all these debates is the logic of former Mingus Union School Board Member Robb Williams who said, “The subject of unification best benefits the community in its curriculum alignment, rather than in regards of the burden of expense. The most significant disadvantage to having multiple districts is in our challenge to achieve educational alignment from K-12. There will always be a challenge to coordinating and aligning K-12 goals and processes between districts. As a credit to each school’s administrative efforts, there is always advancement in educational alignment, but it will always be a significant challenge under individual districts. Ultimately, unification of districts would benefit the community in our achieving the best education per student K-12.”

What Mr. Carter and his staff need to remember when considering offers to help from folks in the Verde Valley is that the offer is coming from someone who has a dog in the fight.

Likewise, if Mr. Carter has employees in his office who are residents of the Verde Valley, they should not participate in the data collection and analysis that is part of the county school superintendent’s responsibility to educate local voters on the issue of school district consolidation.

It’s sad to have to say this, but when it comes to school district consolidation, Mr. Carter should be wary of any offers of help from folks in the Verde Valley, including his own employees.

What school district consolidation needs is a fresh set of eyes and an objective analysis of the data. It needs to be studied and analyzed by people who do not have an interest in the outcome.

Finding such people in the Verde Valley would be a challenge.

Not that they won’t be lining up with offers to help and to share information, though.

Please, Mr. Carter, tell those people, “No thank you.”