Originally published Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 01:39p.m.

COTTONWOOD – Back when she was superintendent with Hiawatha Public Schools in Kansas, Dr. Penny Hargrove wanted to be at Mingus Union High School.

But it wasn’t until she finished as runner-up to Dr. Paul Tighe at Tonopah’s Saddle Mountain Unified School District that Dr. Hargrove first saw an opportunity to apply for what had become her “dream job.”

“Mingus is where I wanted to be all along,” says Hargrove, Mingus Union’s first-year superintendent.

With family in southern Arizona, Dr. Hargrove and her husband Grover had visited a few times. On these trips, Jerome had become what she said was a must-see each time.

One day in Jerome, she “looked to the sky and told God, ‘If you ever give me the chance to be here, I’d do it in a heartbeat.’”

Though she wanted to move to Arizona, living in the Verde Valley – and working at a Verde Valley school – were things she didn’t expect to happen.

Until Dr. Hargrove met Dr. Tighe.

“We became friends,” she says of the former Mingus Union superintendent. “He told me [after I finished second] that Mingus was looking for someone.”

Extension

Though the Mingus Union school board recently tabled negotiations on a three-year contract extension, Dr. Hargrove says she looks forward to picking up discussion in March – right where they left off.

“This is where I want to finish my career,” says Dr. Hargrove. “I have 11-and-a-half years left. My prayer is we don’t have to move.”

Ask Anita Glazar, board president at Mingus Union, and keeping Dr. Hargrove is also important.

“We made a great choice when we hired her,” Glazar says. “She’s been excellent, helpful in all areas. She’s done a great job getting the correct administration in place. I’m thrilled with her.”

Consistency

On its fourth superintendent in the past 20 months – and 14 in 33 years -- Mingus Union’s contract talks with Dr. Hargrove are “to show staff and students that they can count on consistency, which will provide a lot of stability that they haven’t had,” Dr. Hargrove says.

Though Dr. Hargrove is asking for a three-year pact with the district, she has “not asked for an increase” to her $116,280 salary.

“I asked the board to give the staff some consistency,” Dr. Hargrove says. “Working on the culture of the district, and part of the culture is stability, and making sure expectations are set for staff and students, looking at the programs so our kids and teachers can be successful.”

Which is why extending her contract, Dr. Hargrove says, is “part of the business, to create stability.”

“The contract makes it well-known that we’re invested in our kids,” Dr. Hargrove says. “Our school and our district, we’re moving forward for their betterment.”

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42