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2/7/2013 6:01:00 AM
Mount Tipton, other schools face changes
Kingman board trying to make up budget hole of at least $1 million
Mount Tipton school.
Mount Tipton school.
La Senita elementary school.
La Senita elementary school.

Ahron Sherman
Miner Staff Reporter

The middle and high school portions of Mount Tipton would close, La Senita Elementary would be mostly shuttered and everyone at Palo Christi Elementary would be temporarily relocated as part of a plan to trim at least $1 million from next year's Kingman Unified School District's budget.

The school district faces a $1 million to $1.9 million budget shortfall for the 2013-2014 school year, and it got the go ahead from the school board Tuesday to start a process that could end with these things happening.

Kingman Unified School District Director of Finance Wanda Hubbard laid out two scenarios for the board at Tuesday's five-hour budget workshop. One outlined a best-case scenario - a shortfall of a little more than $1 million - and the other laid out a worst-case scenario, a $1.9 million shortfall.

To deal with the former, Hubbard, with the backing of staff, recommended:

• Converting Mount Tipton School from a K-12 to K-6

• Closing La Senita Elementary and sending its students to KUSD's other elementary schools

• Temporarily relocating the students and staff of Palo Christi Elementary to the campus of Desert Willow Elementary.

"We're talking about a major shift for the whole district," said KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks.

The shift would save the district $1.1 million, but chances are the decision to restructure Mount Tipton won't go over well in the communities the school serves.

The district, however, is not prepared to abandon the school's middle school and high school programs altogether. The plan is to offer the Kingman Online Learning Academy at the school to students in seventh through 12th grade, Hubbard said. Students not interested in online schooling would need to be bused into Kingman.

The future of Mount Tipton was the topic of contentious discussion last year and the year before. With the district on the verge of restructuring the school last year, the community served by Mount Tipton turned out in full force to argue against the plan and even propose several of their own solutions.

In the end, the school board approved a two-year plan that allowed Mount Tipton to remain open and addressed many of the financial issues that brought the discussion to the surface in the first place, including the disparity in per student spending, the school's attendance and membership issues and the school improvement grant that sunsets at the end of this school year and was worth $350,000 a year while it was active.

Rebecca Smith, a Dolan Springs resident with four children who attend the school, was instrumental in staving off the restructuring last year, and she has a renewed interest in the issue this year.

She said the community, school and district were supposed to work together to address Mount Tipton's issues. But that's not what happened, she said.

"You can't fix what you don't address," she said.

Not one grant was sought in the last year despite the fact that grant funding is one of the only ways the school could increase its revenue, she said. Though community members continually promised to be part of the grant-seeking process, Smith said it didn't happen because the district failed to provide a framework where community members and school employees could work together.

The other way to increase school funding is to have more students.

"I'm still waiting for the district to come to us with any sort of growth plan," she said.

Jacks declined to comment on Smith's assessment.

There are 66 high school level students who attend Mount Tipton, and currently the student/teacher ratio is eight to one, according to KUSD budget documents. Additionally, the district is spending $13,706 per high school student at Mount Tipton this year, but it spends $5,078 a student at Kingman High.

To be fair, the district is spending $11,713 a student at Lee Williams High School, but that number will come down as the school grows. Currently, there are only freshmen students at the school.

Smith said a town hall meeting at Mount Tipton will be scheduled in the next couple of weeks. There, she and other community members will unveil a proposal that addresses Mount Tipton issues as well as the issues facing the entire district. She wants as many people to attend as possible, but she wants people to come with solutions and ideas instead of vitriol, as was the case last year.

The rest of the district's best-case scenario recommendation is complicated.

The plan is to move Palo Christi students and staff to Desert Willow, which is currently being used for the district's pre-kindergarten program. Relocating the school won't save the district much money, but it will give KUSD the opportunity to fix the plethora of structural issues at the school, including a damaged roof, should the board decide fixing the school is something it wants to do.

In turn, the pre-kindergarten program would be moved to the kindergarten wing of La Senita Elementary.

The rest of La Senita would then be closed and its students would be dispersed throughout the district. This move would save the district $600,000 and move students to higher performing schools within KUSD. La Senita was the only elementary school in the district that received a C from the Arizona Department of Education last year - the others pulled in As and Bs.

The district is attempting to come up with more money by maximizing the capacity of its buildings, Jacks said. Many of the teachers at La Senita will follow their students to other schools, but there's no guarantee that all employees at the school will keep their jobs, Jacks said.

Many issues put the district in this situation, most notably the continued drop in student enrollment and the depletion of its reserves as the district made up for cuts in state spending.

In Hubbard's worst-case scenario, the district would need to cover a $1.9 million shortfall. To do that, it would eliminate its teacher on assignment program, which frees up principals to devote more attention to education, at the middle schools. Currently, Kingman Middle School is the only one that has this program but the goal for next year is to implement it at White Cliffs Middle School, too. This would save $100,000.

Also, KUSD would avoid creating a continuation program for its elementary schools, eliminate teacher lane changes - which is supposed to allow teachers to earn more money by taking approved college classes - and cut library as a curriculum out of the district. These three options combined would save another $765,000.

Hubbard said chances are the district will find itself somewhere in between the best- and worst-case scenarios once Arizona's 2013-2014 budget is finalized.

The board is expected to vote on any changes at its meeting the second Tuesday of March.

ICT - Kingman Honda
Related Stories:
• Despite opposition, Kingman school district cuts Mt. Tipton
• Kingman school district finance chief fires back at critics
• Alternate Mt. Tipton proposal put forth
• School plan provokes doubts at meeting
• School issues focus of Republican forum
• Mt. Tipton will stay open

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Good Job School Board

@Choose the Plan Affecting the Least Children
It was a smart decision to open Williams. Middle schools are becoming overcrowded and in a year or two the existing high school capacity would be exhausted. Planning ahead was good, something should have been done with Mt Tipton and Palo Christie at that time instead of kicking the can down the road. You have a new grade school sitting almost empty, fill it!. Mt Tipton residents choose to live out in the middle of nowhere and should expect a decrease in students and not expect the district to bus students there to increase the student base. That is ludicrous. If you want growth, go out and recruit it so funds would be appropriated there. I think you will find that opening Williams more students from KAOL will be enrolling, perhaps some of the base will come back into the school district.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Step Up

@Chrissy Davis
They will not be adding students to the existing classes, they will add another whole class or 2 or 3 or however many they need... The teachers of La Senita need to go somewhere too.
@Concerned Parent
Give me a break. Mrs Mickelson is not causing the districts money problems.
@And again
I agree, why are we spending more on criminals than our own kids.

I am sure there is not a solution that will make everyone happy. If you have a better solution, come to the meeting and share it. If you plan to come to the meeting to be angry and yell, PLEASE don't come. If we work together, we MIGHT be able to work this out.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: KAOL Parent

The Kingman Academy of Learning (KAOL) is not a "private" charter school. It is as public as KUSD. The tax money received at the Academy does not belong to you. In fact it belongs to all of AZ in order to provide a quality alternative to parents and students. Your tax money is collected both locally and from the state. The Academy does not receive local tax revenue. If you would like additional money for your schools, why don't you volunteer to have your property taxes raised from the ridiculously low rate to an appropriate amount. I know my taxes are much too low to adequately pay for services that I and all of Kingman expect. Wake up!

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: no name

The district is not interested in figuring out how to fix their financial problems unless it comes out of the district office. Every eyar they ask theri staff for ideas only to tell them later that they are not going to impliment any of those ideas. Wanda can see hard numbers in closing schools. Lee Williams is entrenched in the Cambridge program one of theri elite programs that they will continue dispite the fact that that program is unfair to the studnets who are no in it. Cambridge has one computer or Ipad for every three or so kids compared to 9 per computer for the rest of the affected schools. The opend Lee williams knowing they did nothave the money past the first year to keep it going and here we are just like they said it was going to be. The people of Arizi\ona also cut their own throats when they voted down the additional penny for education. We have no one but ourselves for what is going on.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Girlie Lopez Forman

Having worked at KHS and as a Probation Officer in the past, I totally disagree that getting rid of PASS/PALS/ICARE is even warranted. Do you realize how many of our students have been able to graduate because of these programs?The traditional school setting does not always work for every student.
As I am writing this, the Director of PASS, Sandy McCoy and two of her staff, Brent and Jen Potter, are presenting at a national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Not a local or state conference...a NATIONAL one! Obviously, they are doing something right to be able to do so.
These programs are definitely needed in Kingman.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

I think that the closing of Mt. Tipton's high school and middle school was a long time coming. Inevitable as some would say. I encourage the students who are at Mt. Tipton to consider a high school if not in KUSD then elsewhere. I've rarely heard of students being successful simply from online courses unless they were highly motivated. The students can now participate in the opportunities with local businesses offered through the CTE programs and certificate programs that are not offered at Mt. Tipton. Now I know that many will not be up for going to Kingman for reasons of the travel distance and personal reasons against Kingman. Parents shouldn't be prejudiced against sending their kids to Lee Williams or Kingman High. Lee Williams has the prestigious Cambridge program that provides a plethora of opportunities, even graduating and going to a community college by the end of their sophomore year. If you have issues with KUSD, there is always Kingman Academy.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

Left Kingman area a week or so ago, moved back to Tucson, schools here are excellent, high quality, spent 3 years here previous to my 2 year stay in Kingman area, am not sure if the fact republicans dominate in Mohave county and democrats dominate here in Tucson is any factor but one thing for sure, something is rotten in denmark as they say in Mohave county, cannot pay your fire fighters, poor schools, my sons grades went from A's and B's in Tucson when I moved to Kingman area down to D's & F's, just barely were getting back up to decent grades, and moved for various reasons of which least was the poor educational system there!

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Save La Senita

@ Chrissy Davis Cerbat has empty rooms so teachers from La Senita we have to go with the students to fill the empty rooms.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

Well, the ignorance of this move to cut the school budget by a measley $1 million is right in line with the ignorance of this county's and state's lawmakers. There are 3 million jobs going begging in America because we don't have people sufficiently educated to fill them. The country moves forward toward more skilled jobs so the way to handle that is to cut back on education. The Mohave County children receive a poor education at best, so cutting back even more is the smart thing to do? This is all right in line with Kingman having the smallest library system in the County. These people have their heads in a very dark place and could care less about our children's futures or the County's future.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: KUSD Mom

Finally - a school board with enough courage to make the hard decisions. MCC Governing Board - are you watching and learning? Enrollment is down at the College well above and beyong the national average - start questioning why!

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Chrissy Davis

We received a letter home from Cerbat Elementary yesterday, explaining the purposed changes and notifying us that it will mean that 200 more students will be squished into Cerbat from La Senita Elementary School....I can't fathom where they plan on putting those kids. Even if it's only 20 per grade, the classes are already filled to the hilt with between 28 and 32 kids in each. I think this is bad idea! Not sure what the right solution is, but we all need to turn out and share our thoughts and come together as a community at the next Board meeting to prevent such over-crowding from happening and find a better way to help our children get the education they deserve. Anyone have a better idea, lets bring them together and help this district figure out their problem. If this does happen, then I may just have to considering moving my children to a homeschooling program or a private school like Emmanuel Christian. We need more focused education and I don't know if over-burdening the already burden teachers is the way to go.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: And Again

I can see all the KUSD bashing getting ready to begin again. Before it gets really going, take a look at higher levels. This is an Arizona STATE thing. Currently prisons are being funded at 40% higher than education. Per pupil spending is dropping while per prisoner spending is increasing. I believe that prisoners can "earn" 10 cents to $2.50 and hour while incarcerated. Let's see 3 hots and a cot AND a paycheck for breaking the law. Current AZ prison population (from ADC website) 39,984. Taking all prisoners at the low end of 10 cents per hour since I do not know how many actually get paid or how much, I'm estimating low. Ten cents an hour for each prisoner at 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year totals $8,316,772 of wasted money. Taxpayers already shell out more money per year to house these criminals than we do to educate students. Yet we also give them a paycheck. I see Arizona's priorities. Evertime KUSD needs to make a cut, take a look at the big guys a little higher up.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Save La Senita

Go to the meetings and fight for La Senita don't let a school that has been here for so long die. The school board needs to know how we feel.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Kingman Family

Maybe it's time to do away with the PASS/ PALS / I-CARE programs .

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: How About

How about going to 4 days a week? Wouldn't that save more than closing a school? The class rooms are already over filled, and you wouldn't have to cut jobs.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Parent

hmmmm seems they need to FIRE Pat Mikelson from the district completly!!!! that would save alot of money right there!
Since she has taken over at La Senita the school has gone down hill at a rapid rate. She also seems to brush all issues under the rug and pretend that they didn't exist. ..

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: KAOL Takes Over $1.9 of Our Tax $

How much is KAOL's budget? How much does KAOL recieve from the state (our tax money) - what's that, ALL OF IT.

And yea, those children could and should be brought back into the public schools where these shortfalls would disappear.

Mt. Tipton, Palo Christi, LaSenita families now is you time to demand that tax money go into the public schools NOT into private charter schools. Organize!!!

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: Choose the Plan Affecting the Least Children

Well, it is Bill Goodale's and others on the board that pushed to reopen LWHS. It was clearly expected to run the district into red at least $1m.

I would think closing these outlying schools like Mt. Tipton altogether would impact less students than closing LaSenita and PaloCristi.

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Article comment by: John Armstrong

@Mount Tipton Community: If you want to save your school, then seek out a for-profit educational foundation to help the MTC buy and operate the MT school lock, stock and barrel. Then you will contol the budget, who teaches there and what is taught to your kids.

@KUSD and Kingman Community: Expand the number of students attending KUSD schools by activiely recruiting businesses and industries to move to the area. Lobby the state legistlature for a land-grant 4 year college/university to be established. (Both will bring and hire working adults with children that will attend the local schools.)

Most importantly, DO NOT WAIT FOR MOHAVE COUNTY OR THE CITY OF KINGMAN GOVERNMENTS TO GET NEW PEOPLE IN THE AREA!! They move too slow and are heavily influenced by the super-slow growth lobby. Kingman needs to grow or it will die out.

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