Future of Oracle schools study in doubt
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Earlier this year, outgoing Oracle Superintendent John Clark tried to make the case for refurbishing some of the district’s aging schools and outmoded equipment.

Last November, the Oracle Elementary School District Governing Board voted to form a citizens volunteer advisory committee tasked with evaluating school facilities.

Now, that advisory committee has been scuttled.

“It’s a committee I didn’t ever want to happen,” said retiring Superintendent John Clark.

Clark would have preferred for the district to pay for an architectural study conducted by the Mesa-based firm Emc2 Group. An estimate Clark requested from the company indicated that such a study would cost more than $60,000.

The district could have paid for portions of the analysis with funds from the Arizona School Facilities Board, a state agency. But that’s probably as far as the state was willing to go to help the district.

A February letter from the district’s liaison with the agency said any needed repairs identified in the analysis would not be paid for by the state. In that letter, the state official described the condition of school facilities to be the result of “long term neglect of preventative maintenance,” and said the district would have to pay for any repairs itself, unless inspections could prove “that life or personal safety issues do exist.”

Clark said he wanted to have the professional analysis done to pave the way for a capital improvements bond election. He said recently ousted school board members were the impetus for the committee.

The reason the board was ditched, Clark said, was because not enough committee members turned up for the group’s final two meetings and could therefore it could not conduct official business.

Beth Krueger, an Oracle resident and member of the now-defunct committee, said the fact that committee meetings ended prematurely and without having penned a recommendation does not spell the end.

“A new school board was elected, and for me I’m going to wait to hear from the new school board to see what they want to do,” Krueger said.

If the new board wants the committee to complete its task, Krueger said she’s willing to participate.

The original deadline for the committee’s recommendation was June 5. The school board could vote to have the group continue with its analysis and write the recommendation.

Other committee members contacted for comment did not return phone calls. Another member was out of town, while one other member did not care to comment.

Clark said the future of the committee now rests in the hands of the newly configured board and his replacement, Todd Kissick, who takes his post in July.

The committee’s mission was complicated in early May, when Clark filed an open meeting law violation complaint with the Pinal County Attorney’s Office against one member and then-board member Boyd Bosma.

The complaint stemmed from a planned committee meeting, where only three of the members showed up. Bosma and the two members who did attend the meeting used the time to discuss committee business. The group did not vote or make any binding decisions at the meeting.

Clark alleged in his complaint that the discussions amounted to a meeting without a quorum — a violation of the law.

County attorney’s office officials disagreed, saying the meeting did not violate the law.

The incident occurred days before a heated recall election wherein three board members were voted out of office. Alicia Bristow, Dave Bowersock and Kurt Steffens replaced recalled members Susan Beaman, Boyd Bosma and Jack Walden, respectively.

Because the state school facilities board has already indicated an unwillingness to pay for any major building renovations, a bond election could be one of the only choices left for the district.

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