Sale of land for school in Somerton set to close today
Superintendant Badone presented with plaque at final board meeting
With the signing of a lease agreement at Wednesday’s governing board meeting, Somerton High School took another step closer to reality.
The purchase of 76.11 acres, which has been in escrow since July, is expected to go through Thursday, said Phil Townsend, YUHSD governing board president after the meeting. The purchase price is $2,740,219.20.
Before the board acquired the property, the current tenant, Nature Fresh Farms, LLC, had asked that the district formally assume the lease, which it did at Wednesday night’s meeting on a unanimous vote.
The board also voted against waiving a recruitment fee against two teachers, which has been a contentious point for the board since its June 28 meeting.
Board member David Lara was the sole vote in favor of waiving the recruitment fee against the two teachers, whose cases were part of Wednesday’s agenda.
Maria Aguiniga, one of the petitioners, said during the call to the public that she felt that she and others who had asked for the fee to be waived were being used as a “scapegoat.” Aguiniga noted that the board’s decision at its August meeting to allow the superintendent to appoint a person to decide whether to waive the fee lacked proper checks and balances, she said in prepared remarks read at the meeting and shared with the Yuma Sun.
Board member David Lara said that he would like to see “a friendly environment towards teachers who are underpaid,” while expressing that the district should be open-minded about teachers who leave and then return.
“While I’m sympathetic, and I think we’ve had this discussion several times,
there are reasons we have contracts. if we don’t enforce our contracts then there’s no reason to have them,” Townsend said. Board members Shelley Mellon, Bruce Gwynn and Teri Brooks did not comment.
Lara began to say that a similar recruitment fee clause should be added to the next superintendent’s contract, but was called out of order by Townsend. Both motions failed on votes of 1-4.
The district’s College and Career Readiness Indicators group was recognized by Assistant Superintendent Gina Thompson. The indicators will be a factor in the state’s new A-F Accountability Measures that are being reviewed by the state board of education.
During the reports portion of the agenda, Lara brought up the topic of children who are dual citizens of Mexico and the U.S. being exploited by drug traffickers as they cross the border to attend school in the U.S. Lara claimed that the Mexican equivalent of the FBI has been tracking the occurrences, and that local school districts should get involved.
“We have to do something about it,” he said. “I think we should not look the other way.”
Human Resources Director Wanda Ellis gave a report on the number of open positions the district still has. In March, the district had 55.4 openings. At the end of the school year the district had lost 96 teachers. As of Sept. 1, there were 39 emergency subs, 15 longterm subs, and 100 teachers using their planning periods to teach a class. The district has 35 openings for teachers.
The start of school report showed that enrollment was up across nearly every single one of the district’s campuses except Cibola and Vista. Superintendent Toni Badone said that YUHSD’s partner elementary districts were seeing a similar trend.
Badone, who was attending her final regular board meeting, was allowed out of her contract at the end of July, when she announced that she was retiring from the district to take the helm of ADVANCED’s Arizona office.
Badone accepted a glass plaque from board members, who thanked her for her 33 years of service to the district. Badone started teaching in her native state of Ohio before moving West to teach at Crane Junior High. She started with Yuma Union in 1984 teaching English at Kofa High.
“First of all, I want to thank all of you. You all represent so much to me. Yuma will always mean so much to me,” she said before a small reception. “Yuma will always be the home where I grew up as an adult and I’ll still call it home for a while.”
Badone was presented with a construction belt from local architecture and construction groups, handmade artwork from Holly Hendricks-Jones and other congratulatory remarks.
“It’s been a total honor and a privilege to be your superintendent, but before that I was a teacher,” she said. “We’re all teachers even if you don’t have the title of teacher, that piece is the most important piece.”
TONI BADONE, WHO WAS attending her last regular board meeting, shows off a glass plaque thanking her for her 33 years of service to the district.