Commentary: Okay-12 college districts construct relationships that final lifetime | The Verde Unbiased
I have worked in public education for the past 40 years. My background is diverse and includes teaching all grades, kindergarten through twelfth. I’ve worn a lot of hats, done a lot of jobs, and seen education from many perspectives.
I have worked in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, Mingus Union High School, Sedona-Oak Creek, the Grand Canyon, and Morgan Hill Unified in San Jose, California. My top priority and focus has always been to deliver the BEST results to all students.
Until the 1980s, Arizona had performing schools and counties paid average salaries for teachers. Now Arizona ranks last in terms of teacher retention, teacher salaries, and funding per student. The lack of investment in Arizona public schools has persisted for decades.
In 1991, Arizona ranked 24th in teacher salaries. Then Governor Fife founded Symington charter schools with the goal of public schools feeling the pressure and needing to improve. Arizona has some of the loosest charter laws, and charter schools have operated without transparency and accountability. Public schools have to play by different rules. Charters have worked for profit and our public schools are failing.
I pay 74% of my property taxes to Sedona, Cottonwood, Mingus, and charter schools. The taxpayers do their part. In 2019, more than $ 200 million went from public to private schools. Inadequate financial and financial troubles go well beyond the consolidation of Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union.
There are six public school districts in the Verde Valley: Mingus Union, Beaver Creek, Camp Verde, Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Clarkdale-Jerome, and Sedona Oak Creek. All of these schools are within 30 miles of each other.
These districts must provide their health care, business, transportation, food, technology support, building maintenance, special education, curriculum coordinators, ELL programs, Title One, professional development and administration.
Imagine if these five districts had banded together and discovered that a lot of money could be saved and put into classrooms and teachers’ salaries by serving together. Shared services are inexpensive because they centralize office operations and eliminate redundancies.
Every successful company knows how to implement management with a central team. Each district could have remained independent with the benefit of shared services. Aligning calendars is not a sharing of services.
To the best of my knowledge, our valley schools have not implemented any joint services. Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus tried this model by sharing a special education leader and combining transportation and catering services. It doesn’t currently exist, so I’m assuming the partnership didn’t work out. Now community taxpayers are questioning the amount of money being spent on layoffs. Can you blame them
Since shared services have not been successful, school consolidation has both curriculum and financial benefits. It enables schools to share facilities and lowers capital upgrade spending by eliminating the need to upgrade or maintain duplicate facilities.
I understand why small schools are essential in rural communities, but not when there are no dollars pouring into classrooms and teachers are severely underpaid. Yes! Teachers are worth more. Cottonwood Oak-Creek loses teachers to Mingus and Clarkdale due to salaries. I was part of the Mingus faculty and witnessed the teachers’ association’s struggle for wages and benefits. I was part of Cottonwood-Oak Creek when teachers voted against a raise to keep administrators and support staff.
Could Consolidating the Cottonwood Oak-Creek School District and Mingus Union High School be the first step in the Verde Valley unification? Mingus teachers and Clarkdale Jerome teachers are the highest paid in the region and also underpaid.
Ask a teacher about their health insurance. Since I’ve been working in Arizona my lower coverage costs have increased. It’s paying more for less model. I am currently paying $ 1,690 a month for my husband and me. Although I was fully involved in the Arizona State Retirement System and worked in our local school districts, I don’t have any medical benefits unless I pay for them.
Do you know how many teachers cannot retire before age 65 because of medical expenses and insurance coverage? I started teaching when I was 22 and should have worked for 43 years before I was eligible for Medicare. Do other government services, including police and fire services, health services, and more, get medical benefits until they turn 65?
These are approximate student numbers in the following districts:
• Cottonwood-Oak-Creek, 1900.
• Camp Verde, 1,500.
• Mingus, 1,100
• Sedona, 995
• Beaver Creek, 300 students enrolled.
That’s a total of 5,795 students.
All of these districts compete with each other for students. There are counties that send buses to neighboring parishes to keep their enrollment going. Students bring dollars to schools; 5,795 students in one valley are by no means too many.
How many bosses does a system need? Communities should try to get the best results from their education funds. Local taxpayers are doing their part, but the state and federal government need to recognize what has caused a decline in funding for public education.
Could we come together as a community and put our efforts into the bigger problem? Our schools are underfunded, but we have to use our financial resources. Together we would be more substantial and the competition for children and teachers would end.
As the Verde Valley, we should come together and do what is best for children. K-12 districts build relationships with students, parents, and community members who are 13 pivotal years in their lives.
A K-12 district works together to evaluate student data. A contiguous district would implement curricula and assessment structures that were consistent and compatible. District leaders, principals, teachers, and students would work toward a common goal.
Substantial discussions would be held with all K-12 stakeholders to improve student outcomes. I’m a taxpayer and a big advocate of public education. Let’s pool our resources and keep cracking down on school underfunding at the state and federal levels.
After 40 years of service, Genna Adams is a retired public school educator. For 36 of these years she worked at several public schools in the Verde Valley. She has a Masters in Education and an Administrative Certificate with endorsements in the following areas: Early Childhood, Specialist Reading and a Secondary English Endorsement.