Political maneuvers by Cuevas lead to TUSD failure

At last night’s TUSD Governing Board Special Meeting, convened for the sole purpose of choosing one “at large” member to the Pima County Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Advisory Committee, the Board voted to not perform their duty. Adelita Grijalva stated that performing her duty in public made her uncomfortable.

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.

Pima County Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda 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 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.

In light of the controversial process Arzoumanian has employed in the past, and the dysfunctional TUSD Board, many in the community argued for a special election. Arzoumanian ignored those calls, but did agree with TUSD Board member Stegeman 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, and 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 publically 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. Therefore, while no one expressed coherent reasons for their objections to Ciscomani, Cuevas and Grijalva voted against the uncontroversial and extremely popular Ciscomani.

At one point, Miguel Cuevas told his fellow board members that he would not consider any candidate other than his own. Stegeman tried to reach a compromise, but a compromise was never was going to be entertained.

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. As it became more and more evident during last night’s meeting that Miguel Cuevas and Adelita Grijalva were going to do everything they could to prevent community representation, John Pedicone’s Cheshire cat smile grew and grew. In the end the Superintendent could barely contain his joy when the Board voted to abdicate their responsibility.