Three weeks ago, Camp Verde Unified School District Superintendent Dennis Goodwin informed the CVUSD Governing Board that he would not seek to renew his contract.
On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the governing board approved the agenda item pertaining to Goodwin’s intent, effectively finalizing the end date of his three-year tenure: June 30, 2018.
“What I’m going to miss? A lot of people who truly give their lifeblood for the kids,” Goodwin said, adding praise for teachers, administrators and staff whose resources are few — and whose views often differ from his own.
“All of my principals have told me ‘no’ on occasion.” Goodwin, who came to CVUSD following a nearly three-decade tenure as an educator and administrator in Minnesota and Wisconsin, said a variety of issues are drawing him away from the district, but the principal reason has less to do with Camp Verde and more to do with Arizona’s overall philosophy on education.
“I think my greatest disappointment is our state legislators’ attitude about education,” Goodwin said, adding that school districts in the Midwest benefit from “thousands of dollars” more in funding per student than Arizona. “It sends the message that we’re spending the bare minimum and [schools] have to make up the rest.”
Goodwin referenced previous generations that viewed education as a top priority — a priority that they accepted had to be funded through taxes. In Arizona, Goodwin found many populations unwilling to take the financial hit for local children, ensuring fewer resources would be available to schools.
“A lot of districts are scraping by,” Goodwin said. “We’ve taken this attitude that we’re not going to pay it forward. You go to other states and you don’t have that attitude .... To me, education has to be one of the founding principles of our system.”
Goodwin noted that in Arizona about 20 percent of students do not graduate from high school and asked, “How are we failing them, and why isn’t that a priority?”
Though he praised local districts’ attempts to make do with perpetually scant funding, Goodwin said that Arizona’s schools — and thus the state’s children — will have increasing trouble competing with other states that allocate more money to education. Arizona’s ability to attract skilled teachers, in particular, weighs heavily on Goodwin.
“You look at the salary differences across the board,” Goodwin said, adding that Arizona’s teacher salaries are a good 20 to 30 percent lower than the national average. “How are you supposed to compete? .... How can you look at a teacher and have the audacity? How can you convince them you care about them? It blows my mind.”
Though desiring a better wage himself, Goodwin, the second-lowest paid super-intendent in the Verde Valley, insisted the issue isn’t fundamentally about administrative pay. He actively encourages locals to compare how CVUSD uses its resources. The second-largest district in the area, CVUSD allocates a smaller percentage to administration — 8.6 percent — than anyone else.
For comparison, toward administration Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District allocates 13 percent, Mingus Union High School District allocates 12.2 percent, Beaver Creek School District allocates 10.9 percent and Clarkdale-Jerome School District allocates 10.5 percent.
Among the 29 schools in its rural Arizona school district peer group, CVUSD comes in the lowest on administration costs. All education-related factors aside, Goodwin — an Arizona native before living in the Midwest — said he misses his former states of residence:
“Wisconsin is home. So is Minnesota .... And I know it sounds crazy, but I miss the weather.” Goodwin is seeking employment opportunities in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.