TUSD Board fails to represent the community

Sunnyside School District’s administration keeps popping up in the affairs of TUSD more often than not these days.

Just last month, TUSD administrator Edith Macklin-Isquierdo, wife of Sunnyside Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo, was released from her employment with TUSD approximately twelve days after signing a lucrative employment contract. The contract secured for her certain benefits which continue until February.

At last night’s TUSD Governing Board Special meeting, Sunnyside’s embattled administration’s influence was apparent again.

The Special meeting of the TUSD Governing Board was convened to vote on the selection of one “at large” member, and an alternate to the Pima County Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Advisory Committee. The Board voted to not perform their duty in part, because Adelita Grijalva was uncomfortable having the discussion in public, and because the Superintendent of the district John Pedicone, did not want them to.

The Board decided that they were deadlocked on the selection and passed a motion to pass the responsibility of the selection back to the Pima County Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda Arzoumanian. Arzoumanian had requested that each Board member offer one name to act as the “at large” member of her Advisory Committee in her effort to fill the vacancy left on the Board by the passing of the always politically motivated, Judy Burns.

Arzoumanian had the choice to hold a special election or appoint a community member to the board until the seat’s term expires next year. She decided to employ her past controversial process, and ignore calls by the public for a special election. A special election have interfered with Pedicone’s plan to place a pro-Mexican American Studies member on the Board prior to an administrative judge’s ruling in the district’s appeal of the finding that the classes promote segregation and resentment.

TUSD Board member Stegeman had requested and was granted a concession by Arzoumanian that that the Advisory Committee would not overly represent the insiders in the district, but the community at large.

Arzoumanian’s Advisory Committee is made up of one unchallenged member offered by each TUSD board member the one “at large” candidate. Michael Hicks was assigned the selection of a business person. Adelita Grijalva was assigned the selection of a community leader. Miguel Cuevas was assigned the selection of a district parent. Mark Stegeman was assigned a district teacher.

Despite the fact that Adelita Grijalva and Board president Miguel Cuevas missed the deadline to submit the names of their nominees for the “at large” position on the Pima County Superintendent’s Advisory Committee; their names were accepted for consideration. The names were due yesterday, in time to meet the 24 hour deadline required by state law. Stegeman and Hicks submitted the names of their nominees to be placed in the Board’s packet in time to meet the deadline.

In a highly charged political move, Adelita Grijalva ignored that agreement and put forth the name of an unpopular district administrator, Roxanne Begay of the Native American Studies department. Begay’s appointment to and tenure with the department has been marked by controversy due to the fact that she is Navajo and the great majority of students served by the department are Yaqui and Tohono O’odham.

Grijalva’s choice for community leader was Steve Holmes, an administrator in Sunnyside Unified School District. Sunnyside’s administration and board are currently under investigation by the state’s Attorney General for the exploitation of students for political benefit in the last bond and override election. Due to the known opposition to Begay, and Girjalva’s decision to put two embattled administrators on Arzoumanian’s committee, Begay’s nomination was not supported by any other board member.

Stegeman put forth the name of Juan Ciscomani, a popular and well respected member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Grijalva told the other board members that she did not want to publicly offer her politically motivated objections to Ciscomani. She said that if she could state her objections in the “back room” she would be more comfortable.

Because Grijalva was unwilling to expose her political motives for her opposition to Ciscomani, Miguel Cuevas, the high school only graduate and Board president, stepped up and offered a gratuitous and unreasoned rant against Ciscomani. He argued that one day Ciscomani might want to seek political office and therefore might use his position on the advisory Committee as a stepping stone.

Cuevas ignored the fact that the vast majority of civic minded individuals who step up to serve on community committees are the same sort of people who would step up and serve their community in office as well. Instead, Cuevas told his fellow board members that he would not consider any candidate other than his own.

Dr. Mark Stegeman lobbied hard to reach a compromise, However the district’s superintendent has lobbied hard in the community and the district to prevent an outcome that did not give him an edge in the selection of the replacement.

At the end of the meeting, Pedicone could not hide his satisfaction with the Board’s failure.

Related articles:

Critical TUSD Board seat appointee process disenfranchises community

TUSD board vacancy process serving Pedicone not public

Open letter to Dr. Linda Arzourmanian from Stegeman and Hicks