City News

Yavapai College officials say they’re making a concerted effort to improve the lines of communication between the college and the residents of the Verde Valley.

But it’s evident that there are still old wounds that have yet to heal. Many on this side of Mingus Mountains feel they’re not getting nearly enough bang for their tax buck in terms of the disproportionate amount of funding and resources that goes to the Prescott campus.

During the Tuesday, Sept. 27, Sedona City Council meeting, Yavapai College’s Clint Ewell and Heather Mulcaire gave a brief presentation before answering questions from the council and hearing feedback from the community. The two said the college is increasing its outreach program to both the community and to students, encouraging them to consider Yavapai after graduating high school.

“I really think we’ve been able to ramp up our outreach activities to students within Yavapai County,” Ewell said.

After their brief presentation, the focus shifted to the Sedona campus and the recently-approved culinary and hospitality institute that will be built here. He said two classrooms will be repurposed and turned into teaching kitchens. And, at the most recent governing board meeting, an additional $1.7 million was approved to enclose the courtyard area adjacent to the two buildings, which will create a shaded area.

The original plan for the culinary institute called for four separate kitchens. But Ewell said in talking with local chefs and after visiting other culinary institutes, they felt two would be sufficient at this time. But he later said that if the program takes off, there is always room for expansion.

When asked about flat or decreasing numbers at campuses throughout the Yavapai College system, Ewell said a lot of it has to do with the overall economy. They did point out, however, that numbers over the last year have increased in the Verde Valley but dropped in Prescott.

“As the economy goes south, some people get displaced and as they are conserving their resources, they go to the place that’s the best value and that tends to be community colleges,” he said. “As things are on the rebound, people have more choices.”

Councilman Scott Jablow expressed concern about the governing board’s recent disbanding of the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee and because of that, asked who will be a voice for this side of the mountain.

“Many of these things that you’re seeing [presentation] as progress and things that we’re working on, are things we’re hearing from the community,” Ewell said. “Yes, some are recommendations that came in through VVBAC but also, some of that has filtered in through a variety of sources.

“It’s taken us some time to get things going in the right direction but what you have is an administration that definitely wants to serve these communities and these students.”

District Governing Board member Al Filardo said when the motion was made to disband the VVBAC, he stopped the proceedings and told the board that it needed an exit plan. Because of that they decided for now to simply suspend the VVBAC.

“The reason I raised my hand is because I feel it’s extremely important that the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee continues,” he said.

Filardo went on to say, “When the VVBAC was started, we called in all the superintendents from the Verde Valley and they said ‘our students have never heard of Yavapai College.’ Heather’s [Mulcaire] efforts are going to help us tremendously but we can’t let this go. A couple years ago I told this council that you were asleep at the wheel because we almost got this facility taken away from us. The process [at that time] was not to seek the community’s input but it is now.”

Following up on Filardo’s comments, Councilwoman Jessica Williamson added, “I’m very disturbed that is was suspended. It would have been an act of good faith by the board with this side of the community, which it always outvoted 3-2 by the board. I don’t think they actually ever wanted the committee and I think they didn’t accept most of the recommendations from the committee. I feel they were just as happy to get rid of a pesky committee that was comprised of very high-level people who were very committed to the college and the Verde Valley.”

During public forum, Sedona resident Joel Staadecker said he is an advocate for an independent community college in order to get “out from the crushing oppression of a Yavapai College governance system, leadership and management that works and resides on the west side of the Mingus Mountains for the benefit of the Prescott-region communities. We’re being cheated out of facilities and programs that we deserve and are paying for through our property tax dollars.”


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