The State School Redistricting Commission has a difficult job. Very few school district residents want to give up the autonomy of their schools and even fewer school board members and school administrators want to relinquish their positions, even if it means a better, more economical and more comprehensive education for their students.
The following is a partial list of easy and obvious districts in all 15 of our counties that should be consolidated either due to their small size, their proximity to one another, or both:
Apache County: Alpine and Nutriosa Elementary Districts with Round Valley Unified District
Cochise County: St. David Unified with Benson Unified
Coconino County: Parks Elementary District with Flagstaff Unified
Gila County: Globe Unified with Miami Unified
Graham County: Pima and Thatcher Districts with Safford Unified
Greenlee County: Clifton United with Morenci Unified
La Paz County: Salome Union High School with Parker Unified
Maricopa County: Avondale Elementary with Agua Fria Union High District
Navajo County: Joseph City Unified with Holbrook Unified
Pima County: Flowing Wells Unified with Amphitheater Unified
Pinal County: Casa Grande Elementary with Casa Grande Union High District
Santa Cruz County: Patagonia Elementary with Patagonia Union High District
Yavapai County: Mayer Unified with Dewey/Humbolt Unified District
Yuma County: Crane and Yuma Elementary Districts with Yuma Union District
For academic, administrative and economic reasons, all of the above redistricting suggestions make sense -- especially since the State of Arizona pays the highest proportion of monetary aid to public schools -- and a strong case can be made for these changes. However, if the political will is weak, we'll continue to muddle along with school districts that are too small to offer comprehensive curriculum offerings to our students. We'll forsake educational continuity from K-8 to 9-12 districts, and we'll see districts, no more than a few miles apart, duplicating student services such as administrators, buses, cafeterias and counselors.
Bigger is not necessarily better, but working smart should be a goal of our schools and of our society. Redistricting a large number of our smaller and/or close proximity districts would be a smart decision for our students and our state.
Richard K. Meszar, Ed.D., Payson (Whispering Pines)