County News

The Yavapai College District Governing Board has rejected a proposal to hire a third-party consultant to study the college’s current administrative structure in the Verde Valley and Sedona.

During the board’s regular monthly meeting on March 1, board member Al Filardo motioned to hire the consultant, who would explore the viability of a separate Verde Valley administration.

The board declined the motion.

According to Filardo, the board had not discussed a separate Verde Valley administration since September 2014.

“As you know, there are many forces still bringing up the topic for discussion,” Filardo stated following the meeting. “One only needs to read the newspapers throughout the Verde Valley to hear about it .... Because this topic has become a distraction from the important focus on education, one of the ways to resolve the discussion about the viability of an administrative college is with data from a neutral point of view, so the board can make an informed decision.”

Filardo explained that he had put the motion forward so that an independent party could look into the following:

  • The viability of an administrative college.
  • The possibility of having a person in charge of the campus in the Verde Valley at Yavapai College who lives in the Verde Valley. Both Dean James Perey and Associate Dean Kelly Trainor currently live in the Prescott area.
  • The merit of continuing on the college’s current path as the administration modifies its operations and reacts to the feedback from the communities.

“Bringing in outside expertise for a more objective perspective is a common practice in both private and public sectors,” Filardo added. “I was hoping someone with expertise and experience in the subject matter could do an objective analysis of the above thereby fostering civil, data-driven discussions on this subject resulting in forward progress towards a consensus.

“Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the first item is such an emotional issue that items two and three did not get any attention. I think we members of the board missed an opportunity to support the administration at the college and to respond to the concerns in the Verde Valley by not approving my motion. Now, I am sure the disagreements will continue.”

Filardo stated he is “averaging about five people a month” coming to his home unannounced to voice concerns.

“It is clear they are searching for a resolution to this situation and as their elected representative, I am trying to build a path to better understanding.”

Board member Deb McCasland has been a vocal supporter of the Verde Valley, publicly questioning Yavapai College’s commitment to area students. In response to the vote to decline Filardo’s motion, she asked what the board would be “afraid of revealing by having a private consultant study the need, feasibility or appropriate model” for a separate Verde Valley administration?

“The projected cost for such a study was not mentioned,” McCasland stated. “There were comments regarding spending the same money that a study would cost and use it to implement needed changes identified through discussions with the involved parties .... The Verde Campus was once thriving and growing and meeting the needs of our students, but once the Prescott campus took over all decision making, the campus declined.”

Tuition Increase

During the March 1 meeting, the board also voted to increase a proposed tuition and fees increase for 2016-17. The approved motion marks an increase of $4 per credit hour for in-state tuition for most courses and a cost of $10 per credit hour for high school students taking dual credit courses. Market-based programs, such as aviation, fire science, gunsmithing, nursing and radiology have market-based tuition rates and will be adjusted to meet market conditions.

“I question the need to continually increase fees,” McCasland stated. “Our enrollment has been declining for the past seven or so years. Something is causing this decline and I do not accept that it is only due to the economy.”

Dual Credit for High Schoolers

“The dual credit courses should be retained as no charge to the students. This is a very successful way for our Yavapai County high school students start their college. Currently, there are no accessibility issues for dual enrollment students. The $10 per credit charge will limit the number of students that can afford this option and add an additional administrative layer of responsibility for the high schools. There were at least eight school superintendents and the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee that opposed this additional charge. Why didn’t we listen to them?” McCasland said.

The three remaining board members, Ray Sigafoos, Patricia MCarver and Steve Irwin did not return calls by press time. College President Penny Wills did not reply to multiple requests for comment by press time.


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