School District Unification -- Groseta: Merger talks driven from ‘bottom up’

Cottonwood resident Andy Groseta talks to the Mingus Union High School District’s governing board about his desire to see consolidation/unification of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Mingus Union and Clarkdale-Jerome school districts. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Cottonwood resident Andy Groseta talks to the Mingus Union High School District’s governing board about his desire to see consolidation/unification of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Mingus Union and Clarkdale-Jerome school districts. (Photo by Bill Helm)

COTTONWOOD – Close to a dozen backers of efforts to consolidate or to unify three Verde Valley school districts lent support to Andy Groseta as the former school board president spoke Tuesday to Mingus Union High School District’s governing board.

Groseta, onetime president of the MUHSD board, said that what makes this recent attempt to merge the Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Mingus Union and Clarkdale-Jerome school districts is that it’s driven from the “bottom up.”

“This is a grass roots effort to improve education for our students,” Groseta told the Mingus board. “An effort from the bottom up, it’s community driven.”

Reasons that Groseta stated to the board as benefits of merging the districts include the savings on administrative fees, improving student achievement, curriculum alignment, consistent management and the alignment of early releases, including teacher in-service education and other activities.

“If you operated under one system, it’s a heck of a lot easier to make that happen,” Groseta told the board. “Why we have separate district, I don’t know. We can save dollars, allocate dollars to improve test scores. We can spend those monies in the classroom where they’re meant to be spent.”

Though Groseta also told the board that the area’s school districts “are doing a good job,” there’s also “room for improvement.”

From the board

Not in person at Tuesday’s meeting, board member Jim Ledbetter participated via telephone. Saying that he wanted “the best for our school,” Ledbetter said he didn’t “share [Groseta’s] haste, but I do agree with the overall concepts.”

It would take a public vote to consolidate, unify, merge districts, Mingus Union board member Robb Williams told the board that if it decides consolidation “is the right thing, then it is the right thing even if there are challenges.”

“It’s driven by what’s best for the kids,” Williams said. “The continuity, K-12, makes sense.”

Not necessarily for or against the consolidation, unification or merging of districts, board president Anita Glazar said she is “keeping an open mind.”

Citing a “big push by the State of Arizona for unification” earlier this decade, Glazar asked Groseta to provide additional information for a possible work session in early April.

“Then we can see if we want to move forward, work as group,” Glazar said. “I don’t know if times have changed, but I’m willing to listen.”

From Cottonwood-Oak Creek

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District board members JoAnne Cook, Mary Valenzuela and board president Jason Finger attended Tuesday’s Mingus Union school board meeting. Finger, who has said he is in support of a district merger, was directed by the board to explore with COCSD administration to “explore unification/consolidation.”

“I let [Glazar] know that it was my hope that if her board was in favor of exploring the issue, that they contact COCSD about setting up a joint study session for further discussion,” Finger said. “My hope is that MUHSD [would] be in favor of having discussions on unification/consolidation so that misconceptions can be put to rest, and facts brought to light in order to more clearly see if this is indeed the best educational model for the students and community that we serve.”

Two sides to every story

Though Cottonwood resident Jonathan Jauregui can “understand the benefits of unification,” he told the board in the public forum portion of the meeting that he’s “not totally convinced that unification is the proper step.”

“A lot has been talked about money,” said Jauregui, who ran last year for a seat on the Mingus Union school board. “They made a presentation on saving administrative costs. But you need people to oversee. That support team would add up. You can’t just say ‘my business manager will do the whole thing.’ They’ll need assistants to back up each other. Why it keeps on coming up, I’m not 100-percent sure. ”

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