Dr. John Pedicone, Superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District is a busy man. Between his regularly scheduled Thursday morning tee times with good friend, Marana Unified School District family counselor, John Berkman, trips out of state, and the chicken dinner circuit, John Pedicone reportedly has had a hard time keeping up.
John Pedicone’s evaluation is due soon, and the word is, that the grade will not be good. His struggle has become the focus of recent city-wide backroom discussions. His failure to maintain the confidence of the business community is a result of his administration’s focus on hiring more administrators instead of focusing on the quality of student education and his and unwillingness to be completely candid with the public.
Under John Pedicone’s reign, the cost of the district central office staff has grown by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Never before has the district had a Deputy Superintendent, but they have a very expensive one now. The sub-layer of directors and managers has grown almost exponentially, while the teaching staff shrinks due to declining enrollment across the district.
“Most of the business community understands that talk is cheap, and while Pedicone may talk a good one about making changes in TUSD, his budgetary priorities reflect an old style bureaucrat who believes his primary mission is the grow the district’s bureaucracy,” said one community educator.
One of the most controversial administrative “hires” was Candy Egbert to oversee operations. Egbert has had unsuccessful runs at smaller districts, and the hiring process she underwent at TUSD was highly irregular. Egbert was only hired after Pedicone’s second attempt to win approval from the Board, which finally voted 3-2 for her.
Egbert was put in charge of the district’s complex transportation department, over the objections of Governing Board members, the public, and many district personnel. Through this past year, families have had to deal with a system that barely functions on any level, and too many children were never dropped off or picked up, eventually forcing parents and guardians to give up the service completely.
Under John Pedicone’s reign, the district was placed back under court supervision for its “bad faith” in its desegregation efforts, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Under Pedicone, contrary to direction by the school board, the district has ignored the plaintiffs requests to implement the simple measures required to close the achievement gap. The purpose of the Desegregation Order was to close the achievement gap.
Instead, the district focused its personnel and monies on continuing gimmicky magnet programs that consumed millions of grant dollars. A recent review of those programs showed that most of them could not be sustained financially, and most importantly, do not produce the desired results.
Despite the report, the district has no plans to end the failing magnet programs and replace them with successful models. However, it is in the planning stages to close more schools.
That Comprehensive Magnet Review was not made public by the district. Only when it was made public by the Arizona Daily Independent, did the public learn that most of successful programs in the district are those magnets dedicated to a back to basics curriculum.
Under John Pedicone’s reign, the public was told time and time again that the district’s controversial Mexican American Studies program was successful. At the same time that Pedicone was telling the press that the classes benefitted students, he was advising staff and board members that children were being exploited.
The reality that the MAS classes had no significant impact on student achievement despite the tremendous expenditure of resources in MAS classes was hidden from the public until school board member Michael Hicks demanded the district’s statistician produce a report using the actual academic results comparing students in the MAS program with those who never took an MAS class.
At the same time Pedicone was telling the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal that the district was cooperating with the State, Pedicone’s staff was making an objective audit impossible.
“The MAS book removal was totally a staff project; it was decided without ever even consulting with the board,” according to one district insider who wished to remain anonymous. “The State never gave the district such detailed instructions as: ‘you must take these particular books physically out of classrooms.’ The removal was designed for effect. It was intended to promote the myth that the district was a helpless victim of radical conservatives.
Just recently, Pedicone rewarded Abel Morado, the principle behind the manipulation of the audit, and the staged book ban, with an central office administrative position overseeing all of the district’s high schools.
Under John Pedicone’s reign, one of the most radical creators of the district’s Mexican American Studies programs was tasked with creating the district’s new multicultural curriculum. Augustine Romero, confidante to Adelita Grijalva, will create a curriculum to be implemented throughout the district based on the principles of social justice. Romero is an adherent to the “problematization” of children. Problematization is the process by which a child is taught that the world in which they live is problematic and must be “transformed.” Students are taught to resist and revolt.
We have repeatedly seen the results of this training in the violent behavior of pro-MAS students and staff at school board meetings.
Under John Pedicone’s reign, the district has offered unreliable studies produced by the Mexican American Studies staff as proof of the MAS program’s success, while attempting to keep the actual data, produced by the district’s statisticians away from the public and even the Special Master assigned to oversee the district by the Ninth Circuit.
Local business people, who had been excited by the prospect of a Pedicone administration, have come to realize that it is one thing to maintain the success of a small district like Flowing Wells; it is a whole other matter to reform a failing district like TUSD.
Flowing Wells needed a figure head to meet with parents and stakeholders. TUSD needed a reform minded person who cared less about whether they were popular and was willing to be unpopular every now and then.
School board members have been receiving calls from across the district demanding that under no circumstances should Pedicone’s short term contract be extended for one more year. They are demanding the Board begin a search for a long term superintendent committed to making tough choices and not winning popularity contests, or golf games.
Michael Hicks responded to questions about the public’s calls, “One of the most important responsibilities of a board of education member is the hiring and yearly evaluation of the District’s Superintendent. The Board must ensure that the Superintendent has effectively managed the school district and has successfully implemented the district’s goals, objectives, and policies as agreed to by the Board. It’s been said that a good school board does not run the public schools; it ensures that they are run well. With this in mind, I welcome comments from our community and district staff, but with keeping a open mind of the facts.”