Editorial: Mingus needs to end revolving door of administrative leadership

There was a local singer-songwriter a few years ago whose lyrical license saw him poke a little fun at the Mingus Union High School superintendent’s office.

He sang about applying for a job as the next Mingus school superintendent.

And when he got the job, you could read about it in the Verde Independent.

His humor was never once lost on his audience.

That was because then, as is the case now, Mingus seems to churn through school superintendents at the rate of about one every two years. Currently, Mingus is on its 13th superintendent in the past 25 years.

Long gone are the days when Ron Barber was known to all as the main man at MUHS, and a respected leader throughout the entire Verde Valley.

There is a movement currently afoot to change Mingus’ well-earned reputation as a revolving door of administrative leadership. The MUHS School Board and its new superintendent are in negotiations to provide the school with some short-term administrative stability in the form of a three-year contract for Dr. Penny Hargrove.

Granted, three years isn’t much when compared to the kind of administrative stability and succession leadership seen in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek District, or the City of Cottonwood. But it would have to seem like a lifetime when compared to the past 20 months, when the high school has had four different superintendents.

The same problem exists on the other end of the Verde Valley at Camp Verde High School. Dr. Dennis Goodwin is on his way out and his successor will be the school’s 9th superintendent in the 18 years since the highly respected Phil England retired.

For both communities, there is a strong need for leadership that provides deep historical and institutional knowledge of district operations and the community. We need to have confidence in these leaders, and that’s hard to develop when the expectation is that they will be gone in two years.

For Mingus, school district consolidation is the elephant in the room with the proposed three-year contract for Dr. Hargrove. Should this pact be finalized, critics will contend the Mingus School Board is protecting its staff and creating a blockade to consolidation. One way around that is to create a clause in the contract that clearly states if consolidation takes place, the Mingus Union District no longer will exist and all its current contracts will become null and void.

Mingus should not be held hostage by the prospect of school district consolidation as it applies to this proposed contract for Dr. Hargrove. There is no guarantee it will happen. Consolidation, in one form or another, has been an issue in the Upper Verde Valley for nearly 70 years, and we hardly have a successful track record of pulling it off.

As for Dr. Hargrove, the Mingus School Board has had plenty of time to assess her administrative acumen. If she is deserving of contract renewal, make it for three years. It’s time the school board shows some commitment to ending the revolving door at Mingus.

If they cannot make that commitment, let’s hope local voters find someone who will in the November 2018 election.


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