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Wed, Dec. 11

General election will impact local educational issues

Jac Heiss, Williams school superintendent, is working with other northern Arizona school districts in hopes of establishing a joint vocational education district.

Grand Canyon and Fredonia school districts have already bought into the plan’s feasibility. Heiss said Page school district is still considering the proposition.

Sharing equipment costs and personnel are two advantages a joint vocational district can provide.

Not only would it preserve the voc-ed programs already in place, Heiss said it would enhance them with funding for better equipment.

Using automotive repair as an example, he pointed out sophisticated diagnostic equipment is now the norm. And by sharing equipment, he stressed the potential to stretch funding further.

If a school district can’t afford the equipment on its own, Heiss said a joint district could foot the bill and mobilize equipment so classes can be offered at various sites on a rotating basis.

The district would serve the 85 percent of Williams students who don’t pursue a four-year college degree as well as fill a niche needed in northern Arizona.

Citing two recent surveys, Heiss underscored the need for a more skilled workforce.

The first was a 1998 Williams business retention survey by Coconino Community College. The second was a countywide survey done a year later by Northern Arizona University. Heiss said both concluded there are not enough trained technicians in the vicinity.

However, to help finance the district, voters will need to approve a five-cent increase in secondary assessed valuation on property within is boundaries. But Heiss said the new tax will leverage four times the amount it will cost Williams property owners.

“The five-cent sales tax (in the joint district) potentially would raise $120,000 in funds with Williams residents paying around $27,000,” he said. “I feel this is a decision to share with the whole community,” referring to the fact it requires voter approval.

The next hurdle will be convincing the Arizona Board of Education a joint voc-ed district is a viable plan. Heiss will head to Phoenix June 26 to discuss the venture at a state board meeting.

Should the plan get state approval, the county elections department will be notified to put the measure up for a vote in the November general election. Heiss said by getting it on the November ballot, it avoids the cost entailed by holding a special election.

Another educational matter up for voter approval in November is the Williams school board election.There are three open positions on the Williams Unified School Board in the Nov. 7 election. Each school board member serves four years.

Any registered voter in Arizona, who has been a resident of the school district for one year immediately preceding the day of election, is eligible for this position.

The three positions are currently held by Cindy Christman, Jan Harker and John Eavis. The terms expire on Dec. 31.

Eavis plans to run again, but Christman and Harker are retiring from the board.

Candidates are required to circulate nonpartisan nominating petitions, but only nine registered voter names are needed to qualify a contender to run.

Hopefully, qualified candidates will come forward to ensure Williams students will get the best education possible. Williams residents should give serious thought to running. And don’t forget to decide how you’d feel about having a joint vocational education district. It could easily end up on the November ballot as well.

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