TUSD’s Hicks urges educators to speak out

TUSD Governing Board member Michael Hicks is asking the staff from the schools which will close this year to “speak out and let me know of your concerns and where we have failed you and our students.” On Thursday the Governing Board voted to close 11 district schools.

Hicks, who had requested an explanation from the administration as to why each school was selected for closure prior to the Board’s vote, abstained from the closure votes. Hicks did not receive the information he demanded and as a result abstained from Thursday night’s votes. Hicks said that he could not vote without adequate information.

In a letter sent to closed schools’ staff, Hicks said, “I know that each and every one of you did your best to ensure that your schools served your students. I have confidence in the staff of TUSD, and the closures represent a failure on the part of the district to take proactive money saving measures, and we were faced with the economic realities presented by declining enrollment due to many factors.

I encourage all of you to speak out and let me know of your concerns and where we have failed you and our students. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you always and if I can be of any assistance do not hesitate to contact me.”

The school closure process was quick and the criteria were set only after the schools had been presented to the Board for closure. Concerns arose when the stated criteria did not fit the schools on the chopping block. For example Brichta, which was at 98 percent capacity was closed, while Ochoa, which was spared had received “D”s for the past two years from the Arizona Department of Education.

The choice of schools was seen as primarily political.

The emailed letter went out mid-day on Friday and Hicks immediately began receiving notes of gratitude from staff.

The district needs approval from federal court overseeing the district’s desegregation case in order to finalize the closures. While the school closures will cost Tucson many teaching, clerical, and maintenance jobs, the proposed Unitary Status Plan requires the hiring of well over 20 new administration positions. Currently TUSD spends more money on administration than any other district in the state.

TUSD administrators and some Board members have blamed the state for the closures; however the only closures that have occurred are as a result of declining enrollment.