Photo by Kelcie Grega.
COTTONWOOD – About half of the Advisory Committee for Consolidation say that things are going nowhere.
For the others, meetings are helping uncover vital information for the public to eventually decide whether Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts should merge into one.
Tuesday, each of the consolidation committee’s board members shared whether they felt the meetings were meeting their objective.
Mingus Union teacher and consolidation committee member Stephen Renard said that the committee has made “some progress, but [we] still need more information.”
“The fact that we still have questions means we aren’t done,” Renard said.
Questions and answers
For committee member JoAnne Cook, it’s not so much about the questions as it is about the interpretation of the answers.
“Although the members have the best intentions, it has been difficult to come to an agreement on what, if anything can be considered a fact,” said Cook, who also serves as president of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board. “This is largely due to the fact that there are two points of view to most topics, and challenging to find apples-to-apples comparisons. There are two sides to each topic of consideration.”
Regardless of agree-disagree, committee member Anita Glazar said she wants “to stick with the committee to see whether a consolidation would work.
“We keep saying we haven’t come to any conclusions,” said Glazar, who also serves as president of the Mingus Union school board. “I think the committee has been a good thing, even though it’s been a bit contentious at times. That’s part of the debate. That’s healthy. We all want the best schools in the Verde Valley.”
One area of discussion, Classroom Site Funds, did reach consensus, Cook said.
Mingus Union High School District receives 301 funds “at a heavier weight (1.268) than the C-OC elementary district (1.158),” Cook pointed out.
The committee also recognized that Clarkdale Jerome School District receives a higher weight (1.2965) due to being a “small school,” Cook said.
The board asked Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union business managers to study classified salaries. To Glazar, the earnings of the districts’ classified personnel is “as important” as its certified staff – teachers.
“If you have to have an equalization, you have to be able to find a way to pay everybody the same,” Glazar said.
According to Cook, Mingus Union’s Lynn Leonard and Cottonwood-Oak Creek’s David Snyder were charged with identifying “discrepancies within the classified staffing salaries of each district.”
Snyder and Leonard will present their findings at the committee’s April 3 meeting.
The committee also agreed that curriculum alignment “needs much improvement for the academic success of our community’s children,” Cook said.
Committee members discussed how “this has been promised for years and years without success,” she also said.
According to Mingus Union Superintendent Penny Hargrove, one of the challenges of aligning curriculum is that they are constantly in flux.
“Every time we think we have a curriculum down, the state changes it,” Hargrove said.
Next step …
Finger said Wednesday he believes that taking the matter to public petition is the “next logical step.”
“At this point, the committee is no closer to Mingus making a decision,” Finger said. “The committee has been fruitful and that we’ve dug into issues and we’ve been able to establish a pro and a con on these issues, but only if the public can vote on it.”
Finger also said that it’s the public who “dictates” the end result – whether or not the districts should consolidate and unify.
“Whether they approve this, I don’t know,” Finger said. “But they have the right to speak on this.”
Next time …
The next meeting of the Advisory Committee for Consolidation is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 at the Cottonwood Public Safety Building multi-purpose rooms A & B, located at 199 S. 6th St.
This meeting is open to the public.
Within 24 hours of the meeting, the agenda will be available at the Mingus Union website, https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=1000989.
-- Kelcie Grega contributed to this story