With the drama and turmoil at the Sedona-Oak Creek School District over the last two years, a means for the public to directly address their school leaders has been a long time coming.
First announced in a guest perspective by Heather Hermen, a parent and former Big Park Community School Parent Teacher Student Association president, SOCSD is hosting the first of series of planned forums for the public, scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15, at the Sedona Performing Arts Center at Sedona Red Rock High School.
Karen Loftus, leadership development director for the Arizona School Boards Association, will lead the discussion. Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter will present education-related legislation set to go before the Arizona State Legislature this session, SOCSD Finance Director Colleen Toscano will discuss state school finance while SOCSD Superintendent David Lykins’ will present on the district’s falling enrollment numbers and what that means for students. Attendees can fill out comment cards to be answered by the members of the panel.
We ran a press release regarding this forum in late September, but haven’t heard much else and the district has been still rather vague about the rest of the format of the forum.
The district’s attempts to get the word out about the forum have been lacking, which makes it all the more important for the community to turn out in big numbers.
The district’s biggest problem over the last two years has been its terrible communication efforts to alert the public. Whether it was the upheaval over the plan to demote West Sedona School Principal Lisa Hirsch with a failed dual-principal concept until she chose to leave, or the proposed $75 fee that was planned to be charged to students at Sedona Red Rock High School or the decision to boost the superintendent’s salary by $18,500 to $120,000 while teachers were paid on average some of the lowest wages in the state, the district’s efforts to explain the rationale for these decisions beforehand, then defend them afterward has been tragicomic to say the least, recklessly mismanaged to say the worst. There have been no mailers about the forum, nor big marketing effort and many parents I spoke to over the weekend were entirely unaware that it was just around the corner. The website that will allow parents to post their comments and questions and see others hasn’t been set up yet and the URL won’t be announced until after the forum.
Whether the communication failures are due to lacking funds, poor management or willful intent, parents and students should make “better communication with the public” a prime topic of the forum. According to the district, a board quorum is possible, so parents should also be willing to address their board members directly about issues over the last two years and how our community moves forward.
Whether you have children in the SOCSD or are a taxpayer, whether you support the district Governing Board’s decisions 100 percent or stand in open opposition, you should attend this forum.
If you miss this forum, a second one is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, at Big Park Community School.
Our school district has the potential to better serve our children and the teachers who educate them, but that requires students, parents, taxpayers and stakeholders get involved and address the problems head-on and constructively. We hope to see you there.