Red Mesa Unified School District #27
HC 61 Box 40 * Teec Nos Pos, AZ 86514 * Phone (928) 656-4100 * Fax (928) 656-4106 * http:www.rmusd.net
Dr. Tommie C. Yazzie, Superintendent
4 September 12
Tim Benally, Board President
Minnie John, Board Clerk
Paula James, member
Clifford Sagg, member
Pearl Ben, member
Tommie C. Yazzie, Ed.D.
Non-resident Utah Students & ADE Audit
The Interim Superintendent Spencer Singer became aware that Red Mesa Unified School District (RMUSD) was transporting and receiving Arizona State funds for Non-resident students in violation of state law. As a result he reported the violation to Arizona Department of Education (ADE) after January 12, 2012. Mr. Singer informed Utah parents in a letter on March 12, 2012 that the school district will not run busses beginning March 26, 2012. The Farmington Daily Times carried the story on March 28-29, 2012.
In response to the superintendent’s letter, Utah parents filed a law suit to resume transportation of Non-resident Utah students. RMUSD resumed busing of Utah students under a court order of the Navajo Nation District Court on April 3, 2012. Again, the Farmington Daily Times reported bus services resumed on April 3-4, 2012.
The parents and community addressed the RMUSD Governing Board in scheduled meeting on March 22 and March 28, 2012. The anxious crowded addressed the board about their concerns. The board president canceled the meeting trying to restore order when the board meeting became unruly and disruptive. The board officers and the superintendent left the meeting while some discussion continued with the remaining board members.
RMUSD officials met with ADE, Utah and Navajo Nation officials on May 21, 2012 to address the matter. New Mexico officials did not attend the meeting.
Upon assuming the post of superintendent in July 2012 Dr. Tommie C. Yazzie attended community meetings at Red Mesa and Mexican Water chapters to hear concerns of the parents. Superintendent Yazzie met twice with San Juan School District superintendent Doug Wright to discuss the IGA.
RMUSD selected a new law firm to assist the board with legal matters pertaining to several issues including drafting an IGA with San Juan School District (SJSD). Patrice M. Horstman, an attorney for Hufford, Horstman, Mongini, and Parnell & Tucker drafted an IGA on August 3, 2012 for Red Mesa. The board was informed of the proposed IGA with SJSD in their regular board meeting on August 9, 2012.
Superintendent Yazzie and Red Mesa Chapter President Herman Farley met with San Juan School District Governing Board in their regular scheduled meeting to present RMUSD’s proposed IGA. SJSD took no action on the IGA on August 7, 2012. Superintendent Yazzie reports to his board on SJSD inaction on the matter of the IGA on August 9, 2012.
On July 19, 2012, the school district received preliminary figures of $2.8 million dollars which is the overfunded amount from Art Heikkila, ADE Audit. ADE instructed RMUSD to review all data before it was finalized. ADE issued a finalized report to RMUSD on August 7, 2012. The superintendent and school attorney briefed the board on August 9, 2012 of the audit findings. In the same meeting, the board authorized the superintendent and legal counsel to enter into negotiations with ADE to repay the $2.8 million dollars. In addition, legal counsel for RMUSD also filed an appeal with ADE on September 4, 2012 for the school district.
Superintendent Yazzie and Red Valley Chapter President Lee Zonnie met with Central Consolidated School (New Mexico) superintendent Don Levinski on the matter of an IGA in August. Superintendent Levinski refused to sign an IGA but verbally told Red Mesa “you can take New Mexico students and I will continue to take Arizona students.” However, both superintendents agreed not to cross the state border to pick up students.
Superintendent Yazzie met with Apache County Superintendent to seek ways to admit out-of-state students who do not have transportation to their “district of resident.” Dr. Pauline Begay, Apache County Superintendent provided Dr. Tommie C. Yazzie a provision under “Certificate of Educational Convenience” whereby RMUSD can admit out-of-state students on a limited basis. The Arizona State Superintendent must approve students under this provision.
Dr. Tommie C. Yazzie made contact with J. Elliott Hibbs, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for Arizona to discuss non-resident students. Deputy Hibbs informed my office that RMUSD district can admit non-resident students. He writes “Arizona law does not forbid non-resident students from attending Arizona public schools. The law provides two options: (1) a signed IGA and (2) payment of tuition. He further clarifies that RMUSD can take non-resident students but cannot claim students for state aid. This is the provision that New Mexico uses to admit Arizona students. New Mexico does not require RMUSD to pay them tuition for Arizona students they bus to Shiprock. They only claim Arizona students for Impact Aid.
Deputy Hibbs further suggested the option of approaching the Navajo Nation, Red Mesa chapter or other entities to pay the tuition for non-resident students. This is the option that we have not explored with Navajo Nation and local chapters.
After my meeting with Superintendent Levinski of Central Consolidated, I called SJSD Superintendent Wright to ask if we can place the IGA back on the agenda for his board to consider. He made it very clear that his board instructed him not to discuss any IGA that includes paying RMUSD tuition.
Currently, RMUSD enrolled 19 Utah students that have signed guardianship documents with relatives living in Arizona. We filed with Apache County requests for Certificate of Education Convenience for five additional Utah students pending approval from Superintendent Huppenthal for a total of 24 Utah students.
Superintendent Yazzie and RMUSD governing board plans to open discussion again in January 2013 after the elections to re-visit the proposed IGA with Utah. In the meantime, the district is very careful not to violate Arizona laws so that it may negotiate favorable terms for the repayment of $2.8 million dollars. We understand that ADE may return to Red Mesa to monitor how we enroll students including our transportation routes in picking up Arizona students. I’ve instructed Red Mesa employees including bus drivers to exercise good faith efforts while we negotiate terms favorable to our school district.
Superintendent Yazzie made both a written and oral report to Red Mesa Chapter on December 17, 2012.
May 19, 2013