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Parents scramble to keep Oak Creek School open
Written by Greg Ruland   
Thursday, 10 February 2011 00:00

Parents and grandparents of students at Oak Creek School appear willing to do whatever it takes to save the school from closing, including secession.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District board member Jason Finger, left, and COCSD Superintendent Barbara U'Ren, right, attend an informational meeting with Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter, not pictured, on Monday, Feb. 7, which was requested by a group of concerned COCSD tax payers unhappy with the direction the school board is taking.Creating a new, single-school taxing district for Oak Creek School would be complicated but not impossible, Yavapai County Superintendent Tim Carter told about 50 parents Monday, Feb. 7.

The Cottonwood-Oak School District Governing Board, which faces a $1.5 million budget shortfall for the

2011-12 school year, is proposing to close both Oak Creek and Tavasci Elementary schools to save roughly $800,000, about half the amount it needs to cut. The parents, members of a group calling itself Focus on Kids, asked for the meeting with Carter to discuss ways to prevent Oak Creek School’s closure.

Governing boards for Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union High school districts could vote in favor of Oak Creek School forming its own district or, if the boards do not approve, the issue could go before the voters of each district for a special election, Carter told the parents during the meeting at Verde Valley Fairgrounds.

Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter answers procedural questions about the recall of elected officals and changing the school districting of an area of the county during a meeting with a group of concerned Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District taxpayers at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds on Monday, Feb. 7. A meeting to consider the option of closing two COCSD schools takes place Tuesday, Feb. 15, in the Cottonwood Middle School gymnasium.Advocates of the plan would also need to win approval from Valley Academy for Career Technology Education and notify the Arizona School Finance Board to preserve CTE programs and receive state funding for the new district, Carter said.

“If you can get agreement from all of these boards, we’ll have this done in no time at all,” he said. “My personal opinion is that is not likely to happen.”

In the alternative, advocates of secession could “go around each of these boards” by taking the question directly to voters, Carter said.

To schedule a special election, the group would need to submit petitions with the required number of valid signatures to the Yavapai County Superintendent’s Office.

The petitions would need to include signatures of about 1,400 registered voters who live within the Mingus Union High School District and 122 registered voters who live within the boundaries of the proposed district, an area which that includes Page Springs and Cornville, Carter said.

The election route would probably take six to nine months to complete, he said.

If successful, the new district would be required to compensate COCSD for any property it receives, including the Oak Creek School building and property. The COCSD board would have to agree on a price. If no agreement is reached, the Arizona state treasurer would decide what the new district would be required to pay, Carter said.

Carter also discussed options for recalling members of the COCSD board and the possibility of forming a charter school that could lease Oak Creek School from COCSD to operate. COCSD might not agree to rent the school to the charter, however, and finding a suitable alternative location could be difficult, he said.

Consolidating Oak Creek School with a neighboring district, like Camp Verde Unified or Sedona-Oak Creek, is also possible, but the governing boards of those districts could also vote to close Oak Creek School, Carter said.

 
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