Fri, Oct. 18

Cottonwood-Oak Creek should proceed with caution on consolidation talks with Mingus Union

Perhaps as early as this week, the members of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board will be asked to play nice with Mingus Union over development of a “reasoned, purposeful plan” for a merger of the two school districts.

Before agreeing to such a plan, Cottonwood-Oak Creek board members need to question just how level the playing field is between the two districts as it applies to consolidation.

Right now, Cottonwood-Oak Creek – and Clarkdale-Jerome for that matter – are the odd men out in the legal wrangling over the exact future rules of consolidation.

The lawsuit settlement that successfully nixed the previously scheduled November consolidation election is largely being debated behind closed doors between attorneys for the Mingus Union district, the pro-consolidation Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools and Yavapai County Presiding Superior Court Judge David Mackey.

While those settlement talks most definitely will impact Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Clarkdale-Jerome if consolidation is ever on the table again, those two districts don’t have a say in the matter.

The fairness of that is questionable. So, too, though, would be allowing the districts to have a say in the settlement negotiations when they were not parties to the original lawsuit.

It’s a classic Catch 22.

The caution light for Cottonwood-Oak Creek in considering this supposed olive branch being offered by Mingus is remembering the old saying that “information is power.”

Mingus is one of the players involved in the legal debate over the future rules for how the consolidation game will be played. Cottonwood-Oak Creek is not. Mingus obviously holds the upper hand when it comes to information.

If ever there was a time for Cottonwood-Oak Creek to proceed with caution, this surely is it.

The wisest course of action for C-OC right now is to let the proceedings between Mingus and the Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools reach their full legal conclusion. Cottonwood-Oak Creek needs to make sure they like the rules of this game before they agree to play. C-OC needs to make sure they fully understands the rules. Before agreeing to play nice with Mingus, Cottonwood-Oak Creek needs to make sure there is a level playing field.

Even better, both sides should just agree to let the question of consolidation be decided by voters.

The voters should be the ultimate authority on this issue.

The job of school board members is to follow the directive given by voters.

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