TUSD Administrators Offer Tortured Explanations For Pueblo Grade Changes

After KGUN News exposed the fact that an unnamed Pueblo High School administrator appear to illegally change students’ grades, the principal of that school, Augustine Romero took to Facebook to admit, that he was the culprit. However, his admission appears to contradict the claims made by Superintendent H.T. Sanchez.

On June 14, KGUN9 education reporter Valerie Cavasos filed a story that read in part:

Highly credible sources tell KGUN9 that an administrator changed the grades of students without teachers’ consent, a violation of Arizona law.

On May 26, 246 seniors received their diplomas from Pueblo High School, but insiders claim the number should not have been that high.

A source tells us that an administrator changed at least 4 grades in the core subject from F’s to D’s allowing those senior to graduate.

KGUN obtained documents that back up that claim.

In a bizarre post on the school’s Facebook page, Romero left a message:

Pueblo Magnet High School
June 16 at 10:37am ·
Message From Our Principal Augustine Romero:

Last night (6/14/16) on KGUN 9 On Your Side it was reported that I changed the grades of four seniors.
Channel 9 irresponsibly aired this report without first having a dialogue with me or receiving an official statement from our District. Equally important, is the fact that I didn’t change any grades.

The facts are: it was discovered that a substitute teacher was suppressing the curriculum; therefore, denying our students the opportunity to be successful. Upon this discovery, I contacted my supervisor to seek advice as to how to proceed. At that time all parties agreed that it was our responsibility to ensure that our students had full access to the curriculum and an equal opportunity to be successful.

The students in question were then provided access to the curriculum and given the opportunity to successfully complete their course. The four students in question submitted their work in a timely manner; this work was evaluated by a certified subject area teacher, and these students earned the points necessary to pass their class and to participate in Pueblo’s graduation ceremony.

It is important to note that as the principal of Pueblo Magnet High School it is my responsibility to remove any and all obstacles and/or unjust practices that deny our students the opportunity to be successful. This is greatly important to me because I know it is important to our parents, to our community, to our students, and to our Pueblo.

Yet, according to Sanchez:

Dr. Romero consulted Dr. Morado and secondary leadership for guidance. Dr. Romero was advised the substitute teacher could not deny students grades for being tardy. The substitute teacher was advised that the students needed to have their work graded and counted. That was it. Beyond this, there is nothing. The principal acted within his authority and with guidance from his supervisor.

Education experts say that Sanchez’s claims do not ring true. They say that the principal has no right to determine that the teacher has somehow taught the wrong curriculum and thus acquires the right to change the grade. They note that Romero appears to be making an incredibly tortured attempt to explain what seems to be a clear statutory violation. The proper response would be to write the teacher up during the evaluation process. The grades can also be brought to the Governing Board.

Board member Michael Hicks is calling for an investigation into the matter by the State Board of Education. If the Board should determine that either administrator acted or supervised someone who acted contrary to Arizona law, they could lose their teaching certificates.

Long-time educator Rich Kronberg stated, “Neither Sanchez nor Romero gives us any details about the substitute teacher involved in this case. If it was a day-to-day substitute filling in for one or two days for a fully licensed, contracted teacher on sick leave or personal leave that is one thing, but TUSD has classes staffed completely by a parade of substitutes. Pueblo High School is one school that has more than its share of classes where students often lose the educational stability and other opportunities provided by having a fully certified contracted teacher. If the “substitute teacher” being blamed for either “repressing the curriculum” as Romero states, or for “punishing students for being late to class” as Sanchez contradicts him, was part of a parade of substitutes being hired by the company TUSD has contracted to find substitutes and fill vacancies created by TUSD’s profound shortages of fully licensed and qualified teachers that is indicative of the systemic problems within TUSD that lie directly at the doorstep of Superintendent Sanchez and he majority on the Governing Board that provides him knee-jerk cover for all of his lies, half -truths, and misrepresentations. If all TUSD classes were staffed by teachers qualified to teach them neither of the excuses would by necessary because students would not be failing in numbers so large TUSD leaders would feel the need to depress those numbers.”

“Romero’s statement shows someone who is using what he knows best to artificially depress the number of failures in his school, so he looks better. Romero is best known as the director of the controversial, and now defunct, Mexican-American Studies Program,” continued Kronberg. “He always falls back on “fighting against discrimination” as the justification for every improper action he commits. Changing a grade without the consent of the teacher…whether for the excuse articulated by Romero or the one Sanchez used…is still a violation of state law. Part of the solution may well be an investigation by the State Board of Education or the Arizona Attorney General’s office, but the real solution will come from a change in the composition of the TUSD Governing Board, the firing of Sanchez, and a new administration that puts student learning ahead of the political, personal, and financial agendas of TUSD’s elected and appointed leadership.”

To get an interesting take on the matter visit The Three Sonorans here.