Editorial: Camp Verde schools need Dr. Goodwin

School board must stop trend of administrative musical chairs

If indeed we are seeing the end of the Dr. Dennis Goodwin era in the Camp Verde Unified School District, it’s a good bet that one day there will be people who regret things did not work out.

Goodwin has informed the Camp Verde School Board that he will fulfill his current contract, which ends June 30, and is not interested in a contract renewal with the district.

Goodwin had tried for months to find a receptive audience on the school board to a new renegotiated contract and that concept failed to take root.

So, short of anything less than a new contract offer that ups the ante on his current salary-and-benefits package, Goodwin will take his administrative skillset to another school district this summer.

And so will continue the trend we’ve seen in Camp Verde dating back to the retirement of former CVUSD chief Phillip England in 1999. England enjoyed a long tenure with the district. He was well respected throughout the educational community in the Verde Valley and Northern Arizona.

But since he left, there has been a succession of school superintendents in Camp Verde – 8 in 17 years to be exact – who never really succeeded in establishing roots in the community, or building the kind of organization that lends itself to succession training. When that happens, schools often lack having personnel with deep historical and institutional knowledge of district operations.

In Camp Verde’s case, this trend has not been so much a case of bad hiring decisions as it has been school board dysfunction. There have been blurry lines between the responsibilities and duties of board members and those of administration. It’s not healthy and the blame lies at the feet of the school board.

Fortunately, there are good models in the Verde Valley should the Camp Verde School Board choose to reverse this trend of administrative musical chairs. The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, City of Cottonwood and Town of Clarkdale all have solid records of administrative stability through the years. All have organizations where growth and future leadership is developed from within. The Town of Camp Verde, under Manager Russ Martin’s fine leadership, is also developing into that kind of organization.

As for Goodwin, his likely departure from Camp Verde is not unexpected. Goodwin was a change-agent from Day 1. He was a trouble-shooter who rooted out less-desirable programs and personnel from the district and replaced them.

Remember, it was Goodwin who first raised the alarm bells on program deficiencies with the Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education. Subsequent audits of the district’s financial practices proved Goodwin right. And, just this past week, Yavapai-Apache National Chair Jane Russell-Winiecki said Goodwin has been instrumental in providing the Nation with the strongest Johnson-O’Malley program the National has ever had, with 100-percent graduation rates, which is a first for the Nation.

In many ways, Goodwin shares many similarities with former Mingus Union Superintendent Tim Foist, just as Mingus shares with Camp Verde the trend of churning through administrative leadership; MUHS has had 12 superintendents (interims included) in the 24 years since longtime Superintendent Ron Barber retired.

Like Goodwin, Foist was an aggressive change agent. Like Goodwin, he had a sometimes bullish demeanor in the way he took care of business. Like Goodwin, it was not uncommon for him to rub people the wrong way.

The interesting thing though was that within six months of Foist leaving MUHS, a lot of people in town were saying, “You know, that guy did a lot of good. He took care of things that should have been dealt with years ago.”

Foist does indeed look a lot better in the rear-view mirror than he ever did while he was here.

If the Camp Verde School Board is smart, the community won’t have to one day say those words about Dennis Goodwin.

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