There were more questions than answers
at a public informational meeting to
discuss school district unification on
Logistical details about a possible
unification, such as individual school
boundaries and teacher salaries, are
simply unknowable at this time, said
governing board members from the Kyrene
Elementary School District.
It was the second of three meetings
organized by the Kyrene district to
explain unification options, answer
questions and get input from community
About 20 people attended the meeting,
raising questions about high school
boundaries, the merger of divergent
district philosophies and the
combination of varying tax structures.
Board members and district officials
have asked the same questions, they
said, but have gotten little information
from the state commission brokering the
“I don’t get the feeling that it’s
necessarily their intention to resolve
all those details,” said board member
Sue Knudson. “We’re not going to get
a huge amount of support or assistance.
If it goes to a vote and it passes, it’s
our job to figure it out.”
In 2005, the legislature created a state
commission to develop plans for merging
some of Arizona’s non-unified elementary
and high school districts into unified
There are two draft recommendations for
the Kyrene Corridor school districts.
One would combine the Kyrene Elementary,
Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union
districts into one monster district.
Officials call this plan the
The other, referred to as the
three-to-two option, would split the
Tempe Union High School District in half
along Guadalupe Road, giving three of
its high schools to each elementary
The three-to-one option would create one
of the state’s largest districts.
Problems would stem from blending
cultures, aligning curriculum,
equalizing pay and standardizing
priorities, board members said.
Kyrene would be underrepresented on the
new district’s transition governing
board, with only six of the 15 members
living in Kyrene’s boundaries and
elected by Kyrene voters.
Nine of the transition board’s members,
a clear majority, would live in north
Tempe and be more accustomed to the
Tempe Elementary district’s policies.
They may be more inclined to support
policies from that district over
Kyrene’s policies in the new district,
said Ray Waters, a Kyrene board
“That’s just the political reality,” she
Board members would have to be “open to
learning” about the programs and
policies of other districts, said
Rich Zawtocki, Kyrene board
“I like to think if you have a 15-member
board you’re going to look at everyone
you represent,” Zawtocki said.
Schools don’t have to be carbon-copy
images of each other, he added.
Programs that work well in some schools
can remain in those schools but not in
others, he said.
One parent worried a marriage between
the Kyrene and Tempe elementary
districts would lower the district-wide
average test score.
“That’s going to lower our home values,”
said Debbie Coulter. “We
specifically moved here for Corona del
Sol High School and Kyrene.”
Another parent, Greg Patten, said
he supports the three-to-one model
because it would seem to have the
largest reduction to administrative
“I am puzzled by what I see as the
overhead of having two separate
districts,” he said.”
Patten doesn’t see the change saving
money overall but rather reducing
“overhead” to allocate more money to
The three-to-two option would leave
Kyrene’s boundaries intact, but risks
overcrowding high schools in south Tempe
and Ahwatukee while leaving excess
capacity in north Tempe schools.
“There are enough issues in high school
years without really crowding the kids,”
said one parent. “I think that just
exacerbates the issue.”
Under that plan, Kyrene’s existing
northern boundary of Guadalupe Road
would be unaffected. The three high
schools south of Guadalupe--Corona del
Sol, Mountain Pointe and Desert
Vista--would become Kyrene schools.
But several hundred Marcos de Niza High
School students who live between Elliot
and Guadalupe roads would be pushed into
the boundaries for Corona, which is
already at capacity.
Declining enrollment may eventually
lessen the influx, but it would take
decades, board members said.
The three-to-two option would irk the
Tempe City Council, which drafted a
letter recently requesting that any
change keep their city in a single
It helps foster the city’s identity as a
whole if its children get unified
instruction, council members said.
The three-to-two option would
essentially leave Kyrene in tact but add
high schools, one parent said.
“It gives us control of our kids’
education,” he said, because Kyrene’s
board members are easily accessible.
The Arizona School District
Redistricting Commission will release
its preliminary proposal in April for
public comment. A final proposal will
be released by the end of 2007 and
voters will ultimately decide the result
in a November 2008 election.
The next Kyrene community meeting will
be Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. at the Ben Furlong
Education Center, 8700 S. Kyrene Road,