Unification idea fizzling
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 13, 2005
School districts have lukewarm response to idea
State Sen. Linda Gray is trying to spur unification talks for Glendale Union
High School District and the Glendale and Washington Elementary districts.
But the Glendale Republican has found only a lukewarm response, canceling a
public meeting last week when governing-board members declined to attend.
Gray proposes that the three districts become two kindergarten through 12th
grade districts. Glendale Union's six high schools in Phoenix would join
Washington and become the Washington Unified School District. The high-school
district's three Glendale schools would join Glendale Elementary to create
Glendale Unified School District. The proposal, open to change, provides a
starting point for talks, Gray said.
Arizona is one of three states where both elementary districts and high-school
districts exist. About half of more than 200 districts in the state are unified.
The other half are either elementary or high school districts. About 28
districts can be found within metro Phoenix alone.
This past spring, state legislators took another crack at unifying high-school
districts with their feeder elementary districts. They passed a law that calls
for a 13-member commission to carve out district boundaries and issue a report
in 2007. Voters in the proposed districts would have the final word.
Until then, the state is offering financial incentives for districts to unify.
Glendale Elementary Board President Steven Johnston doesn't like the rush.
"There's a right way to do this, and it feels to me that Senator Gray wants to
push this through very quickly," he said, adding, "You can't make huge decisions
and let the consequences be figured out later."
The Arizona School Board Association has called the proposal an infringement on
Johnston said the meeting Gray arranged and then canceled on July 5 did not
consider board members' schedules. He has slated the topic for discussion at his
board's Aug. 2 meeting.
The Washington Elementary governing board has not put the issue on its agenda,
according to board President Terri Schroeder-Owen.
Gray and a handful of parents took their cause to the Glendale Union board last
week. Norma Alvarez, known as an active proponent of immersing students in
English, told board members that she was willing to push unification forward
without their support by gaining enough signatures to put the issue on the
Unification would create seamless academic standards, Alvarez said. "Our kids
are enrolling in high school without being prepared," she said.
Gray called it a blame game.
"If it was K-12, you are responsible for them all the way through," she said.
Supporters say unification eliminates duplication of services and
Glendale Union's administrator for finance, Gene Dudo, said that small districts
are more likely to capture savings than large urban districts created by
Washington enrolls about 25,000 students. Glendale Elementary enrolls 13,700
students and Glendale Union High School has 14,200 students.