Verde Valley Forum

for Public Affairs

Annual Membership Meeting

 Past President's Message

May 2017

Outgoing President Dick Dahl gave his year-end report at the Annual Membership meeting in May 2017. 

Last year's collaboration with Arizona Town Hall resulted in a very successful Verde Valley Forum. Excellent progress is being made in implementing the five priority recommendations that came out of last year's Forum on Improving Post-Secondary Education in the Verde Valley region. These five recommendations resulted in the formation of several new entities and organizations that are currently and actively pursuing their respective goals and objectives.

A Task Force headed by Beaver Creek School District Superintendant Karin Ward, along with representatives from each of the incorporated and unincorporated areas in the Verde Valley, has convened four focus group meetings throughout our region.  As a result of this effort, the Yavapai College District Governing Board, (YCDGB), authorized a survey of all seventeen public libraries in the Verde Valley that could allow access to online learning.  The survey indicated a need for additional computers at these locations and the YCDGB has included this expense item in their budget for next year.

Additional studies are also underway to improve access to transportation systems so more people can physically access the Yavapai College, Verde Valley campus.  It is clear that the work of this task force has been instrumental in motivating the college to proactively address accessibility issues.

Progress is also being made on improving cultural awareness and direction of post-secondary education in the Verde.  Erin Mayberry of the Buena Vista Children's Center, is leading this objective.  Buena Vista has, for several years, conducted a multi-day seminar that focuses on early childhood education.  This year's seminar was the "kick-off" for their work to implement last year's Forum recommendations. There is an obvious connection with the 2017 Forum on PreK-12 education and I have every reason to believe it will carry over to this year's discussion topics.

The Verde Valley Educational Consortium headed by Barbara U'Ren, Past Superintendent of Cottonwood Oak Creek School District, with the able assistance of Board Member Eric Marcus, was formally established as an Arizona non-profit corporation and a federal tax exempt 501(c)3 entity.  

The Consortium organizing committee is currently identifying and electing a board of directors. I view this as a major accomplishment replete with great anticipation for its potential to significantly improve post-secondary education in our region.

One of the recommendations of last year's keynote speaker Josh Wyner from the Aspen Institute is under way as well.  Mr. Wyner described a career and technical education (CTE) program implemented in four post-secondary schools located  in Rapid City, SD. with the assistance of Western Dakota Tech, (WDT) which administers the program.   I have reviewed this program and provided my findings to Barbara U'Ren and the Consortium organizing committee along with recommending that it be a model to be emulated for the Verde Valley.  

The Western Dakota Tech program is designed to link businesses and governmental sectors with technical and career education in order to garner additional positive involvement and financial support from those sectors.  I believe this model is particularly relevant to our region because the demographics of Rapid City, SD are very similar to those of the Verde Valley.  Funding for the South Dakota program is equally divided between public taxes and contributions from the private business sector.

I am hopeful that the Consortium will provide an educational foundation for the benefit of Verde Valley residents.  There is a growing need for employees who have current technical and vocational training.  The WDT program offers more than 70 certificated post-secondary programs including truck driving along with on-site training programs for the business and governmental sectors.  WDT also convenes two annual meetings with area businesses to discuss and determine current employment needs so that they can tailor future courses of study to satisfy anticipated demand.

The recommendations from last year's Forum have also been submitted to the Yavapai College District Governing Board with a request that they conduct a feasibility study to determine the need for a separate Verde Valley administrative college board. The Board has taken our submission under advisement.  While there is presently no organized group leading this effort, the interest continues.

Last year's Forum was a modification of those held in the past.  It was modeled, in part, after the very successful Arizona Town Hall Bullhead City, AZ program conducted in August 2015.  As a result of their success, Bullhead City was a second place winner in a national competition leading to a two million dollar grant.  

We also held our first Future Leaders Forum for high school students last August which was both successful and informative. We will sponsor another such Forum next month pertaining to PreK-12 education in our region.

The other remaining modification from previous Forums was the establishment of a Community Outreach Program that held several meetings in different Verde Valley locations following the Forum in order to further interface with community residents while providing them with the findings, recommendations and objectives resulting from the Forum.

In summary, I am very pleased and grateful for the outcome of the 2016 Forum.  I would like to thank the many participants, volunteers, members and others who made it so successful and who continue the effort to improve our community.  The fact that our efforts resulted in the formation of an entirely new organization in the Consortium is indicative of the kind of action that we always hope will stem from the hard work of so many.

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