At the Mount Tipton School town hall meeting Wednesday, parents, students, teachers and community members were able to hear Kingman Unified's reasoning and voice their concerns regarding the potential restructuring of the school.
The district must cut $4 million from its budget over the next two fiscal years. Options to close the shortfall were laid out by district staff and used to conduct a survey of district administrators and teachers. The results of the survey showed that administrators and teachers supported turning Mount Tipton School into an elementary school, regardless of the decision to move forward with the opening of Lee Williams High. If KUSD's Governing Board votes to make Mount Tipton a K-6 school, the district would save about $620,000 over two years. Likewise, making the school a K-8 would save about the same amount as long as 7th-grade curriculum and 8th-grade curriculum can be covered by one teacher in both grades. The cost to run the school increases sharply when there's one teacher per subject for middle school students.
One of the reasons restructuring the school is even a topic comes from the fact that out of KUSD's fiscal year 2012 general fund, the district is spending over $10,000 per student at Mount Tipton while it spends about $5,500 per student at all other district schools. This discrepancy exists because of Mount Tipton's student-to-teacher ratio, which is lower than other district schools.
Interestingly, Mount Tipton's low student-to-teacher ratio is one of the reasons students love the school, as it offers them a chance to receive one-on-one attention, which improves performance in many circumstances.
Rebecca Smith, a Dolan Springs business owner with four kids currently attending Mount Tipton, said the meeting was a positive experience. Parents were able to lay out their concerns to KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks, Finance Director Wanda Hubbard and Mount Tipton Principal Tony Victory, she said. From students transferring into Kingman schools not being able to participate in sports because their parents can't make the round trip from Dolan Springs to Kingman on a regular basis, to parents not being able to pick their children up from school when they're sick, parent concerns ran the gamut, she said.
One fear shared by many is that students from Mount Tipton won't get one-on-one attention from teachers if they are forced to transfer into Kingman schools, Smith said.
"This is Dolan Springs and not Kingman" was a main theme throughout the meeting, Smith said.
It's a mistake to treat every school in the district the same way. Differences must be accounted for, she said. Kingman schools cannot provide what Mount Tipton provides its students. Outside of teacher attention paid to students, Mount Tipton holds a personalized graduation where a slideshow of each student showing his or her life up to graduation is played. In Kingman, graduation is more about standing in line and waiting for a diploma, she said.
"We are not Kingman," Smith said. "We're just different."
Smith said a Mount Tipton student from Temple Bar spoke at the meeting about how she would be spending about five hours a day on a bus if she is forced to come to a Kingman school.
After KUSD laid out its reasoning for the possible restructuring of Mount Tipton - which included money and educational opportunities - and interested community members explained why they don't want the school restructured, Jacks made it clear that KUSD's governing board would not be making a decision at its March 6 meeting. It will be discussing the issue, though.
Smith said the community is now mobilized and plans to be at the next meeting to share its feelings with the Board, which did not attend the town hall meeting.
Smith said concerns were not addressed at the town hall, but she is OK with that, as she saw the meeting merely as an introduction to the issue. Both sides said their piece, and paved the way for more dialogue throughout the month, she said. There will be another Mount Tipton town hall meeting later in the month, and at that point Smith expects concerns to be addressed.
In the meantime, Smith expects the community to hold its own meetings in order to bring to the surface exactly what it wants from the district moving forward.
"Both sides are going to have to give a little," she said. "You can't just walk into the community and shut the school down. In the end, it's all about the kids."