By Nick Worth
A routine request by Navajo County Superintendent of Schools Linda Morrow to approve the transfer of Race to the Top funds to the Apache County Superintendent of Schools, Education Service Agency turned into a chance for area residents to express their concerns over the Common Core Educational Standards to the Navajo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
According to Morrow, under an existing intergovernmental agreement, Race to the Top funds are channeled through her office to be disbursed to the Education Service Agencies in both Apache and Coconino counties.
Morrow told the board she needed approval to reimburse Apache County for monies it has already spent providing teacher training. She said the fund is set up so the monies are reimbursed after being spent, rather than funded ahead of time.
“We use the funds to improve teacher training in the local area,” Morrow said. She noted that teachers often had to travel far outside the area to received continuing education.
“We want to keep it local,” Morrow said. “I’m asking for an approval to give monies back to Apache County that they have already spent.”
District III Supervisor Sylvia Allen asked how much money is going to Apache County.
“We have $125,000 to divide equally among the three counties,” Morrow said. “We have trained over 125 teachers so far this year.”
“The grant is for $500,000,” said Allen.
“Over four years,” Morrow replied.
Allen then pointed out that more than $400,000 of the grant goes for consultation fees and asked the nature of the consultation.
Morrow told Allen it is easier to hire a consultant rather than an employee for the teacher training.
Allen then asked how parents can give input into the workings of the schools. She expressed concern over the Common Core standards being implemented in the state’s schools.
“Parents still have the ability to go to those local school board meetings and have a say that way,” said Morrow. “You can’t say, ‘I don’t want the Common Core standards taught.’ That’s law. We can’t change that.”
“Parents have not had any of their rights taken away,” said Morrow.
“I disagree with that,” Allen said. “Common Core is designed to make standards all across the country the same for every child. We got rid of the AIMS test and now we have to teach to the PARCC test.”
Morrow said she agreed. “I don’t want to teach to that test,” she said.
“You have to,” Allen replied.
“We are changing the way America is doing education and it came from the top down,” Allen said. “It came through the back door and it hasn’t been known to a lot of people that we’re socializing and standardizing education.
“We have no idea how much it’s going to cost us,” Allen continued. “It didn’t go through the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.”
“I understand,” Morrow said, “but there have been a lot of unfunded mandates go through the legislature. There have been a lot of things laid down on teachers and schools.”
“When I took my oath the constitution is not a socialist document,” said Allen. “We need to make a stand and not go down that road.”
Morrow then told Allen and the rest of the board that concerns over the Common Core need to be taken to the State Board Of Education.
“I do not have the authority to change that,” Morrow said. “I will try to keep things as locally generated and funded as possible.”
Several citizens were in the room to address the board on the matter.
“I am the mother of six children aged 21 to 2 years old,” said Brendee Peterson of Snowflake. “I served on the school board in Snowflake and as a member I respect Mrs. Morrow and what she does for the county.”
Peterson told the board she became interested in Common Core and when she went to a presentation, “a couple of red flags” made her wonder what was happening.
“The presenter said under Common Core all our children would be taught the same things so our children could compete locally with China,” said Peterson. “There was no mention of history being taught.”
Peterson said she asked the presenter about it and noted that she said history will be taught, but it is not as important as math and science. She finished by saying she has a friend in another state teaching Common Core and that in 180 days, she and her fellow teachers had given 200 tests to their students.
Misty Brimhall, of Snowflake told the board there is another solution.
“I understand it’s not within your power to dictate the program, but it is within your power to dictate the funding,” she said. She expressed concern about the Common Core material.
Bobby Hall of Taylor told the supervisors children must read state standard mandated books and that parents would not be able to change it.
“I’m here today to ask you to not take the money,” Hall told the board. “I urge you to try to keep as much control as possible for our children. If we keep the control in our own area, we are better able to educate our children.”
Martin Lynch of Snowflake expressed concern over how the expensive computer equipment needed by the Common Core would have the effect of raising property taxes.
“So who are the ones that are going to foot the bill on this mandated program?” asked Lynch. “It will fall on the taxpayers’ backs. How is it going to affect this town and this county?”
Lowry Flake of Snowflake remarked that the Common Core curriculum has not been tested.
“Where and for how long has the entire Race to the Top Common Core program been tested?” Flake asked. “Where can we review the results? It’s an expensive program because it involves technology and technology is not cheap.
“Each student will not be encouraged to do their best under Common Core,” said Flake. “They will only do enough to meet the standards.”
Karen McKeon of Show Low and Janet Reynolds of Linden read an article to the board about the state of Indiana rejecting Common Core.
Brenda Johnson told the board, “A halt to funding is one of the best ways we can put a stop to this.” She said she didn’t like the data mining aspect of Common Core.
“We’ll lose local control,” Johnson said. “I encourage you to make a start and not fund anything that will promote the Common Core.”
“I realize the superintendent has to disburse the funds, but that doesn’t stop us from making our point,” said Show Low’s Terry Hill. “Many people in the community are just now becoming aware of what Common Core is about.”
“There has been a lot of discussion about national standards and I don’t think I disagree with you,” Morrow told the board and the citizens in attendance. “There have been mandates on our schools for a long time. LBJ (President Lyndon Baines Johnson) brought forth entitlements in the 1960s.
“The litany of federal involvement in our state schools has been coming for a long time, but that’s not why I’m here today,” said Morrow. “I’m here to ask for approval of an IGA for funds they (Apache County Schools) have expended and which they cannot now replace in any other way.”
Supervisor David Tenney said he took an oath of office to uphold the laws of the state.
“There is nothing in the state laws and statutes that says the Board of Supervisors has any control over school education,” said Tenney. “I believe change should be made at the local schools, school boards and the state board of education.
“I do not believe the Board of Supervisors can affect the Common Core by refusing to pass money through to Apache County,” Tenney said. “I’ll go to the school boards with you and I’ll fight along with you on this, but the Navajo County Board of Supervisors is not the place to address this issue.”
“There has to be a line drawn somewhere and a stand taken somewhere,” Allen said. “We do not have the ability to change Common Core, but we do have voices.”
After each supervisor addressed the crowd explaining his or her position, the board voted to approve the transfer of funds to Apache County 4-1, with Allen casting the only “nay” vote.
In other action May 14, the board:
* Approved a grant agreement with the City of Tucson for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas funding for $85,969.
* Approved a contract with LRS Web Solutions for consultant services for implementation of content management system software in an amount not to exceed $40,000.
* Approved a special event liquor license for the Heber-Overgaard Chamber of Commerce Oktoberfest.
* Approved a special event liquor license for the Heber-Overgaard Chamber of Commerce July 4th festivities.
* Approved tax exemptions as requests for redemption of waiver for 19 properties and one vehicle.
* Accepted the resignation of Bill Rawlings as a member of the Navajo County Planning and Zoning Commission for District V.
* Reappointed Check Teetsel as a regular member to the planning and zoning commission for District V.
* Approved a letter asking Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick to sponsor language for the Water Resources Development Act on projects similar to the Winslow Feasibility Study.
* Approved a letter to the Northern Arizona Council of Government regarding appointment of Supervisor Jesse Thompson to the NACOG Economic Development Committee.
* Approved a letter to the USDA Forest Service regarding Land Management Planning Rule Common Core.
* Approved a letter to the Lakeside Ranger District regarding Navajo County comments on the proposed Second Knoll Shooting Range Environmental Assessment.
* Approved a revised letter providing input and direction to the State Transportation Board regarding Navajo County’s preference on the Five-Year Transportation Plan.
* Approved a contract for inmate labor with the Arizona State Prison Complex in Winslow.
* Approved a proclamation declaring the month of May as Arizona Youth Month.
* Recognized Renee Pinnell, Public Defender, Jeff Lineberry, Information Technology, and LeAnn Baker, Facilities Management, for their excellence in personal performance far exceeding organization expectations.
* Approved personnel actions.
* Gave five-year personnel service awards to Jeffrey Adamas, sheriff’s office; Michelle Freyou, assessor’s office; Sherilynn Noble, adult probation; Justin LeSueur, jail operations; Edward Richards, public works; and Alberto Peshakai, public works.
Ten-year personnel service awards went to Ralph Ellington, public works; Latanya Bazurka, county attorney’s office; and Richard Garcia, facilities management.
* Approved personal property tax abatements of $17,851.
County Treasurer Manny Hernandez explained that the owners of several trailers, or the trailers themselves cannot be located.
* Adopted a resolution supporting and approving a grant application submitted to Gila River Indian Community for purchase of five replacement patrol vehicles totaling $199,373.80.
* Approved a 36-month lease for office space for the Major Crimes Apprehension Team funded by a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area grant.
* Approved an extension of a professional services agreement with North Country HealthCare for jail medical services until June 30.
* Approved an annual contract for consultant services with Percy Deal as a tribal liaison in the amount of $1,000 per month plus travel expenses.
* Approved amendment No. 3 to the slurry seal contract with American Pavement Preservation, LLC, extending the Slurry Seal Contract for one additional year from May 25, 2013, through May 24, 2014.
* Approved amendment No. 4 to the hauling waste tire contract with CRM of America, LLC, extending the contract for an additional year from June 9, 2013, through June 8, 2014.
* Awarded a contract for supply and delivery of culverts and bands to the lowest bidder, Contech Engineered Solutions, LLC.
Acting as the Navajo County Public Health Services District Board of Directors, the board:
* Approved amendment No. 1 of a contract with the Arizona Department of Health Services for the Arizona Nutrition Network Program for a reduction of $108,340 to a total of $325,018, effective Feb. 1 through Sept. 30.
* Approved an agreement of understanding between Utah State University Dietetic Internship Program and Navajo County Public Health Services District to provide a learning experience for a student in a community nutrition program effective June 1.
* Approved a professional services contract with Wilceta Carroll, RDH for dental hygiene services through Arizona First Things First, White Mountain Apache Oral Health Fluoride Program effective June 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, in the amount of $45 per hour.
* Approved the hiring of a subject matter expert as an independent contractor for the emergency preparedness program.
By Nick Worth