Forum quizzes six running for CRUHSD board
BULLHEAD CITY — Six of the eight candidates running for three spots on the five-member Colorado River Union High School District governing board shared their thoughts on goals, safety, budgets and community-school partnerships during a two-hour forum sponsored by the student councils of Mohave and River Valley high schools.
Eva Corbett, Richard Cardone, Laureen Davidson, Carlos Lopez, Lori Crampton and Pat Young are seeking election in November, as are Mishaun Newman and Royanne Ortiz, who were unable to attend Monday’s forum because of scheduling conflicts.
Forum moderator Paul Bull put the candidates to a series of questions, most coming from the student councils at the two high schools operated by CRUHSD. Each candidate gave a brief opening statement and each had an opportunity to answer every question, though all were kept to a strict time limit.
School safety was on the minds of the students as well as the candidates. The second question from Bull — following the obligatory question that allowed the candidates to reel off their qualifications — addressed what the district should do to make classrooms safer. All six agreed to some degree — all advocated the use of full-time school resource officers and/or security guards, more and better electronic surveillance equipment and better control of the entrances of MHS and RVHS — while others went a step further.
“We need to get ahead of this curve,” said Cardone, who said he favored installation of metal detectors, suggesting the cost and inconvenience were minimal compared to stopping a potential tragedy.
Young, a former district administrator and teacher, said that safety issues also needed to focus on “inside the school, inside the culture of the school.” He said bullying, especially cyber-bullying, is part of a culture challenging educators here and elsewhere.
Davidson, a current board member, said it also was important that students and staff play a role. “See something, say something,” she said.
Crampton, also a current member of the board, noted that River Valley has a controlled entrance and Mohave is getting one during a construction upgrade. But, she said, the security measures can’t overwhelm students and faculty. “We don’t want it to feel like a prison,” she said.
Asked what the biggest challenge facing the board is, several candidates mentioned bringing up academic achievement while others discussed measures to attract and retain teachers. Both are related, several candidates suggested.
“Thank God for Mississippi,” Corbett said, noting that only Mississippi trails Arizona in many assessments on school funding. “Mississippi is No. 50 and we’re No. 49.”
Lopez said that Gov. Doug Ducey’s “20 by 20” plan — to give Arizona teachers a 20 percent pay increase by 2020 — is meant to address the teacher recruiting and retention issues.
That alone won’t do it, Young said. He said many prospective teachers are frightened away, not by the pay or the district itself but by the region and its “120-degree summers.”
“It is not easy,” Young said. “There’s not an easy answer to it.”
Cardone said he believes that management of the new Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse, under construction in Bullhead City, is one of the board’s biggest challenges.
“It’s a big financial albatross around our neck,” Cardone said of the
$32 million facility approved by district voters in 2016.
Many of the candidates pressed for better communication between the board, administration and public; several used the word “transparency” frequently.
“Accountability ... transparency,” Corbett said.
“Transparency,” Cardone agreed before adding, “We need a fresh set of eyes looking at the policies and the direction of this district.”
Both Davidson and Crampton were able to point out positive accomplishments by the current board — Davidson has been a board member for four years and Crampton for eight.
“Our graduation rate is above 90 percent — average between both schools,” Crampton said.
“We’ve done so many great things,” Davidson said.
Crampton and Davidson revisited a few of the district’s accomplishments in recent years — merging services with the elementary school district to save taxpayer dollars, improved achievement test scores, expanded technical programs and an impending push to ACT-based curriculum among them.
“I want to continue on some of the things we’ve excelled at,” Crampton said.
Lopez, a 2012 MHS graduate, told the student councils he wanted to serve on the board because “I love this school. I love this community.” He added that being an MHS graduate “gives me a unique perspective to see things as you do.”