Commentary: Best outcome for local education comes by consolidation
Education belongs to an entire community and will always need continued support from local citizens and taxpayers.
We need to look ahead at the future of our public schools. Sedona Oak Creek School District has closed an entire school, district office and moved their middle schoolers to their high school. What's to say the same scenario won't happen in Cottonwood, Mingus Union, and Clarkdale Jerome School Districts?
School choice, homeschooling, and other public school alternatives might cause our local schools to continue declining enrollment. Please don't get too comfortable thinking our schools will keep students.
Real estate costs are continuing to go up, and affordable rentals are hard to come by. VRBO's and Air B and B's are becoming popular in Jerome, Clarkdale, and Cottonwood. If people can't find affordable housing, they will have to move. Take a lesson from Sedona. Housing is becoming expensive in the Verde Valley.
It was interesting that local community members approached me regarding the consolidation of Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek. Initially, I thought people were interested in my opinion because I've worked in many of our Valley's schools.
It soon became apparent that they were feeling pressured by local educators, board members, and administrators that didn't want consolidation to pass. They felt uncomfortable and intimidated that if they disagreed, there would be repercussions. A few shared that they didn't want their opinions to impact their student.
Others were business owners that felt it would be a contentious conversation if they shared why a consolidated district might be best for our community. I had someone share that they agree with the person opposing consolidation to prevent an argument. People are concerned about the closed mindset of our educational community.
Whatever happened to the round table approach? It's an academic discussion where participants agree on a particular topic to discuss and debate. Each person has "equal" rights to participate. As a community, it's vital to demonstrate mature emotional and social bits of intelligence
I would encourage all voters to do your due diligence and not vote off another person's opinion. There's a BIG difference between facts and opinions. Tim Carter, the county superintendent, stated taxes would not increase with consolidation. Please, in the Voters Informational Pamphlets, refer to pages 8-9 that taxes will decrease. He also challenged false claims about consolidation as repoted in a recent article in the Verde Independent.
A former Mingus teacher stated that they were sharing services with Cottonwood-Oak Creek. Aligning calendars, 9th grade registration, CTE Day, Adopt a School Athlete, and be a Marauder for a Day, are not shared services. They are merely positive ways to welcome new high school students and good public relations.
Shared services save the district money. Transportation, food service, health services, purchasing, finance and payroll, technology, and administration are currently paid for by each district. Sharing services would eliminate financial redundancies.
In the Verde Valley, our test scores are something we should address. When families move, they often research the school districts. They look at school performance and want to make the best choice for their student. I read the 2019 auditor's state report and realized there's room for improvement. From my research, there's a decline in test scores once students reach high school.
The graduation rate at Mingus in 2018 was 80%. In 2019 30% of their students passed their state exams in Math and 25% in English Language Arts. The student population was 1,253.
In Cottonwood-Oak Creek, 40% of their students passed their state exams in Math and 50% in English Language Arts. The student population was 1,983.
In Clarkdale Jerome, 45% of their students passed their state exams in Math and 60% in English Language Arts. The student population was 449.
Students need to be proficient in reading, writing, and mathematics to succeed once they graduate from high school. Whether they are college-bound, entering the workforce, military, or a trade, they need to be literate.
Every election is determined by the people that show up and vote. Make sure you've researched the critical issues. Please don't make assumptions on something as important as our kids. They deserve the best educational opportunities possible. I'll continue to support what I believe is best for all students. I encourage you to vote YES on consolidation.
Genna Adams, MA ED, was in education for 40 years. She spent 36 of those years in the Verde Valley schools. She's worn many hats in education and has received several awards for her service.