Guest Editorial

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So Be It?

By Lauren Rodriguez | April 7, 2010

I was surprised to read the Op/Ed written by Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) Governing Board President Casey Perkins (If We Must Sacrifice a School, So Be It; Scottsdale Republic, March 20, 2010).

I have three children enrolled in CCUSD schools, including Desert Arroyo Middle School (DAMS), and I am an extremely active school volunteer and PTO co-president at BMES. I routinely attend CCUSD Governing Board meetings and know that the Board is scheduled to vote on the potential closure of DAMS on May 18. Ms. Perkins has chosen to disregard the legal procedure required to close a school in Arizona, and has instead cast her vote to close DAMS almost two months in advance of actual decision date. Ms. Perkins obviously thinks so little of the opinions of CCUSD families that she has already made up her mind to close DAMS, no input from the community required.

Ms. Perkins suggests that, despite “deep cuts that will have to be made, parents can still access high quality elementary school programs for their children, such as Spanish Immersion, STEM, K-8 Academy, Core Knowledge, and multiage programs and even a privately funded equestrian program.” This statement is misleading on several levels. Some of these programs, such as STEM and the K-8 Academy, don’t actually exist yet and none of these programs are funded by the district but rather by contributions from PTOs and grant money. This notion of “high quality elementary programs” is of little consolation to the parents of DAMS students, and nothing more than another clumsy marketing ploy meant to draw open enrollment students to the K-8 Academy and High School Prep Academy that do not yet actually exist.

These “quality elementary programs” were built on the backs of CCUSD families who each year generously donate tens of thousands of dollars to each of their public schools. The District’s response to this generosity: Disregard the community’s input about DAMS and unleash a relentless barrage of attacks against the community because the District’s Override did not pass last November.

Further, Ms. Perkins’ comparison of the situation in a troubled Missouri school district to CCUSD is ill-informed and simply does not apply. According to Superintendent John Covington, who oversees this Kansas City district, his schools are being closed in the face of budget woes because his “district's buildings are only half-full as its population has plummeted amid political squabbling and chronically abysmal test scores.” This comparison is intentionally misleading and inaccurate.

If, as Ms. Perkins’ Op/Ed clearly suggests, the decision to close DAMS has been made, then I implore her, as well as all of our CCUSD Administrators, to be honest with the families in this District. How long does the CCUSD Governing Board intend to hold us hostage?

Why pretend any longer that CCUSD is exploring all options? Why pretend any longer that CCUSD is adhering to the rules? Obviously, Ms. Perkins’ Op/Ed makes clear that the District is doing neither. With her vote already cast, Ms. Perkins is signaling that the decision to close DAMS is already made and that the District is already moving on: moving on without giving credence to community input, moving on without exploring options that could keep the doors of DAMS open, such as merging Desert Sun, the school with the lowest enrollment in our District, with Horseshoe Trails, located just six miles away, moving on without doing a full forensic review of our books, temporarily cutting programs that can be brought back when our budget crisis subsides, moving on without a more thoughtful plan for a High School Prep Academy, because about a dozen or so students have submitted applications to attend a school that does not yet exist, moving on without eliminating all wasteful spending, no matter how small, so that we can continue down a path of inefficiency that will only lead to the closure of more CCUSD schools in upcoming years.

Last year Ms. Perkins said at the March 9 Governing Board meeting, “We need a northern campus; even though our significant growth is in the south, we need a northern campus.”
Apparently, Ms. Perkins no longer feels that a “northern campus” is needed. So be it, as she now so cavalierly says. But please, let’s be more accurate about what we’re really doing. We’re not closing a school to save a district. Rather, we are dismantling a district – we’re dismantling the CCUSD community – to serve some hidden agenda linked to closing Desert Arroyo Middle School. So be it?