TUSD to spend more money; lawsuit settlement, Arabic classes, administrators

TUSD Board kept in the dark

After announcing that they face a $17 million shortfall due to declining enrollment, and must close schools as a result, the TUSD Governing Board voted last night to reward a contract to Deputy Superintendent Maria Menconi for $151,000. The contract was approved as part of a package of all the cabinet members.

The TUSD Board was not provided the Menconi’s contract before being asked to approve it. Dr. Mark Stegeman found it “strange for the Board to approve contracts that it hasn’t even seen.” When Menconi’s position was created over a year ago, it was supposed to be temporary.

Superintendent Pedicone argues that the position is necessary and Menconi indispensable. However, Menconi will be gone the entire month of September while travelling though Italy.

Menconi is indispensible though to Pedicone. She is known as the district’s enforcer, keeping staff away from Pedicone and in line. Pedicone could not enjoy his weekday golf game if it were not for Menconi.

Just this week, Dr. Stegeman told KGUN 9 that TUSD needs to address the culture of fear among teachers that has pervaded the classrooms. KGUN 9 reported that Stegeman said, “I know there is a concern about retaliation. When something happened at Pueblo High School a few weeks ago, there was a policy change. Teachers did not want to talk because they feared retaliation. It’s not a climate that people want to work in and we really have to change that culture.”

The vote to retain Menconi was 4-1, with Dr. Mark Stegeman being the lone dissenter.

“It has become all too clear that TUSD Superintendent Pedicone has managed to make TUSD even more dysfunctional than it already was. Instead of putting more resources into the classroom to promote student learning and being more transparent with the Governing Board and the public, Pedicone and those on the Governing Board who rubber stamp his wrongheaded actions are taking the district down the path of more administration and more unproven/worthless programs. TUSD does not need more overpaid and under-worked administrators. What it needs is a paradigm shift to focus TUSD’s energy and resources to focus on what goes on in the classroom between teachers and students because that is where learning takes place. Dr. Pedicone and those Board members who act as his rubber stamps clearly have forgotten that. It is also clear that alone among the current Board members, Dr. Stegeman understands the role that Board members…as the elected representatives of the public… must play in setting district policy. He also appears to to be the lone voice for openness and transparency. The rest of the current Board has failed in their collective duty to represent the public. The current elected and appointed leadership of TUSD…with the lone exception of Dr. Stegeman…needs to be replaced to prevent the continuation of this educational travesty,” said long time educator and co-founder of TU4SD, Rich Kronberg.

The Board was also asked to vote on an offer of settlement to Dr. Rose Hamway after the Office of Civil Rights came down heavily against the district for retaliation. Dr. Hamway, will receive two years of pay for doing no work instead of offering her job back. Staff hid the OCR finding from the board until this week, despite knowing about it since early May.

Dr, Mark Stegeman told KGUN that the Board was kept in the dark. “I’m disappointed that the board hasn’t heard about it up to this point.”

When Stegeman asked TUSD staff, in July, if there were OCR findings against TUSD, District staff answered that there were no OCR findings, according to KGUN.

The Board also approved accepted grant funding for an Arabic teacher for Safford Magnet School, which just received a “D” grade from the Arizona Department of Education. The Arabic program is currently being funded in part by the Qatar Foundation International (QFI).

The district says the “wish to undertake with QFI’s support is the development of Arabic Middle Years Program (MYP) units and the continued training of our Arabic teachers to accomplish this task. This summer we plan to send our teachers to an IB conference.” The IB program has cost millions of dollars in teacher training in travel and has produced less than a handful of IB diplomas.

School Board candidate Kristel Foster addressed the Board during the Call to the Audience. Foster gave what amounted to a campaign speech in support of Mexican American Studies and against Dr. Mark Stegeman.

During the Governing Board reports, Alexandre Sugiyama, who has been on the Board for eight months, announced that he finally attended site council meeting, which he called fun, and a bond meeting. The site council meeting he attended was for his daughter’s school.

Superintendent’s Cabinet:
Maria Menconi, Deputy Superintendent
Margaret Shafer, Assistant Superintendent Elementary and K-8 Schools
Abel Morado, Assistant Superintendent Secondary Schools
Lupita Cavazos-Garcia, Assistant Superintendent Government Programs and Community Outreach
Yousef Awwad, Chief Financial Officer
John Gay, Chief Information Officer
Vivian Egbert, Chief Operations Officer
David Scott, Director of Accountability and Research
James Fish, Executive Director – Equity and Intervention
Martha Durkin, General Counsel

Dr. Lupita Garcia resigned last week. Garcia has been viewed as the most accessible and reform minded administrator in the district.

Related article:

TUSD accepts grant from group with ties to Muslim Brotherhood (updated)