Tue, Feb

The Camp Verde Unified School District wants to make sure mold is under control at Camp Verde high and middle schools, but it’s going to take a lot of work, said Facilities Director Stacey Barker.

While air samples have shown that the growing mold problem doesn’t yet pose a health risk for students and faculty, the fact remains that “allergies are allergies,” Barker said.

To keep things from getting worse, Barker said he’s been monitoring the situation closely. It’s a problem schools across the state are dealing with and have dealt with, Barker said, who recently attended a meeting addressing the issue.

The School Facilities board, a government body that oversees capital improvement and other large-scale projects at Arizona’s public school campuses, sent some architects to Camp Verde earlier this month to start to look at the local mold problem, Barker said.

The group is going to develop a plan that will likely involve removing exterior walls at the high school and middle school and treating the mold underneath, Barker said.

Work could start as soon as October or November, Barker said.

The district is no stranger to mold problems; in recent years extensive work had to be done at the elementary school that required some classrooms to stay empty.

Barker said that he thinks there will be money available from the state to pay for the work, avoiding any huge strain on the district’s already tight budget. However, Barker did give a nod to the current financial crisis the state is dealing with and said that nothing is ever certain.

“The state can do what it wants to do,” Barker said.

In the meantime, the school district is working to keep as much water away from the school buildings as possible, water that could help accelerate mold growth.

There are plans to continue to build additional channels to divert water away from the schools, but Barker is confident an extensive redesign of the district’s drainage system won’t be necessary.

Earlier this year, a rainstorm led to extensive flooding around the schools; Barker said in June that there was no major damage and that the drainage system “did what it was supposed to do.”

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Nearly 300 people filled the bleachers at the Camp Verde High School football field Sunday afternoon, but they weren’t there to cheer on their favorite sports team.

Instead, the community organized event was what those in attendance hope will become a Camp Verde tradition.

Soft music played from loudspeakers set up on the track, and voices mingled from the audience in prayer to God for the new school year.

There were pleas to keep the students safe, to have them set a positive example for their peers and the community, and for the Camp Verde Unified School District’s leaders to be guided by wisdom in their decisions.
Many of those leaders, from school board members to teachers and administrators, were present as the crowd separated into groups for individual prayers that lasted around 20 minutes.

Organizers weren’t sure how many people to expect.

Randy Strickland, pastor at Parkside Community Church, said originally they had hoped to have enough people to surround the entire field.

They lowered their expectations when they took into account the short notice, and the fact that this was the first time something like this had been done, but Strickland said he was pleased with how many people still showed up to pray in the 100-degree heat.

Strickland said he hopes the numbers continue to grow with each new school year.

The event had to be community organized, said Superintendent Dan Brown, given the nature of issues surrounding the separation of church and state, but he was excited to see the community come together and was honored to have been invited.

Church and state separation was at the center of a recent controversy involving the Camp Verde town government after a woman complained about a cross that a local food charity had put up in the town gym.

School Board President Tim Roth, who brings a Bible to meetings, instituted a moment of silence for board meetings, stopping short of calling for outright prayer.

But the members of the community, as private citizens, face no such restrictions on expressing their faith and used Sunday’s event as an opportunity to come together and do so publicly.

“If this [event] had been done when I was in school, I would have felt a lot more secure,” Anna Bassous, a recent Camp Verde High School graduate and event organizer, said.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Monday, Aug. 3, was one of the most exciting days Mingus Union High School had in a very long time, according to district Superintendent Tim Foist.

The school presented a grand opening of its newly renovated auditorium, and more than 400 people showed up to celebrate.

“We are opening a state-of-the-art auditorium, and we have the biggest enrollment ever,” Foist said as he looked over the guests in the cafeteria.

Fourteen hundred students registered for classes for the fall semester. Foist proclaimed 2009-10 as a new beginning for a new year with a newly remodeled building.

Teachers, staff, community leaders and local residents who joined Mingus in the celebration expressed awe at the changes and upgrades the campus received through the $15 million bond, especially the auditorium.

Leland Wieweck was on the Mingus governing board for many years when it had met in the library. Now the library is moved from behind the auditorium to where the front offices are along East Fir Street. The windows overlook the Verde Valley.

“This is fantastic,” he said. We came out ahead,” he said about the larger, brightly lit room.

Longtime and current board member Andy Groseta said the project looks different in reality than it did on the plans.

“When you see it with your own eyes, it’s outstanding. This turned out just how we planned. I’m very pleased. I hope the community is pleased,” he said.

He talked about the school having a new entrance and gathering area for the students just outside the cafeteria.

“It’s nice, it’s clean, it’s colorful, bright, and it feels new and different,” Groseta said.

“It’s so much better and so much more than it was,” Rex Williams, a resident of Clarkdale, said.

Senior and MUHS Student Body President Lesli Kinkade said the campus looks modern and professional.

“It finally makes us look like a unified school,” she said.

Just before the crowd went to have a seat in the new auditorium, five more busloads of people arrived from Camp Verde.

“We brought every single teacher and staff member from the Camp Verde Unified School District to see the auditorium and to listen to the speaker and what he has to say we could use,” CVUSD Superintendent Dan Brown said.

The guest speaker was motivational speaker Steve Birchak, also known as “Dr. Bird.” He talked about “Tapping Into Your Best Even When You Feel Tapped Out.”

He covered subjects about civility, conscience and collaboration. Building relationships and stopping negative behaviors and thought can turn around not only one’s perspective but that of others too.

Birchak is the author of “How to Build a Child’s Character” and “The 5 Golden Rules for Staying Connected to Children.”

The theme for the opening school year was Our Best Year Ever, which MUHS Principal Marc Cooper said will be carried through each successive year.

“We want every year to be the best year ever,” he said in his first speech in the new auditorium.

He used the Spanish term “no mas” — no more. No more construction interruptions, no more teachers traveling with all of their supplies because of lack of classrooms, no more skeleton library, and no more need to have performances in the cafeteria.

“We now have more than an auditorium. We have a concert hall,” Cooper said to the 400 people who sat in the new maroon and gray seats.

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.

There’s going to be a few changes next year at the Camp Verde Unified School District.

The school board last Tuesday approved an administration restructuring plan that, among other things, will see a new principal at Camp Verde High School.

Bob Weir, a current wrestling coach, teacher and Career Technology Education director, will take over chief administrative duties at the high school. Weir will replace Principal Chris Shultz, who is taking on a new job in the district as director of operations.

In this job, Shultz will be responsible for working with budgets and finances, business and food services, enrollment, technology, the physical plant and other important duties. The job will also share some of the duties of the district’s business manager, a position that will be eliminated when current manager Montie Morris retires in August.

The district will also be creating a part-time position called “Finance Coordinator,” to be filled by Amy Romero, a community liaison.

The job, as the name implies, will involve working with numbers.

There’s also a new principal at Camp Verde Middle School, to replace Dan Brown after he was given the job as the new superintendent for the district.

Russ Snider, the former principal at Sedona Red Rock High School, will hopefully be coming out of retirement to take the job, Brown said. The middle school will still continue to benefit from the leadership of Danny Howe, Brown said, who has worked for the district for years.

Brown said that the restructuring, approved 5-0 by the board, was part of a plan to use people where they have the greatest strengths.

“Some have inquired about the wisdom of placing individuals in positions rather than utilizing the interview process,” Brown wrote in a letter to the district’s employees. “I believe we are at a tipping point. We have the right people. I don’t believe that they were necessarily in the right seats on our bus. Are they now? I believe time will tell.”

The plan also provides some financial savings in a cash strapped budget, more than an estimated $17,000 over the course of the 2009-10 school year.

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“This has been, and is, a great class,” Mingus Union High School Principal Marc Cooper said.

As he reflected on the 2009 graduating class, Cooper said it is the first class he has really known since coming to Mingus more than five years ago. He has watched the progress from freshman year on through. Getting to know them as a class and individually has been a lot of fun, and their accomplishments are astounding, he said.

“They, as a class, were highly performing for four years; they were part of seven state championships in sports and 15 regional championships — eight in their senior year. They earned $1.4 million in scholarships, and 22 of them received the AIMS tuition waivers to the state universities,” Cooper said.

What that means is that those 22 students of the 235 graduates reached the exceeding level on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards in reading, writing and math. The graduates’ performance falls in line positively with Valedictorian Erin Wylie’s statement that she can guarantee they will not find success by sitting around waiting for it to come.

Wylie said everyone can achieve and succeed. It is just a matter of finding one’s niche.

“Everyone is brilliant at something. Everyone has something they can do better than most of the people they know. Everyone can use that ability to prepare themselves for any opportunities that come their way,” Wylie said.

She said succeeding in high school is a wonderful thing, but what really matters is what one does from this day forward.

“It’s what you make of your life when you are the only one in the driver’s seat,” Wylie said.

Salutatorian Jeremy Glick acknowledged that hard work and good choices are what will lead to success, spoke on the all work, no play theme, and said there is no way to predict what the future will bring.

“Enjoy yourself. Have fun and relish the unexpected and life’s little mysteries. We have so much opportunity to do whatever we please that it’s hard to see why you can’t enjoy yourself every day,” Glick said.

After tossing mortarboards following the graduation ceremony on the football field, and after the hundreds of relatives, friends, teachers and classmates finished the congratulations and hugs, the graduates and a few of their friends headed for Clarkdale and the Operation Graduation Party.

Tim Foist takes the reins at Mingus Union High School this week with the district’s full support despite rumors unleashed after he was hired.

Mingus Union High School District Governing Board offered Foist the superintendent position March 28, and Foist signed his contract March 30.
Days later, a former employee of Foist’s began calling community leaders to inform them of a lawsuit he filed against Foist in 2003.

MUHS Governing Board President John Tavasci said the lawsuit doesn’t change how the board feels about Foist.

“We’re behind him 100 percent,” Tavasci said.

Charles Haussman, who worked as a junior high school principal under Foist at the Holbrook School District, named Foist and the Holbrook School District Governing Board in a lawsuit that claimed Foist treated Haussman unfairly and the board allowed Foist to act in such a way.

The suit was settled out of court, and Haussman was allowed to keep his job in the school district.

“I was a junior high principal for many years. He [Foist] called me and lit into me with a long list of how inept and hated I was,” Haussman said.

Foist was the superintendent at Holbrook for four years before he went to Yuma, where he served as superintendent for three years. He said he simply wanted to move Haussman from a position he wasn’t successful at to assistant principal of the high school.

According to Foist, he has a record of shuffling employees around a district based on their strengths and weaknesses, and some of those employees are now leading their schools.

“Mr. Haussman didn’t blossom,” Foist said. He was given the opportunity to learn and he didn’t take it.

“He’s still mad at me,” Foist said.

Mingus hired Search Solutions, which did a thorough background check on Foist, Tavasci said. Tavasci called Search Solutions again after Haussman surfaced.

“These kinds of things are going to happen when you have a disgruntled employee,” Tavasci said.

Otherwise, the board has heard wonderful things about Foist on recent trips to Yuma, according to Tavasci, and it isn’t going to let Haussman’s case affect its decision. The board does not want to start the hunt for a superintendent again based on one accusation.

Foist was en route to Cottonwood on Monday, April 20, and said he hoped to be on the job by Wednesday, April 22.

His first order of business will be to sit down with department chairs and discuss future expectations, according to Foist. From there, he’d like to participate in a work session with the board in May to discuss goals and strategies.

“I want to know what their ideas are early,” Foist said.

Then, he wants to meet with the community. His door will be open for comments, concerns and ideas.

“I want to be a very good listener,” Foist said.

His goal is to build success for students and staff at Mingus.

“This is the best opportunity I believe I’ve had,” Foist said.

Foist is returning from a year and a half hiatus after he retired from Yuma Union High School District in 2007.

Before Yuma, he was superintendent at Holbrook for four years and Auburn Community Schools in Auburn, Neb., for two years. He has more than 30 years of experience in education and has worked in an administrative capacity for more than 20 years.

Lu Stitt also contributed to this story.

Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 124, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Parents and teachers know the students at Mingus Union High School are hard-working students. Now, thanks to the Strive for .5 program, everyone knows.

More than 300 sophomores, juniors and seniors received recognition and reward for their academic achievement Feb. 18. Strive for .5, sponsored by the Cottonwood Journal Extra, honors those students who increase their grade point average by half a point from one semester to the next. It goes on to reward students who do it twice, or three times, which is a stupendous feat, according to Director of Student Services Diane Uidenich.
One student did, however, achieve Strive for .5 for the third time: Abriana Serna. She received $100 from the Cottonwood Kiwanis Club. The Harman Avera Art Award of $40 went to junior Arturo Munoz.

Also part of the program are students who attain and maintain a 3.5 or better GPA.

Each student recognized received congratulations from the staff, the board and the administration along with a specially designed T-shirt and loud applause from the audience and their fellow recipients.

Certified Nurse Assistant instructor Kay Cooper stood on the sidelines at the end of the bleachers during the program. She was there to support five of her nine students who achieved a Strive for .5 award.

Another senior who received a large round of applause was Brian Connolly. He was recognized as a first-time Strive for .5 recipient.

Connolly has cerebral palsy as a result of a diabetic coma he suffered as a young child. He will graduate this year.

“The kids in class all work with him along with his wonderful aide, Carol Wilt. He has to work for his grades just like everyone else. It’s a struggle, but he’s made it,” mother Maria Connolly said.

Tasili Epperson designed the portrait of Bob Marley on the bright yellow T-shirts with the quote “Man is a universe within himself.”

Guest speaker, Tamara Addis, followed on the same theme that one can be or do anything no matter what life throws out. She talked about her road to Mingus — the successes, the trials, the good and bad experiences. She came to Mingus to teach mathematics in 2000.

“I grew up in an alcoholic, dysfunctional household. At the age of 17, I ran away from home,” she said, while explaining how nervous she was to speak before such a large group.

She graduated from high school and received a letter from the college she wanted to go to, but her mother told her she couldn’t go, so she walked out.

Addis enrolled at Santa Monica College and walked onto their track and made a reputation for herself. After two years, California State at Northridge asked her to come run for them. She did.

“I ran, studied and worked,” Addis told the students at Strive for .5.

Then she took an education course and the course of her life changed. Her first teaching job was at the 66th Street school in Los Angeles, which was in a not-so-good neighborhood. Police helicopters often flew over the school looking for criminals who would seek refuge on the campus, knowing the police would not shoot at them because of the children.

“We even got combat pay. It was quite an experience,” she said.

After surviving a rollover accident during an earthquake, Addis came to West Sedona School and taught physical education, then to Sedona Red Rock High School to teach math.

“Believe me, my struggles made me who I am today, and I know there are students here who are having similar struggles,” Addis told the audience, citing that if she could survive what happened in her life, anyone can survive the trials of their life.

“My advice to you today is to get involved in school. You are the master of your own universe,” Addis 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.

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.

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