Archive for Editorials/Essays

Verde Valley Newspapers take Governing Board to task

Editorials criticize refusal to consider independent consultant to assess whether an administrative college or other scheme will benefit the Verde Valley

extra extra read all about itBoth managing editors of the local Verde Valley newspapers have expressed their strong disapproval of the College Governing Board’s 3-2 vote at its March meeting rejecting the request of the Verde Valley Board representatives to hire a consultant to look into the possibility of a different Community College administrative structure.  The creation of a separate administrative college was one of many possible configurations the expert could examine.  The President and the three-member West County representatives rejected the request saying it was impossible to find an objective expert to do the assessment and anyway, it might cost $50,000.

The Sedona Redrock News managing editor, Christoper Fox Graham, penned a searing editorial that appeared in the March 23, 2016 edition of his newpaper about the decision by the West County representatives on the Board to reject the request.  He wrote, in part, that: “The Yavapai College District Governing Board has again declined to serve taxpayers in the Verde Valley and Sedona. . . . A consultant would likely tell the board the awful truth it refuses to hear: College leaders are poorly serving nearly a third of the taxpayers who pay its bills.”

He continued with his editorial asserting that: “An administrative college would placate those most vocal about secession and yet the college chose not to even look at means to keep taxpayers from revolting.”

His complete editorial (online) can be found by clicking here.

A commentary by Editor Dan Engler that appeared in the Verde Independent March 4 questioned whether “the process [would] have been better served if the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee been allowed to do its job. At the end of their February meeting, committee members made it perfectly clear that an exploration of a separate administrative college for the Verde Valley was foremost on their minds. But before the VVBAC could take up the issue at its March meeting, Filardo had pushed the question forward to the governing board and came up on the short end of a 3-2 vote.”

Engler mused that:  “It’s one thing to reject the findings of the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee. . . . But it sure would have been nice to at least let them ask before you say no.”  The commentary by Mr. Engler can be found online by clicking here. 

Is Wills’ being overpaid while college collapses?

Cottonwood Journal Extra raises question of overpayment to Penny Wills’ for running Yavapai College, which is steadily losing students

In a story written by Zachery Jerrnigan appearing in the January 20, 2016 Cottonwood Journal Extra, the question of the appropriateness of College President Penelope Wills’ salary was raised.

OVERPAIDThe article made the following points:

Wills’ salary has reportedly received an increase each year in her salary (up 22.73% in total since 2011) despite the continuing decline in enrollment.  Enrollment has declined (using College headcount numbers) about 2,000 since Wills’ became president.

The median salary nationwide for all Community College presidents in 2012 showed a “mean base” of $173,848.  Wills’ reportedly  receives around $270,000.

Jernigan wrote that “with enrollment of 8,400, Wills’ salary equates to $30.08 per student. The president of Pima College salary is comparable but with 37,000 students equates to $7.84 per student. The president of Arizona State University’s salary is double Wills’ but has 70,000 students, equating to $6.79 per student.”

You may read the online version of the story by clicking here.  

Should Yavapai College adequately compensate County High Schools for teaching its courses?

County High School teachers are doing the College’s job in dual enrollment classes



Is it time for high schools in Yavapai County to be adequately compensated for teaching community college dual enrollment courses for Yavapai Community College? A dual enrollment course is taught by highly qualified high school teachers to qualified students in high schools throughout the County.  Students in a dual enrollment course simultaneously obtain both high school and college credit for their work in the course.  Dual enrollment is allowed by state law and has been growing in acceptance for a decade. Most of the costs associated with dual enrollment courses are absorbed by the high schools with only a minimal financial help from Yavapai College.


  1. First, the high schools act as a marketing arm for Yavapai College.  Through these courses, Yavapai College has direct and almost exclusive personal contact with high school students in the County.  This is an unparalleled recruiting opportunity for Yavapai College.
  2. Second, the high schools bear the cost of searching out and providing qualified teachers for the dual enrollment courses. Not just any high school teacher may teach them.  The College sets the requirements for a teacher but plays no other significant role in hiring and retaining qualified teaching staff at high schools. 
  3. Third, dual enrollment courses require oversight by County High School administrators. The oversight is provided free to Yavapai College.
  4. Fourth, the College pays nothing to rent space from the high schools for the dual enrollment courses such as English. This cost is completely absorbed by the high schools.
  5. Fifth, the College does not pay for utilities such as heat, light, and air conditioning of classrooms.
  6. Sixth, the College does not pay for installation, maintenance and use of classroom technology.
  7. Seventh, the College encounters no cost for desks, chairs, whiteboards, etc. used to teach the dual enrollment courses.
  8. Eighth, the College encounters no maintenance costs associated with the classrooms used to teach dual enrollment classes.
  9. Ninth, the High Schools provide free counseling related to dual enrollment courses.
  10. Tenth, the dual enrollment courses are provided without additional charge to all qualified high school students, i.e., the students via their parents have already paid for them in their support of the high schools and the Community College through their property taxes.  

While County high schools are constantly struggling to make ends meet, the Community College is awash with money from County taxpayers. It reported in December a $25 million dollar reserve; millions above Governing Board requirements.  It receives from $43 to $45 million each year in property tax revenue from County taxpayers.  Measured by a per full-time student equivalent, this is double the average of other community colleges in Arizona. It receives a state stipend that goes toward any costs it might incur in the dual enrollment program. It raises tuition and property tax rates at its discretion; something completely foreign to high schools.

Given the huge revenue surplus enjoyed by Yavapai Community College, and its constant property tax revenue stream, it seems to me it is time that it begin paying the County High Schools an adequate stipend to compensate them for providing fully accredited post-secondary college courses to County students.  After all, the high schools are doing the job that most think should be the College’s responsibility.


Cottonwood Journal Extra Newspaper Slams College Appointments

Says “College staff will never care from far side of mountain”

An editorial in the December 23 Cottonwood Journal, written by Managing Editor Christopher Fox Graham, slammed the continued appointment of the Deans hired to supervise the Verde Valley and Sedona College facilities who live outside the area (and have no intention of moving here).  The editorial was based on a front page story in the same issue, “Board fumes over college staffing.”  The article reported on the most recent Dean to be hired for the Verde Valley, Kelly Trainor, who resides in Prescott.  (The online version of the newspaper article may be found by clicking here.)

Deb McCasland 4

The Blog has pointed out in earlier postings that the top 4 administrative appointments to the Verde Valley Campus and the Sedona Center have all been Prescott area residents.  And none of the appointees have indicated they will move from the Prescott area to the Verde Valley.


Graham wrote:  “A lot of phrases come to mind when we think of how Yavapai College views the Verde Valley, but `I think the Verde Valley is getting shafted,’ is perhaps the best, spoken by none other than Yavapai College District Governing Board member Deb McCasland, who along with Al Filardo, represents Verde Valley interests.”  He asked one to imagine that the Governor of Arizona flew home to California after a day’s work at the state capital and analogized the image to the Prescott resident administrators running the Community College in the Verde Valley.

Does Penelope Wills intentionally make these appointments to control the Verde Valley?

He pointed out that “Deans who do not live in the Verde Valley do not hear concerns from neighbors, nor do they bump into residents at the grocery store, nor do they enroll their children at Mingus Union, Camp Verde nor Sedona Red Rock high schools and hear about their children’ friends’ college plans.  They have no community connection to the Verde Valley, which perhaps is exactly what Wills wants.”  (The complete editorial may be read by clicking here.)

Editorial questions President Wills’ trustworthiness

Charges Wills’ wants VVBAC to go away and Sedona taxpayers to shut up

Christopher Fox Graham

Christopher Fox Graham

A fiery editorial in the Sedona Redrock News, written by Christoper Fox Graham on November 6, 2015 raised questions about the lack of trust residents have in the “honesty of the college’s administration.” It was based on President Wills’ appearance before the Sedona City Council on October 27, 2015.

Mr. Graham asked why President Wills told the Sedona Council she did not know what potential students wanted the College to offer at the Sedona Center.  He charged that the statement was odd given that a Sedona Town Hall was held six-days before her appearance before the Council. At the Town Hall there were hours of comments and “dozens of suggestions from residents and local” Sedona leaders. Graham asked, “Why did Wills not mention a single suggestion” coming from the Town Hall?

He accurately prophesized that the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee would most likely be stripped of its effectiveness in representing Sedona taxpayers at the upcoming November 9 meeting.  He noted that Wills’ refused to offer an opinion on whether she supported the Committee when specifically asked this question by the Sedona Council.

In terms of the need for well-trained hospitality workers, Graham opined that Wills’ should have at least read a 25-page Lodging Sector Compensation report, or mentioned it to the Sedona Council, because it was co-written by a member of her staff.  He charged that “either Wills is completely ignorant of what her own staff is doing, in which case the board should fire her for gross incompetence, or she was not honest with Sedona City Council, in which case the board should fire her for deceiving a constituent government body in a public forum while representing her bosses.”

The complete editorial may be found by clicking here.

College Community Chorale, Women’s Chorale, and Symphonic band celebrate Veterans Day on Verde Campus

Outstanding concert; small but deeply appreciative audience

The Yavapai Community College Community Chorale, Women’s Chorale, and Symphonic band presented the “Homeland: Veterans Day Salute Concert,” Thursday evening, November 5 in the Community Room on the Verde Valley Campus. A small but very appreciative audience thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

The 57 member (40 for this concert) Community Chorale, directed by Dr. Judith E. Burns, sang a variety of patriotic songs including “A Tribute to the Arms Services,” “Shenandoah,” and “Give me Your Tired, Your Poor.”  The 15 member Women’s Chorale, directed by Arlene Hardy, charmed the audience with special renditions of “Johnny Aroo,” “I hear America Singing,” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” 

The 22 member symphonic band, directed by Maurice Terrell, played a wide-range of music from the stirring “In Storm and Sunshine” march to the emotionally moving tribute to military veterans of the Vietnam War, “Mekong.”  The three groups joined in a number of other patriotic musical presentations.

The excellent narration for the program was provided by Dr. Craig Ralston, Yavapai College Dean for Arts and Humanities. Ralston, who joined the Yavapai faculty in July, 2014, is responsible for curricula in art, music, and humanities including art history, creative writing, history, humanities, philosophy, religion, Spanish, and theater. He obviously worked very hard to put together this program for the Verde Valley Campus.

Disappointing turnoutThe turnout of local residents for the program was disappointing, with an estimated 25-30 in attendance.  However, with around 60 singers and a 20 piece orchestra in the community room, there wasn’t room for many more concert goers.

Community Room completely inadequateThe need for a small 350 seat auditorium on the Verde Campus has never been more evident than it was at this concert.  The Community room is simply not equipped for a concert program of this magnitude and quality.  It does not have a stage that can accommodate such a program, seating is far from acceptable, and the ability to effectively utilize visuals such as lighting is almost nonexistent. It is not an attractive  or comfortable venue for performing arts programs. (The College recently invested about $5 million in the Prescott campus Performing Arts Center to upgrade seats, lighting, sound, stage, etc.)  

College administration ignores need since 2008. Verde residents have called for construction of an adequate small on-campus performance hall facility since 2008, when a comprehensive land-use study incorporating views from throughout the Verde Valley was presented to the College Governing Board.  As with other recommendations in that study, it has been ignored by the Wills’ administration. 

Editorial suggests Sedona Taxing District secede from College

“Imagine what could be possible after we secede from college”

Christopher Fox Graham

Christoper Fox Graham

In the October 21 editorial in the Redrock News, (Also in the Cottonwood Journal Extra) Managing Editor Christopher Fox Graham, outlines the future possibilities for Sedona and the Verde Valley if the residents could secede from Yavapai Community College and create their own East County community college.  Mr. Graham points out that secession “would be a costly and litigious process for Yavapai College, but if President Penny Wills, and the Governing Board that is supposed to direct her actions, doesn’t listen to the needs of the Verde Valley — and understand the value of our tax money — a proposal by state legislators could make secession an alternative for taxpayers to have a return on our investment.”

This is an interesting and informative editorial and Blog readers can access it by clicking here.  You are urged to read it.



Students plead for gas funds to pay for drive to Community College in Prescott

Student requests to NACOG for help with gasoline costs show need for access to Community College courses in Verde Valley

Advocates for developing a much stronger Community College presence in the Verde Valley repeatedly argue that Mingus Mountain and the long drive between the East and West sides of the County is a major obstacle for many residents. The College administrators and a majority of the Governing Board obviously disagree.  The result is that many classes offered in Prescott are not offered in the Verde Valley.

Recall the County is divided by the Black mountain range. The range separates the East and West sides of the County.   Only two roads connect the East side of the County with the West side Prescott/Prescott Valley area:  Highway 17, a four-lane highway that is open year round and highway 89a, which runs over the top of the 7,000 foot Mingus Mountain. Highway 89A is a winding dangerous mountain road, which is sometimes snow packed, ice covered, or fog shrouded. It is, however, the shortest route from the Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Verde Villages and Sedona to the Community College campuses on the West side of the County—from 90 to 150 miles round trip depending on where you live on the East side of the County.  

Proof of the failure of the Community College to develop more fully courses in the Verde Valley and its impact on residents is found in the following sample of requests sent to the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, Economic Workforce Division in the past few months. The quotes were obtained by the Blog from highly reliable sources. 



Gas request 4

Gas request 2


Gas request 3

Gas requests 1

Efficiency cannot be Yavapai College goal

“Efficiency is not, and should not be, the mission of a community college,” says Gary LaMaster, Chair, Verde Valley Community College Citizen Advocates

Education is our goal“Efficiency is not, and should not be, the mission of a community college. The mission should be to serve its communities,” wrote Gary LaMaster, the Chair of the Verde Valley Community College Citizen Advocates, in a letter to the Verde Independent of August 20.  He stated that “In 2009-2010, the college cut classes and staff on the Verde campus at the very time community college enrollment should have been increasing as workers displaced by the Great Recession looked to re-educate themselves to find new employment. To make matters worse, the college suspended virtually all outreach and communications in the Verde Valley. This further reduced enrollment.”

LaMaster also wrote that the District Governing Board is “split 3-2 in favor of the west county. Given that split, we can only hope that the administration and one of the Board members representing the west county will take into account the best interests of the Verde Valley. We’ll need to keep a watchful eye.”   Mr. LaMaster’s entire letter to the editor in the Verde Independent can be accessed by clicking here

Students in Verde Valley want nothing more than same education opportunities available in Prescott

Can’t complete an Associate Degree at the Clarkdale campus, because the classes are not there

Student voiceYavapai Community College student Deborah Wilson stated in a letter to the editor of the Verde Independent that Students on the Clarkdale campus want “nothing more than the same education opportunities available in Prescott.”  She also stated that “students attending Yavapai College in Clarkdale feel nothing but frustration trying to set up a degree program here, and move on to explore educational opportunities elsewhere. If the administration at Yavapai College in Prescott, really cared about young people living on this side of the mountain, they would make changes at the Clarkdale campus. Students here want nothing more than the same opportunities available in Prescott.”  Ms. Wilson’s complete letter to the editor may be accessed by clicking here