Tue, March 02

Commentary: Consolidation poses threat to arts curriculum

James M. Ball

James M. Ball

There are many issues with school district consolidation, but I want to speak particularly about the arts.

The visual and performing arts, specifically at Mingus Union High School, have been a cornerstone of success and expression for literally thousands of students. By any metric, the benefits of a successful arts program vastly outweigh any unnecessary attempts to cut costs.

Mingus’ art program has not only had an immensely positive impact on the students, but the Verde Valley community as well. The overwhelming support the community has given to the visual and performing arts program is amazing.

Tens of thousands of patrons have benefited by these programs in our valley and beyond.

With the threat of consolidation looming on the horizon for our school district, the arts program will inevitably be the first on the proverbial chopping block. How is this the case? In consolidation, the larger district (Cottonwood-Oak Creek) absorbs the smaller district (Mingus).

When Cottonwood-Oak Creek had budget issues, they cut the arts -- band, choir, theatre, and visual arts. These detrimental effects are still being felt today: the arts are barely present in COCSD schools, with some of these schools not having any performing arts at all.

The cost savings of a consolidation between Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus are miniscule, and the consolidation models end up costing more with salary equalization and other various costs.

In a district like Cottonwood-Oak Creek, they have proven they will make up a budget shortfall by cutting the arts.

Mingus has a thriving, award-winning visual and performing arts department. Mingus’ theatre department alone has several state awards.

I cannot get behind a school consolidation with a school district that values the performing arts so little. I urge voters to help grow our school’s art programs by supporting them emotionally and financially.

If consolidation happens, Mingus’ funds would be redistributed, and Mingus may be forced to cut and downsize several programs – including their amazing arts programs. Please join me in voting NO for consolidation.

James M. Ball is a music and theater instructor at Mingus Union High School. This commentary was delivered to The Verde Independent via his personal email account during non-school hours.

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