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Timeline of events & full statement from Superintendent Thompson re Somerton High

Somerton High School will receive $16.52 million in funding for fiscal year 2022 and an additional $16.52 million for fiscal year 2023 based on Arizona Legislature’s General Appropriations Act, which was signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey.

The funding will accelerate construction on the new high school, which has been in the planning and development stages for the past half decade. A groundbreaking ceremony is expected to take place in the fall.

Below is a statement from Yuma Union High School District Superintendent Gina Thompson:

“The funding that has been allocated for Somerton High School through legislation and ultimately Governor Ducey's signature is a result of so many people working towards a common goal that puts STUDENTS at the center. All legislators representing our County have taken part at some point in supporting this work. Great questions were asked. Data was presented. Each and every meeting meant people coming to the table.

My focus is always on the education of EVERY student; I appreciate the many people who have educated ME on the systems and political aspects of a rural district seeking to have the necessary funding to provide equitable and awesome facilities for students. YUHSD Governing Board President Phil Townsend has been an incredible mentor and leader in this process while our entire Governing Board of Shelley Mellon, David Lara, Jackie Kravitz, Bruce Gwynn, and Carlos Gonzalez have been on-going support and champions for this work. 

Prior to my Superintendency, Superintendent Toni Badone and community members worked to initiate the 2015 ‘Yes! Yes! Our High Schools’ Bond campaign. Yuma County voters demonstrated local commitment to this project. Our county recognizes that the way to economic development and a vibrant community is through quality education. I have always been so proud to be a part of the Yuma public education work as our entire PreK-20 system is representative of the collaborative commitment to our students. Our community did not ask for anything from the state of Arizona we were not willing to invest in ourselves.

As a superintendent I am thankful, even for the meetings that did NOT go as I desired.  Those experiences fueled an even deeper personal resolution AND brought new conversation. These experiences have allowed me opportunities to share and educate leaders outside of education as well. I believe these are the incremental ‘wins’ that will allow for a more collaborative conversation in AZ as we work at educating EVERY student with even stronger funding. 

Thank you to Sen. Sine Kerr, and Appropriations Chairpersons Sen. David Gowan and Rep. Regina Cobb, who were instrumental in forwarding this legislation. Thanks to the work of Somerton School District Superintendent Dr. Laura Noel, Rep. Joel John, and Yuma County legislators Rep. Tim Dunn, Rep. Joanne Osborne, Rep. Charlene Fernandez, and Sen. Lisa Otondo, the allocation for Somerton High School will include the escalation increase in the per square footage formula. Andy Tobin, interim Executive Director of the School Facilities Board (SFB) has been important in this work through his willingness to help me understand processes and using his deep understanding of the celebrations and challenges of rural districts. 

Because of the financial work over the last decade-plus, we are in the position to bring the next high school to Yuma County and to the City of Somerton. Chief Financial Officer Dianne Cordery has been a leader who, even in the most difficult economic times, has been diligent and relentless in her professional work, providing us the strongest financial foundation. Her work, and that of her team, allows for the entire package of the 2015 voter approved Bond projects to reach completion.

This particular project demonstrates what can happen when so many people come together for a purpose greater than themselves. There is no greater investment than that which we make in our children and our public education system. I am grateful. I am hopeful.”

Statements from Governor Ducey and Somerton Mayor Gerardo Anaya:

Governor Ducey: “Arizona’s schools and educators do incredible work to keep students on the path to success, and I was proud to sign a state budget that supports all they do for kids and families. Schools throughout Yuma Union High School District challenge students, help them prepare for their next steps, and help them grow in and out of the classroom. My thanks goes to Superintendent Gina Thompson and all the educators, school leaders and community members who have made supporting students their top priority.”

Mayor Anaya: “Established in 1898, Somerton has grown to be the best little city in Arizona, and its only getting better. Our community has been anxiously waiting this high school. As a lifetime Somerton resident, it is an honor to serve as Mayor and I’m proud to see my community prosper. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with YUHSD to make this project a success.”

Timeline of work towards Somerton High School funding:

November 2015: Yes! Yes! Your High Schools Bond is approved by voters, which includes $20 million allocated for Somerton High School as part of “new construction.” 

September 2017: Purchased parcel of land for Somerton High School site.

September 2017 – 2019: Worked to obtain necessary pesticide covenants, reconfigure square footage at Kofa High School and Yuma High School, selected construction and design team, and met regularly with the City of Somerton to plan for multiuse facility on property.

March 2019: Completed master plan, programming, and schematic design (contracted through shovel-ready design).

December 2019: SFB does not recommend funding for FY2020.

January 2020: Met with Governor Ducey to discuss options for funding school construction. Later met with Andy Tobin to discuss how to further proceed.

November 2020: Assigned Lucky Arvizo the duty of Planning Principal for Somerton High School.

December 2020: SFB does not recommend funding for FY2021.

January 2021: Construction Management At Risk (CMAR) procurement method approved.

March 2021: Held Governing Board study session for stakeholders and community members.

June 2021: Governor Ducey signs General Appropriations Act allocating more than $33 million divided evenly between the next two fiscal years to accelerate construction on Somerton High School.

Eric Patten