Tue, Sep

With pending cutbacks, the Mingus Union High School Governing Board plans to eliminate a longtime negotiation tool used at the school.

The Interest Based Negotiation process uses an independent facilitator to help in negotiation between administration and staff on issues such as salary, benefits and general working conditions. The historic cost for the facilitator to come up from Phoenix is approximately $22,000 a year.

Board member Jim Ledbetter brought the subject up at the board’s Jan. 8 meeting when the IBN process came up for approval for 2008-09, saying that IBN was very costly.

“The price is half a teacher’s salary. I respectfully submit this is not a year to do IBN,” Ledbetter said.

He asked for a proposal on how to go forward with a Mingus-specific plan that would replace IBN. The board removed the item from the Jan. 8 agenda and decided to have it placed on the board’s Thursday, Feb. 12, meeting along with consideration of the IBN process.

Board president John Tavasci Jr. said he did not approve of IBN, but staff participation in the process should be maintained.

“This doesn’t need to be a subcommittee of the board but a plan directed by the superintendent,” Tavasci said.

Board member Andy Groseta said he did not want to wait too long to have a negotiation plan in place.

“I’m in favor of a well orchestrated, well organized process where everybody’s involved,” Groseta said.

What Groseta stated is the same thing the teachers are wanting. Laura Logsdon, president of the Mingus Union Education Association, will present an alternative plan at the Feb. 12 meeting.

“We, as an association of teachers, will present a plan of our own that incorporates some of the mechanisms that allow for a process-based decision-making model,” Logsdon said. “We’re interested in keeping a process in place whether we’re facing a shortfall year or one in which we have money to spend.”

Everyone is looking at plans that will not cost the district money, but will be fair and objective, and will help reestablish a relationship of trust, she said.

“I think we’re on our way toward something that is going to be very workable,” Logsdon said.

Another action the board took to save money for the district was to have the board hear disciplinary issues rather than independent hearing officers. They heard their first case Feb. 5.

Other items to be considered on Thursday’s agenda include:

  • To prioritize a list of reductions for the fiscal year’s 2009 budget
    Change orders for the bond and prioritize the remaining bond project
  • Horizontal lane movement for 13 teachers
  • Board designees to sign purchase order requests not to exceed $4,999
  • The Superintendent’s Advisory Team to gather information from staff in the budgeting process

A presentation by Interim Superintendent Nancy Alexander on a budget override for November 2009

Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With a 4-1 vote, the Camp Verde Town Council voted last week to reinstate the town’s Housing Commission.

The commission was set to be abolished after the town decided last year to eliminate the entire Housing Department as a measure to help plug a $500,000 budget hole.

Town Manager Mike Scannell said at the time that while the decision was regrettable, it’s rare to find a Housing Commission in a town the size of Camp Verde. The commission protested the decision; every commissioner except Greg Blue voted to recommend against their dissolution. Blue said that as a developer, he may be able to work on housing issues with more freedom than he could as a public official.

The members of the Housing Commission made impassioned pleas to the council last week; they argued that even without a Housing Department, it was still important that local government keep a mechanism in place to deal with housing issues.

There was some discussion about forming a nongovernmental citizens committee, but in the end, the council voted to keep the commission, reducing the frequency of its meetings to four times a year.

Housing Commissioner Linda Buchanan expressed her displeasure at the way the town had handled dismantling the department and commission.
“There was no letter of appreciation,” Buchanan said. “ … [The council] really left us hanging.”

Buchanan questioned how the town could afford not to pay a relatively small sum to keep a Housing Commission, if not a department, to address very real concerns when it comes to a basic human right like having a place to live.

Housing Commission Chairman Jeremy Bach reiterated the importance of housing in his argument before the council and questioned why the council would eliminate his commission before some of the others, like the Trails and Pathways Commission.

Bach said he meant no disrespect to other commissions but felt housing was more important than trails.

Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser, who has never supported getting rid of the Housing Commission, said the decision was made because of the town’s financial situation; she believes that the current slump will eventually end, and the town will once again be able to put more money into housing.

Even with the elimination of the Housing Department, former Housing Director Matt Morris was assigned to spend 10 percent of his time on housing issues; the rest of his time will be spent devoted to rewriting portions of the town’s antiquated building and zoning codes.

Councilwoman Norma Garrison cast the lone no vote against reinstating the Housing Commission. She argued that while the decision to get rid of the commission was regrettable, it had already been made. Garrison said keeping the commission would cost more money when the town was already in dire financial straits, and this would mean the town would have to make cuts elsewhere.

In the meantime, Morris said he felt there was value in looking into forming a regional housing authority to work with issues in the Verde Valley.

The housing commissioners were upset, but they seemed pleased by the compromise to keep the commission intact after the motion made by Councilman Ron Smith was approved.

“You all have done a great thing here tonight,” Bach told the council.

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Fort Verde has avoided the chopping block — at least for now.

The historic Camp Verde landmark was one of eight state parks recommended for closure to help plug a hemorrhaging Arizona State Parks budget.

The eight parks, including Riordan, Lyman Lake, Homolovi Ruins, McFarland, Oracle, Tubac and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, only account for 6 percent of annual visitation to the state parks’ system.

Fort Verde is the only state park currently facing the risk of closure; parks in Cottonwood and Jerome are not on the list.

Last week, the park system’s Board of Directors decided to hold off on shutting down the parks to try and come up with alternate measures to close their $650,000 budget hole, a result of state cutbacks in the face of severe financial deficits.

The issue is expected to be raised at the board’s next meeting Friday, Feb. 20, in Phoenix.

The fort was never built by the U.S. Army to last, but a group of citizens, looking to the future, helped preserve the last four 19th century buildings until they were transferred to Arizona State Parks nearly four decades ago.

If the park were to close, it’s unclear what would happen. The land and buildings could possibly resort to private ownership under agreements signed when the park service first took over the fort.

If the park service can avoid closing the state parks, they may look to other measures like cutting jobs or days of operation.

Already at Fort Verde, the park has lost its part-time employees; a potluck farewell luncheon was planned this past Friday.

Fort Verde Park Manager Sheila Stubler said that everyone was simply taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the park’s future.

In the meantime, the park is moving ahead with a current renovation projects unless the state says otherwise, Stubler said.

Park volunteer Peggy Morris was more vocal about her opinions about what the state parks’ board should do.

“They need to start at the top and cut the highest salaries,” Morris said. “They need to leave the park open and leave the people who keep them running from day-to-day alone.”

Morris said she was afraid that if the park were to shut its doors, the buildings might be subject to vandalism. She’s also afraid of what would happen to the park’s extensive library of information and the historical artifacts kept on-site.

The Camp Verde Town Council voted last week to send a letter to the state, urging it to keep the fort open; despite the state’s budget woes, the fort draws thousands of people to town who spend their money in local shops and restaurants.

Town Manager Mike Scannell suggested that the entire community should write their legislators if they are concerned over the future of the town.
Mayor Tony Gioia said he didn’t think the state park’s board was really intending to close the fort, but felt the town should be proactive in trying to protect it just in case.

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When it comes down to a real emergency, firefighters are often the first line of protection and defense.

In Camp Verde, that line is about to get a little stronger thanks to a $325,140 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Camp Verde Fire District was one of more than 100 fire departments across the country to receive a share of millions of dollars as part of the government’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant program.

The money will help supplement the recruitment and hiring of three additional firefighters for the district, according to district spokesperson Barbara Rice.

The grant was designed specifically to make sure communities get more “frontline” people working to protect communities. According to Rice, one of the main goals of the grant program is to help bring the district’s staffing standards more in line with those established by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA.

The district will receive the money over the course of the next five years so that the cost of hiring new personnel can be spread across several fiscal years.

“Receiving these grant funds will allow Camp Verde Fire District to increase our staffing and response capabilities, thereby reducing response times [and] improving firefighter safety,” read a statement released by the district.

Camp Verde was one of six Arizona fire departments to get a piece of the FEMA pie; other awards went to firefighters in Chloride, Rio Rico, Lakeside, Avondale and Clarkdale.

Nearly $190 million was distributed to departments across the county for the 2008 grant cycle.

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Just under the wire, one last person is throwing their name into the hat for a seat on the Camp Verde Town Council.

Carol German, a member of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and active library endowment supporter, announced last week that she will be running a write-in campaign for one of the three four-year seats on the council up for grabs in this year’s March primary and May election.

Her decision means it will actually be a contest for the four-year seats.

There are a total of five seats open this election; the three four-year seats are currently held by Council members Ron Long and Bob Kovacovich and Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser.

There is also the remaining two years of a seat left vacant by former Councilman Greg Elmer. Elmer, a first-term member of the council, resigned in November 2008 citing the need to spend more time focusing on family and work.

The mayor’s two-year term is also on the ballot this year.

Before German’s announcement, there were only three people running for the three four-year openings: former Councilwoman Jackie Baker, Councilman Bob Kovacovich and Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Robin Whatley. Write-in campaigns have often proven difficult to pull off, but if German were to win, she wouldn’t be the first.

Vice Mayor Hauser won her current seat on the board in a write-in campaign; she’s running another write-in campaign this year for Elmer’s old seat. She faces a candidate whose name will be on the ballot for the same seat, local real estate agent Raymond Williams.

The mayor’s seat faces the most competition. Mayor Tony Gioia is looking to hold onto his seat, but local businessman Tim Sykes is looking to make it his own.

They both face opposition from a third write-in candidate, local plumber Bob Burnside.

The primary election is in March, conducted by mail. The final election is in May; winners will be seated to the council in June.

Keeping kids in school is the goal of parents, schools and teachers, yet in some cases that goal is difficult to achieve.

The problem with dropouts is something all schools have to deal with, so Mingus Union High School came up with a plan to create a new position to help retain students.

Anita Glazar is the student intervention coordinator for Mingus. Her focus is on freshmen who may be struggling academically, the ones who are most vulnerable to dropping out.

“So many come into high school feeling lost. This is a big school, a big change for them — academically and socially. There’s a lot more responsibility once they hit high school,” Glazar said.

Some of the incoming freshmen have not yet learned that they need to attend school, and they need to hand in work, she said.

The premise is that freshman year is the most important year, dependent upon whether the student has success or not.

“When you look at dropout statistics, we found most often the students who dropped out did not have success as freshmen,” Interim Superintendent Nancy Alexander said.

Glazar said creating her position was the idea of Alexander after Alexander talked with staff members as to what was the best use of the casino money Mingus receives every year.

“Nancy [Alexander] felt there was a gap from students who started as freshmen to the time they reached their senior year,” Glazar said.

The job she is doing is not completely new for Glazar. From 1994 through 1998 she was the At-Risk program coordinator with Shelley Kitchen. The dropout rate at Mingus was 13 percent for school year 1994-95. The following year it dropped to 6.6 percent and stayed between 3.5 percent and 6.2 percent since. The average dropout rate for Mingus for the past 10 years, including 2007-08, is 4.68 percent.

Freshmen were chosen in part because they are still at a young enough age to affect a change, Glazar said.

“They want to be noticed. They need a connection, and my job is to get that connection,” she said. “There’s always a story behind what’s happening with a student who’s failing. We have to find out what it is and work with it.”

One way Glazar plans to do that is through conferences, not only with the student but with their parents and teachers. She is trying to get every parent in for a conference.

“I want to get everyone together related to the student — parents, teachers, counselors — to work for the student’s progress and success with the student being the focal point,” Glazar said, while recognizing that people are busy.

Mingus also has a lot of support programs such as tutoring, but Glazar said many people don’t know about them. A new program is called Title I Math. Mingus will take specifically chosen students to Yavapai College for a workshop.

“We’re trying to customize this program for students who haven’t experienced success for whatever reason and turn that around,” Glazar said.

Another part of her job is retrieval and finding out why a student would leave his or her community school.

Once the position of student intervention coordinator was created, the focus of the position’s attention was decided.

“The staff and I thought the group we needed to focus on was freshmen. If they’re successful in their freshman year, the likelihood of them continuing to graduation increases,” Alexander said.

The school cannot do it all, but Alexander said any positive effect that can be realized is worth the effort.

“This is to help get the students off on the right foot,” she said.

Working with freshmen on retention is good for Mingus because it keeps the students in class, and hopefully, on to graduation.

“For me personally, every student should have a good experience in their high school years and graduate from their hometown school. People don’t go to their college reunions, but they do their high school reunions, so we know something amazing happens here,” Glazar said.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For its inaugural year, Camp Verde’s Relay For Life was a success, raising more than $17,000 for the American Cancer Society to help one day eradicate the disease.

Fundraising teams lined the Camp Verde High School football field last May and walked overnight for the cause. Cancer doesn’t sleep, and neither did the teams. However, it was beginning to look like the event’s first year might have been its last, when the original organizers weren’t able to put as much effort into organizing this year’s event, and no one else stepped up.

It turned out that there are a few people who didn’t want to give up that easily. The event is still on for 2009, but organizers have moved it to September in an effort to get more help and support.

Karen Conover doesn’t want to see the event go away, but she needs help. Last year, Conover and her team from KC’s Family Tae Kwon Do led a huge effort to help raise money. Conover has volunteered to be this year’s publicity chair, but she needs more volunteers to help carry the weight of the organizing efforts.

There’s a lot of work to be done, Conover said, if people want this event to see its second year.

That’s an understatement, Sara Eby, a coordinator for the American Cancer Society, said. These events don’t just magically happen, Eby said, it takes a lot of dedication to help pull off a relay successfully.

Considering that just about everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or the other, Eby hopes that Camp Verde residents will rise to the challenge.

The event is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18, at Camp Verde High School, although the specifics may change as the organizational effort develops.

The first local meeting for all interested volunteers is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m., KC’s Tae Kwon Do, 155 S. Montezuma Castle Highway.

For more information, call Eby at (928) 526-2896 or visit CVRelay.org.

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When disaster strikes in Cottonwood, only one engine is ready to respond.
If two emergency calls come in, the captain has to decide which one to respond to or call for help.

All of this will soon change when the Cottonwood Fire Department receives a $1.3 million grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security to double its firefighting staff.

“The primary and the only justifiable reason right now for that kind of investment are the demands of our community have outgrown our ability to serve it,” CFD Fire Chief Mike Casson said.

Cottonwood City Council committed $1.3 million for the first four years of the grant cycle and $891,012 for the fifth year, which is part of the grant stipulations.

In 2008, CFD received 2,478 calls for service and sometimes they came in tandem.

“We’ve had as many as six calls happen in 20 minutes in this town,” Casson said.

Sometimes CFD’s single crew juggles multiple calls but other times it’s forced to call for help.

“You’re just playing Lady Luck,” Casson said.

If the second call is in the heart of the city, Casson said CFD staffs a second reserve engine with its two fire prevention staff members, who are certified firefighters.

If the second call is in the northern part of the city, Clarkdale Fire District is called to assist. If the call is in the southern section, Verde Valley Fire District is dispatched.

The Federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant will give CFD a second, fully-staffed engine adding 12 firefighters to the existing 12.

The last time CFD hired firefighters was in fiscal year 2005-06 when two came on the crew, according to department records. Prior to 2002, CFD had only six firefighters using two-man crews rather than four-man crews.
Small crews also mean CFD relies on volunteers to help during major events. CFD currently has a base of approximately 15 volunteers.

In 2004, Casson said call volume reached 2,000 calls per year, and CFD knew a second engine company would be needed.

The second crew will decrease response times and allow for department training and projects.

“Our goal is to provide an engine company on the scene of an incident in five minutes or less,” Casson said. CFD strives to meet its goal 90 percent of the time.

With the single crew scurrying to calls, firefighters have little time for training.

“Right now it’s difficult,” Casson said. Every time training begins, a call goes out and the training ends.

Additional firefighters on the clock also means CFD can build map books of the community to use during emergencies, check fire hydrants and participate in community events.

The new firefighters will be put on shift within 90 days of the federal government formally notifying the city it is a grant recipient. Casson said he doesn’t know when that will be.

Currently, CFD is working to refine its hiring criteria with the help of the city’s human resource department.

CFD will advertise the job statewide, Casson said, and certainly give consideration to city employees and local qualified applicants.

To be eligible for one of the 12 positions, an applicant must have a high school diploma or GED, and have Arizona State Firefigher II and Arizona EMT certification, or an equivalent.

According to Casson, CFD hopes to get a jump-start on the hiring process so when the order comes down from the federal government, it will be ready.

The city will receive $468,180 from the grant the first year and must contribute $211,000. The second year, the grant covers $416,100 and the city covers $311,000. The third year, $260,040 comes from the grant and $518,196 from the city. During the fourth year, the grant pays $156,240 and the city pays $676,476. By the fifth year, the city takes on the entire responsibility of funding the positions at $891,012.

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