Merge Area's School Districts



Question: Why did the Payson and Pine/Strawberry Chambers of Commerce merge some years ago?

Answer: To better utilize their limited resources, to not compete for valued events, and to bring a sense of community and cooperation to their respective areas.

The recent disclosure that the Pine Elementary School District (PESD) has financial problems should be a wake-up call to smaller, stand-alone school districts in Arizona. While I sincerely hope the PESD governing board calls for and gains approval of a much-needed budget override, even this financial ‘shot in the arm' is but a short-term solution for the diminutive PESD.

A longer term solution to their financial problem is to merge with the Payson Unified School District (PUSD).

Having one superintendent, one transportation center, and one overall guiding philosophy makes both financial and educational sense.

In fact, Tonto Basin should also consider merging with PUSD, and the entire newly merged district could be called NoGilCo U.S.D. (Northern Gila County Unified School District). Individual schools could continue to be called Pine Elementary, Payson High School and Tonto Basin Elementary.

The two compelling reasons to consolidate districts in the same geographic area are continuity of curriculum, and the same student expectations moving from K-8 grades to 9-12 grades. Also, the State of Arizona gives financial assistance to merging school districts that would help budgets in districts in Pine, Payson, and Tonto Basin.

The number of governing board members could be expanded to include representatives from Pine/Strawberry and Tonto Basin, no school employees would be terminated, and virtually all of the students heading to Payson High School from their respective elementary or middle schools would have already been in the district's academic achievement system.

The chamber of commerce in our areas have shown us that mergers can be positive and productive. Shouldn't the school districts in northern Gila County at least consider such an option?

Richard K. Meszar, Ed.D., Payson

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