The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Governing Board voted unanimously to consolidate COCSD with Mingus Union High School District as a single school district Dec. 5.
“We respectfully request the [Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter] call an election to allow the collective district voters to determine the consolidation question at a November 2018 election,” Tuesday’s motion read.
The request to Carter is not complete yet, however: In order to move forward, the MUHSD Governing Board will also need to vote to move forward with the request.
Although no consensus has been reached by either COCSD or MUHSD about what, if any, financial savings will occur as a result of consolidation, the COCSD board agreed as a whole that no costs would be incurred. COCSD board member Janice Rollins said she believes consolidation will be a matter of “trial and error,” and that arriving at an exact dollar amount of the savings will not be possible prior to consolidation.
Likewise, COCSD President Joanne Cook said that even without firm figures money will be saved through consolidation. COCSD board Vice President Jason Finger expressed interest in hiring an independent consultant, saying that it might allow the board to evaluate matters more objectively.
Cook said she did not believe that hiring a consultant would be a good use of taxpayer dollars. Instead, consolidation of resources — including both district’s business managers — would work out as time goes on. Ultimately, the board agreed not to move to hire a consultant to further explore consolidation.
“Our board felt like they had all the information they needed,” COCSD Superintendent Steve King said.
Cook called consolidation a “community issue,” noting that indications are that no additional funding will be forthcoming from Arizona Department of Education, forcing a decision to pool resources for the best outcome for students.
One major issue impacted by consolidation, Rollins noted, is that MUHSD teachers — who, on average, earn more than teachers in COCSD — may perceive a consolidated pay scale as tantamount to a wage freeze. The MUHSD board has not released its next agenda, but the board is expected to discuss and potentially vote on a similar consolidation endorsement and request to Carter on Tuesday, Dec. 26.