By Tommy Acosta
Sedona, Az (March 26, 2015) Democracy in action is a wonder to watch.
Such was the March 22 special meeting of the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District Governing Board over the possible closing of Big Park School in the Village of Oak Creek.
That meeting exemplified what our forefathers envisioned as government serving its people.
The 5-0 vote by the governing board to keep Big Park open proves it.
Here played out the classic confrontation between elected officials carrying out their responsibilities as best they can and the people exercising their rights to inform government of their wishes and desires.
Simply put, district administrators and elected officials have their backs against the budgetary wall, a wall that continues to block an adequate flow of education money into the district.
The closing of Big Park School in the Village of Oak Creek was explored as one way to blunt the devastating consequences of the Arizona State Legislature’s cutting of education funds.
These cuts impede the district’s ability to run all it’s schools in a viable manner.
Supporters of Big Park would not accept the closing of the school and throughout the numerous meetings the district has held on the issue of its closing, Big Park parents and teachers have remained steadfast in opposition to the school’s shut down.
Though a bit raucous at times because of the emotional impact the possibility of the school closing has had on students parents and affected educators, the three-hour meeting concluded without any serious disagreements or altercations between the school authorities and the public.
Board members John D. Miller, Karen McClelland, Zach Richardson, Tommy Stovall and Bobbi Surber never once lost their professional aplomb, opting to listen intently to the pleas of the community they represent, despite boorish behavior by a few of the public speakers.
When the will of the people prevails it is always a good day for lovers of the democratic process.
The board members did their duty by listening to those who elected them.
The public did theirs by participating in the meetings and clearly vocalizing their concerns and how much keeping their school open meant to them.
No guarantees or assurances were given on the possibility that Big Park School may not have a large enough enrollment to stay open despite the board’s unanimous vote not to close it for now
Hedging it’s bets that future state funding for education will continue its downward path to oblivion, the board did take pre-emptive action by moving seventh and eighth graders to Red Rock High School nonetheless, a move some members of the public protested and intend to oppose.
Still, the meeting was an excellent example of government and its citizens working within the democratic process to resolve problems through dialogue and discourse rather than personal attacks, media manipulation or authoritative arrogance.
Though future funding for all of the district’s schools remains nebulous at present, what cannot be denied is the spirit of the parents, teachers and students of Big Park School and their resolution to move forward.
This positive energy must not be wasted. It should be re-directed at those truly responsible for the state’s dismal funding for education.
Presently, the school district remains factionalized. Groups are working against each other rather than together for a common goal.
Their common bond is their intention to save the district. It’s the manner on how and who should be at the helm where contention arises.
If the contending factions continue this wasted effort there is little hope for the district and its students. It’s time for a sit-down and heart-to-heart discussion between the leadership.
The state continues to redirect funds to the building of jails and support of more charter schools. It doesn’t look like this trend is going to end any time soon.