A parents committee and the Tempe City Council say yes. Three school boards say no. But ultimately, it will be up to a 13-member state commission to decide whether a measure to merge the Kyrene and two Tempe school districts makes it onto the ballot.
“While it is true these districts have done an excellent job to this point, the prospect of unification shows they can do better,” said Martin Shultz, chairman of the Arizona School District Redistricting Commission. “There’s a lot of input we’re going to have to sift through before we make our final decisions.”
The Tempe Elementary, Kyrene Elementary and Tempe Union High school districts do not want a unification plan placed on the ballot in November 2008.
But the Parent Unification Committee, which is composed of parents from all three districts, and the City Council want the districts combined into one school system.
It’s an issue that’s been hotly debated for more than a year.
The redistricting commission suggested two options: Combine the districts into one K-12 district, or create two K-12 districts divided along the current elementary boundaries. School boards, parents and others were then asked to give feedback.
The commission will compile the responses, summarize them and then make a determination Oct. 11 as to which proposal should go on the November 2008 ballot, Shultz said.
The school districts are opposed to unification for various reasons, including the time involved to implement redistricting and the lack of financial support provided to school districts to accomplish the task. For example, if merged, the districts would have to purchase new software because the three currently use different systems.
Zita Johnson, Tempe Union governing board president, said her district’s decision came after an online survey of more than 600 responses, two community forums and several meetings.
“I think we all worked really hard and independently, as well as together,” Johnson said of the three districts. “I guess I’m surprised that the three districts were as close to each other as they were.”
Sandy Lowe, a member of the Parent Unification Committee, said the main reason the committee was formed was to “get the best choice on the ballot to minimize damage if (unification) was adopted.”
“I understand the position that the three governing boards took in reviewing these proposals,” Lowe said. “However, given the potential a unified district could have, if the money problems were addressed along with the short timeline for actually unifying, I would hope that they would consider unification as a possibility for this area.”
For information on school redistricting, visit www.ade.state.az.us/sdrc.