TUSD Superintendent Claims Board Policy Trumps State Law

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez appears to be claiming that Governing Board policy trumps state law in the matter of grade changes made by Pueblo principal Augustine Romero. According to state law, only the Board or the teacher of record can change a grade.

In a message to officials, Sanchez admits to the violation of state law, but excuses it by claiming that “Romero consulted Dr. Morado [Assistance Superintendent] 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.”

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.

Rather than take the matter to the Board, and allow it to make any warranted changes, Sanchez has unilaterally determined that the teacher violated Policy JE-R. He claims that “this is the major policy violated by the teacher when she denied the students access to the curriculum.”

That policy reads:

Make-up Work

• Teachers must provide all students who are absent (excused & unexcused) from each class with make-up work.

• Students will have a reasonable time (1 for 1 – 1 day absence, 1 day for make-up, etc.) to turn in the work. Teachers may make special exceptions based on circumstances.

• A coordinated school distribution system for student make-up work may be developed by the school council.

Board member Michael Hicks has called 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.

Teachers across the District are outraged by the administration’s action. They are watching the union closely to see if it will stand with teachers or the administration.

Hicks says he is pursuing the matter in defense of teachers, who have reached out to him. Those teachers are very concerned, that as was the case in the Pueblo incident, they will be undermined in an effort to artificially increase graduation rates. Hicks believes that if the public truly understood how Sanchez’s actions at Pueblo can and will affect the classroom teachers, and overall integrity of a TUSD diploma they would be outraged and demanding action by the State Board of Education and the Arizona Department of Education.

“It is vital to the overall health of our community that we protect our students and teachers from ambitious administrators seeking to create a false sense of success. It is imperative that we fight for the true success of our teachers and students,” stated Hicks. “We must restore trust. I am shocked that Board member Kristel Foster, of all people, has not come out in defense of our fellow educators.”