ST. DAVID — A community forum here Thursday for discussion of topics concerning St. David School has been hailed a grand success.
Caring parents assembled in the multipurpose center listened first to a plea from St. David School Board Member Katie Miller to reject a movement afloat in the state legislature that would consolidate school districts statewide.
Miller was referring to HB1239 introduced by Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, that would mandate elementary and high school districts to unify before 2024, a proposal quickly denounced.
“We need your help,” Miller said, asking parents to inform others and to write their legislators to oppose consolidation.
“It makes no sense,” Superintendent of Schools Arleen Kennedy said, noting that even without the benefit of vehement scrutiny, on its face, it’s easy to see the proposal would nullify any savings and would likely be more costly to county school districts, citing the increases in transportation and maintenance costs districts would be forced to endure as well as the county’s 6,000 mile expanse.
“They talk about three major school districts [Cochise County consolidation] — It’s geographically impossible… and to say it’s in the best interest of children... It’s clear they didn’t look and say, ‘this doesn’t make sense,’ …” said Kennedy. “Cochise County has a lot more land than population, so you’re talking about increasing more than you’re saving… It’s not a good plan.”
The 5:30 p.m. gathering, initially scheduled as a “Pastries for Parents” as a start of the school year update, became a community forum after a series of social media posts bringing into question and into “the court of public opinion,” as Kennedy noted, the district’s mission and operations.
A wide spectrum of topics were covered in a question-and-answer session that included but not limited to academics, the 90-minute block period schedule, school safety policies, satisfactory grade/extracurricular eligibility requirements, instructors’ classroom management, teachers’ turnover rate, among others.
One speaker, Michelle Fry, addressed teacher turnover. “I’m grateful for our teachers but am concerned over the last several years there has been a large turnover of teachers — what can we do as a community to get these teachers to stay?.”
Show and let educators know they’re appreciated is one way toward making for a positive work environment, administrators replied, noting “... St. David does a really good job of that.”
The meeting was well received. The close to 40 attendees applauded at the conclusion and school administrators called it a productive community session.
“We always welcome the exchange, the ideas and input from our community,” said Kennedy.
“I thought the meeting was very positive,” he said. “We appreciate the community input to help us become a better school district…”