School superintendent weathering busy year

Preparing students for Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test and lobbying for unification legislation has made 1999-2000 one of the busiest fiscal years in the 10 years Mike Ford has been superintendent of the Mohave Union High School District.

"We've had a group of division chairmen and department heads working on aligning math, science and English with the AIMS standards so we're ready to kick that off in the fall," Ford said.

"We've also aligned our whole math program to where students coming in (to Kingman High School) will take algebra or geometry."

In addition to changes in the math curriculum, Ford said he hopes to have staff development for several reasons: decreasing the dropout rate; increasing the graduation rate; and making the high school user-friendly so students wishing to be there can get the best education possible in a safe environment.

The possible unification between the Mohave Union High School District and Kingman Elementary School District may be the biggest education issue in this political campaign year.

Ford and Vince DeJong, superintendent of the elementary district, have done much of the work toward unification since the latest movement began in January 1998.

Legislation sponsored by Rep.

Laura Knaperek and passed in the spring as House Bill 2264 permits districts to unify into a K-12 district through a resolution of governing boards.

"The new legislation has made unification simpler," Ford said.

"The unification movement originally started with Tempe Union and other districts in Rep.

Knaperek's area, so she started working with them on it.

"Before the legislation was passed unification was cumbersome and expensive," he said.

"For example, if voters in Hackberry are against unification here they could vote no and stop the whole process."

Positive feedback from area services organizations and a survey of members of the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce have further bolstered his belief that unification is desirable here, Ford said.

In addition to four or five trips to Phoenix to meet with officials of the state Department of Education and legislators about unification, Ford said he has invested several hundred hours in telephone calls to Knaperek, her staff and attorneys seeking legal opinions to legislation that will preclude loopholes surfacing later.

"It has been a major undertaking," Ford said.

"Unification is one of those things the high school board felt was worthy of spending time on, so I have balanced my other duties and it has been an interesting year."

The two district governing boards could consider adopting a unification resolution any time after July 17.

If it is to happen July 1, 2001 resolutions must be passed late next month so the state Department of Education and state Department of Revenue can be notified by Aug.

1.

Ford said if both boards adopt a resolution the two districts will immediately begin an examination of services, transportation, maintenance and support staffs to see where they could be "dovetailed."

Residents will have one more chance to ask questions or share their concerns about unification during an educational summit set for 7 p.m.

Tuesday at Kingman Junior High School.