Print COCSD reflects on Tavasci school closure
Written by Greg Ruland   
Friday, 08 April 2011 00:00

She’s only one member of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Governing Board. She has only one vote, but Janice Rollins draws on her experience as a school administrator to make informed decisions she believes are always in students’ best interests.

Michele Bradley/Larson NewspapersCottonwood-Oak Creek School District Superintendent Barbara U’Ren discusses March 30 the options for districtwide changes following the closure of Tavasci Elementary School for the 2011-2012 school year.The best interest of students is the standard by which all board members make judgments, but members do not always agree about what best interest means.

Rollins and board member Mary Valenzuela, for example, disagreed with chairman Randall Garrison and board member Jason Finger that Oak Creek School should remain structured as a kindergarten through eighth-grade school with no extracurricular offerings.

Rollins and Valenzuela argued parents should have the option to attend a kindergarten through eighth-grade school.

Garrison and Finger, who favored making Oak Creek a kindergarten through sixth-grade school, argued it was unfair for Oak Creek students to lose their sports teams. All COCSD students should have access to equal educational experiences, they said.

It was board member Eric Wyles who broke the tie on that vote March 22.

The board could split again on the pending decision to restructure Cottonwood and Dr. Daniel Bright elementary schools. Some believe restructuring would be in the best interests of the Tavasci Elementary School students who will be divided between Cottonwood and Dr. Daniel Bright elementary schools next year when their school is closed.

Others argue restructuring will be too disruptive for students accustomed to the current situation. Currently, Dr. Daniel Bright is a kindergarten through second-grade school. Cottonwood Elementary is a third- through fifth-grade school.

The decision has some board members concerned an undeserved perception that favors Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary over Cottonwood Elementary could return to the district.

“There was a perception that CES was a poor school and DDB was more affluent,” Rollins said. “We don’t want that again. Predominantly CES is where the Hispanic families go,” she said.

“The decisions we make will be, as a collective group, in the best interests of all students,” Rollins said. “We’ve worked so hard to bring our schools back into unity.”

Rollins said she personally favors a kindergarten through fifth-grade structure for both Cottonwood Elementary and Dr. Daniel Bright.

“One good thing about this board: This is the most hands-on, participatory board I’ve ever seen,” she said.

“We very much respect each other’s point of view,” Rollins said. “Two on this board have an educational background. The other three of us have different backgrounds. That’s what makes us a good board. We’ve got some really smart people.”

“We may not all agree, but boy when we make a decision, we support that decision and we go 100 percent behind it,” Rollins said.

“A lot of people want to be on school boards because they have personal agendas and that’s not in the best interest of the children,” she said. “That’s what I like about this board: no personal agendas.”