Mt. Tipton will stay open

KUSD approves restructuring plan for school; includes seven recommendations

Kingman Unified School Board member Laurie Barthlow commends the community served by Mount Tipton for its determination to not allow the closure of portions of the school.

AHRON SHERMAN/Miner<br> Kingman Unified School Board member Laurie Barthlow commends the community served by Mount Tipton for its determination to not allow the closure of portions of the school.

The audience shrieked and applauded when the Kingman Unified School Board unanimously approved a restructuring plan for Mount Tipton School that does not include closing its middle school and high school.

It took two months of back-and-forth discourse between the district, the board and the Dolan Springs community to get to this point. But it took the board less than an hour to come to its decision.

Again, the reason the school was even on the chopping block in the first place came down to KUSD's need to cut $4 million from its budget over the next two fiscal years. Converting the school to elementary only would have saved more than $610,000 during that time span.

But members of the Dolan Springs community refused to be ignored, expressing their feelings and even offering solutions at every step.

Mount Tipton teacher Donna Wickerd and the school's parent volunteer coordinator Rebecca Smith even crafted several budget options. The option would've saved the district as much or more than closing the middle school and high school portions of Mount Tipton.

Superintendent Roger Jacks presented seven recommendations to the board Wednesday - all of which were approved.

First, the school will be structured as a modified PK-12.

Second, per-student general fund spending will not exceed $8,700. Currently, it sits at $10,436 while other district schools sit at about $5,513. Wanda Hubbard, the district's finance director, said capping per-student spending at that amount will save the district more than $400,000 a year. But it also means at least four regular education teachers will no longer work at Mount Tipton. That doesn't mean they'll be out of a job. Teaching positions throughout the district will need to be filled, Hubbard said.

Third, the $8,700 per-student spending plan was approved for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years.

Fourth, when Mount Tipton's $565,000 a year school improvement grant runs out after the 2012-2013 year, the district will not pick up the funding except for a small portion.

Fifth, after the SIG runs out, the district will pick up the stipend teachers receive for teaching at Mount Tipton. Currently, it's a $5,000 a year stipend, but once the SIG runs out it will be lowered to $1,000.

Next, Mount Tipton students will continue to have the option to attend Kingman schools and a bus will still be provided.

Lastly, the board approved a list of goals for the school. They include an attendance goal of 95 percent (it's at about 90 percent now), an enrollment average daily membership goal of 325 students (the school has a 225 ADM right now), an academic goal of a "C" grade on AZLEARNS (the school received a "B" this year) and an academic goal of meeting federal average yearly progress.

Board member Bill Goodale said he would like to see a graduation and tax credit goal added to the recommendations, and Jacks said he would do that. Goodale added that if the community interest shown over the last couple months continues, the school should have no problems meeting these goals.

"I encourage everyone to stay involved," Goodale said.

Board member Laurie Barthlow agreed with Goodale and commended the Dolan Springs community for being involved in the process.

"I think this is a good compromise," she said.

Charles Lucero, who has been on the school board for 10 years, said this was the strongest level of community support he'd seen during his KUSD tenure.

"Please continue to show support," Lucero said. "And work with the new leader at the school."

Mount Tipton Principal Tony Victory had an inter-district transfer to Cerbat Elementary approved earlier in the meeting.

Smith, who has been instrumental throughout this whole process, thanked board members one by one for their decision and even hugged a few of them as well. But the fact that the school has a tough road ahead of it was not lost on her.

"Now the real work begins," Smith said.